Saturday, August 13, 2022

An Ashkenazic woman called me recently asking why her recent Sephardic guest requested that her family be served water challot and not egg challah for the Shabbat meal. I told her that Chacham Ovadia Yosef instructs Sephardim to follow the ruling of Maran the Beit Yosef to recite Borei Minei Mezonot on challah kneaded in fruit juice and/or eggs (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 168:7). Thus for lechem mishneh on Shabbat, Sephardim should use only water challah and not egg challah. I noted that this was the widespread minhag of the Sephardic community.

I related how my sister-in-law Rabbanit Esther Tokayer (formerly Najar), the associate principal of Magen David Yeshiva High School in Brooklyn, always arranges for water challot to be served at their school shabbatonim, at the behest of the esteemed posek of Magen David, Rav Shimon Alouf, a renowned student of Chacham Ovadia.

The Halacha has a category known as pat haba’ah b’kisnin, or snack bread. Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 168:7) includes cake, pie and crackers in the category of pat haba’ah b’kisnin. One recites a Borei Minei Mezonot on snack bread unless he is kovei’a seudah, makes a meal of that item.

The Shulchan Aruch (ad. loc.) rules that dough baked with sweetening agents such as honey and sugar is considered to be cake and not bread if the sweet flavor is discernible, and it therefore requires the bracha of Mezonot. Accordingly, Chacham Ovadia Yosef, in his Chazon Ovadia, Berachot (p. 55), rules that Sephardim may not recite Hamotzi over such bread (for example, egg challah) and may not use it as the bread for Shabbat meals. Since bread baked with sweetening agents that can be tasted in the bread does not, according to the Shulchan Aruch, have the halachic status of “bread,” Sephardim must use for Shabbat meals only water challah or other non-sweetened challah. Sweetened challah may be used only if the sweetening agents cannot be discerned in the challah.

While Ashkenazim follow the Rema that one recites Hamotzi over sweetened bread, Sephardim would recite Hamotzi on such bread only if he eats the equivalent of four beitizim/216 grams (FYI—this is an enormous amount of challah) of that bread. Only then is it considered to be kovei’a seudah on the sweetened bread. Moreover, according to Sephardic practice, in order to be kovei’a seudah one must eat this amount of challah itself; other foods eaten at the meal do not count toward this amount (as per the ruling of the Chida, Birkei Yosef Orach Chaim 168:6, Ben Ish Chai Parshat Pinchas, Kaf HaChaim 168:45, Teshuvot Yabia Omer 10: Orach Chaim 18 and Rav Shalom Messas Teshuvot Shemesh U’Magein 2: page 318 in the addendum). This contrasts to Ashkenazim who follow the Mishnah Berurah (168:24) that the food eaten along with the pat haba’ah b’kisnin creates the kevi’at seudah.

Rav Meir Shalem, an esteemed part of the Shaarei Orah family, suggests a defense for those Sephardim who recite Hamotzi on egg challah at Shabbat meals when they are guests at Ashkenazim who serve egg challot. He notes that the halacha (Rambam Hilchot Ma’aser 3:1-3) regards food eaten on Shabbat as not considered arai in regard to the laws of terumot and maasrot. While one may snack on Israeli produce that is not fully processed (gmar melacha; an example would be fruit just picked from a tree) without taking terumot and maasrot during the week, this is not permissible on Shabbat and Yom Tov since all eating on these holy days are considered keva and not arai (snacking).

Rav Shalem notes that Rabi Akiva Eiger (commenting to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 639:2) cites the Shibolei HaLeket who applies this rule beyond the laws of terumot and maasrot to the laws of Sukkot. The halacha permits men to snack outside the sukkah, but the Shibolei HaLeket argues that this permission does not extend to Shabbat and Yom Tov. Rav Shalem suggests that this opinion may be applied to Shabbat, and thus any snack bread eaten on Shabbat and Yom Tov should require Hamotzi and Birkat Hamazon.

Upon researching this topic I discovered that Rav Shalem’s idea was already suggested by Teshuvot MaHarah Ohr Zarua (number 71). However, it is rejected by a variety of Sephardic poskim such as Teshuvot Ginat Veradim (3:11) and the Chida (Birkei Yosef O.H. 168:5), who notes the common practice to reject the approach of the MaHarah Ohr Zarua.

However, in extenuating circumstances, such as when a Sephardic Jew visits an Ashkenazic family who serves egg challot, perhaps the Maharah Ohr Zarua may be relied upon. Indeed, Teshuvot Radbaz (1:489) relies on this approach to permit Sephardim to recite Hamotzi on egg matzah when eating seudah shelishit on Erev Pesach that falls on Shabbat. Chacham Ovadia (Teshuvot Yechave Da’at 1:91), however, follows in the footsteps of the Maran HaChida (Birkei Yosef Orach Chaim 444) who rejects this approach, arguing that Sephardim never regard eating less than 216 grams of pat haba’ah b’kisnin as kevi’at seudah.

Indeed, when Rav Shlomo Amar visited Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck, on Shabbat Nachamu 5777, Rav Shalem presented his idea to Rav Amar who summarily rejected this approach. Rav Amar noted that Halacha does not forbid snacking outside the sukkah on Shabbat and Yom Tov, unlike the Shibolei HaLeket (as noted by the Yalkut Yosef Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 639:21).

Rav Amar ruled that even when visiting an Ashkenazic family, a Sephardic Jew may not recite Hamotzi on egg challah. Chacham Ovadia (Teshuvot Yabia Omer 10 O.H. 18) rules accordingly as well. Although Chacham Ovadia often makes room for Sephardim and Ashkenazim to eat at each other’s homes, on this issue he brooks no compromise. Thus, whenever an Ashkenazic family invites a Sephardic family for a Shabbat or Yom Tov meal, be sure to serve water challah or even pita in order to enable Sephardic guests to recite Hamotzi and Birkat Hamazon.

By Rabbi Haim Jachter

 Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. He also serves as a rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth.


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