What Is the Brocha?

On Pesach, shaylos always come up regarding which
brochos we should recite before eating matzoh brei, matzoh meal cakes
and similar foods. The truth is that similar questions revolve around which brochos
we should recite on foods such as French toast, English muffins, kishka
and kneidlach.

Question: When I eat matzoh brei, I have been
making the brachos of mezonos and al hamichyah on it. Now someone
told me that I should wash and make hamotzi on some bread or matzoh
instead. Is this true?

Question: The chef in our yeshiva stuffs the meatloaf with
huge pieces of leftover challah. Do we need to wash netilas yadayim and
make hamotzi before eating it?

Question: I have been told that the brocha on
licorice is shehakol, even though the first ingredient listed on its
label is flour. Why is this?

In the article Pizza, Pretzels and Pastry, we discuss the unusual halachic category called pas haba’ah bekisnin, and found that crackers, pretzels, and certain pastry-type items require the brocha of mezonos before eating them and al hamichyah afterward, unless they are eaten as a meal, in which case they require netilas yadayim, hamotzi, and bensching. (Please refer to that article for details of this complicated halacha.) However, there are numerous other foods prepared with flour that are not typical bread. In order to explore which brocha one recites on these foods, we will start our discussion with items made from bread that is then cooked or fried.


Although the words “French toast” were unknown in the times
of Chazal, the Gemara (Brachos 37b) discusses which brocha
to recite on chavitza, a dish that contains cooked pieces of bread. The Gemara
rules that if the pieces are the size of a kezayis (the volume of an
olive – for our purposes, we will assume this to be about one fluid ounce), the
brocha before is hamotzi and it requires bensching afterward.
This is because a large piece of bread does not lose its significance even if
it is cooked or fried. However, if all of the pieces are smaller than a kezayis,
the brocha is mezonos before and al hamichyah afterward.
If some of the pieces are larger than a kezayis and others smaller, then
one recites hamotzi as long as one piece is at least the size of a kezayis
(Mishnah Berurah 168:53).

Based on this Gemara, we conclude that one must wash netilas
and recite hamotzi before eating French toast, and bensch
afterward, since the pieces are at least a kezayis (Shulchan Aruch,
Orach Chayim


Kneidlach are made from ground matzoh that is mixed
to form a new dough and then cooked. Most poskim rule that since the
matzoh is ground into small pieces before it is cooked, the brochabrachos are
mezonos and al hamichyah even if one eats a very large amount.
Another opinion contends that if the pieces of matzoh meal are shaped into
balls larger than a kezayis before they are cooked, their brocha
is hamotzi (Magen Avraham 168:28). The accepted psak is to
make a mezonos and al hamichyah on kneidlach (Mishnah

This leads us to an unusual shaylah I was once asked:


A yeshiva bachur once asked me whether one should
make hamotzi on the meatloaf served at his yeshiva. I thought he was
attempting to draw attention to the quality of the cuisine, but indeed, he was
asking a serious shaylah. It turned out that the cook in his yeshiva
would stuff large pieces of leftover challah into the meatloaf.

This is an unusual situation. Many people include matzoh
meal or bread crumbs in their meatloaf, but these lose their importance in the
finished product. However, Yeshiva Meatloaf Deluxe included pieces of challahfar larger than a kezayis. As we mentioned above, pieces of bread
this size do not lose their status as bread. Thus, as strange as it might seem,
one is required to wash al netilas yadayim before eating this
meatloaf, and its correct brachos are hamotzi before and bensching

This situation was unusual for an additional reason – people
usually soak challah or bread until it falls apart before adding it to a kugel
or meatloaf. However, Yeshiva Meatloaf Deluxe calls for bread that is only
moistened before being adding to the meatloaf, but does not fall apart.

BAKING AND SAUTÉING (frying in a small amount of oil)

On Pesach, my wife makes an item she refers to as “matzoh
rolls,” which involves mixing matzoh meal together with oil and eggs, forming
“rolls” and baking them. Although they are prepared from matzoh meal, the brocha
on these items is hamotzi since the dough is subsequently baked rather
than cooked and the finished product is very much similar to a type of bread,
albeit Pesach-dik.

Similarly, if someone made matzoh rolls by sautéing the
dough in a little oil (just enough so that the dough does not burn) the
completed product should be treated as bread for all halachos (Mishnah
168:69). Thus, a matzoh kugel made on the top of the stove
would be hamotzi, even if the pieces are smaller than a kezayis.


Thus far, we have learned that one recites hamotzi on
large pieces of bread even if they were subsequently cooked or fried, and that
small pieces lose their status as bread when they are cooked. However, some poskim
contend that frying small pieces of bread does not change their status and
they still require netilas yadayim and hamotzi (Magen Avraham
168:39). According to this opinion, matzoh brei requires netilas
, hamotzi and bensching. Other poskim disagree,
contending that fried small pieces of bread lose their status as bread just
like cooked pieces (see Mishnah Berurah 168:56). These poskim
contend that one recites mezonos and al hamichyah on matzoh
unless at least one of the pieces is the size of a kezayis. The
Mishnah Berurah concludes that the halacha is uncertain, and one
should avoid this problem by eating these items within a meal. Thus, an
Ashkenazi should not eat matzoh brei without washing and making hamotzi
on a piece of matzoh first. However, if at least one of the pieces if is the
size of a kezayis, the matzoh brei requires netilas yadayim,
hamotzi and bensching.

Sefardim recite mezonos before matzoh, except on
Pesach, unless they eat more than four kebeitzim of matzoh. During
Pesach they follow the same rules that I mentioned above for Ashkenazim. During
the rest of the year, Sefardim recite mezonos before eating matzoh
and al hamichyah afterward, and they need not eat it within a
meal. However, a Sefardi who ate four kebeitzim of matzoh brei
would be faced with the same concern mentioned above and should wash netilas
and make hamotzi on some bread.

According to all opinions, deep frying small pieces of bread
or matzoh is the same as cooking, since the oil completely covers the food.
Thus, the correct brocha on deep-fried matzoh-meal latkes is mezonos
and al hamichyah (Mishnah Berurah 168:59).


Commercial croutons are produced by either frying or
toasting small pieces of seasoned bread. If they are deep fried, then the brocha
is mezonos and al hamichyah. If they are fried or toasted, then
they are pas haba’ah bekisnin (requiring mezonos when eaten as a
snack and hamotzi when eaten as a meal).

Homemade croutons toasted from leftover bread are hamotzi.
Deep-fried, they are mezonos, and fried they are subject to the same shaylah
mentioned above as to whether they are hamotzi or mezonos, and
should therefore be eaten after making hamotzi on bread.


Most people make challah kugel (or matzoh kugel)
by soaking the challah or matzoh, then mixing it with other ingredients and baking
it. When the challah or matzoh disintegrates into mush before it is mixed with
the other ingredients, the resulting kugel has the halachic
status of pas haba’ah bekisninbrocha (mezonos when eaten as a
snack and hamotzi when eaten as a meal).

Sometimes the challah remains in small pieces; this is often
the case when making a matzoh kugel. When this is the case, the
resulting kugel must be treated as bread, requiring netilas yadayim
and hamotzi, as we pointed out earlier concerning baked goods. Since the
halacha here depends on some complicated halachic details, it is
better in this case to make hamotzi on a piece of matzoh or bread first.


A guest arrived at someone’s house and was served a portion
of matzoh lasagna. In this particular recipe, the matzoh was soaked, mixed with
meat and other ingredients, and then baked.

I now ask you, dear reader: Must they wash netilas
and which brocha should they recite?

We can answer this question only after ascertaining whether
there are noticeable pieces of matzoh in the lasagna. If there are noticeable
pieces, even if they are small, the guest should wash netilas yadayim
and make hamotzi on matzoh or bread before eating the lasagna kugel.
If the matzoh all turned to mush, the lasagna should probably be treated as pas
haba’ah bekisnin
, and would require borei minei mezonos on a snack
size, but would be hamotzi and require bensching if eaten as a
meal. The exact definition of a meal for these purposes is discussed in our
article on pas haba’ah bekisnin.


These items are all made from a batter rather than dough and
then baked in a pan, form or griddle. Since they never have a bread-like
appearance, they are always mezonos and al hamichyah. This is
true even if one eats a large amount, since they are considered neither bread
nor pas haba’ah bekisnin. Thus, one can have an entire, very satiating
meal of pancakes or blintzes without washing netilas yadayim, and one
recites the brocha of al hamichyah afterward.


These items are also made from a batter, but in this case
the batter is poured into a mold or waffle iron that bakes it into its final
shape. Although these items have a slightly more bread-like appearance than
pancakes and blintzes, without the mold, these items would never have a
bread-like shape, and they do not have a tzuras hapas (bread-like
appearance) even after being baked. Therefore, they are not considered pas
haba’ah bekisnin
but rather regular mezonos. As a result, they do
not require netilas yadayim, and the brachos are mezonos
and al hamichyah even if one made a full meal out of them. Thus, one can
enjoy as many wafers as one wants and recite al hamichyah when finished


Most English muffins have a consistency noticeably different
from regular bread, and therefore are pas haba’ah bekisnin. However, an
English muffin whose inside tastes like bread should be treated as bread.


Although these are two very different foods, the halachic
discussion that involves them is similar.

The Gemara (Berachos 37b and 36b) discusses a
food called rihata, which was made of flour, oil and honey cooked or
stirred together in a pot until they hardened. The Gemara cites a
dispute whether the brocha is mezonos, because of the general halachic
importance of flour; or shehakol, because the main taste comes from the
honey. We rule that the brocha is mezonos because flour is usually
considered the main ingredient of a food, unless the flour is there only to
hold it together. Whenever the flour is added to provide taste, the brocha
is mezonos, even if the main taste comes from the honey.

Kishka has the same halacha as rihata.
Although the main taste comes from the other ingredients, the flour certainly
adds taste as well.

Although licorice contains a significant amount of flour,
the flour is included only to give licorice its shape, and not to add anything
to the taste or to make it more filling. Therefore, the brocha on
licorice is shehakol (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 208:2 and Mishnah
ad loc.).

According to the Gemara (Bava Kama 30a),
someone who desires to become exemplary in his behavior should toil in understanding
the laws of brochos. By investing energy into understanding the details
of how we praise Hashem, we realize the importance of each aspect of
that praise and how we must recognize that everything we have is a gift from Hashem.
Furthermore, when reciting the proper brocha, one is acquiring the item
from Hashem in the proper way. Pas haba’ah bekisnin functions in
two different ways, sometimes as our main sustenance and most of the time as a
pleasant snack. Reciting the correct brocha focuses our understanding on
the appropriate praise for Hashem at the correct moment.

Pizza, Pretzels and Pastry

Shaylah 1. Yehuda is famished and spots a pizza shop with a reliable hechsher. Entering the shop, he sees no place to wash before eating, but the friendly counterman assures him, “No problem, our pizza is mezonos!” Is the counterman’s psak correct?

Shaylah 2. While driving inter-city, Baila snacks on some packaged cookies. Before realizing it, she has single-handedly eaten the entire box! Must she bensch or does she recite al hamichyah?

Shaylah 3. It is hard for Dovid to wash at work, so instead of taking sandwiches, he eats crackers with his meal. Can he thereby avoid washing netilas yadayim?

Shaylah 4. When Shifra invited her new Sefardi neighbor for a Shabbos meal, they told her that they do not make hamotzi on challah that tastes sweet. When Shifra offered them matzoh instead, she was told that they make mezonos on it! Why is there such a difference between our practices?

To answer each of these shaylos, we need to study the halachic subject known as “pas haba’ah bikisnin,” a term we will translate later. As a working definition, we could say that this includes baked goods usually eaten as a snack rather than as a meal. Although we will discuss the halachic details of pas haba’ah bikisnin, in general these items are mezonos and al hamichyah when eaten as a snack, and require washing, hamotzi, and the full bensching when eaten as a meal.


In a way, yes. Sometimes these items fulfill the role of bread and sometimes they do not. But before we explain the role of pas haba’ah bikisnin, we must first explain why bread is unique.

As we know, Chazal established a special bracha just for bread, hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz, and it is the only food that requires full bensching. The Torah views bread as mankind’s staple food and as such it has brachos of its own.


My dictionary defines bread as something made from flour and water (or another liquid) and baked. This definition is highly inadequate, since according to this definition, croissants, cake, cookies, pretzels, pastry, tarts, pies, teiglach, kichel and many other items are all “bread,” yet even Marie Antoinette did not serve them as substitutes for bread on a regular basis.

Thus, we need a better definition for bread, or at least for bread that always requires netilas yadayim, hamotzi and bensching. The Beis Yosef (Orach Chayim 168) explains that these halachos apply to bread prepared the way it is typically used for sustenance, rather than as a snack. Baked goods that are typically eaten not as a staple but as a snack are placed in a different halachic category.

With this introduction, we can now discuss our subject. The Gemara (Berachos 42a) tells us that if one eats as much pas haba’ah bikisnin as most people consider a meal, one must treat it as bread. Under such circumstances, one must wash netilas yadayim, make hamotzi and bensch. The rationale is that by eating pas haba’ah bikisnin for sustenance, we are treating it like bread. Thus, usually pas haba’ah bikisnin is eaten as a snack, and when eaten this way its bracha is mezonos and al hamichyah (Rosh).


There are three basic interpretations of pas haba’ah bikisnin:

1. Bread made from spiced or sweetened dough (Rashi, Berachos 41b; Rambam, Hilchos Berachos 3:9). Most pastry and cake fit into this category.

2. Bread made with pockets that are filled with sweets before it is baked (Tur). This is similar to kokosh and rugelach, where regular bread dough is rolled between layers of chocolate or cinnamon before it is baked.

3. Hard bread like a cracker, biscuit, kichel or pretzel (Rav Hai Gaon).

The “bread” of all three above instances is usually not eaten as a staple, but as a snack. According to many later authorities we rule like all three opinions above: therefore, any baked item that is sweetened, spiced or has too hard a texture to be eaten as regular bread, is considered pas haba’ah bikisnin (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 168:7; see also Maamar Mordechai and Biyur Halacha to 168:8). All of these items will be mezonos and al hamichyah if eaten as a snack, and will be hamotzi and require full bensching if eaten as a full meal.

Matzoh is baked similar to a cracker, yet is usually eaten as a substitute for bread rather than as a snack. Since it is usually eaten in order for one to be satiated rather than as a snack, Ashkenazim treat matzoh as regular bread. On the other hand, they are not eaten that regularly the rest of the year and are also not too different from other crackers. For these reasons, Sefardim treat them as pas haba’ah bikisnin the rest of the year, and only treat them as bread on Pesach when they function as our regular bread, whereas Ashkenazim contend that they are a staple and are therefore hamotzi. (It should be noted that on Pesach Sefardim also recite hamotzi over matzoh, since this is the regular bread of the Yom Tov, see Machazik Bracha 158:5). Thus, we have explained Shifra’s questions (that we mentioned above) why Sefardic and Ashkenazic practice are so different.

We should note that boiled or fried items never have the law of pas haba’ah bikisnin, but are always mezonos even if eaten as a full meal. Thus, most authorities rule that pasta, kneidlich, donuts and chremzlich (the latter two are deep fried) are mezonos and al hamichyah and do not require netilas yadayim, no matter how much you eat and regardless how many calories one gains. (It should be noted that there is an opinion that disagrees, see Shulchan Aruch 168:13).


What about an item that is just a bit sweet, such as many Ashkenazi Shabbos challos?

The poskim dispute how sweet something must be to be considered pas haba’ah bikisnin. The Shulchan Aruch, followed by the Sefardim, rules that even if the dough is only a little sweet, one should treat it as pas haba’ah bikisnin and it is mezonos as long as the sweetness is noticeable, whereas the Rama, who is followed by Ashkenazim, rules that it has to be very sweet or very spicy to be pas haba’ah bikisnin.


I mentioned before that one must wash netilas yadayim before eating pas haba’ah bikisnin, and recite hamotzi and bensch on it when it is eaten as a staple rather than as a snack. What defines the difference between a staple and a snack?

According to many poskim, if what one ate is enough to be considered a large meal then it is treated like bread. Other poskim contend that even if one ate an amount the size of four eggs, one is already required to wash netilas yadayim and make hamotzi. (For our purposes, we will say that four kibeitzim is approximately 8.4 ounces.)

Some contend that one makes hamotzi even for the equivalent of three kibeitzim, or about 6.3 ounces. Thus, someone who eats four kibeitzim or more of pastry outside a meal creates a shaylah as to what bracha to recite before and after eating, and whether he must wash netilas yadayim. One should avoid this shaylah by eating less than four kibeitzim unless one eats it as part of a meal (Mishnah Berurah 168:24), and some contend less than the equivalent of three kibeitzim (Birkei Yosef 168:4).


If someone ate an entire meal of meat and vegetables without bread but with pas haba’ah bikisnin, must he wash netilas yadayim, and does he recite hamotzi and bensch? The Magen Avraham (168:13) rules that he must wash netilas yadayim, make hamotzi and bensch since he ate pas haba’ah bikisnin together with the meal. Thus, he is satisfied from eating a meal containing pas haba’ah bikisnin, which requires him to treat it as bread. As we will see, Ashkenazim usually follow this psak (Mishnah Berurah 168:24). Thus, substituting crackers instead of bread for supper and eating as many crackers as is typical with a meal will not exempt someone from washing netilas yadayim and he will still recite hamotzi and bensching.

Birkei Yosef (168:6) disagrees, contending that we calculate only how much pas haba’ah bikisnin he is eating. Thus, one is exempt from netilas yadayim as long as one ate less than four kibeitzim of pas haba’ah bikisnin. If someone eats less than three kibeitzim, one recites mezonos on the crackers, ha’adamah on the vegetables, and shehakol on the meat, and afterwards recites al hamichyah and borei nefashos since he did not eat four kibeitzim of pas haba’ah bikisnin. One should avoid eating between three kibeitzim and four outside a meal, but if one did eat this much, he would make an al hamichyah afterwards (VeZos HaBeracha pg. 37). This is the approach usually followed by Sefardim.

We can now explain how Shifra can accommodate the needs of her Sefardic guests. There are a total of three different disputes all related to the halachos of pas haba’ah bikisnin.

1. Do we consider sweet challah to be bread or pas haba’ah bikisnin?

2. Do we consider matzoh to be regular bread or pas haba’ah bikisnin?

3. If someone eats a full meal containing less than three kibeitzim of pas haba’ah bikisnin does he recite hamotzi and bensch or not?

In all three of these shaylos, Ashkenazim follow the first alternative and Sefardim the second. Therefore, whereas an Ashkenazi makes hamotzi on a sweet challah or on matzoh, a Sefardi will not make hamotzi on it unless he intends to eat four kibeitzim. Thus, an Ashkenazi inviting a Sefardi should ideally provide challah that has no noticeable sugar to make his guest comfortable. A Sefardi eating at an Ashkenazi’s house where there is only sweet challah should eat four kibeitzim of the challah in the course of the meal.


We can also now paskin Baila’s shaylah – our traveler who ate an entire bag of cookies while driving. If she ate so many cookies that she is full from them, she must bensch, even though she did not wash netilas yadayim before imbibing her cookies, since she ate enough to be considered a filling, if not particularly balanced, meal.


At a large kiddush or a smorgasbord, many courses are served that certainly suffice for a full meal. In addition, crackers and cake are usually also served, both of which qualify as pas haba’ah bikisnin. Thus, an Ashkenazi who eats enough for a full meal should wash netilas yadayim and make hamotzi on the crackers if he intends to eat the amount of crackers that one would usually eat with this meal.

According to many poskim, a Sefardi merely needs to keep track that he eats less than three kibeitzim of pas haba’ah bikisnin to avoid a shaylah.

How does an Ashkenazi participate in the kiddush without eating a full seudah and yet without creating a shaylah what bracha to make?

The two best options are to eat the cake and crackers either before or after he eats the rest of the Kiddush foods. If he eats them first, the optimal way to avoid the shaylah is by reciting an al hamichyah and then eating the other items at the kiddush (VeZos HaBeracha pg. 35). This demonstrates that the pas haba’ah bikisnin and the rest of what he is eating are not one big meal.

An interesting phenomenon results from this discussion. It is not uncommon for someone to attend a kiddush and eat a considerable amount of cake, crackers and other food without washing netilas yadayim. This is incorrect because they have eaten a full seudah that requires washing and bensching. Then, they come home fairly full and, wanting to save room for the rest of the Shabbos meal, they eat only a small piece of challah, less than they need to fulfill the mitzvah of seudas Shabbos, or even to require them to bensch. They should make sure to eat a kibeitzah of challah within a few minutes in order to make sure that they fulfill the mitzvah of seudah.

What if someone decides in the middle of a snack that he is going to eat enough to make a meal? If he will still be eating enough to be considered a meal, he should wash, and make hamotzi on what he is yet to eat. On the other hand, if what he intends to eat is not enough for hamotzi by itself, but only in combination with what he ate already, then he should not make a new bracha but complete eating what he has left without washing (Magen Avraham 168:14). When he finishes eating, he bensches – creating the rather unusual situation of reciting mezonos before eating and bensching afterwards.


Bakeries that produce so-called “mezonos rolls” knead them with enough juice or milk to consider them pas haba’ah bikisnin according to some authorities. These rolls should taste fairly sweet, and if they do not, are hamotzi for an Ashkenazi even if one takes only a nibble from them.

However, the bracha is mezonos only when one eats a small amount. When eating a full meal together with mezonos rolls, one must wash netilas yadayim, recite hamotzi, and bensch afterwards. Thus, the “psak” of the pizzeria’s counterman (quoted above) that the pizza is mezonos was certainly not accurate if the partaker is an Ashkenazi eating a full meal. Furthermore, it is not the preferred method if he eats three kibeitzim or more of pizza, and certainly not if he ate four.

There is another reason to question his psak, as we will discuss.


The Shulchan Aruch (168:17) rules that the bracha on an item called “pashtida,” a baked item filled with meat, fish or cheese, is hamotzi. This sounds exactly like a case that should have the halachic status of our second type of pas haba’ah bikisnin mentioned above, where one filled a dough, yet the Shulchan Aruch rules that it is considered bread! Why is pashtida different?

The poskim present several answers to this question.

(A) Pashtida is indeed a form of pas haba’ah bikisnin. The Shulchan Aruch is discussing a case in which he ate a full meal and that is why the bracha is hamotzi (Taz 168:20).

(B) There is a difference between dough filled with sweet things and one filled with satisfying things like cheese, fish or meat. The latter case, which is the case of pashtida, is always hamotzi since it is meant to satisfy and not as a sweet snack (Emek Bracha, quoted by Taz 168:20; Graz 168:10).

(C) Pashtida is regular bread dough and therefore its bracha is hamotzi. If it was made with a oily dough, such as one makes burekas, then indeed it would be considered pas haba’ah bikisnin (Birkei Yosef 168:7; see a similar approach in Aruch HaShulchan 168:50).

At first glance, pizza and pashtida seem comparable and both should be hamotzi. However according to the first approach above, this is true only if one ate a lot of pashtida and pizza, otherwise it is still comparable to pas haba’ah bikisnin. According to the second approach above, both pashtida and pizza are hamotzi even if one eats only a small amount. Thus, there is an additional reason why pizza might be hamotzi even if one ate only a small amount.

Adding milk or juice to the flour will only make a difference according to the last approach. According to this opinion, pizza produced with regular bread dough is hamotzi, whereas adding milk or juice to the dough might make it into pas haba’ah bikisnin. Even this is by no means certain, since the pizza itself does not taste different by virtue of the milk or juice added to its dough.

Thus, according to many poskim, pizza is always hamotzi, whereas according to some poskim it is pas haba’ah bikisnin and therefore sometimes mezonos as I explained above. As in all other shaylos, one should ask one’s individual Rav what to do.

According to the Gemara (Bava Kamma 30a), someone who desires to become a chassid (exemplary in his behavior) should toil in understanding the halachos of brachos. By investing energy into understanding the details of how we praise Hashem, we realize the importance of each aspect of that praise and how we must recognize that everything we have is a gift from Hashem. Furthermore, when reciting the proper bracha, one is acquiring the item from Hashem in the proper way. Pas haba’ah bikisnin functions in two different ways, sometimes as our main sustenance and most of the time as a pleasant snack. Reciting the correct bracha focuses on our understanding the appropriate praise for Hashem at the correct moment.