יוסי סלוטניק

Rabbi Yossi Slotnick
Former Rosh Kollel in Cape Town (1997-1998)
Currently Ra”m in Yeshivat Ma’ale Gilboa

 

In the Diaspora, even those individuals who generally refrain from eating gebrochts (known as shruyah in Hebrew or “soaked” matzah) on Pesach, enjoy these foods on their last day of Pesach (i.e. the 8th day), when chametz is only prohibited m’derabbanan (of rabbinic origin) because of minhag avoteinu beyadeinu (literally, “our fathers’ custom in our hands”). We will use this as a catalyst for a discussion on the brachah (blessing) for bread which has undergone a secondary process after baking.

The source for the discussion is found in the Gemara (BT Brachot 37b), but in order to avoid tiring the reader, I will recount Rabbenu Yonah’s halachic conclusion, which is also cited by the Tur. R’ Yonah distinguishes between three different cases:

1. Bread which has been crumbled but nothing else was done to the bread – the brachah is hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz.

2. Bread which has been crumbled and not cooked but was “stuck together” by a liquid such as oil, eggs, etc.:

A. If there are pieces of bread which are the size of a kizayit, the brachah is hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz.

B. If no individual crumb is the size of a kizayit (even if the total amount of dough is larger than a kizayit):

• If the food item can be called bread, the brachah is hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz.

• If the food item cannot be called bread, the brachah is borei minei mezonot.

3. Bread which has been crumbled and cooked:

A. If there are pieces of bread which are the size of a kizayit, the brachah is hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz.

B. If no individual crumb is the size of a kizayit, the brachah is borei minei mezonot (even if the food item can be called bread).

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 168:10) concurs with this ruling.

In light of the above, we can conclude that kneidlach (“matzah balls”) – which are cooked and made of matzah meal – definitely fall into the third category, and hence, their brachah is mezonot.

We now turn our attention to matzah brei (“fried matzah”). This dish is made with broken pieces of matzah, which are softened with water and then mixed with eggs. If some of the pieces are larger than a kizayit, the brachah is hamotzi. However, if all the pieces are small, two questions remain:

1. Is frying equivalent to cooking? If so, the brachah on matzah brei would be mezonot.

2. If frying is not equivalent to cooking, then we must ascertain whether or not matzah brei can be called bread.

With respect to the first question, the Achronim disagree (see the Mishnah Brurah 52) whether or not frying resembles cooking. Instead of ruling decisively one way or another, the Mishnah Brurah states:

“And the correct approach for frying is to eat that which has a title of bread only as part of the meal.”

With respect to the second question (which food items can be called bread?), the Beit Yosef quotes the Mordechai:

“If it has the appearance of bread, that it is not fully dissolved but is recognizable and identifiable as bread.”

The Magen Avraham is more lenient. He holds that once the bread’s original form has been altered – even if it is not fully dissolved – it can no longer be called “bread”.

Thus, we can conclude that if the pieces of matzah are big enough that they can be clearly recognized as matzah, the dish can be called “bread”. But if the pieces are small and the matzah’s color changed even slightly as a result of the soaking (as is likely), then the dish cannot be called “bread”.

 

Conclusion:

Kneidlach – The brachah is definitely mezonot.
Matzah brei

If the pieces of matzah are larger than a kizayit, the brachah is definitely hamotzi.

If the pieces of matzah are smaller than a kizayit but are still identifiable as matzah, the Mishnah Brurah does not rule conclusively and suggests that such a dish be consumed only as part of a meal.

If the pieces of matzah are so small that they can no longer be identified as matzah, the brachah is mezonot.

One final note: Whenever the preceding brachah is mezonot – even if one consumed a large amount – the concluding brachah is brachah me’ain shalosh.