Wrap Wars: A Halachic Analysis

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(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times)

“My Rabbi says its Hamotzi!”

“Well, mine says you can make a mezonos!”

 “What are you guys talking about?? It’s mefurash a YOUTUBE Video – where Rav Elyashiv zt”l paskened its Mezonos!”

“Oh, yeah?  Well, it’s mefurash a YOUTUBE Video where Rav Dovid Feinstein Shlita paskens its HaMotzi!”

This column is not dealing with the recent proliferation of people adjudicating Halacha based upon YouTube videos.  It rather deals with the question of the day:  What bracha is to be recited on wraps – Mezonos or HaMotzi?

Wraps have, of late, become the go-to food when catering a Bris Milah, a Rosh Chodesh Beis Yaakov breakfast, or even a general company meeting.  It is a health food aficianado’s dream meal too.

THE THREE POSITIONS

It seems that there are three very different positions on the matter.

The OU website writes that wraps are clearly HaMotzi.  This is also the view of Rav Binyomin Forst Shlita, one of the foremost experts on Hilchos Brachos, head of the Halacha Hotline in the Far Rockaway/Five Towns community and author of the Artscroll Hilchos Brachos sefer.

Rav Shmuel Fuerst Shlita, from Chicago and a leading Posaik in the United States, has ruled that the orange colored ones do not have the appearance of bread and would therefore be considered a Mezonos.  The other ones, however, would be HaMotzi.

And now, one of the leading Poskim in Eretz Yisroel – Rav Yitzchok Rubin Shlita, author of the three volume Otcros Shabbos and Av Beis Din of Rav Nissim Karelitz’s Beis Din, has authored a remarkable new analysis of the topic.  Rav Rubin is also the Rav of the shul in Har Nof where a deadly terror attack occurred in 2014.

Rav Rubin believes that the bracha is clearly and unequivocally mezonos.  What follows is a synopsis of his rationale.

THE GEMORAH

The Gemorah in Brachos 42a writes that the blessing for something called “Pas HaBa B’Kiskin” (henceforth PHB) and something called “lachmaniyos” (not the modern term) is clearly mezonos.  However, if one establishes his meal on this item – then a HaMotzi is recited.  Clearly, the parameters of this bread is that it is only eaten as a snack food.  Shockingly enough, the idea of cake is not discussed in the Gemorah in terms of its blessing.  Two forms of sweeteners were available at the time, date honey and bee honey.  Sugar became available in Sassanian era Persia (and thus Bavel) only 100 years after the Gemorah was compiled.  It is discussed perhaps in terms of Pesach – where the term “gluskah yafeh” is employed, but that refers to some form of fried delicacy according to the Rishonim.

WHAT EXACTLY IS PHB?

There is a well-known three-way halachic debate as to the actual definition of Pas HaBa B’kisnin.

  • Rabbeinu Chananel explains that Pas HaBa B’Kisnin is to be identified as bread made in the shape of a filled pocket. It contains some other item aside from the dough product itself – a filling that is both separate and distinct.  An example would be a blueberry banana calzone.  It should be noted that spices such as cinnamon and sugar that are added after the baking process do not effect any change in bracha according to all three views.

  • The Rambam and Rashi identify Pas HaBa B’Kisnin as a type of bread in which the dough was mixed with either spices or sweets. An example would be a cupcake.  A cupcake’s dough is made with sweets such as sugar or honey added to the basic water and flour.

  • The Aruch citing Rav Hai Gaon is of the opinion that the term “kisnin” comes from the word “koses” – chewing. According to him, Pas HaBa B’Kisnin is a cracker-like item that breaks apart and is generally chewed upon – perhaps similar to a hard pretzel or a cracker.  An example, for our purposes, would be crackers.

Rav Yoseph Karo, in his Beis Yosef commentary on the Tur, writes that since there is a debate on the matter, we apply the concept of “safek brachos lehakel – that whenever there is a question regarding blessings we are lenient.”  Thus, all three types are to be considered Mezonos, unless one has established his meal on it. We would thus make a mezonos on a blue-berry banana calzone, a cupcake and crackers.

MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE OR MUTUALLY AGREE?

But there is another question.  There is a debate among the Acharonim whether the three views are mutually exclusive or whether all of the three views mutually agree with each other as to the actual halacha regarding the blessing on the two other PHB, it is just that they argue which particular type of PHB was discussed in the Talmud.

THE MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE VIEW

The Graz, the Dagul Mirvavah, Rabbi Akiva Eiger, and Chayei Adam rule that the three opinions are mutually exclusive.  We will refer to this view in the future as the view of the Four Acharonim.

In other words, according to this view:

  • Rashi and Rambam would wash and bentch on blueberry banana calzones and crackers, but would recite a mezonos on cupcakes.
  • Rabbeinu Chananel would wash and bentch on cupcakes and crackers, but would recite a mezonos on a blueberry banana calzone.
  • Rav Hai Gaon would wash and bentch on cupcakes and blueberry-banana calzones but would recite a mezonos on crackers.

THE MUTUALLY AGREED VIEW

The view of the Maamar Mordechai is that all three views agree to each other’s opinion that only a Mezonos is made on all three types of food.  [This is also the view of the Aruch HaShulchan.  The Biur Halacha (168:8), however, does give some but not complete credence to this view. He seems to give more weight to the view of the Four Acharonim]

RAV RUBIN’S VIEW OF THE MAAMER MORDECHAI

Rav Rubin cites a number of proofs to the view of the Maamar Mordechai, and uses these proofs to show that it is not the actual technical composition of the ingredients and or texture of these bread items that make them into Mezonos (like the Four Acharonim seem to hold).  Rather, according to Rav Rubin’s explanation, it is how the bread item is utilized in society – whether it is used to satiate and whether it is central to the meal.  In other words, it is not a Siba (reason) as to why they are mezonos, but rather it is a siman (indication or sign) that they are mezonos because that is how they are utilized in society.  It should be noted that the Biur Halacha’s tepid view of the Maamar Mordechai perhaps indicates that he is not really in agreement with the view espoused by Rav Rubin that it is a Siman – an indication.  The Mishna Brurah seems to be more comfortable with a Siba – perspective that it is the nature of its composition.

RAV RUBIN’S PROOFS TO THE MAAMAR MORDECHAI

Rav Rubin brings six indications of the fact that the Maamar Mordechai is correct.  Hecites the fact that the Tur (OC 168) quotes all three views and places alongside and immediately after the three views the fourth category of lachmanios. He and the Shvulei HaLeket 159 utilize lachmanios as a fourth type – indicating the Siman nature of the definition of Pas HaBa B’Kisnin.

Rav Rubin also quotes the Rashba on Brachos 41b where he intermingles the words of both Rashi and Rabbeinu Chananel as to how to define Pas HaBa B’Kisnin.  This indicates that he holds that they do not argue with each other regarding the bracha on the other types.

Rav Rubin also cites the Derech HaChaim (Hilchos Brachos letter 3) who says that any bread item where it is not the manner to eat a shiur svi’ah – an amount of it that will satiate is not a HaMotzi.

Rav Rubin’s next three proofs are from the universal halachic customs of people.  1] When people eat all three forms of Pas HaBa B’Kisnins – they should wash beforehand because they are certainly eating a form of bread – and yet they do not do so.  This indicates that the world holds of the view of the Maamar Mordechai. 2] When people drink coffee with cake they recite the bracha on cake first and then coffee – in accordance with the laws of the order of brachos (See Shulchan Aruch OC 211:3).  Yet, if cake may be bread in accordance with the mutually exclusive view of the Four Acharonim, then we should technically make the blessing on the coffee first – because the bread would cover the other items because of tafel.  The fact that we don’t indicates that we are all believers in the Maamar Mordechai rather than the Four Acharonim.  [Rav Rubin seems to be of the opinion here that it is the food item which causes the laws of tafel and not the bracha itself].

His third proof from universal halachic custom is that Ashkenazim make a HaMotzi on Matzah and not a mezonos.  Why are they not concerned for the view of Rav Hai Gaon and thus make a mezonos?  Rav Rubin concludes that it is because Matzah is eaten almost universally for satiation – l’achilas sova.  Thus, the working definition of Pas HaBa B’Kisnin is that it is not eaten for satiation – but for snacking.

In conversation with Rav Rubin, this author was told that he had researched the use of wraps throughout the world, and nowhere is this food item eaten by and of itself like other bread items.  It is solely used to consume other foods.  He concludes that it is not a bread item that people use to satiate themselves like they do with bread or other bread items.  Rather, it is used to quiet down one’s hunger.  He concludes that the entire nature of its consumption is of a temporary snack-like nature – achilas arai.

ASPECTS TO EXPLORE

It is interesting to explore whether Rav Dovid Feinstein Shlita cited in the very beginning of this article is of the opinion that the halacha is like the Four Acharonim or like the Maamar Mordechai.  It would also be interesting to find out what the rationale of Rav Elyashiv zt”l was to state that a wrap is Mezonos.  The reason why this is interesting is that Rav Rubin, who holds of the Maamar Mordechai, holds that pzza is unequivocally HaMotzi even on one slice, whereas Rav Dovid Feinstein is of the opinion that one slice is a mezonos.

CONCLUSIONS

So, bottom line – what should be done with the wraps?  There is another fascinating debate out there as to how one conducts oneself in matters of halacha.  There are some families and Yeshivos who have accepted upon themselves the notion that the Mishna Brurah is the final rule in all matters of halacha that he addresses.  Others are of the opinion that comtemporary Poskim can argue with the Mishna Brurah and one may follow their rulings even when it is not a pressing situation.

It seems to this author that if one accepts the view of the Mishna Brurah as the final word in halacha – then one cannot avail themselves of Rav Rubin’s ruling of mezonos on wraps.  If, however, one belongs to the other school of thought – then one could possibly avail themselves of this leniency – after consultation with one’s own Rav – and that’s a wrap.

The author can be reached at [email protected]


7 COMMENTS

  1. I haven’t gone through the teshuva yet, but from your synopsis, I wonder how Rav Rubin’s research fits with my own experience.
    While it may be true that many do consider this a between meals snack, that would likely be more true among those who (for lack of a better term) are “big eaters” — usually men, and usually men who also eat lots of bread.

    I would venture to say that those who are more weight-conscious and who generally avoid lots of bread (most females and many adult men) would very much consider a wrap to be a full meal, not a mere “tide-me-over,” between meals snack. Does it fully “sate” them? Well, one of the realities of being weight conscious is to discipline yourself to not eat every time you feel even slightly hungry. ANd another, which is relevant here, is that the bar of what’s considered “sated” from a meal is much lower.

    Given that this is the usual way that most women and many men live their lives today, I wonder how this affects halachos like those described in this essay.

  2. I haven’t gone through the teshuva yet, but from your synopsis, I wonder how Rav Rubin’s research fits with my own experience.
    While it may be true that many do consider this a between meals snack, that would likely be more true among those who (for lack of a better term) are “big eaters” — usually men, and usually men who also eat lots of bread.

    I would venture to say that those who are more weight-conscious and who generally avoid lots of bread (most females and many adult men) would very much consider a wrap to be a full meal, not a mere “tide-me-over,” between meals snack. Does it fully “sate” them? Well, one of the realities of being weight conscious is to discipline yourself to not eat every time you feel even slightly hungry. ANd another, which is relevant here, is that the bar of what’s considered “sated” from a meal is much lower. (One slice of pizza, not three or four plus french fries. One tuna fish or turkey wrap, not three and no hero sandwich two hours later.)

    Given that this is the usual way that most women and many men live their lives today, I wonder how this affects halachos like those described in this essay.

  3. One would hope that Rabbonim, shlita, would consider the importance of making yidden think in terms of smaller meals and thus treat these types of food products as stand-alone meals, sufficent to meet their needs, no some “snack” to tide you over until you have a “real” meal (with lots of fatty and starch foods, salt etc.). Healthy eating and nutrition don’t seem to be a big factor in these sortrs of halachic analysi which seem to be frozen in time.

  4. Re: Rav Shmuel Fuerst Shlita, . . ruled that the orange colored ones do not have the appearance of bread and would therefore be considered a Mezonos. The other ones, however, would be HaMotzi.

    I would like to offer a clarification, if I may. I have discussed this issue at length with Rabbi Fuerst on a number of occasions and this is (almost) an exact quote, which I humbly suggest Rabbi Hoffman please follow up and confirm with Rabbi Fuerst.

    If the ingredients comprising the wrap are just flour and water the bracha is Hamotzei – no matter the color or how much or little one eats.

    If there are other added ingredients (tavlinim) then one’s intention is kovaya the bracha. If one is eating this as his meal, then the bracha is Hamotzie. If however one’s intention is only to eat a snack then the bracha is Mezonos unless one eats enough wrap substance equivalent to the size of 4 eggs, .

    Derech Agav It should be noted, many of the wraps made in Kiosk shops in E”Y are B’lila Racha – made on the spot on a griddle like a very thin pancake.

  5. shlomo2 & gadolhadorah- From what i understood Rabbi Rubin is saying the wrap itself is not eaten plain, rather with something inside, which would make it the first kind of PHB