In our last class, we learned that baked goods are divided into three distinct categories:

Category 1 – Bread, which is made from a baked dough
Category 2 – Pat Haba B'Kisnin – e.g. cake and crackers
Category 3 – Ma'aseh Kedeira, made from cooked grains (like spaghetti and oatmeal)

Now here are some of the most practical rules to know:

  • The bracha on category-1 will always be Hamotzee.
  • The bracha on category-3 will always be Mezonot.

But – the bracha on category-2 will depend. When eaten as a snack, the bracha on cake (or any Pat Haba B'Kisnin) is Mezonot, since it is not actually bread. However, when eaten as meal (i.e. in place of bread), that cake attains the status of bread and its bracha is Hamotzee.1 (You would also need to wash Netilat Yadayim before eating this cake, and say the full Grace After Meals.)2

Determining the Amount of Kiday Seudah

Now let's define what it means to "eat cake in place of bread." In other words, how do we differentiate between a snack and a meal?

There are different rabbinic opinions as to when a snack becomes a meal.3 The prevailing opinion is that we judge according to the amount of bread that people normally eat in a meal. If you would eat this corresponding amount of cake/crackers, then the bracha on the cake/crackers is Hamotzee. This amount is called Kiday Seudah – lit: "the amount of a meal."

When eating less than this amount of cake/crackers, it retains the status of Pat Haba B'Kisnin, i.e. a snack, and the bracha is Mezonot.4

When determining this volume, you must take into account whether the cake/crackers is being eaten together with other foods, or if it is being eaten alone:

  • If you are eating Pat Haba B'Kisnin together with other foods (for example, crackers with tuna fish), then if you eat crackers equivalent to the amount of bread that you would normally eat along with tuna fish in a meal, the crackers are being "eaten in place of bread," and the bracha on the crackers is Hamotzee.
  • When eating bread with tuna, Mike usually eats two slices of bread. Today, he is eating a bunch of tuna-and-cracker sandwiches for lunch, and the crackers equal the volume of two slices of bread. In such a case, Mike would say Hamotzee.

  • If you are eating Pat Haba B'Kisnin alone, then Hamotzee is appropriate only if you eat a quantity equivalent to the amount of bread you'd eat alone as a filling meal. This is a larger quantity of cake/crackers than the first case. For example, a normal bread meal is three slices of bread; so if you eat that equivalent amount of Pat Haba B'Kisnin, you'd say Hamotzee.
     
  • If the Pat Haba B'Kisnin alone "fills you up" like a meal, then Hamotzee is appropriate even if you are only eating the amount that one would normally eat along with other foods.5

Here's a practical scenario:

At your nephew's bar mitzvah, they served a delicious kiddush following the services. There were mountains of cake, crackers, gefilte fish, chopped liver, egg salad and cholent. If you plan to fill up on these foods, you should first wash Netilat Yadayim and say Hamotzee on some cake or crackers.

Grain Foods that Never Get "Hamotzee"

Certain grain foods, for one reason or another, will always have the bracha Mezonot, and never Hamotzee. Let's explore these cases:

  • Ma'aseh Kedeira – Category 3 that we described, Ma'aseh Kedeira, is a grain product that doesn't resemble bread in any way, usually because it is cooked and has a moist texture. Examples of this are spaghetti and oatmeal. Even eating a full meal of these foods would not warrant a Hamotzee; their bracha is always Mezonot.6

  • Dessert – Generally, a Pat Haba B'Kisnin eaten as dessert – e.g. cake – is covered by the original Hamotzee.7 However, if the food fulfills all three characteristics of Pat Haba B'Kisnin – i.e. it is sweet dough, and filled, and thin/crispy – then you do say Mezonot when eating this for dessert. Examples of this are:
    • wafers
    • cherry pie whose crust is very thin and flaky
    • blintzes made of a very thin dough wrapping
       
  • Rice Bread – Some rules we've discussed do not apply to rice, since rice is not considered as important as the other five grains. Therefore the bracha on rice – and even "rice bread" – is always Mezonot.8

Matzah and Pizza

There are two more interesting cases to discuss:

  • Matzah – When it comes to matzah, which is thin and brittle like a cracker, you might expect to say Mezonot. However, since matzah is generally eaten in place of bread, it has the status of bread.9

Now here's a case that sounds counter-intuitive, but if you've learned the rules properly, it will make sense: Imagine that a company produces "matzah crackers," which have the same ingredients, taste and texture as regular matzah, but are in a size and packaging like crackers. Since these are not eaten in place of bread, the bracha is Mezonot.10

  • Pizza11 – Whether to define pizza as bread or as a pastry depends on whether it is considered a meal or a snack. In practice today, since pizza is eaten both ways, the bracha is determined based on your specific intention. If you are eating pizza as a meal, say Hamotzee; as a snack, say Mezonot.12

Sometimes, fruit juice is added to pizza dough, giving the dough a very sweet taste. This is a matter of convenience, to allow the pizza to be eaten with the bracha is Mezonot, without the need for Netilat Yadayim. However, be careful: If this pizza is eaten in such a large quantity that it is an actual meal – 2-3 slices – this would qualify as Kiday Seudah, and would require Netilat Yadayim, Hamotzee and Grace After Meals.13

A Change of Plans

There's been a lot of information to absorb in this class. It's a good idea to go back and review everything a few times till it's really clear. But first, here's one last set of rules to consider:

What happens if you change your mind – i.e. you say Mezonot on Pat Haba B'Kisnin with the intention of having a snack, and then, after eating a little, you decide to eat a lot more. The total amount you'll be consuming is Kiday Seudah and would have required Hamotzee. What should you do now?

It depends:

  • If the amount to yet be consumed is enough to independently require Hamotzee, then you should say Hamotzee on the remainder, and wash Netilat Yadayim.14
  • If the remaining food would not require Hamotzee, then Hamotzee is not said. (Although even in this case, the after-bracha is the full Grace After Meals, since you ended up eating the volume of a meal. We will learn about after-brachot later in this course.)

But perhaps another Mezonot bracha is required on the remainder? Actually, that depends. If, when you began eating, you specifically intended to eat only the first portion, then before continuing with the second portion, another Mezonot bracha is required. If you had no such "specific intention," then you may continue eating without a bracha.15

After eating one piece of chocolate triple-layer cake, you decide that you want another few slices. Realizing that three pieces would require Hamotzee, you have to first make a decision: If you plan to eat three more slices, you should now wash and say Hamotzee. But if you can only handle another two pieces, there is no need to say another bracha.

Review

When eating any grain food, it can be confusing to know when different steps are required. Based on what we've learned, the following rules emerge:

  • The bracha you say before eating depends on what you intend to eat.
  • The bracha you say after eating depends on what you actually ate.

The following chart explains the many different situations, and the proper halacha in each case:

 

When eating
bread

When eating
Pat Haba B'Kisnin

When eating
Ma'aseh Kedeira

washing the hands (Netilat Yadayim)

on even a crumb

when eaten as meal only

not required

saying the bracha of Netilat Yadayim

if you plan to eat the volume of a k'beitza (twice the size of a kezayit)

when eaten as a meal, and you are going to eat at least another k'beitza

not required

which bracha rishona to say

always say
Hamotzee

when eaten as a snack: Mezonot

When eaten as a meal: Hamotzee

always say Mezonot

which bracha achrona to say

say Birkat Hamazon
(if a kezayit is eaten within 3-4 minutes)

when eaten as a snack: Al Ha'michya

when eaten as a meal: Birkat Hamazon

say Al Ha'michya
(if a kezayit is eaten within 3-4 minutes)

Note that if you want to eat less than a k'beitza of bread – and even less than a kezayit – you would wash and say Hamotzee, but without saying the bracha of Netilat Yadayim.16

This concludes class #11 on Hilchot Brachot. In the next lesson, we'll discuss situations when bread loses its regular bracha of Hamotzee.


  1. Orach Chaim 168:6
  2. Orach Chaim 168:6, with Mishnah Berurah 25
  3. Mishnah Berurah 168:24
  4. Shu”t Igros Moshe (OC 3:32). Another opinion is that if you eat an amount of cake that is equivalent to the volume of four eggs, that is considered a “meal” and the bracha is Hamotzee. (This is approximately the amount that would fit into an average disposable cup – V’Zot HaBracha, pg. 36.) One should ideally try to fulfill both of these opinions. So when eating Pat Haba B’Kisnin, try to eat either less than the volume of four eggs (and say Mezonot), or eat Kiday Seudahh (the amount equivalent to bread eaten as a meal, and say Hamotzee. For further study, see Mishnah Berurah 168:24; The Laws of Brachos, pg. 250, with footnote 79.
  5. Mishnah Berurah 168:24
  6. Orach Chaim 168:15
  7. In such a case, it is best to have this cake in mind when saying Hamotzee.
  8. Orach Chaim 208:7, with Mishnah Berurah 28, 29
  9. V’Zot HaBracha, pg. 21. Sefardic tradition is that the bracha on matzah is Mezonot, except during the holiday of Passover, when everyone eats it as bread.
  10. Shu”t Har Tzvi (OC 91)
  11. based on Halachos of Brochos, ch. 27, footnote 47
  12. Halachos of Brochos, pg. 500
  13. Mishnah Berurah 168:33
  14. Orach Chaim 168:6, with Mishnah Berurah 26
  15. Mishnah Berurah 179:6
  16. Orach Chaim 158:3, with Mishnah Berurah 10; Orach Chaim 168:9, 210:1