Shabbat Parashat Vayishlach | 5770
Ask the Rabbi: Pat haba’ah b’kisnin
Question: How can it be that whether or not you wash on pizza depends on how much you eat? I would think that either it is bread or it is not bread.
Answer: The gemara (Berachot 42a) discusses a category of food called pat haba’ah b’kisnin (phbbk), which is a baked grain-based food that shares qualities with bread but also is distinguished from normal bread. The gemara says that whether one recites Hamotzi or Mezonot on it depends on whether one is kovei’a seuda (sets a meal) on it. The Shulchan Aruch says that the other special halachot of bread apply to phbbk when one is kovei’a seuda, namely, that one recites Birkat Hamazon on it (Orach Chayim 168:6) and has to wash before eating it (ibid. 158:1). Let us now discuss pizza.
For something to be a candidate for bread status, it must be made from the five main grains and be baked or look like bread (corn bread and spaghetti are not treated like bread no matter how much one eats of them - see Shulchan Aruch, OC 168:10). Of foods that pass those tests, there are still characteristics that can make a food phbbk instead of bread. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.:7) cites three opinions: it has a pocket of sweet filling; its dough contains significant amounts of ingredients such as sugar and oil, besides flour and water; it is thin and crisp. It is unclear whether these opinions are mutually exclusive or whether any significant non-bread characteristic makes it phbbk (see Biur Halacha to 168:8).
Pizza might be phbbk for one of the following reasons: 1) its dough may contain a lot of liquid other than water (e.g., oil, apple juice, milk); 2) it is baked together with pizza sauce and cheese, which make it similar to the pocket of filling above. However, it might not be phbbk. #1 requires that there to be a lot of other liquids (for Sephardim, enough to taste; for Ashkenazim, a majority of the non-flour element - Shulchan Aruch and Rama, OC 168). This is often not the case. Regarding #2, it is not clear that all fillings remove the bread status. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.:16) says that a pashtida (knish-type food) filled with meat, fish, or cheese receives the beracha of Hamotzi on any amount. The Mishna Berura (ad loc.:94) explains that classic phbbk is made from sweet fillings that make it dessert-like (e.g., cake), as opposed to these that are more meal-like. The Taz (168:20) says that all fillings are the same, and the matter is usually treated like a doubt.
Furthermore, the Beit Yosef (OC 168; see also the Aruch Hashulchan, OC 168:25) says that phbbk is something that, because of its characteristics, one does not usually center a meal around. One can argue that people eat regular pizza as the main food for a meal, rather than as a minor part of the meal or as a snack between main meals. So, indeed, this respondent treats pizza like bread, for any amount (see Am Mordechai, Berachot 25). Many distinguish between water vs. fruit juice based dough or treat the matter as a doubt to be avoided (see V’zot Haberacha, p. 217).
In any case, according to the prevalent custom that pizza is phbbk, how much does one have to eat to require the halachot of bread? The Shulchan Aruch (OC 168:6) says that one has to eat the amount that most people consider having a meal. In another halachic context, the size of 3 or 4 eggs suffices. It is a question whether that suffices here or a full meal’s worth is needed (the Mishna Berura 168:24 leaves the matter open). There is also a question whether in the meal discussed the phbbk by itself is filling, or whether it is sufficient for it to be a filling meal that is centered around the phbbk (Mishna Berura ibid.) Rav M. Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, OC III, 32) goes a step further, saying that nowadays, when bread’s role in meals is less than it once was, even a small amount of phbbk in the midst of a meal would require washing, Hamotzi, and Birkat Hamazon. Nevertheless, the most famous practice is that only two or perhaps three slices of average sized pizza are treated like bread.
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