Shabbat Parashat Vayigash| 5767
Ask the Rabbi
Question: What beracha should I make on sprouted grain breads?
Answer: It is difficult to rule on this matter for a few reasons. Firstly, we have not found written halachic rulings on this relatively unknown topic, which hinges on complicated questions. Also, different people may prepare the bread differently, to the extent that the halacha may vary. Finally, we should better understand the botanical, chemical processes that accompany sprouting. We, therefore, propose a joint project with our readers. We will describe what we know and ask the public to add their insights. After compiling information and discussing the matter among ourselves and with other rabbis, we will share our findings. Let’s show how the information age can help further the world of halacha.
We received the following information (and samples of grain and bread) from a local producer of sprouted wheat bread. One soaks organic wheat kernels for several hours in water, which causes the kernels to sprout (into roots and stalks) over the next few days. When the roots are somewhat longer (but much thinner) than the kernels (which still look much the same), one grinds the whole thing. One bakes the moist “flour” without water or yeast. The result is a loaf with a color similar to whole-wheat bread and a moister and somewhat coarser texture (presumably because of the sprouts). It tastes quite sweet (like honey cake), to the extent that one would not guess that it is the product of only wheat and water. This bread is reported to be extremely healthful because of the chemical processes involved in the sprouting. We would like to know of significantly different processes that may be used.
Now let us briefly raise some of the pertinent halachic sources and deliberations.
The beracha on edible sprouts is ha’adamah. When one makes bread out of grain-like foods (kitniyot) that are not from the five, major forms of grain, its beracha is shehakol (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 208:8). These halachot should apply even to sprouts attached to wheat because they in no way resemble wheat’s taste. However, the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.:9) rules that bread made from a mixture of wheat flour and other flour is halachic bread if it contains a reasonable percentage of wheat (a sixth or an eighth). Our case easily meets that requirement.
The question is as follows. A wheat kernel, if planted, breaks down and is replaced by a stalk, formed by the grain and other nutrients from the ground. There are various opinions on how long it takes for grain to be considered rooted in the ground, as the beginning of a new entity. (See Terumat Hadeshen 191 and Shaagat Aryeh, Chadashot 7, in regard to stalks that become permitted when the omer is brought, who rule three days and two weeks, respectively. See also, Nedarim 57-59, regarding terumah and other halachic entities that lose their status after being planted.) However, one can distinguish between being rooted in the ground and maintaining wheat’s characteristics.
At what point of the kernel’s decomposition does it lose the status of wheat? Does it depend on its outer appearance or perhaps the taste of its product? Is the process uniform throughout the kernel or do certain sections change chemically more quickly? If it is not uniform, what is the halacha when part of the kernel is significantly altered, while other parts remain intact?
There are four arguable approaches: 1) The kernel remains wheat, and the bread made from it is regular bread (including regarding taking challah, which our local producer does); 2) Although the kernel is wheat, its unique taste makes it deserve the beracha of mezonot (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 168:7); 3) It is not wheat, but the bread is a normal use of sprouted grains which warrants ha’adamah (see Mishna Berura 208:33); 4) It is like corn bread, upon which we make shehakol (Shulchan Aruch 208:8). The main choices seem to be #1 and #4; our present inclination is #4.
Our readers’ input on any of the related issues is welcome at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This edition of
Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
R’ Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.
Hemdat Yamim is also dedicated by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois
in loving memory of Max and Mary Sutker and Louis and Lillian Klein,z”l.
May their memory be a blessing!