The Kosher Airline Meal Depicted in the American Airlines Story

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By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com

Recently, the JTA reported that a judge in Brazil fined American Airlines $1,759 for not providing kosher meals for two passengers who were told that they would receive it on long-distance flights.  The picture of the roll in the kosher meal used in the VINNEWS articl had a huge wrapper indicating that the roll was mezonos.

Our question is one of the halacha.  What is the story with reciting a mezonos on these rolls?  In order to understand the underlying issues, we need to understand four things:

  1. The three definitions of something called Pas HaBa B’Kisnin or PHB.
  2. We also need to understand what the term “sweet-tasting” means.
  3. We need to identify whether the three definitions of PHB are mutually exclusive or not
  4. And lastly, we need to understand who we hold to have the authoritative word in halacha.

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.

THE SWEET-TASTING DEBATE

In Shulchan Aruch (OC 168:7) we find a debate about the Rambam’s and Rashi’s view between the Mechaber and the Ramah.  The Mechaber writes that the taste of the juice or additives have to be nikar – detectable.  The Ramah writes that the additives must be so significantly sweet that that the honey should be the main part.

Many Poskim say that one doesn’t place butter on honey cake – so the bakers want it to seem to be a roll not a cake and that fact knocks out the possibility of making a hamotzi.  This seems to be the view of the Mishna Brurah as well.

MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE OR NOT QUESTION

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.

So for Sefardim, unless they established their meal on it – the bracha is mezonos (see SA 168:7).  If they eat it at the end as a sort-of-dessert – it would be Mezonos.  If they ate it at the beginning or middle of the meal it would be hamotzi, unless one only ate a kezayis of the roll.  According to the Ramah, however, it is certainly HaMotzi unless

FOR ASHKENAZIM ITS PROBLEMATIC

But there is another question regarding Ashkenazim.  There is a debate among the Acharonim whether the three views of Pas HaBa B’Kisinin are mutually exclusive or whether all of the three views all 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 the Chayei Adam rule that the three opinions are mutually exclusive.  This means that THE THREE OPINIONS DO NOT ALL AGREE WITH EACH OTHER.  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.

THE MISHNA BRURAH, RAV ELYASHIV ZT”L, RAV MOSHE ZT”L, REB DOVID ZT”L, RAV VOSNER ZT”L AND RAV NISSIM KARELITZ ZT”L

The Biur Halacha (168:8) gives more weight to the view of the Four Acharonim than the Maamar Mordechai’s view.  It is also the view of Rav Elyashiv zt”l, Rav Vosner zt”l, and Rav Nissim Karelitz zt”l that one MAY NOT recite a mezonos on airplane rolls (cited in end of Sefer Chut Sheini).  One of the Poskim in Kiryas Yoel and one of the Poskim on the BaDatz Yerushalayim are both of the opinion that one can save it for dessert and recite a mezonos on it.  It is unclear to this author, however, what they do about the sweet-tasting debate.

IS THE MISHNA BRURAH THE FINAL AUTHORITY ON HALACHA?

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 make a Mezonos on these rolls for two reasons. The sweet-tasting debate as well as the mutually exclusive view of the four achronim. 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.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

 


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