The Quantity of Pas Haba’ah b’Kisnin Required for Hamotzi

As an introduction, pas haba’ah b’kisnin refers to baked pastries which are generally consumed as a snack and not as the staple of the meal the way bread is. Classic examples of pas haba’ah b’kisnin would be cake, cookies, pie and crackers. BE”H, we will delve into the details of this classification in the following shiur.

The Gemara concludes that the proper beracha for pas haba’ah b’kisnin is mezonos, unless one is eating them as a meal in which case one would say hamotzi.

The generally accepted explanation for this halacha is that pas haba’ah b’kisnin is intrinsically bread; however when Chazal enacted the beracha of hamotzi, they only applied it to items which have bread’s unique trait of serving as the primary dietary staple. Baked goods which do not have this trait remain mezonos, unless one is treating them as one would usually treat bread.

There are a number of factors to consider when determining whether one’s consumption of these pastries qualifies as “bread-like”, and we will clarify them in order.



The Gemara states that if one eats the amount of pas haba’ah b’kisnin that most people would usually consume at a meal, one must recite hamotzi and birkas hamazon on them. This quantity does not depend upon this individual’s regular meals, rather there is some standardized quantity for a meal. There are a number of opinions among the Poskim regarding the size of this “standard meal”.

  • The Maharam Chaviv and Perach Shushan point to eiruv techumim where one is required to place the amount of bread for a meal at the designated location. This is quantified as being the volume of either 3 or 4 k’beitzim.
  • The Shulchan Aruch HaRav rejects this quantity as insufficient and suggests a different classic quantity. When the mon fell in the midbar, each individual received an issaron (which is the quantity of dough from which one separates challa with a beracha) of mon for his daily consumption, half to be eaten as the morning meal and half as the evening meal. Accordingly, he suggests that half an issaron must be the typical size of a meal, which amounts to the much larger volume of 21.6 k’beitzim.
  • The Gan HaMelech and Vilna Gaon suggest that none of these specific sums are accurate, rather we must evaluate the size of an average individual’s main meal. If one consumes this quantity of pas haba’ah b’kisnin one says hamotzi, otherwise one recites mezonos.


Regarding the practical halacha, the majority of Sefardi Poskim follow the position that 4 k’beitzim of pas haba’ah b’kisnin is a meal which requires birkas hamazon. However, the Chayei Adam and Mishnah Berurah rule that the primary opinion is the last one; nevertheless, they conclude that one should be stringent for all of the opinions. Accordingly, one should not eat more than 4 k’beitzim of pas haba’ah b’kisnin and less than a typical major meal; as if one does so there would be a machlokes whether one should say mezonos or hamotzi. Igros Moshe and Shevet HaLevi concur with this ruling that one should not get into a questionable situation.


Counting other food

The Magen Avraham suggests that when calculating the quantity of food for a meal, we should not only take into account the pas haba’ah b’kisnin that is eaten; rather, we must also take into account all of the other foods eaten with it during the meal. Accordingly, if one ate a relatively small quantity of pas haba’ah b’kisnin together with other foods and their combined volume meets the minimal quantity considered to be a meal, one would recite hamotzi and birkas hamazon. The Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Chayei Adam, Mishnah Berurah and Igros Moshe all concur that other foods count towards the size of a meal.

However, the Chemed Moshe and Birkei Yosef challenge this chiddush and suggest that one would need to consume the entire quantity solely of pas haba’ah b’kisnin, and the Kaf HaChaim attests that in fact this is the accepted custom.

The Shulchan Aruch HaRav and the Sha’ar HaTziyun propose that this dispute is directly connected to the previous one, and the Magen Avraham only combines all of the food eaten because he holds that one is only obligated to recite hamotzi upon consuming an average full meal. However, according to those who hold that 4 k’beitzim is sufficient for hamotzi, this entire quantity must consist of pas haba’ah b’kisnin and no other foods count towards this amount.

According to this, we can significantly reduce the discrepancy between the Ashkenazi and Sefardi practices. It is not accurate to say that Sefardim say hamotzi on 4 k’beitzim and Ashkenazim require more than 4 times that quantity, as the larger volume followed by Ashkenazim includes the side dishes while the smaller amount followed by Sefardim does not.


The logic behind this distinction is that the source for considering 4 k’beitzim to be a meal is from eiruv, and there this is not the total meal but only the bread component of it. A complete meal consists of these 4 k’beitzim of bread plus an additional quantity of other foods. Therefore, 4 k’beitzim of bread together with other food is a typical meal, while 4 k’beitzim of food of which a fraction is bread would not be.

Accordingly, this leads us to the important principle that to recite hamotzi on pas haba’ah b’kisnin it must be replacing the true bread in a meal and one must be eating it in the manner that most people would typically consume bread. This leads into the next point.


The amount of pas haba’ah b’kisnin needed with other foods

Assuming that we follow the Magen Avraham that other foods do combine with pas haba’ah b’kisnin to reach the required quantity of food which consists a full meal, is there a specific part of this total which must be pas haba’ah b’kisnin?

It appears to be self-evident that if one eats less than a kezayis of pas haba’ah b’kisnin one cannot say birkas hamazon, regardless of the total amount of food eaten during the meal. According to halacha less than a kezayis is not considered “eating”, and one does not recite birkas hamazon if one did not “eat” bread.

The Shulchan Aruch HaRav, following the principle we mentioned above, proposes that the typical full meal consists of 21.6 k’beitzim of which at least 4 k’beitzim are bread. Accordingly, one would only say hamotzi on pas haba’ah b’kisnin if one is consuming a full meal which includes at least 4 k’beitzim of pas haba’ah b’kisnin.

However, the Aruch HaShulchan and Igros Moshe criticize the practice of individuals who attend a chasuna and wish to avoid washing and bentching with the mezuman, but still eat significant quantities of food including cake. Doing so in their opinion would in fact obligate one in birkas hamazon, and they do not mention as a potential solution to limit the amount of mezonos consumed to under 4 k’beitzim. The implication is clearly that they hold that if the total amount of food consumed is equivalent to what most people would eat at a full meal, it is not necessary for the pas haba’ah b’kisnin to compromise 4 k’beitzim of it.

Nevertheless, Igros Moshe does not dismiss the logic that pas haba’ah b’kisnin must serve in place of true bread to become hamotzi. Rather, he observes that today it is no longer typical to eat 4 k’beitzim of true bread during a full meal. Consequently, he suggests that there is a minimum quantity of pas haba’ah b’kisnin which must be eaten to render it hamotzi even when it is eaten with other foods, just that this amount is not a static volume and it fluctuates with people’s eating habits.


Which foods contribute to the total volume?

Again assuming that the halacha follows the Magen Avraham and we do combine other foods with the pas haba’ah b’kisnin to reach the required quantity of food needed to render it hamotzi, do all foods contribute towards this total or only those eaten together with the bread?

The Derech HaChaim suggests that the only foods that can be combined with pas haba’ah b’kisnin are those eaten literally together with it, for example spreads or the contents of a sandwich. However, other foods which are eaten separately during the course of the meal do not count towards the total volume.

Similarly, but even more extreme, the Chazon Ish questions whether a pastry’s filling can be combined with its surrounding dough, and he leaves this issue unresolved.

However, the aforementioned Aruch HaShulchan and Igros Moshe clearly do not agree with this limitation, as at a chasuna people do not necessarily eat their cake together with the fish and meat.


In fact, the logic of the Derech HaChaim seems difficult to understand, as if the primary issue is whether the pas haba’ah b’kisnin is serving as a replacement for bread and true bread is not necessarily consumed together with all of the courses of a typical meal, why should pas haba’ah b’kisnin require this arrangement?

It seems to me that this difficulty can be resolved with the observation that the Derech HaChaim is among the Poskim who consider the quantity of a “meal” to be 4 k’beitzim; and as we explained above, this only covers the bread portion of the meal and not the other courses. Since we also elaborated that generally speaking this volume must consist solely of pas haba’ah b’kisnin and other foods to not count towards this amount, the Derech HaChaim requires a stricter relationship between the bread and the side dishes than those Poskim who follow the larger quantity of a full typical meal. According to the Derech HaChaim to count other foods towards the 4 k’beitzim of bread these other foods must be batel to the pas haba’ah b’kisnin and become part of it; however, there is no reason to require this bitul to count other foods towards a meal.


In conclusion

It seems to me that halacha l’maaseh an Ashkenazi may not recite hamotzi and birkas hamazon on pas haba’ah b’kisnin unless he is eating a meal which is comparable in size to what most people would consider a typical, full meal. Admittedly, this quantity is not simple to assess. However, it is proper to avoid consuming more than 4 k’beitzim of pas haba’ah b’kisnin outside of a full meal to avoid getting into a situation where there is a machlokes haPoskim what one should do.

One should recite hamotzi and birkas hamazon on pas haba’ah b’kisnin if one consumes 4 k’beitzim of pas haba’ah b’kisnin—and perhaps even the amount of pas haba’ah b’kisnin equivalent to the bread portion of a meal according to what is common today—if one eats in the same sitting other foods totaling the volume of a typical, full meal. They do not need to be eaten literally together with the pas haba’ah b’kisnin.

It appears that there is no need to refrain from consuming a small amount of pas haba’ah b’kisnin at the same sitting with other foods totaling 4 k’beitzim, unless one is literally eating them together.

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