i was reading this article that posited something i had never heard before. The article claimed that according to Sephardic opinions, hard cracker like matzah wasn't considered bread and therefore one should shouldn't make hamotzi with it, but should make mezonot. This was surprising enough, but then the article claimed that even Ashkenazi Rabbis agree that dry matzah isn't technically bread. Is it true that even Ashkenazi Rabbis say you say hamotzi over it because of its place in the meal, rather than the matzah itself having the status as always-hamotzi? The relevant text is as follows:

The assumption is that matzah is the normal bread for Pesach and therefore, like all bread, should require the bracha of “hamotzi”. The Gemara (Brachot 41-42) discusses the rules of Pat Haba’a Bekisnin – a type of pseudo-bread (Shulchan Aruch OC 168:6) that if eaten in small quantities gets a blessing of mezonot. There is a major three-way machloket (conflict) of how to define Pat Haba’a Bekisnin , with one opinion being that it means thin, hard crackers. This would seem to exactly describe modern matzah. Based on this, many authorities ruled that one says mezonot on hard matzah. The Shiurei Knesset Hagdola (OC 158, Hagahot Beit Yosef 1) says that matzah gets hamotzi because it is not so hard, implying that his matzah was neither soft like bread nor hard like crackers and therefore he ruled to say hamotzi. It seems that he would rule to say mezonot on modern, very hard matzah. Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Da’at 3:12) cites a laundry list of similar-minded authorities, and that is standard practice among most Sephardim. Nonetheless, there are significant Ashkenazi authorities (e.g. Minchat Yitzchak 1:71 and Tzitz Eliezar 11:19) who labor to defend the Ashkenazi practice of saying hamotzi. The primary explanation for why it receives hamotzi is that, when eaten, it forms the basis of the meal (kviat seudah), implying that it is not inherently “real bread”. An indication of this is that on real bread there is no minimum shiur (amount); even the smallest piece gets hamotzi (Shulchan Aruch OC 168:10; MB 168:47, 60). However small pieces of maztah, i.e. matzah crackers, even if they are identical to matzah, get the blessing mezonot because they are eaten as a snack. This is a strong argument against modern matzah being considered “lechem”, and raises a concern about using it for the seder. In addition, the Mishnah Berurah (168:37) writes that for very, very thin (dak min ha’dak) crackers that are baked (see Sha’ar haTziyun 168:36) by putting the batter between two metal plates and baking instantly, the bracha is mezonot even if one makes a meal out of it. These crackers are halachically less significant as bread than Pat Haba’a Bekisnin. Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Tshuvot v’Hanhagot 3:73) raises the possibility that hard machine matzah falls within that category and therefore should not be hamotzi and not be acceptable for the mitzvah (see Rambam, Hilchot Chametz u’Matzah 6:7). He justifies using them because they are not baked instantly and are thus dak (thin) and not dak min ha’dak (ultra-thin). He concludes that they may be Pat Haba’a Bekisnin and one who wants to be machmir (strict) should only eat them as part of a bread meal. It seems to us that while machine matzah does not bake instantly, there are hand matzah factories that take pride in the paper-thinness of their matzah and the fact that the oven is so hot that the matzah bakes in mere seconds. According to Rav Sternbuch, those matzot may indeed be truly problematic.

  • I had heard that some Sefardim make Hamotzi on Matzot only during Pesach. The rest of the year is Mezonot. If I see my "Farsi" friend on Shabbat, I'll ask him if he knows about this. – DanF Apr 15 '16 at 18:27
  • Please define "bread". Unbinding VTC as unclear until you do. – Double AA Apr 15 '16 at 19:02
  • 1
    @DoubleAA Something deserving of hamotzi because the item itself is halachically bread – Aaron Apr 15 '16 at 19:03
  • @Aaron That's a circular definition... – Double AA Apr 15 '16 at 19:03
  • possibly relevant Rambam Berakhot 3:9 אף על פי שהיא פת, מברך עליה בורא מיני מזונות – Double AA Apr 15 '16 at 19:46

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