Bishul Akum: Tzuras hapas

Baked items made from the five grains usually fall into the category of bread and as such are not subject to the issur of bishul akum. The Beis Meir and the Pri Chadash (Y.D. 112:6) offer the following definition for bread. Any food on which one would recite Hamotzi if eaten bikvias seuda, as outlined in Orach Chaim 168, is considered bread. Crackers, cakes, and pies take on the status of bread when eaten as the staple of a meal. One of the characteristics that is evaluated in determining if a baked item should be included in this category is whether it has tzuras hapas (resemblance of bread).

The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 168:15) says that the bracha on trisah is Mezonos even if one is koveah seudah. Trisah is a baked item made from the five grains that was not properly kneaded and is therefore exempt from the mitzvah of challah. It is made from a very liquid batter and is baked thin. The Shulchan Aruch holds that it likewise is not considered bread and is therefore always Mezonos. The Magen Avrohom (s.k.41) disagrees. He holds that although it lacked a maiseh gibul (kneading), in its final form trisah resembles bread (see Pri Migadim). Therefore, those who are koveah seudah on it should say Hamotzi.

This disagreement has ramifications for bishul akum as well. According to the Magen Avrohom trisah is a type of bread and subject to the laws of pas paltar and exempt from bishul akum. According to Shulchan Aruch the laws of bishul akum apply.

Triscuits is the name brand of a popular cracker that is made from boiled grains that are then shredded, stacked and baked. They resemble shredded wheat and are similar to trisah in that they lack a proper gibul. What bracha should be recited if one is koveah seudah on these crackers, and by extension, do the laws of bishul akum apply to them or not?

Rav Belsky said that Trisuits lack tzuras hapas. Even the Magen Avrohom, that holds that the bracha on trisah can be Hamotzi, would agree that on Triscuits one would always say Mezonos. Even after Triscuits are baked they do not resemble bread, since they are clearly made up of small strands of shredded wheat.

Rav Schachter said that Triscuits have tzuras hapas. Although the individual shreds do not resemble bread, the overall appearance of the cracker is similar to that of a biscuit. However, Rav Schachter agreed that on a trisah biscuit (Triscuit) one would always recite Mezonos. He said that we follow the opinion of Shulchan Aruch that when there is no gibul it is not bread.

The reason we permit Triscuits without bishul Yisroel is because the grains are first cooked to the point where they are edible. Cooked grains are not considered oleh al shulchan melachim and are therefore permitted. Since the cracker is made from these cooked grains, they too are permitted (see Shoel Umashiv Tlisa’ah 230). Even those who are makpid to only eat pas Yisrael may eat Triscuits because they are not pas.

The Magen Avrohom (s.k. 40) agrees that if a baked item is made from a liquid batter and is baked very thin then it lacks tzuras hapas, and one would never say on it Hamotzi. The laws of bishul akum would therefore apply. This is relevant in the production of blintzes (see A-90). Rabbi Belsky and Rav Schachter were lenient to allow blintzes, provided the cooking is finished in the home by a Yisroel. However, it is OU policy not to grant certification based on this consideration, since we have no guarantee that the cooking will be finished by a Jew.

In summary:

  1. A baked item that did not have a maiseh gibul is a machlokes the Shulchan Aruch and the Magen Avrohom.
  2. If the particles don’t resemble bread but its overall makeup resembles bread it is a disagreement between Rav Belsky and Rav Schachter.
  3. If the item was made from a loose batter and was baked very thin, then it is subject to bishul akum. This category includes blintzes.