Matzah and Crackers, Mezonot and HaMotzi
What blessing does one recite on Matzah during the Pesach holiday and during the rest of the year for that matter? Also, what blessing does one recite on crackers that are usually eaten as a meal?
Answer:In the previous Halacha we have explained that any bread (anything made out of dough) which is crunchy meaning that it is completely dry, such as crackers and pretzels, requires the blessing of “Borei Minei Mezonot” and not “Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz”.
The Blessing on Crunchy (Hard) Matzah
Based on the above, we must wonder: Why do we recite the “Hamotzi” blessing during the holiday of Pesach on the dry, crunchy Matzot common nowadays, if their blessing is really “Borei Minei Mezonot”? The Sefer Besamim Rosh (mostly attributed to the Rosh, Rabbeinu Asher bar Yechiel) writes as follows: “Regarding the very thin crackers, in my opinion any bread that people do not usually eat for satiation, rather it is eaten only as a snack, this is not the kind of bread that the Sages established the blessing of ‘Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz’ for.” Hagaon Harav Avraham Saba in his Sefer Tzeror HaMor writes that Matzah that is like dried out bread without salt, one would not recite “Hamotzi” or Birkat HaMazon on it. Only on soft Matzot (that are still made in some Sephardic communities) would one recite “Hamotzi” and Birkat HaMazon. (Maran HaChida records in his Sefer Shem HaGedolim an incident that occurred with Harav Avraham Saba HaSefaradi, as follows: Once, Harav Avraham was travelling on a ship and all of a sudden a ferocious storm broke out and threatened to sink the ship. The captain begged Rav Avraham to save them. The Rav replied that he would save them on one condition: if he happened to die on the ship, the crew must not cast him overboard as was customary in those days, rather they must bring his body to a Jewish city where he would receive a proper Jewish burial. He said that if they would agree to this condition, no harm would befall them. The captain swore to heed the Rav's request. The Rav then proceeded to pray to Hashem, after which the storm subsided. Two days later, the Rav passed away at sea. The ship was close to the city of Verona and the ship’s captain directed the ship there where the Jewish residents of Verona buried him with great honor. May his merit serve as a protection for us, Amen.)
The Blessing on Matzah during the Holiday of Pesach
Many Poskim, however, disagree and hold that although the Matzah is completely dry, its blessing is indeed “Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz”. It is written in the Responsa Ginat Veradim (authored by Moreinu Harav Avraham HaLevi of Egypt approximately 350 years ago) that the Matzah made for Pesach should indeed have been considered “Kisnin” bread and require a “Mezonot” blessing since it is dry and crunchy, however, since this Matzah is the “bread” of the holiday of Pesach (meaning that it becomes the main “bread” during Pesach) one recites “Hamotzi” and Birkat HaMazon on it (since we cannot say that it is not usually eaten as bread for during Pesach this Matzah becomes the “bread”). However, based on this we can infer that during the rest of the year when regular bread is readily available, the blessing on this kind of Matzah will revert back to “Mezonot” since people do not usually eat it as bread.
Others have written different reasons why Matzah should not be considered like other crunchy breads, and they hold that the blessing on Matzah is “Hamotzi”, whether eaten on Pesach or all year round. This is the custom of most Ashkenazim who recite “Hamotzi” and Birkat HaMazon on Matzah throughout the year.
The Sephardic Custom
Maran HaChida writes that the Sephardic custom is that on Pesach one recites the “Hamotzi” blessing on Matzah since during that period people usually eat it as bread, however, during the rest of the year since regular bread is available and people do not usually eat it instead of bread, its blessing is “Mezonot” and “Al HaMichya”. Maran Harav Ovadia Yosef Shlit”a writes that those who follow this custom have on whom to rely. However, those who are especially particular in Mitzvah observance only eat Matzah during a bread meal so that the Matzah will be exempt with the “Hamotzi” blessing and Birkat HaMazon recited on the bread; in this way one evades all doubts.
The Custom of Maran Harav Shlit”a, Glory of the Generation
One should note though that although the Sephardic custom is to recite a “Mezonot” blessing on Matzah during the rest of the year (besides for Pesach), since the letter of the law seems to be that one should in fact be reciting “Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz”, one who is stringent to wash his hands and recite “Hamotzi” on Matzah as though it were bread surely has on whom to rely. This is indeed the custom of Maran Harav Shlit”a who treats Matzah as actual bread and recites “Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz” on it.
The Blessing on “Lechamit” Crackers
About two years ago, it was publicized in the name of a certain great Rav Shlit”a that since many people eat “Lechamit” crackers (a whole wheat cracker common in Israel) every morning as a meal, one must recite “Hamotzi” on these crackers. We asked Maran Shlit”a about this in addition to showing him this cracker, and he said that in his opinion these cream crackers have the same status as Matzah and he would recite the “Hamotzi” blessing on them. Thus, although one who recites a “Mezonot” blessing on cream crackers or Matzah surely has on whom to rely, one who recites the “Hamotzi” blessing on them or eats them only during a bread meal is especially admirable.
The blessing on (dry) Matzah during Pesach is “Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz” followed by Birkat HaMazon after eating. The Ashkenazi custom is to do so throughout the year as well. The Sephardic custom, however, is to recite “Mezonot” and “Al HaMichya” on Matzah throughout the year (besides for Pesach) and they have on whom to rely. Those who are especially scrupulous with Mitzvah observance eat Matzah only during a bread meal and by doing so they fulfill their obligation according to all opinions.
Maran Harav Ovadia Yosef Shlit”a adds that although the Sephardic custom is to recite a “Mezonot” blessing on Matzah throughout the year, on Motza’ei Pesach (the night Pesach ends) when regular Chametz bread is not yet readily available, one must recite “Hamotzi” and Birkat HaMazon on Matzah according to all opinions.