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Thought for the Day: Crackers, Cake, and Bentching

Remember the Uncrustables discussion?  R' Fuerst told me then that he was planning to do a series of shiurim on the topic of פת הבאה בכיסנין; ie, crackers/cake/pizza/what have you.  That series is now, Baruch HaShem, in full swing.  It's complicated stuff; the rav told me he has spent 50 - 60 hours preparing.  Last week (July 16, 2017), the shiur was on how much crackers/cake/sweet rolls you can eat -- and in what context -- before one would be required to wash and bentch.  I found two things particularly surprising/interesting (though not shocking) to me, which I present herewith.  However, due to the complexity of the topic, I feel compelled to make explicit the usual disclaimer:
The information contained in this posting in particular (as well as this blog in general) is for general information purposes only. Whilst I endeavour to keep the information up-to-date and correct, I make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or halachic veracity of the information on this blog for any purpose. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.
In no event will I be liable for any loss or damage -- spiritual or physical -- including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from, or in connection with, the use of the information in this blog.
You want to really understand the topic, then listen the shiurim, which can be downloaded from psak.org.  Or call R' Fuerst yourself.  Or, best... attend the shiurim on Sunday mornings.

First, I have some good news for you!  The minimum shiur of bread you need to eat for a Shabbos meal or other s'udas mitzvah is quite a bit smaller than I had heretofore been told.  This is good news for you on diets (which, if you live in America, means almost everyone) and want to ensure that you have eaten enough that the brachos on washing and eating are required.  To review: the minimum shiur of bread that will obligate you at a Torah level in bentching is a k'bei'ah (volume of small egg); at the Rabbinic level is a k'zayis (largish olive).  Some careful measurements have been made and the conclusion is that a single middle slice of a two pound rye bread loaf is approximately two bei'im.  Most of our challos are a bit fluffier than rye bread, so  single reasonable slice of challah should get you firmly into the Torah bentching zone.

Now the bad news.  The minimum shiur of bread you need to eat for a Shabbos meal or other s'udas mitzvah is quite a bit smaller than I had heretofore been told.  This is bad news for those of you trying to avoid washing and bentching because according to most authorities, once you have eaten four bei'im worth of פת הבאה בכיסנין... you need to wash and bentch.  That sweet roll with coffee is safe.  Two sweet rolls with coffee and you need to wash, say המוציא, and bentch the regular ברכת המזון.  Every worse... according to R' Moshe, if you eat other foods with your crackers, then the shiur is less that four bei'im... it's the equivalent volume of crackers that corresponds to whatever amount of bread you usually eat at a meal.  If you eat half a slice bread with your Shabbos meal, then eating an ounce or two of crackers with your lunch might put you into the bentching zone.  (See disclaimer, above.)  There are ways to manage the situation.  Listen to the shiur for details.

The most surprising news (to me) was that if I want to bentch on even a few crackers with my meal, then I am allowed to.  That is, I was always worried that not eating enough crackers but me into the "possible bentching" zone; and therefore to bentch would run afoul of those poskim who say that I have only eaten enough for a snack.  Nope.  R' Fuerst said that as long as you have a valid halachic opinion that you would be required to bentch, then you have the right to do so.  Whew!

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