INSIGHTS TO THE DAF
Halachic Issues Concerning Wheat Products Consisting of Gluten or Starch
By: Meoros HaDaf HaYomi
The advance of science has carried in its wings a number of complex halachic issues which have called the attention of contemporary poskim. One such issue is the process in which wheat is divided into its component parts of gluten and starch.
Products of the five species of grain (wheat, barley, oats, spelt and rye) normally require the berachah of hamotzi or mezonos before their consumption, and Birkas HaMazon or al ha-michyah afterwards. These grains are also unique in that they require the separation of challah, and that they can be used for baking matzos, as only these grains can become chametz. However, when flour is divided into its components of starch and gluten, the following question arises: When isolated, do these components retain the unique qualities of the five grains?
Starch and gluten: Wheat flour is made up of starch, and protein known as gluten. The starch is what causes the dough to rise and ferment, whereas the gluten is the actual substance that rises and ferments. That is to say, the starch ferments the gluten. When these two components are divided, fermentation is impossible.
Today, both substances are commonly used in the food industry. Gluten is often used in making food products such as soy hot dogs. Starch is used as a staple food product for a significant number of people who suffer from celiac, a digestive disorder that causes intolerance to gluten.
The Gemara lists the ability to ferment and rise (thus becoming chametz) as one of the unique properties that distinguish the five species of grain (Pesachim 35a; Yerushalmi, Challah 1:1). As we mentioned above, when the starch and gluten are separated, neither can rise. Therefore, perhaps they lose their status as members of the five species in regard to the required berachos. On the other hand, their ability to rise has not been entirely eliminated. If they were to be mixed together, they could rise. Therefore, perhaps they should still be considered members of the five species.
The berachah recited over soy hot dogs: In regard to soy hot dogs, which contain gluten but not starch, many contemporary poskim have ruled that the berachah shehakol should be recited. The poskim note that the berachah of mezonos is appropriate for the satiating property of these foods. Gluten alone without starch is not so satisfying, and therefore shehakol is recited. (VeZos HaBerachah, birurei halachah 24:2)
However, in regard to foods containing wheat-starch without gluten, the poskim rule that mezonos should be recited. Although we might not consider gluten-free starch in the category of the five grains (since it does not rise), it is no less satiating than rice, which also merits the berachah of mezonos although it doesn’t rise. It is still questionable whether al ha-michya should be recited afterwards, as is done after eating food from the five grains, or borei nefashos, the berachah one recites after eating rice.
Matzah made without gluten: Based on the above discussion, we can understand the serious concern that arises in regard to matzos that are made without gluten, for those who suffer from celiac. Though made from wheat flour, the starch cannot rise to become chametz. The Gemara states (Pesachim 35a) that only those grains that can become chametz can be used in baking matzos for the Seder night. It is certainly preferable to eat matzos made from natural flour on the Seder night. If for health reasons this is impossible, and the only alternative available is to eat matzos without gluten, the berachah of al achilas matzah should not be recited. Rather, someone else who is eating whole flour matzah should recite the berachah, and the person eating gluten-free matzah should answer Amen. (Rav Tzvi Weber, in the name of Rav Elyashiv shlita)
In a conversation with us Rav Weber shlita pointed out that the above discussion applies to foods that are entirely free of gluten. However, nutrition experts claim that it is generally impossible to completely separate gluten from starch. Breads, cakes and matzos that are sold as gluten-free are usually just gluten-reduced. Therefore, the appropriate berachos for flour products can be recited over them, and the matzos can be used for the Seder night with the berachah of al achilas matzah.
Blessings on Pits
By: Reb Avi Lebowitz
Tosafos proves from the fact that the Gemora considers pits to be included in the prohibition of orlah that they are considered part of the fruit. Therefore if one eats eatable pits, the brachah is Borei peri ha’eitz.
However, the Rashba disagrees and says that just as we include the shell for orlah based on the extra word “es piryo,” to include even the protector of the fruit, we include pits for orlah from the same source, but they are not actually part of the fruit and therefore the brachah is Borei peri ha’adamah.
Although the Shulchan Aruch 202:3 rules like Tosafos (and the Rosh), the Tzlach says that he thinks that the halachah should be like the Rashba to recite ha’adamah on fruit pits.
He proves this from a Mishna in Orlah 1:8 that says that although they are included in orlah, they are exempt from revai (the fourth year). This would only make sense if they are not really part of the fruit, but if they would be part of the fruit they should be included in revai as well.
Although the Tzlach himself rules in accordance with the Rashba, he offers an answer for Tosafos. He suggests that there is the outer shell over the edible part of the pit which is exempt from revai, but the inner eatable pit is part of the fruit and ha’eitz.