In our last discussion, http://harova.org/torah/view.asp?id=2179, we dealt with the possibility of fulfilling our obligations on Shabbat without bread or other gluten products. We noted in the introduction that the issue needs to be treated with differing levels of attention based on the sensitivity to gluten (celiac, gluten sensitive or personal preference). In this shiur I would like to focus on the less intense cases, those who can tolerate gluten to a certain extent and/or those who can have oats which may work for most cases out there.
The general idea in such cases is to try to make gluten-free or reduced gluten bread out of a mixture of various flours that would still qualify as “bread” by halachik standards. Today there are many sources of flour that are used to make bread like products that do not contain gluten. See here for just one simple example of what a google search turned up https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gluten-free-flours.
Halacha recognizes a special status for the “5 grains” – wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye. The opening mishnayot of mesechet Challah list these as the only grains that are subject to the mitzvah of Hafrashat Challah, Chadash, matza on Pesach, the prohibition of chametz, issues dealing with vows and tithes. In addition these grains play a unique role in hilchot brachot, both in terms of the initial bracha (hamotzei /mezonot) and the final bracha (birkat hamazon /al hamicheya). We also have an obligation of washing our hands before eating bread products, one that does not exist when eating other food stuffs.
All of these grains contain gluten except for oats, making it possible to have our non-gluten oats and eat it too! Please note that there is a concern about cross-contamination of the oats with other grains and one should look for certified non-gluten oats in order to avoid this. (This is a conversation that revives the age old kitniyot on Pesach discussion in a contemporary light.) In addition, I must point out that I have no training in medicine or nutrition and therefore any actual celiac patients MUST consult their doctor on the possibility of using oats and not simply rely on the information here, which is only based on the information readily available to the layman.
(In addition my comments are assuming that oats are one of the five grains, as Rashi and many other commentaries explain. However there are those who claim that oats cannot be one of the five and the shibolet shual was actually a different item all together. This is due to the very lack of gluten and the possibility that it was not grown in this area at the time of the Mishna. Professor Yehuda Felix made this claim and the story goes that Rav Shlomo Zalman Orbach stopped saying mezonot on his favorite breakfast (oatmeal) as a result. The legend has it that Rav Elyashiv objected to this position and Rav Shlomo Zalman went back to the original practice. Much has been written on the subject by an array of scholars in many different disciplines. For those interested in an exhaustive summary in Hebrew by Prof. Mordechai Kislev [Archaological Botany] see here http://188.8.131.52/AB_project/publications/attachments/373.pdf.)
The question is: can one make a mixture of flour containing oats and a non-five-species variety and still consider it bread according to halacha?
This is actually a multifaceted question, and divides down into several areas of halacha – we need to ask:
What bracha we should make before eating it?
What bracha do we make after eating it?
Ddoes it require netilat yadim?
The answer to each of these questions is different.
The Bracha before eating the bread –
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 208:9) deals with our case and states, concerning the bracha before eating, that as long as the 5-grain-flour is detectable as far as the taste goes, the proper bracha is hamotzei. The rationale being that in cases of mixtures of items we follow the rule that the bracha is made on the main element of the mixture. However, when it comes to any of the 5-grains, they, by definition, set the tone and define the bracha. The only exception to this is if one of the 5-grains are not included to add any taste or flavour but rather to simply add texture (such as adding flour to a soup to thicken it up). So in our case, regardless of the amount used, seeing as the oat flour is meant to contribute to the bread on a fundamental level, the bracha would be hamotzei.
The Bracha after eating the bread-
The situation regarding the final bracha is more complicated. In order to say birkat hamazon (which I imagine one would be interested in doing, at least on Shabbat in order to say retzei) one must eat a full kazayit of one of the 5-grains. (Let’s assume that a kezayit is appx 27cc.) If one eats less than that amount one would not say a bracha achrona at all. That would be the halacha if it was pure oat flour without any additions.
If we mixed the oat flour with other flours we need to maintain a minimum of a 1/8 ratio of oat/others in order for us to deem it “oat bread”. (See Shulchan Aruch referenced above and the Mishna Brura ad loc. 42.) The 1/8 ratio, however, only defines the bread as oat bread, but in order for it to qualify for birkat hamazon one would still have to consume a full kezayit of the actual oats. In practical terms this means that if one bakes kezayit size rolls (very small ones) with the 1/8 oat ratio, one would have to eat 8 rolls in order to say birkat hamazon.
Conversely, if one used less than the 1/8 ratio of oat flour, the bread would never warrant birkat hamazon at the end.
Simply put, there is no way around the kezayit rule when it comes to birkat hamazon. We need to eat a full kezayit of one of the 5-grains to qualify.
In cases where one would not qualify for birkat hamazon, the Shulchan Aruch rules that the bracha should be al hamichya, while the GRA and Mishna Brura feel that it should be borie nefashot.
In general, we wash our hands before eating bread. However the Shulchan Aruch (OC 158:2-3) distinguishes between different amounts of bread. If one eats more than kebeitza (54 cc) then one definitely washes and makes a bracha on the mitzvah. If one eats less than that one should still wash but one should not make a bracha on the mitzvah, as it is not clear that there is an obligation to do so. (He quotes a debate as to whether one needs to wash at all if the amount of bread is less than a kezayit, but his conclusion is that one should, essentially eliminating any practical distinction between more or less than a kezayit.)
In conclusion, the use of oat flour can help solve many of the halachik issues involved but if it is mixed with other flours, one must be careful to note the proportions and how it may affect the various halachot.