Zman Cheiruseinu

Published Summer 2014
There was a story told about a very elderly Yid who was in the hospital with medical complications. The doctor came in with the patient’s test results and said, “Mr. Goldberg, your blood pressure is high and your cholesterol is high. You must change your diet. No more chopped liver; nothing cooked in chicken schmaltz.” Mr. Goldberg peeked out from under his blanket as his children were attending him, looked the doctor straight in the eye and said, “Vos vais a doctor vos a yid darf essen!”1

Although Judaism frowns upon a ‘Live to Eat’ mantra, eating does play a central role in the life of a Torah observant Jew. How can one observe Shabbos without Kiddush and Hamotzi? Who can observe a Pesach seder without matza? A Melava Malka, a Purim seuda, dipping an apple in the honey on Rosh Hashana – our calendar and our chagim are replete with dinim and minhagim centered around food. Typically, the biggest challenge after all of those delicious Yomim Tovim is the battle of the bulge. Today, with heightened awareness, food allergies and intolerances ‘vos a Yid darf essen’ can be a daunting task.


Today, many kosher consumers are faced with profound dietary challenges. With heightened dietary awareness, we have entered into the new age of food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities.

One of the oldest food restrictions that could present serious kashrus challenges to the kosher consumer is maintaining a salt-free diet. How can an individual with this condition eat kashered meat or chicken that requires soaking and salting? There are many solutions to this problem. Meat and chicken can be kashered through broiling. Another solution is for the meat to be kashered in large sections, with the outer section cut away so the consumer can eat the kashered portion from the inner section, where the salt level is not so concentrated. Yet another solution is to soak the meat2 or chicken after kashering. In the event that the salt restriction is so severe, one could avoid meat or chicken entirely.

What exactly constitutes a food intolerance, and how does it differ from a food allergy? A food allergy is much more severe than a food intolerance. A food allergy can affect far more organs in the body than a food intolerance, which generally affects the digestive system. A food allergy can be life-threatening even if a miniscule amount of the offending food is consumed, so much so that in the U.S. if a food item contains 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten the ingredient has to be declared in the nutritional data. In Canada, the law requires a declaration of 10 ppm. By contrast, halachic nullification, bitul b’shishim,3 is one part issur to 60 parts heter, or 1.67%! If a person has such a severe food allergy, it is forbidden for a person to eat such a life-threatening food. That severity would put the person suffering from such an allergy into a choleh sheyesh bo sakana status (someone with a life-threatening illness), where the food can prove to be life-threatening and the Torah insists that one forgo that particular food item in order to preserve one’s own life. Similarly, such an instance would include the case of a person suffering from Celiac disease, where the gastrointestinal inflammation can be as severe as a food allergy. V’chai bahem v’lo sheyamus bahem.4

A food intolerance or a food sensitivity is not as severe as a food allergy, and though the condition may not be life-threatening it can be extremely painful and debilitating. How does one balance these dietary restrictions in light of ‘vos a Yid darf essen’?

If a person suffers from a food intolerance, such as lactose in dairy products, one can restrict dairy consumption or take Lactaid pills or drops to aid with the digestion of the dairy product. A person who has a reaction to sulphites can avoid sulphured fruits, such as the bright orange apricots, and eat unsulphured fruit, such as dark natural apricots. But how does a person who is gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive navigate his way around Shabbos and Yom Tov seudos, matza on Pesach, as well as Kiddushim and Shalom Zachors?


Gluten is a protein found in grains and is composed of two parts – gliadin and glutenin. Gluten is present in the starch of the endosperm of wheat, barley, rye and spelt.5 These comprise four out of the five chamishei minei dagan, the Torah’s cereal grains that can be made into bread and matza. In short, gluten is a protein found in flour.

What is the purpose of gluten? As we know, in bread making when flour is mixed with warm water and yeast, under proper conditions the leavening process commences and the dough begins to rise. How does this happen? We know that through the wonders of the Ribbono Shel Olam, once flour mixes with water the germination process begins and the starches in the endosperm are converted into sugars. When yeast is added to the dough, the yeast reacts with the water and begins to feed on the sugar in the dough, which releases carbon dioxide and causes the dough to rise. How is the gas contained in the dough without escaping? The answer to this question is the gluten! For this reason, the best flour for bread making is a high gluten flour.

The gluten gets down to the business of helping the dough rise more effectively when dough is kneaded and re-kneaded. The yeast molecules work harder to grow, multiply and release more carbon dioxide which is contained in the gluten network. It is the gluten that holds the bread together. However, even if the gluten is not unleashed, the gluten protein is still present in the grain. As previously mentioned, people with a gluten intolerance can be sensitive even to a miniscule amount of gluten. There are ways to reduce or eliminate gluten that may help someone who is mildly sensitive. If the starch is removed from the flour, the gluten goes with it but the flour is still “contaminated”. Wheat matza, of course, does not allow the gluten network to develop but the protein is still present. Gluten is also present in sprouted wheat bread because the gluten is stored in the wheat seeds, also known as the grains. Even though some of the gluten is used up nourishing the sprout when the sprout begins growing, nevertheless, the gluten is nowhere near consumed and remains in the sprouts.


Indeed, the world has reached an age where the gluten-free kosher consumers actually look for non-gebrokts Pesach products as their confident gluten-free assurance.


What about alcoholic beverages and the gluten intolerant baal simcha? What products can be used at a gluten-restricted simcha? As we know, the standard fare at a shalom zachor is beer and arbes (chickpeas). Classic beer is comprised of four ingredients: barley, water, hops and yeast. The yeast converts the fermented barley mash into an alcoholic beverage, and gluten is very much present in this product. Beer can and is produced with gluten-free ingredients, such as rice, but in order to assure that the beer is certified gluten-free it must be produced in a gluten-free environment. Using the same fermenters or holding tanks can definitely affect one who is gluten intolerant.

What about drinking a l’chaim at a simcha? Bourbon, although by law requires 51% corn in the mash recipe, wheat and rye are also integral ingredients, as is the case with scotch, rye and Canadian whiskey that are produced from gluten rich grains. The question is whether or not distillation removes the gluten after fermentation. The logical answer is ‘Yes’. However, it has been reported that the gluten-sensitive do better with tequila or rum, which is naturally gluten-free. Vodka, which is a neutral grain spirit, can be made from potatoes instead of wheat, which would provide an acceptable choice for a gluten-free l’chaim.

Typically, liquors use ethyl alcohol which could be made from sugar, corn or wheat. It is difficult to determine the source simply by reading the label on the bottle.

Of the five species that are identified as chameishes minei dagan,6 only oats do not contain gluten. Oats contain a legume-like protein called ‘avelain’, which is more like a soy protein. Even though oats do not resemble the other four minei dagan cereal grains, they have been identified in our mesorah as shiboles shual.7 Who knows if this isn’t the Ribbono shel Olam’s chesed to provide an alternative to one who suffers from gluten intolerance?

Although oats are assumed to be gluten-free, one must be careful if the oats are processed on the same equipment as wheat, or if it contains flavorings that are derived from wheat. Corn, rice or oat cereals that contain malt flavorings derived from barley, soy sauce or licorice contain wheat starch and are not gluten-free. Even oats that are processed in the same facilities that produce gluten are not gluten-free and can elicit an adverse reaction in one who has this sensitivity. Similarly, rice, corn, quinoa, amaranth, millet, buckwheat (kasha) and nuts are gluten-free but can become contaminated if they are produced or packaged in a non-gluten-free facility. In fact, today gluten-free breads, rolls, and bagels abound in the gluten-free section of the supermarket. However, most are produced from rice, tapioca, corn and other non-gluten grains such as quinoa or amaranth and one cannot recite Hamotzi on these products. These breads are considered either Mezonos or Shehakol, depending upon their ingredients.


Of utmost importance is how one who is gluten intolerant or sensitive recites a Hamotzi at a Shabbos or Yom Tov seuda, or eats the required shiurim of matza at the Pesach seder. If one eats a small amount of oat bread or oat matza, one makes Hamotzi.8 If one eats a kezayis of bread, one must recite Birchas Hamazon.9 How much does one have to eat from a gluten-free slice of oat bread or matza in order to fulfill the kezayis requirement? According to Rav Moshe Heinemann shlit”a, Rabbinic Administrator of the STAR-K, a kezayis is a bit more than 1 ¼ fl. oz., which equals the volume of seven Tam Tam crackers or ¼ of a machine matza. Similarly, if one eats a kezayis of any other food, a brocha acharona must be recited. Therefore, if one makes a challah or bread using gluten-free oat flour, one needs to eat a kezayis of the oat challah or oat matza.

On the first two nights of Pesach, one should eat two kezaysim of matza to fulfill the mitzvos of Motzi Matza.10 Optimally, for the special chashivus of the Shabbos and Yom Tov meal, a kibeitzah of challah should be eaten. Two zaysim equal one beitzah, which equals 2.53 fl. oz. (75ml). This is equivalent to approximately one half of a standard size machine matza, or one third of an average hand matza. If eating this amount is too difficult, one may eat one kezayis – i.e., one quarter of a machine matza or one sixth of an average size hand matza, fulfilling the minimum shiur of one’s seuda obligation of a kezayis.11

Similarly, on the first two nights of Sukkos, ideally one should eat a kibeitzah of bread in the sukkah. If one eats more than a kibeitzah of bread or cake, a brocha of Leishev Basukka is recited.

Although we are constantly looking for a cure, boruch Hashem, we have reached an age where we can accurately navigate the prevention, and we now know how to fulfill “vos a Yid darf essen” gluten-free.


2 Tbsp yeast
2 Tbsp. sugar
½ cup warm water
4-4 ½ cups certified gluten-free oat flour (whisk to remove lumps)
2/3 cup tapioca flour (starch)
1 1/3 cup potato starch
1 Tbsp. xanthan gum
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs
½ cup canola oil
1 cup seltzer
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. warm water

Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dehydrated onion (optional)

Preheat oven to 350oF.
In a small bowl combine the yeast, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and warm water. Allow the yeast to proof for 5 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl whisk together 4 cups of the oat flour with the tapioca flour, potato starch, xanthan gum, sugar, and salt. Make a small well in the center of the dry ingredients. Place the eggs, canola oil, seltzer, and yeast into the well. Mix until the ingredients are just smooth and combined.
Allow the dough to rest for 2 minutes. If the dough is particularly sticky or loose, add the remaining half cup of oat flour and mix until the dough is smooth.
Spoon the dough into braided loaf pan, or form small dough balls and place into a standard loaf pan to form braids. (You can also drop the balls into a muffin pan to make rolls.) Cover the loaf and let rise for one hour.
Combine the large egg and warm water and brush over the risen loaf. Top with sesame or poppy seeds or dehydrated onion if desired.
Bake for 30 minutes, or 20-25 minutes for rolls, until the top is golden brown.

[1] “What does a doctor know about what a Yid needs to eat?”
[2] Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlit”a, says that after two hours of soaking, any residual salt will be removed.
[3] Y.D. Siman 105-106
[4] Mitzvah observance should be life giving and should not put one’s life in jeopardy.
[5] O.C. 202, M.B. 2
[6] Five major cereal grains – “BROWS”: Barley, Rye, Oats, Wheat, Spelt.
[7] O.C. 168, M.B. 13
[8] O.C. 167:2, 184 M.B. 21
[9] O.C. 184:6, M.B. ibid
[10] O.C. 475:1
[11] O.C. 273:5, M.B. 21