By Yair Hoffman
Most people are unaware that the founder of Klein’s Ice Cream, Rabbi Efraim Klein, a’h, was a Holocaust survivor who had lost his whole family in the Holocaust. In 1955, Rabbi Efraim Klein introduced America’s first chalav Yisrael ice cream, Klein’s Ice Cream, created in the humble accommodations of his small home. He launched the business with a single truck that barely ran.
Despite almost unanimous agreement that ice cream is delicious, there exists a huge debate surrounding ice cream: Is it considered a solid or a liquid? This debate has halachic repercussions.
What Is Ice Cream?
Before we get to the halachic repercussions, let’s first explore what ice cream is exactly. Ice cream is defined scientifically as a colloidal emulsion made with water, ice, milk fat, milk protein, sugar, and air.
A colloid is defined as a homogeneous non-crystalline substance consisting of large molecules or ultramicroscopic particles of one substance dispersed through a second substance. An emulsion is defined as a fine dispersion of minute droplets of one liquid in another liquid in which it is not soluble or miscible.
The emulsion of ice cream, however, is turned into foam by incorporating air cells which are frozen to form dispersed ice cells. Milk proteins such as casein and whey protein present in ice cream are amphiphilic, can absorb water, and form micelles which contribute to its consistency. The proteins contribute to the emulsification, aeration, and texture. Sucrose, which is disaccharide, is usually used as a sweetening agent. Lactose, which is sugar present in milk, will cause freezing point depression. Thus, on freezing, some water will remain unfrozen and will not give a hard texture.
What’s The Difference?
For a food, a berachah acharonah is required when one consumes a k’zayis within an allotted time (the time it takes to consume a k’zayis).
Regarding a liquid, there is two-way debate as to how much one must consume in order to recite a berachah acharonah. Is it considered like a k’zayis or a revi’is?
Since it is a debate, poskim caution never to drink in between a k’zayis and a revi’is unless you have a designated berachah acharonah-maker (see Sha’ar HatTiyun 210:27).
How much is a revi’is? We will present the opinions in terms of an 8-fluid-ounce cup.
• The Chazon Ish holds that in order to be required in a berachah acharonah, one must consume .634 of a cup.
• Rav Chaim No’eh holds that in order to be required in a berachah acharonah, one must consume .364 of a cup.
• Rav Moshe Feinstein holds that in order to be required in a berachah acharonah, one must consume .413 of a cup.
Within what timeframe must one drink the revi’is?
The Shulchan Aruch holds that it is the normal time to drink. If eight ounces are consumed in 40 seconds, it is about 20 seconds.
The Mishnah Berurah rules that it is the custom to drink in two gulps. So we are assuming that adds another five seconds.
The Vilna Gaon’s opinion is that in order to recite a berachah acharonah, it should be consumed within the same amount of time that one consumes a k’zayis.
How much is a k’zayis?
• The Chazon Ish holds a k’zayis is 33 cc = 1.12 fluid ounces
• Rav Chaim Noeh holds it is 27 cc = .913 fluid ounces
• Rav Moshe Feinstein holds it is 31.2 cc = 1.055 fluid ounces
Within what timeframe must one eat the k’zayis?
The poskim have said that the normal timeframe to consume a k’zayis is two minutes, or perhaps up to four minutes.
The Story With Ice Cream
There is a halachah that one must wash one’s hands for any food that is dipped into one of the seven liquids. Butter, if melted, is considered as one of the seven liquids. However, one does not have to wash for something dipped into solid butter, since it is considered a food and not a liquid (see Sha’ar HaTziyun 158:16)
The origin of the issue is a debate among the Rishonim who explain the first Mishnah in the third chapter of Taharos.
The Mishnah states as follows: Sauce, bean-mash, and milk, when in a condition of fluidity, are unclean in the first degree. If they turned solid they become unclean in the second degree. If they again melted, if their bulk was exactly that of an egg, they are clean. But if it was more than the bulk of an egg they remain unclean, for as soon as the first drop issued forth it became unclean by contact with an egg’s bulk.
There is a debate as to why in the first part of the Mishnah it becomes impure again. Rav Shimshon of Sens holds that it becomes impure because it turned into a liquid. Others hold that there’s a different reason. The Mishnah Berurah holds in accordance with Rabbi Shimshon of Sens and thus holds that a liquid that becomes frozen is to be considered like a solid.
Rav Elyashiv, zt’l, in his ha’aros on tractate Berachos (page 453) rules that ice cream would be considered a solid and not a liquid. He qualifies this opinion as applying only when one bites into the ices or the ice cream. However, if one sucks on it, then it would be considered a liquid. How does one eat ice cream? Is it bitten off or is a spoonful taken out and then the underlying liquid is kind of sucked out?
If it is sucked out, then it would seem that the amount eaten is not quick enough for the time allowance discussed to warrant a berachah acharonah. This author would recommend eating a true solid in order to necessitate an actual berachah acharonah.
The author can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com. Read more of Rabbi Hoffman’s articles at 5TJT.com.