Sign in | Register
Home Page Bet Midrash Jewish Holidays Passover - Pesach The Seder Night Bookmark and Share

Print Read as Doc file
Send to a friend

Nissan 5768

The Laws of Matza

Written by the rabbi


A The Mitzva of Eating Matza
The mitzva of eating matza (plural: matzot) on the night of the fifteenth of the month of Nisan is stated explicitly in the Torah: "In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, in the evening, you shall eat matzot," (Exodus 12, 18). The Torah also says "You shall eat matzot for seven days" (Exodus 12, 15); yet Chazal used the Torahs exegetic principles, given for the elucidation of the Torah and for making halakhic deductions from it, to show that this verse does not mean to command us to eat matzot all seven days, but rather that matza is the principal food one is to eat during Pesach instead of bread. A person who does not want to eat matzot is not duty-bound to do so, but is allowed to eat just fruits and vegetables, and meat and dairy products, as he wishes.
The simple meaning of this would seem to be that one who eats matzot all seven days of Pesach does not thereby fulfill a mitzva, and that this is what Chazal meant when they said that eating matza during the seven days is "voluntary" (Pesachim 120a) that is, not obligatory. Nevertheless, many major halakhic authorities have written that, while it is true that eating matza is obligatory only on the night of the seder, and that that is why our Sages instituted recital of the special blessing "al achilat matza" only for the eating of matza on seder night - yet one who eats matza on the other days of Pesach is still fulfilling a mitzva, even if it is not obligatory. According to this perception, what our sages meant when they said that eating matza on the seven days of Pesach is "voluntary" is that, by way of contrast with the obligation to eat matza on the night of the fifteenth, on the rest of Pesach a person is free to decide whether or not he wants to fulfill an additional mitzva by eating matza. According to this view, the verse retains its simple meaning, as is written, "You shall eat matzot for seven days" (Exodus 12, 15). This is how Ibn Ezra and Chizkuni explained the verse; this is also implied by what the Rosh wrote. This was also the practice of the Vilna Gaon. It should be noted that even they held that the mitzva consists of eating a kazayit of matza at each festive meal; eating more than that does not constitute an addition to the mitzva. 1

B - Matza Shemura (Protected/Guarded Matza)

The Torah says, "and you shall keep [also: guard, protect] the [festival of] matzot" (Shemot 12, 17). Chazal interpreted this commandment as calling for watching over the matzot, to ensure that they not begin to ferment.
Chazal meant that the matzot that people eat for the sake of the mitzva on the first night of Pesach must be actively protected from fermentation, for the very next verse says "in the evening you shall eat matzot". The law concerning the other matzot one eats on Pesach is like the law of other foods: they may be eaten as long as there is no cause for concern that - according to the halakhic definitions they might have become chametz. We have been commanded to take extra precautions to protect the matza used for the mitzva on seder night from becoming chametz.
From what time does one need to guard the matzot? Lkhatchila, the wheat should be guarded from harvest time. It is customary to harvest the wheat when the kernels are still a bit moist, for if they were to dry out completely and a lot of rain were to fall on them, the grains would ferment. Similarly, afterwards, when the grains are stored, care must be taken to store them in places where one need not fear that they might come in contact with water.
One may also fulfill the mitzva of eating matzot on seder night with matzot that were protected from fermentation from the time the wheat was ground into flour. As long as the wheat kernels showed no signs of fermentation, so that the status granted them by halakhah was not spoiled (because no grains were seen to have split or sprouted), one need not fear that they had become wet and fermented. Matza that has been guarded only from the time of grinding the wheat into flour is just not as "de luxe" matza shemura as matza made from wheat grains that were guarded from harvest time.
Under extenuating circumstances, if flour that has been guarded from the time of grinding is also not available, one may buy regular flour in the market, and fulfill the mitzva of guarding against fermentation by guarding the dough from the time of kneading (Shulchan Arukh Orach Chayim 453, 4). Even if it is customary in that place to rinse the grains of wheat lightly before grinding them, it is still permissible under extenuating circumstances to buy regular flour in the market. Since a brief rinse is not presumed to be enough to cause the grains to begin to ferment, we may assume they did not ferment. However, if it is customary to soak the grains a little in water, it is forbidden to buy flour for matza in the market, since it is presumed halakhically to be chametz (Mishna Berura 451, 24). Therefore, in actual practice, one should not buy flour for matzot that does not have special kashrut supervision for Pesach, since the wheat grains are frequently soaked in water, and there is a genuine concern that they may have fermented. 2
In actual practice, the custom today is to be meticulous about matza shemura, to buy matzot that have been guarded from the time of harvest for the seder night, and to use them to fulfill the mitzva of eating matza. This practice has taken root so thoroughly that people have come to call matza that has been guarded only from the time of grinding non-shemura matza, even though it is considered matza shemura according to halakha, and one may fulfill the mitzva of eating matza by eating such matza.

C Does the Protection have to be done with the Intention of Fulfilling a Mitzva?
Guarding the matzot to be used for fulfilling the mitzva of eating matza on seder night means two things: 1 - being extra careful to prevent fermentation; 2 - guarding intentionally for the sake of matza to be used for a mitzva (matzat mitzva). Therefore, one must be careful that the kneading and baking of the matzot is done by Jews who are of mitzva age. Such Jews can be relied upon both to guard against fermentation and to keep in mind that their actions are for the sake of matzat mitzva. One may not employ non-Jews, minors or others who lack halakhic mental capacity, for kneading or baking matzot, since one cannot count on them to have the appropriate intent (Sheiltot, Rashba).
Some authorities disagree with the second meaning above. They hold that the mitzva of guarding the matza requires special care to prevent fermentation, but does not require that it be made while having special intent. Thus non-Jews and minors are fit for baking the matzat mitzva, as long as an adult Jew supervises their work for the sake of a mitzva, making sure they do their work with alacrity and that their dough does not begin to ferment (Raah).
In actual practice, at the time of kneading the matza dough one should be careful to fulfill both meanings of "guarding". One should be careful, then, that Jews knead and bake the matzat mitzva, with explicit intent that they are making matza for the sake of the mitzva. However, at the time of harvesting and grinding, the first meaning is sufficient, so that the harvesting of the wheat and the grinding of the flour may be done by non-Jews, on condition that Jews stand nearby and supervise their work, to assure that no fermentation takes place (Shulchan Arukh 460, 1; Mishna Berura 460, 3; Shaar Hatziyun 4). 3
Lekhatchila, one should say out loud - at the beginning of working on matzot - that all the work is being done for the sake of producing matzat mitzva; however, bedieved, if he only thought that, he fulfilled his obligation (Biur Halakha 460, 1, based on Pri Megadim).
He should have in mind specifically that it is for the sake of the matzat mitzva that one eats on seder night, but if he had in mind that it be for matza for Pesach, he has fulfilled the obligation (Shulchan Arukh Harav 453, 14).

D The Fitness of Hand-made vs. Machine-made Matzot for the Mitzva of Eating Matza
A great dispute arose among halakhic authorities, from the time people began making machines for baking matzot. The dispute centers on two principal questions: a) Are the machine-made matzot kosher for Pesach, that is, is it certain that they are completely free of fermentation? b) Can one use them for fulfilling the mitzva of eating matza on seder night?
As far as the concern for fermentation goes, it has been agreed that it all depends on the nature of the machine and on the supervision, so that as long as there are kashruth supervisors who ensure that there is no risk of fermentation the matzot are fit for Pesach. Thus even specially righteous, God-fearing Jews eat machine-made matzot on Pesach.
The second question, however, is still hotly debated. Some say that the mitzva of guarding the matza requires that the entire process of kneading and baking be done with explicit intent that they are for the sake of matzat mitzva, and since a machine cannot have intentions, one cannot fulfill the mitzva of eating matza on seder night by eating machine-made matza.
Most halakhic authorities hold that one can fulfill the mitzva by eating machine-made matzot for several reasons. Some explain that the mitzva of guarding the matza only requires one to ensure that there is no fermentation, and it is irrelevant whether this is done while making the matza by hand or by supervising the activity of a machine. Furthermore, it is a human being who operates the machine, and if he operates it with the intent of making matzat mitzva then, automatically, all of the machines operations will be considered to have been done for the sake of the mitzva.
In actual practice, machine-made matzot can be used to fulfill the mitzva of eating matza on the seder night. Many are scrupulous about fulfilling the mitzva with hand-made matzot that were baked under good kashruth supervision. However, even they grant that it is not necessary to eat hand-made matzot throughout the seder meal; but rather the scrupulous thing to do is to eat hand-made matzot for those kazayit quantities of matza that we were commanded to eat for the sake of a mitzva (as explained further in this book 16, 22-25). 4

E Is there a Special Value in Eating Hand-made Matzot throughout Pesach?
The mitzva of guarding the matzot was said about the matza we were commanded to eat for the sake of a mitzva on the night of the fifteenth of Nisan. The idea is to honor the mitzva by giving the matzot extra protection. In other words, matzot that were not guarded, but for which there need be no concern that they may have become chametz according to the rules of halakha, are permissible for eating on Pesach; they are just not fit to be used as matzot mitzva, since they were not specially guarded for that purpose.
Thus it is permissible to eat matzot that are kosher for Pesach, even though they are not shemurot, throughout Pesach.
Nevertheless, there are those who are particular to eat matza shemura throughout Pesach. There are two reasons for this. One reason is that some authorities hold that while there is no duty to eat matzot throughout Pesach, yet one who does choose to eat matzot does fulfill a mitzva; therefore, one who wants to fulfill a mitzva by eating matzot should eat matza shemura. Yet, according to this it is sufficient to eat a kazayit of matza shemura at every meal. Similarly, it is sufficient to use our regular matzot, which are guarded from the time of grinding, and we have learned above that one can fulfill the requirement for the matzat mitzva with matza that has been guarded from the time of grinding.
The second reason is that some authorities hold that one of the reasons for eating matza shemura is out of concern for possible fermentation; for out of all the foods we eat on Pesach the matza is the likeliest one to undergo fermentation. Therefore, if the wheat grains are not protected from harvest time there is a reason for concern that they may have fermented. Thus there is good reason to be stringent and to eat only matza that has been guarded from harvest time throughout Pesach.
One should realize that today the advantage of matzot that have been guarded from harvest time is not only in their having been protected from contact with water from harvest time, but rather that, in general, much more care is taken throughout their manufacturing process. For example, the machines are stopped every eighteen minutes for a careful cleaning. Thus these matzot benefit from a whole series of exacting practices.
In summation, regular matzot, which have been guarded from fermentation from the time of the grinding of the wheat into flour, are kosher for all of Pesach lekhatchila. Even those who hold there is a mitzva to eat matza throughout the seven days of Pesach agree that one fulfills the mitzva with such matzot. The more scrupulous eat matzot that have been guarded from harvest time, primarily because they are more careful to avoid possibilities of fermentation throughout their manufacture. 5

F Water that has Stayed Overnight
The sages prohibited kneading the dough for Pesach matzot with lukewarm water. The warmth hastens the fermentation process, increasing the risk of the dough becoming chametz if the workers are not especially quick in kneading the dough and baking the matzot. Chazal forbade kneading the dough even with regular cold water found in cisterns and in springs, lest the ground, that had absorbed the heat of the sun, had warmed the water. Therefore they required drawing the water before nightfall and keeping it overnight in a cool place. Such water is called mayim shelanu (water that has stayed overnight). This is the water that is used to prepare matzot for Pesach (Shulchan Arukh 495, 1 and 3). 6
A problem arose in hot countries. Wherever they would keep the water it would warm up a bit, while, to the contrary, if they left the water in the springs it would stay cooler. Nevertheless, the halakhic ruling is that they have to leave the water out overnight, in accordance with the Sages original enactment; if, as a result, the water warmed up a bit, they must put it in refrigerators or in walk-in coolers (Mikraei Kodesh, Pesach 2, 7).
Some hold that one should not take water from a faucet and leave it out overnight for baking the matzot, since the water might be from an open reservoir and may have been warmed by the sun. Furthermore, there is concern that the chlorine dissolved in the water might hasten the fermentation process (Shearim Metzuyanim Bahalacha, 109, 3). In actual practice this possibility is of no concern. Indeed, there are a few meticulous people who make hand-made matzot who are scrupulous about drawing the water from wells or springs, but in the machine-made matza factories they take regular water from the municipal system, filter it thoroughly, and leave it in a cool place all night; that is their "mayim shelanu" (the custom of my teacher and rabbi, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, was to prepare mayim shelanu using water from the faucet).

G Preventing Fermentation during Kneading
The flour for matzot is ground at least one day before kneading it into dough, since the grinding heats the flour slightly, increasing the risk that the dough will ferment (Shulhan Arukh 453, 9).
No salt or pepper is added to the dough, since they might warm the dough, increasing the risk of fermentation (Shulhan Arukh 455, 5-6).
Lekhatchila, one should not make a matza dough with more than 1,666 grams of flour (that is the least amount that obliges one to separate challah from dough with a bracha). A dough that is larger than that is difficult for one person to knead thoroughly and quickly, so parts of the dough may begin to ferment. Bedieved, if a person kneaded a larger quantity, the matza is kosher as long as the dough did not rest for eighteen minutes and no signs of fermentation appeared in it (Shulchan Arukh 456, 1-2).
When there are several people engaged in kneading, flattening and rolling out the dough, some authorities hold it is permissible to knead larger quantities, and, indeed, many customarily do this. Even so, initially it is proper to be stringent and not to knead more than the measure that the Sages said (Mishna Berura 456, 7).
When the kneading is done by machine, it is customary even initially to be lenient and to knead large volumes of dough.
One may not knead the dough in a hot place, since the heat hastens the fermenting. Therefore one may not knead outside in the sun or in a sunny place. Sometimes it gets hot even on a cloudy day, so that even if the sun is not shining, one may knead the dough neither outside nor inside a building opposite the windows, lest the heat pour in through them. Obviously one may not knead in a place that is heated by the oven (Shulchan Arukh 459, 1). Someone even gave a measure for the heat, saying one may not knead in a place where the temperature is thirty degrees Celsius or higher (Sefer Matzot Mitzva Chapter 7, note 29). Bedieved, if they kneaded the dough in a hot place but did not see any signs of fermentation in the dough or the matza then the matza is kosher for Pesach (Shulchan Arukh 459, 5).
Lekhatchila, one may not stop working the dough for even a moment (Shulchan Arukh 459, 2). If the hands of the person kneading the dough heat up, he should cool them in cold water. There are some who are scrupulous to cool their hands in water from time to time in any event as they are kneading (Mishna Berura 459, 27).

H More Laws about the Matzot
The oven should be heated thoroughly, so that the dough begins to bake immediately. If the heat is low, the dough might begin to ferment before it bakes. Clearly one may not bake the matzot in the heat of the sun. If one did so, then even if the heat was very strong and it seems clear that the dough did not ferment, nevertheless one cannot use this matza to fulfill the mitzva of eating matza, for matza has been called "bread of poverty" in the Torah, and what is baked in the sun is not properly called bread (Shulchan Arukh Harav 461, 6).
It is not necessary, however, to bake the bread specifically in the flames of the fire, but rather even if the flames burn under a metal or earthenware plate, as long as the plate is roasting hot - one may bake on it (Shulchan Arukh 461, 2).
Similarly, one may bake in an electric oven whose heating elements are glowing hot, for that is considered like fire. But matzot that were baked in a microwave oven are disqualified from being used as the mitzva of eating matza, since they were not baked by fire. Some say they are kosher, for no early source indicates that the matzot must be baked specifically with fire (see Mikraei Kodesh by Harari, p. 335 Rabbi Auerbach disqualified such matzot, and Rabbi Yisraeli held them to be kosher).
One may not decorate the matza with pictures, lest they wait to draw the picture and, meanwhile, the matza ferments. One may not make a thick matza (8 cm) on Pesach lest the fire does not bake it through and through sufficiently and it begins to ferment (Shulchan Arukh 460, 4-5). However, one may make a matza that is a little thinner than a tefah (a hand-breadth).
The Ashkenazic custom is to make the matzot thin and hard, so that the heat goes through them thoroughly and there is hardly any risk that the matza will ferment (Rama 460, 4). Some Sephardim make the matza about as thick as a finger. Others, like the Ashkenazim, make them thin like wafers since they usually bake them before Pesach, and, if they dont make them thin like wafers, they wont last properly (Kaf Hachaim 460, 44).
One cannot fulfill ones obligation with a stolen or a robbed matza (Shulchan Arukh 454, 4). Sometimes a purchaser takes the matzot into his possession without paying immediately, but if the seller showed that he wants to receive payment immediately, the purchaser must be careful to pay as the seller requested. If the seller seeks the buyer out, seeking payment for the matzot, and the purchaser sends him away with a "come back later", then the purchaser cannot fulfill his obligation with those matzot, because they do not belong to him (Mishna Berura 454, 15).

Comments and feedback are welcome. Please send them to

1. This matter is explained (Pesachim 120a), by applying one of the exegetical principles used for deriving laws from the Torah, viz., whenever the law of a particular case was singled out for specific mentioning by the Torah, even though the law of that specific case could have been known because it was included in a more general category, this comes to teach something about the entire category, not only about the specific instance that was singled out. The initial general rule is "You shall eat matzot for seven days", and yet the Torah also says "For six days you shall eat matzot, and on the seventh day there shall be an atzeret (a stoppage/refraining - from work) for the Lord your God". Thus the seventh day was excluded from the general principle, so that there is no mitzva to eat matzot on the seventh day. Thus, the fact that the seventh day was excluded from the original general category comes to teach about the general category, that the mitzva to eat matza is not uniform throughout the seven days, but only on the night of the fifteenth is it a mitzva to eat matza, for a third verse states "In the evening you shall eat matzot" (Exodus 12, 18).
Most rishonim and acharonim did not mention that one who eats matza during the seven days of Pesach fulfills a mitzva, implying that there is no mitzva in such eating. Yet many rishonim and acharonim did mention this mitzva, including: Ibn Ezra (Exodus 23, 15), Chizkuni (Exodus 12, 15). In the Responsa of Rosh (23, 3), he attributed to Geonim the explanation for the fact that we do not lay tefillin during chol hamoed Pesach as being because there is already another sign then, viz., the mitzva of eating matza. The same is said in the name of the Vilna Gaon (Maaseh Rav 185), quoted by Mishna Berura (475, 45). See also in the book HaSeder HeArukh, (Part 1, chapter 78, 7-14).
^ 1. According to the Rif, the Rambam and other Rishonim, the wheat must be protected already from harvest time. According to the Rosh it must be guarded from the time of grinding, since the mitzva of guarding the wheat begins only when the wheat grain comes in contact with water, and as the Rosh explained - they used to grind their wheat in water mills. This implies that if they were to grind the wheat other than by water, the mitzva to guard against fermentation would begin only when the flour is mixed with water (Magen Avraham 453, 7). However, there were Rishonim who wrote that the guarding begins only from the time of grinding the wheat, without mentioning as a reason for this that the grinding is done by water power; among them were Rashi, Shibbolei Haleket, and Sefer Mitzvot Katan. In Teshuvot HaGeonim it says that if they did not guard the wheat from the time of grinding then, after the fact, it is possible to buy wheat in the market. Many Rishonim quoted this. See Birur Halakhah 40a. If the matza was guarded from the time of grinding then it is clear that one recites the brachah over it (see Biur Halakha 453, 4). The reason is that the Ran and many other Rishonim explained that the view of the Rif and those who shared his view was that guarding the matza from the time of harvesting the wheat is called for only as a preferred form of fulfilling the mitzva, not as a requirement. Kaf Hachaim (482, 1) wrote that even under extenuating circumstances, when one may have made matza that was guarded only from the time of kneading, he should recite the blessing over the matza. Indeed, it appears that the majority of halakhic authorities hold that, bedieved, protecting the dough from the time of kneading is sufficient.
The Tur and Bet Yosef wrote, based on the Rif, Rabenu Yerucham, the Ran and the Maggid Mishneh, that the law about guarding the matza is specific to the matza to be eaten for the sake of the mitzva, but all the other matzot eaten during Pesach do not require special guarding, but rather it suffices to follow the halakhic requirements for avoiding chametz. This is what Mishna Berura wrote (453, 21). (It is true, though, that some hold that one must be stringent throughout Pesach, either because we have a greater fear of violating the prohibition against chametz, or because they hold there is a mitzva to eat matza shemura throughout Pesach; see E below.) The Bach and those who share his view wrote that the mitzva of guarding the matza is of rabbinic origin, and that the Talmudic rabbis had only quoted a verse to support what they had said, while the verse did not itself constitute a Torah requirement of guarding the matza. However, most halakhic authorities hold that guarding the matza is a mitzva of Torah origin; so wrote Biur Halakhah (460, 1 "Ain", based on the Rashba, Pri Chadash and other Rishonim and Acharonim).
^ 2. According to most halakhic authorities, protecting the matza means two things: a being careful to prevent fermentation, b intending that the matza be for the sake of matzat mitzva. According to Raah, there is only one meaning, namely, guarding against fermentation for the sake of the mitzva of matza. According to R. Hai Gaon and those who share his view, while it is true that one also requires the proper intention, yet if a Jew supervises a non-Jew or a minor and tells him to knead the dough for the sake of matzat mitzva, one may rely on him to have the appropriate intent. The Shulchan Arukh ruled (460, 1) according to the view of most authorities, that the guarding of the matza also requires intent that it be for the sake of matzat mitzva, so that one should not have non-Jews knead or bake the matzot (Mishna Berura 460, 3; Shaar Hatziyun ibid.).
According to the Bach and Eliyahu Rabbah, those who hold that the guarding must begin from harvest time (as explained in the previous section), require also that the harvest and the grinding must be done by Jews for the sake of the matzat mitzvah. Some are meticulous about this. (Those who hold that in operating a machine one does not fulfill the requirement of having proper intent, as will be explained in the next section, hold that one must harvest and grind the wheat by hand, and not with a combine and machines; only a few individuals are as punctilious as this.)
The Taz explained that harvesting and grinding do not have to be done with intent that they be for the sake of matzat mitzva, so that one may use wheat that was harvested and ground by non-Jews, as long as a Jew supervised to be sure there is no fear of fermentation. Only from the time of kneading does one also have to have intent in the preparation of the matza, so that one must be careful that the kneading and the baking be done by Jews (according to most authorities). Therefore, the Shulchan Arukh (460, 1) wrote only concerning the kneading and the baking that non-Jews are disqualified. The Biur Halakha states (ibid., s.v. "Ein") that the general custom is simply to be lenient, in accordance with what the Taz wrote, to have non-Jews harvest and grind the wheat under Jewish supervision. So wrote also Chok Yaakov and Shulchan Arukh HaRav (453, 16). Thus this is considered matza that has been guarded from harvest time. See also in Hilkhot Chag baChag 16, note 19, where he explained the Tazs position well, that there are two types of "guarding" the matzot.
^ 3 . See Mikraei Kodesh, by R. Harari, (pp. 326-335), for a summary of the views. Originally, the machines were operated more manually, and the concerns were the risk of fermentation and the change of tradition. After the machines were improved these concerns were allayed, but the concern remained, and grew, lest there not be proper intent during the operation of the machine. Among those who forbade using machine made matzot were: R. Shlomo Kluger, R. Hayim Halberstam of Tzanz (Divrei Hayyim), Chidushei HaRim, and Avnei Nezer, and most of the great Chassidic leaders leaned towards this position. In our generation, as well, most great Chassidic leaders tend to negate the use of machine-made matzot. Among those who permitted machine-made matzot: Shoel Umeshiv, Tiferet Yisrael (on the Mishna), Ktav Sofer, Arukh Laner. Some of them actually preferred machine-made matzot, because they have a reduced risk of fermentation this was the view of Or Sameach, and so ruled R. S. Salant, chief dayyan of Jerusalem, who also ate machine-made matzot himself. This was also the practice of the Perushim of Jerusalem. The principal reason behind their position was the fact that, since the principal purpose of guarding the matza and being extra scrupulous was to prevent fermentation, and, as they saw it, the risk of fermentation was lower in machine-made matzot, that made them preferable. R. Frank explained that when a non-Jew or a minor kneads, since they have minds of their own, having an adult Jew supervise them is to no avail, whereas in the case of a machine, which has no mind of its own, the intent of the Jew operating the machine is effective. Thus, my teacher and rabbi R. Tzvi Yehuda Kook used to eat machine-made matzot on seder night. R. MinHahar and R. Massas also used to prefer machine-made matzot. R. S. Yisraeli said hand-made matzot were not preferable to machine matzot. On the other hand, R. Mordekhai Eliyahu holds that even though one may recite the blessing over machine-made matzot, yet hand-made matzot are preferable. (In Responsa Oneg Yom Tov Orach Chaim 42, the author explained that even though the mitzva of guarding the matzot is of Torah origin, nevertheless, even if no matzot shemurot are available seder night, there is a positive commandment to eat matza on the night of Pesach. This implies that one must even recite the blessing, and he will only be missing out on the mitzva of guarding the matzot.)
I have written that there is more glorification of the mitzva by eating hand-made matza, in light of what my father and teacher says, that in the course of recent decades there have been several changes. For one, the machines have become more automatic, so that one may be properly concerned with the possibility that the matzot are not made for the sake of the mitzvah. Perhaps, with the older machines, where the Jewish operator had a lot to do, one could consider his activities as a concrete demonstration of his intent to make the matzot for the sake of the mitzvah. But now all the Jew has to do is push a button. Furthermore, in the past, when all the matzot were made by hand, there was room for concern lest the pressure to finish preparing matzot for all of the Jewish people should bring the workers to be less careful about preventing fermentation. Then the introduction of machine-made matzot was a great improvement. But today most of the hand bakeries are extremely scrupulous, so that the situation may have been reversed, and there is less concern for the possibility of fermentation in the hand-made matzot. Lastly, even though halakhic authorities agree that the intent of the machine operator and the supervisor is sufficient, yet it is more beautiful when all of the doing is for the sake of the mitzva. In particular when the owner of the matzot himself makes the effort to bake the matzot, we apply the rule that it is a greater mitzva to do something oneself than to do it through an agent, (indeed, my father and teacher goes to the trouble of baking hand matzot personally for using as his matzot mitzva).
5. The Vilna Gaon used to eat matza shemura throughout Pesach, for two reasons. One was that he held there is a mitzva to eat matza shemura all seven days, although in this respect he held that guarding from the time of kneading the dough is sufficient. The second reason was that he was concerned about the risk of fermentation, on account of which he required guarding from harvest time; his view is quoted in Biur Halakha (453, 4). In Arukh HaShulchan (453, 20-23) it is explained that according to the Rif and the Rambam there is a mitzva of rabbinical origin to guard the matza from harvest time, out of concern lest the wheat ferment, a concern which applies to all of the matzot eaten throughout Pesach. Yet the view of most authorities is that one does not have to eat matza that has been guarded from harvest time throughout Pesach. This seems to be the view expressed in Shulchan Arukh (453, 4) and Mishna Berura (ibid.).
Thus the principal meticulous addition to regular halakhic behavior for matza that is protected from harvest time consists of the very care to protect against fermentation from the time of harvest, by harvesting the wheat grains before they dry out. This way there is no risk that, if a lot of rain were to fall on them, they would ferment. Moreover, this grain is stored subsequently in a dry place, so that there are no germinated or split grains among them, which are signs of possible fermentation. By way of contrast, wheat that is imported to Israel, which is used to make the rest of the matzot, sometimes has grains that have fermented. While it is true that they are quite exacting, taking clean shipments for manufacturing matza, still there is a risk that some of the grains have fermented. Furthermore, while it is true that if there are such grains in the shipment they are nullified according to the rules of halakha because they are less than one-sixtieth of the total, yet this is not enough for them to be considered of higher quality for the meticulous. (According to halakha, since the matzot are baked before Pesach, the flour made from such grains is considered as a mixture of types of liquid, so the fermented part that was nullified before Pesach does not regain its former halakhic status as chametz when Pesach begins; see above, the laws of chametz admixtures 7, 3-4, concerning the rule of regaining previous halakhic status as forbidden in relation to matzot.) Since matzot guarded from harvest time are of higher quality for the meticulous, the manufacturers are more careful about other things, as well. Here are three examples: 1 they stop the machines every eighteen minutes during baking and clean them thoroughly; 2 - throughout the procedure they announce that these matzot are being made for the sake of matzat mitzva; 3 - they are stricter in the supervision. However, while making the regular matzot, the tendency is to manufacture as quickly as possible, so as to keep the price down for the general public, so that they only switch the mixers used for kneading every eighteen minutes, while the rolling machine that flattens the dough they clean in the course of working. In this way every part is cleaned in less than eighteen minutes, but since it is done in the course of work, it is harder to clean it thoroughly.
However, matzot shemurot are much more expensive than regular matzot (that are also guarded - from the time of grinding - so that one can use them to fulfill the mitzva of eating matzot according to those who hold there is such a mitzva throughout Pesach). Some say it is not clear whether it is more scrupulous to pay the extra cost for matzot shemurot, or whether it would be preferable to give that money to charity for the poor or for Torah study. On the other hand, a person who spends money freely on luxuries, buying himself deluxe furniture and beautiful clothes why should he not spend his money being extra scrupulous in observing mitzvot? The bottom line is, in actual practice, the regular matzot are kosher, and one can rely on the supervisors having done their jobs well. As to being extra scrupulous, every individual has to decide for himself whether he wants to be extra meticulous and in what areas he wants to do so.
6. One who did not prepare for himself mayim shelanu should not bake matzot in regular water, but should suffice with eating fruits and vegetables and other foods in the course of the holiday. However, if he wont have matza for fulfilling the positive biblical commandment of eating a kazayit of matza on the night of the seder, he may use regular cold water to bake the matza, so as not to refrain from fulfilling this Torah commandment (Mishna Berura 455, 36).

Did you notice any errors?
Any other problems?
Contact us:

Subscribe now to receive weekly Shiurim or a Daily Halacha free to your Email box!
Join the warm community of

Back to top