Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • The Laws of Pesach
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"Ushemartem et HaMatzot" - The Laws of Baking Matzot


Rabbi Shmuel Holshtein

The Flour.
1. The flour used for matzot for the Seder night should be guarded from the time of harvesting. Some use this flour for matzot for all of Passover.

2. Great care should be made that no water comes in contact with the flour, Therefore it should be kept in a totally dry place. This is how we fulfill the mitzvah of "you shall watch over the matzot."

3. The sacks of flour should not be placed directly on the floor, since sometimes it is wet.

4. The flour must not be warm at the time of preparation, in order to prevent leavening. Since the process of grinding warms the flour, it is preferable to wait 3 full days before baking. In case of great need, 24 hours is sufficient.

5. The flour should be stored in a cool place, unexposed to the sun. The flour should be transported at night or in a vehicle with covered windows.

6. One should not sit on the sacks of flour, so they do not warm up.

7. When measuring the flour, one should not touch it. Even speech should be limited near the flour, to prevent accidental contact with spit.

8. It is best to use a new sifter each year.

9. Since flour does not burn in the oven, there is a concern that if some flour touches the dough and is not baked, it could become chametz during Pesach. Therefore the flour is measured in a separate room. And the one measuring the flour should take care to only approach the dough after carefully cleaning himself and his clothes from all specs of flour.

10. It is proper to say when measuring: This is for Matzat Mitzvah (matzah with which to fulfill the mitzvah).

The Water
1. Matzot are made only with Mayim Shelanu - water that has stayed an entire night after being drawn.

2. Regular water may be used, but some are careful only to use water from a river or a spring.

3. The water should be drawn at sunset. If it was drawn after sunset but before midnight, it may be used "after the fact" as long as 12 hours passes before baking.

4. One may draw water at one time for many days.

5. When drawing the water, one should say,
"This is for Matzat Mitzvah."

6. The water should be filtered with a clean white cloth, either when drawing the water or when measuring it.

7. The water should be stored in a cool place protected from the sun, so that it remains cool.

8. For baking on Sunday, one must draw water the previous Thursday.

9. If there is not enough water, one may add regular water as long as the majority of the water is Mayim Shelanu.

Place of Baking
1. All stages of kneading should be performed in a cool location.

2. One should not knead during the day out in the open, or next to open windows. When baking during the day, all the windows should be covered.

3. Since the oven generates great heat, the kneading should be done where its heat is not felt,

1. Cleaning is the most important part of the baking, since bits of dough may remain from one batch to the next. When cleaning, one should have in mind that he is fulfilling the mitzvah of "you will guard the matzot."

2. The washing must remove every last bit of dough, and one should carefully dry the utensils afterwards.

3. One should carefully wash one's hands on all sides until he is sure that no dough remains.

4. The most important rule in cleaning is: after cleaning a utensil or hands, look it over that it has been properly cleaned.

5. Every utensil should be cleaned every 18 minutes.

6. The workers should cut their fingernails beforehand, since it is difficult to clean there.

7. Since it is difficult to clean the tzir of the "pinnerim", they should be covered with a new plastic bag during each batch.

8. The "redlers" (hole-punchers) require special effort to be cleaned - one should use a steel brush.

9. Since it's difficult to make the holes on metal, the custom is to spread new paper over the table every 18 minutes.

10. If a utensil falls on the floor, it should be washed before being used again.

Kneading and Preparing
1. One does not make a batch larger than the shiur for chalah, in order to prevent a situation where dough is not being worked on and thus leavening.

2. The custom is not to make more than 1.200 kilo flour per batch.

3. Before working, all the workers should say: "All that I will do today in making matzot is for Matzat mitzvah."

4. A child under bar mitzvah age should not work the dough, since the matzot must be done with the proper intention. This includes pouring the water. The authorities disagree about making the holes. (But children may measure the water, clean the utensils and wrap the baking poles with paper.)

5. Nothing may be added besides water and flour.

6. The water should be poured into the flour carefully, so that the flour doesn't fly into the water utensil.

7. Two different individuals should pour the water and flour.

8. Kneading should start only after the water has been completely poured and the one pouring has moved away with his cup.

9. More flour should not be added if it is too sticky (but a second batch may be prepared and combined with the first). More water may be added if it is too stiff.

10. Some have the kneader use throw-away gloves, since so much dough gets stuck to his hands. But he should be careful that his hands do not warm up because of the gloves.

11. The dough must be thoroughly worked, despite the time constraint.

12. The dough must never be left without being worked upon. This is especially important after the dough is ready to be rolled out, since at that point it becomes chametz immediately if not being worked upon. Therefore, the one cutting up the dough into slices should only cut up according to the available workers, and the rest he should continue to knead and roll. Similarly, a matzah "patty" should not be handed over to the hole-cutting table unless there is someone available to handle it.

13. The total baking time allowed is 18 minutes, from the time the water is added to the flour until the time the dough is placed in the oven.

14. One who feels his hands warming up should stop and cool them in cold water.

15. When working with the dough, one should not touch anything else – cell phone, clothes, head, etc, - since maybe some bits of dough got stuck there.

16. All working with the dough should roll up their sleeves and remove watches, etc, to prevent dough from sticking on them and transferring the dough from one batch to the next.

17. The workers rolling out the dough "patties" should try not to make 'patches on patches,' since then the dough often does not bake well inside.

The Baking
1. Poles are used to place the matzot into the oven. The poles are switched each time so that they can cool down. They must be cleaned each time, either by sandpaper or by covering them with new paper.

2. The ones covering the poles with paper should wash their hands before starting.

3. Proper placement of dough on the poles prevents many problems with the baking, such as folds. The matzot should be stretched out on the pole, without touching one another.

4. The matzot should not be left near the oven for even one second, since they heat up from the oven. Therefore the baker should decide where he wants to place the matzot in the oven before taking a pole.

5. The matzot should not be moved inside the oven until the top layer hardens.

6. Since the baker's hands get hot, he may not touch the dough, unless he cools them in water.

7. Matzah that doubled over ("kefulot"), the folded part and the adjacent 2 cm. must be tossed. The same holds for two matzot that touched.

8. Matzah that puffed up ("nefuchot") is prohibited, but most of the "puffing up" of thin (Ashkenazi) matzot are ok and need to be checked by a Talmid Chacham. This puffing is usually the result of matzot that are not thin enough or are not properly holed,

9. It is good to have two mirdot to remove the matzot, one reserved for the puffed up and doubled ones.

10. The oven must have a high temperature so that the matzot will bake before becoming chametz. The oven should be at full heat before starting to bake.

11. The finished matzot should not be put where the dough is prepared, since there is flour in the air that could stick to the matzot.

Separating Challah
1. Each batch, as explained before, is less than a shiur challah, But after baking, all the matzot should be combined in one vessel and Challah taken. (Over 1,2 kg - without a bracha, over 1.666 kg - with a bracha).

2. If several families are baking together and each family is taking less than a shiur challah, challah should be taken without a bracha.
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