Beit Midrash

  • Pesach
To dedicate this lesson
Chapter Twelve-Part Two

Is There Value in Eating Handmade Matzot All Pesaĥ and other details


Rabbi Eliezer Melamed


5.Is There Value in Eating Handmade Matzot All Pesaĥ?
The mitzva of guarding the matzot was stated about the matzat mitzva we are commanded to eat on the night of the fifteenth of Nisan. The idea is to honor the mitzva by guarding them especially carefully. In other words, matzot that were not guarded but about which there is no concern that they may have become ĥametz may be eaten on Pesaĥ. They are just not fit for use as matzot mitzva since they were not guarded specifically for that purpose.
Thus, throughout Pesaĥ, it is permissible to eat matza that is kosher for Pesaĥ, even if it is not shmura.
Nevertheless, some are meticulous about eating shmura matza throughout Pesaĥ. There are two reasons for this: one is that some poskim maintain that while there is no duty to eat matzot throughout Pesaĥ, one who does so fulfills a mitzva; therefore, one should eat shmura matza. According to this, it is sufficient to eat a kezayit of shmura matza at every meal. Similarly, it is sufficient to use our regular matzot (not labeled as shmura), which have been guarded from the time of grinding, because, as we have learned, one can fulfill the requirement for matzat mitzva with matza that has been guarded from the time of grinding.
The second reason for eating shmura matza is concern about ĥametz. Out of all the foods we eat on Pesaĥ, matza is the likeliest to become ĥametz. Therefore, if the wheat grains are not guarded from harvest time, there is concern that they may have become ĥametz. Thus, there is good reason to be stringent and to eat only matza that has been guarded from harvest time.
Today, the advantage of matzot that have been guarded from harvest time is not only in their having been protected from contact with water since the grain was harvested. In general, much more care is taken throughout their entire manufacturing process. For example, the baking machines are stopped every eighteen minutes for a thorough cleaning. Thus these matzot benefit from a whole series of enhancements.
In sum, regular matzot, which have been guarded from the time of the grinding, are kosher for all of Pesaĥ, le-khatĥila. Even those who maintain that there is a mitzva to eat matza throughout the seven days of Pesaĥ agree that one fulfills the mitzva with such matzot. Those who are more scrupulous eat matzot that have been guarded from harvest time, primarily because these matzot are more carefully guarded against becoming ĥametz. 5
6.Water That Has Stayed Overnight
The Sages prohibited kneading the dough for Pesaĥ matzot with lukewarm water. Warmth accelerates the leavening process, increasing the risk of the dough becoming ĥametz if the workers are not especially quick in kneading and baking it. The Sages forbade kneading the dough even with regular cold water found in cisterns and in springs, lest the surrounding ground, which had absorbed the heat of the sun, in turn warmed the water. Therefore, they required that the water be drawn before nightfall and kept overnight in a cool place. Such water is called mayim she-lanu. This water is used to prepare matzot for Pesaĥ (SA 495:1 and 3). 6
However, a problem arose in countries with warm climates. No matter where the water was kept overnight, it would warm up a bit. On the contrary, had the water been left in the springs, it would have stayed cooler! Nevertheless, the halakha is that the water must be left out, as the Sages enacted. If, as a result, the water warms up a bit, it must be refrigerated (Mikra’ei Kodesh 2:7).
Some maintain that one should leave tap water 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 mixed into the water will accelerate the leavening process (She’arim Metzuyanim Be-halakha 109:3). In practice, this possibility is of no concern, and only a few meticulous people who make handmade matzot are scrupulous about drawing the water from wells or springs. In machine-matza factories, they take regular tap water from the municipal system, filter it thoroughly, and leave it in a cool place all night (R. Zvi Yehuda Kook similarly would prepare mayim she-lanu from tap water).
7.Preventing Leavening during Kneading
The flour for matzot is ground at least one day before it is kneaded into dough, since the grinding heats the flour slightly, increasing the risk that the dough will become ĥametz (SA 453:9).
No salt or pepper is added to the dough, since they might warm the dough, increasing the risk that it will become ĥametz (SA 455:5-6).
Le-khatĥila, one should not make matza dough with more than c. 1.5kg (c. 3.3 lbs.) of flour (the shi’ur for having to separate ĥalla from the dough with a berakha). It is hard for one person to knead such a large piece of dough thoroughly and quickly, and there is concern that parts of the dough may become ĥametz. Be-di’avad, if one kneaded a larger quantity, the matza is kosher as long as the dough did not rest for eighteen minutes and no signs of leavening appeared (SA 456:1-2).
When there are several people engaged in kneading, flattening, and rolling out the dough, some poskim maintain that it is permissible to knead larger quantities, and indeed many do so. Even so, initially it is proper to be stringent and not to knead more than the measure that the Sages fixed (MB 456:7).
When the kneading is done by machine, it is customary, even le-khatĥila, to permit kneading large volumes of dough.
One may not knead the dough in a hot place, since heat accelerates the leavening process. Therefore, one should not knead in a sunny place. Sometimes it is hot even on a cloudy day, so even if the sun is not shining, one should not knead the dough outside, nor inside next to windows, lest the heat radiate through them. Obviously one should not knead in a place warmed by an oven (SA 459:1). One authority put a number on this: one should not knead where the temperature is 30ºC or higher (Sefer Matzot Mitzva, ch. 7, n. 29). Be-di’avad, if one kneaded dough in a hot place but did not see any signs of leavening in the dough or the matza, the matza is kosher for Pesaĥ (SA 459:5).
Le-khatĥila, one may not stop working the dough for even a moment (SA 459:2). If the hands of the person kneading the dough heat up, he should cool them in cold water. Some are scrupulous to cool their hands in water occasionally while they are kneading (MB 459:27).
8.More Laws about Matza
The oven should be heated thoroughly, so that the dough begins to bake immediately. If the heat is low, the dough might begin to become ĥametz before it bakes. Clearly one may not bake matza in the heat of the sun, and if he did so, then even if the heat was very strong and it is obvious that the dough did not leaven, one does not fulfill the mitzva of eating matza with it, as the Torah calls matza the "bread of affliction," and something sun-baked is not properly called bread (SAH 461:6).
It is not necessary, however, to bake the bread specifically in the flames of the fire. Rather, even if the flames burn under a metal or earthenware plate, as long as the plate is burning hot, one may bake on it (SA 461:2).
Similarly, one may bake in an electric oven whose heating elements glow hot, for that is considered like fire. Matza baked in a microwave oven is disqualified from being used in the mitzva of eating matza, since it was not baked by fire. Some say it is kosher, for no early source indicates that the matzot must be baked specifically with fire (see Mikra’ei Kodesh p. 335 – R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach disqualified such matzot, and R. Shaul Yisraeli held them to be kosher).
One may not decorate matza with pictures, as it may become ĥametz during the delay caused by drawing. One may not make a thick matza (thicker than 7.6 cm) on Pesaĥ, out of concern that the fire will not reach the center and it will become ĥametz (SA 460:4-5). However, one may bake a matza that is a bit thinner than a tefaĥ.
The Ashkenazic custom is to make the matzot thin and hard, so that the heat goes through them thoroughly and there is hardly any concern that the matza will become ĥametz (Rema 460:4). Some Sephardim bake matza that is about as thick as a finger, while others make them thin like wafers, as Ashkenazim do, since they usually bake them before Pesaĥ, and if they were not wafer-life, they would not last long (Kaf Ha-ĥayim 460:44).
One does not fulfill his obligation with a stolen matza (SA 454:4). Sometimes a purchaser takes the matzot into his possession without paying immediately. If the seller indicates 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, demanding payment for the matzot, and the purchaser dismisses him by saying "come back later," then the purchaser does not fulfill his obligation with those matzot, because they do not belong to him (MB 454:15).

^ 5.. The custom of the Vilna Gaon was to eat shmura matza the entire Pesaĥ for two reasons. Firstly, he maintained that there is a mitzva to eat shmura matza all seven days, but in this regard he reasoned that it only needs to be supervised from the time of kneading. Secondly, he was concerned about ĥametz, and, accordingly, supervision would be necessary from the time of harvesting. This is quoted in BHL 453:4. AHS 453:20-23 states that according to Rif and Rambam, there is a rabbinic mitzva to guard the matza from the time of harvesting to prevent it from becoming ĥametz; accordingly, this applies to all matza that one eats over Pesaĥ. However, according to most poskim one need not eat matza that was supervised from the time of harvesting, and this is the implication of SA 453:4 and MB ad loc.
It thus emerges that the primary enhancement of the mitzva is to guard the wheat against becoming ĥametz from the time of harvesting. Thus, the kernels are harvested before they dry out to prevent any concerns of rainwater potentially making them ĥametz. The kernels are then stored in a dry place, preventing any kernels from puffing up or splitting, which would indicate that they have started to become ĥametz. On the other hand, wheat imported from abroad, from which all other matza is made, sometimes contains kernels that have already become ĥametz. Even though matza bakers are careful to purchase clean shipments, there is still a concern that some ĥametz kernels mixed in. And even though these kernels are batel be-shishim (because the matza is baked before Pesaĥ, the ĥametz is not ĥozer ve-ne’or on Pesaĥ according to most poskim; see above 7:3-4), this matza is as ideal as that which is supervised from the time of harvesting. Since matza that was guarded from the time of harvesting is the best and most special, bakers are careful to perform all of the other steps in the most meticulous way possible: during baking, they stop the machines every eighteen minutes and clean them thoroughly; they constantly declare that they are working le-shem matzat mitzva; and they are more careful to supervise the entire process. Conversely, the trend with regard to non-shmura matza is to produce and sell it as cheaply as possible, so that the general public will be able to afford it. Therefore, only the mixers used for kneading are changed every eighteen minutes, but the rollers are cleaned while they are running. Although they are cleaned in a way that ensures that every part is cleaned every eighteen minutes, since the cleaning is done while the machines are running, it is more difficult to clean the machines thoroughly.
Yet shmura matza is far more expensive than the regular matza (even if it is only guarded from the time of grinding the wheat, and can thus be used to fulfill the mitzva of eating matza according to those who maintain that there is a mitzva for the entire holiday). Some say that it is preferable to give charity to the poor or to support Torah study than to buy shmura matza. On the other hand, why shouldn’t one who spends lavishly on furniture, clothing, and other luxuries spend extra money to fulfill mitzvot in the best possible way? Ultimately, in practice, regular matza is kosher, and one may rely on the fact that the kashrut supervisors do their jobs properly. When it comes to fulfilling higher standards of mitzvot, one must decide if and how he wishes to go beyond the letter of the law.
^ 6.. One who did not prepare mayim she-lanu should not bake matza using regular water. Rather, he should suffice with fruits, vegetables, and other foods for the rest of the holiday. However, if he otherwise will not have a kezayit of matza with which to fulfill the Torah commandment on the Seder night, he may bake matza using regular cold water, so that he does not neglect this mitzva (MB 455:36).

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