6.The Prohibition on Eating Matza on Erev Pesaĥ
The Sages forbade eating matza on Erev Pesaĥ, in order to increase our desire to eat it during the Seder and in order to distinguish between matza eaten before Pesaĥ and the matza eaten as a mitzva during the Seder. This prohibition applies even to children who understand the idea that the matza commemorates the Exodus from Egypt. It is permissible to feed matza on Erev Pesaĥ to small children who do not understand this.
The prohibition begins at dawn on the fourteenth of Nisan, though some choose to be stringent and refrain from eating matza from the beginning of Nisan. Others refrain from eating matza thirty days before Pesaĥ. However, the letter of the law only requires one to refrain from eating matza on the fourteenth of Nisan (MB 471:12). 6
Israeli hospitals and army bases ordinarily destroy ĥametz several days before Pesaĥ, because otherwise there is concern that ĥametz will remain in the kitchens and camps during Pesaĥ. Matza is served so that the soldiers and patients have what to eat, so they should refrain from eating such matzot on Erev Pesaĥ.
The prohibition against eating matza on Erev Pesaĥ includes even small pieces of matza that have been kneaded with wine or oil. Even if such a mixture is baked, as long as the pieces are identifiable as matza, the blessing before eating them is "ha-motzi" and it is forbidden to eat them on Erev Pesaĥ. However, if after being kneaded and baked the pieces are no longer identifiable as matza, their berakha is "mezonot" and they may be eaten on Erev Pesaĥ (implied in Rema 461:2 and MB ad loc. 19-20). Some poskim are more stringent, maintaining that even if the matza is crumbled like matza meal, kneaded with oil or wine, and baked into cake or cookies so that they are no longer identifiable as matza, it is forbidden to eat them. This is because one who eats enough of them to constitute a meal ("kevi’at se’uda") still must recite the berakha of "ha-motzi." Thus, it is apparent that they have not yet lost the status of matza, and consequently the prohibition applies to pastries made of matza meal (Gra, Rav Kook, and Ĥazon Ish). 7
However, all poskim agree that it is permissible to eat matza balls on Erev Pesaĥ, because after being cooked they no longer carry the status of matza. Even if one eats enough of them to constitute a meal, their berakha is "mezonot," because they are a cooked food, not a baked good (MB ad loc. 20). Moreover, even if one cooks a whole piece of matza the size of a kezayit or more, most poskim maintain that although its berakha is "ha-motzi," one may eat it on Erev Pesaĥ (as explained below 14:1).
7.Summary: What Can Be Eaten on Erev Pesaĥ
As we have learned, the Torah prohibits eating ĥametz after midday on the fourteenth of Nisan, and the Sages extended the prohibition by two hours as a safeguard. Hence, one may eat ĥametz on Erev Pesaĥ until the end of the fourth seasonal hour (i.e., the first third of the day). There are, as is evident from Jewish calendars, two approaches to calculating these hours. According to Magen Avraham, we begin calculating them from dawn; according to the Vilna Gaon, from sunrise. Ideally, one should be stringent and calculate the onset of the prohibition according to Magen Avraham. However, when necessary, since the prohibition against eating ĥametz after the fourth hour is rabbinic, one may be lenient and finish one’s ĥametz meal by the end of the fourth hour according to Gra’s calculation (see above 3:6). 8
After four hours, a problem arises for those who customarily refrain from eating kitniyot on Pesaĥ: what can one eat to satisfy his hunger? Ĥametz and kitniyot are forbidden, and even matza is rabbinically forbidden on the fourteenth of Nisan. We have seen that even matza meal-based cakes and cookies are subject to dispute among poskim. In practice, since this disagreement pertains to a rabbinic prohibition, one may be lenient, though stringency is commendable. According to all opinions, one may eat matza balls.
Egg matza (or matza ashira, which includes matza kneaded with oil, wine, or any other fruit juice) may be eaten on Erev Pesaĥ and Pesaĥ according to Shulĥan Arukh, but according to the custom of Rema it is forbidden (SA 461:1-4). Nowadays, serious concerns have arisen about the way matza ashira is produced, and according to most poskim, even Sephardic Jews must refrain from matza ashira, even on Erev Pesaĥ after midday (see above 8:1).
Even those whose custom it is to eat matza ashira (when produced in a completely halakhic way) may eat it only until the end of the ninth seasonal hour of the day. With the onset of the tenth hour, three hours before the beginning of the holiday, the Sages forbid eating any sort of baked goods, so that one’s appetite is whet for the matza and festive meal of the Seder. If one is hungry during these hours, he may eat fruit, vegetables, meat, or fish, as long as he is careful to eat a small amount so that he will be hungry in the evening. If one is so sensitive that if he eats meat or some other food in the afternoon he will not be hungry at night, he must plan his meals on Erev Pesaĥ so that he has an appetite when he eats the matza that evening (SA 471:1-2).
9.Baking Matza and Reciting Seder Korban Pesaĥ
Some practice the enhancement of baking the matzot to be used for the Seder night mitzva after midday on the fourteenth of Nisan, at the time of day when the Paschal sacrifice would be offered (SA 458:1). Many do not do so because it is labor intensive and this is the time when people are usually busy preparing the house for the Seder. Some poskim say that the possibility of the dough becoming ĥametz also makes it preferable to bake the matza beforehand, because some authorities are of the opinion that, at this time of day, even a drop of ĥametz renders everything forbidden, whereas if a drop of dough becomes ĥametz before midday, it is batel be-shishim and it will not "reawaken" later with the onset of Pesaĥ (MB 458:3; see above ch. 7 n. 1). Indeed, Rav Kook’s custom was not to bake matza on Erev Pesaĥ after midday (Mo’adei Ha-Re’aya p. 284).
After the minĥa prayer on Erev Pesaĥ, people customarily recite the seder korban Pesaĥ, a description of the procedure of offering the Paschal sacrifice, including relevant biblical verses. The Sages teach (Megilla 31b) that after the destruction of the Temple, reciting and studying the sacrificial procedures are considered a substitute for the korban itself.
Maharal of Prague (Gevurot Hashem chs. 36, 37) explains that the significance of the Paschal sacrifice lies in the expression it gives to the unity of the Creator, and consequently the unity of Israel, whose purpose it is to reveal His name in the world. It is therefore eaten in groups, whose membership is predetermined, so that the korban is offered by a group of people who have united for this purpose. It is also forbidden to go from one group to another during the Seder, because this would disrupt the unity of the group. The offering is eaten with matza and maror in order to express the inner unity of all of the values alluded to by Paschal sacrifice, matza, and maror. We are commanded to roast the Paschal sacrifice because roasting solidifies and unifies the meat. It is forbidden to break any of its bones, because breaking is an expression of division.
When the Paschal sacrifice cannot be offered, the unity of the Creator is not revealed in the world, and the people of Israel are scattered and divided. May it be God’s will that the Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days, and that we merit to offer the Paschal sacrifice together, as in the days of yore.
O Purest One, Who dwells on high
Raise up the uncountable assembly of Your community
Soon guide the saplings You planted
Redeemed, to Zion in joy!
^ 6.. Let us briefly summarize the opinions: According to Rosh and Ha-ma’or, the prohibition begins at midday. According to Maharam Halawa, Tashbetz, and Rambam in Magid Mishneh’s reading, the prohibition begins at dawn. According to Orĥot Ĥayim, the prohibition begins at from the time of bedikat ĥametz on the night of the fourteenth. Rema rules that the prohibition begins at dawn, and this is the opinion of most Aĥaronim. However, Ben Ish Ĥai (Tzav 26) states that the prohibition begins on the night of the fourteenth (see Birur Halakha 99b).
^ 7.. Some authorities maintain that any matza that is not fit for the mitzva is permissible on Erev Pesaĥ; this is the opinion of Me’iri, R. Yeshaya di Trani (Rid), and Rivash. Others maintain that anything that has the taste of matza is forbidden on Erev Pesaĥ, even if it is unfit for the mitzva. This position can be imputed to several Rishonim who permitted only egg matza (Rabbeinu Tam in Tosafot on Pesaĥim 99b, Rosh, Mordechai, Tashbetz, and Maharsha). In practice, however, the custom is to follow Rema and refrain from eating matza ashira. If one crumbles the matza and kneads it with oil or something sweet, whether he bakes it or not, there are some who maintain that as long as the berakha is "ha-motzi," the mixture is forbidden, but if the berakha becomes "mezonot" it is permissible (SA 168:10). According to the stringent opinions, including Olat Re’iyah (vol. 2 p. 243 §22), any baked matza meal is forbidden on Erev Pesaĥ, since any products made from matza meal would still require the berakha of ha-motzi if eaten in the requisite quantities (they have the status of "pat ha-ba’ah be-kisnin"). If one cooked the matza meal, even if the cooked dish still requires berakha of ha-motzi if eaten in the requisite quantities, he may eat in on Erev Pesaĥ since its taste has changed. This is the opinion of MB 471:20 and SHT 19 ad loc. Some authorities are stringent; see below 14:1 and Yeĥaveh Da’at 1:91, n. 10. Nonetheless, all agree that one may eat less than a kezayit of cooked matza, as I wrote above. See Yeĥaveh Da’at 3:26, which allows hospitals to serve non-shmura matza on Erev Pesaĥ in extenuating circumstances, since in these types of situations we can rely on the Rishonim who maintain that only matza that is fit for the mitzva is forbidden on Erev Pesaĥ. Practically, however, this does not apply, since all matzot nowadays are guarded at least from the time of grinding, are made for the purpose of fulfilling the mitzva, and are thus acceptable to fulfill the mitzva (SA 453:4).
^ 8.. The end of the fourth hour according to MA’s calculation is c. twenty-four minutes before that of Gra. Many people make mistakes in this area.