Indigestible Matzos, or Performing Mitzvos When Suffering from Food Allergies

This week is Shabbos Rosh Chodesh and also Parshah Hachodesh, which discusses both the mitzvah of creating the calendar and the mitzvah of korban Pesach. Over the years, I have discussed these topics many times, and I have also written articles on some of the unique features of Shabbos Rosh Chodesh. These articles can all be found on this website. For those wanting to read up on the many topics germane to Pesach, the website also contains a variety of articles, which can be found by using the search words matzoh, Pesach, wine, kitniyos, sefiras ha’omer, hallel, yom tov, chol hamoed, or eruv tavshillin.

Question #1: I have acid reflux; as a result, I never drink any alcohol since it gives me severe heartburn. I also have difficulty tolerating grape juice, which does not agree with me. Am I required to drink either wine or grape juice for the four cups at the Seder?

Question #2: My body is intolerant of gluten. Am I required to eat matzoh on Pesach, and if so, how much?”

Question #3: How far must one go to fulfill the mitzvah of maror if the only variety available is horseradish?

Consuming matzoh, maror,
wine or grape juice is uncomfortable for many people, for a variety of reasons.
Consumption of these foods may exacerbate certain medical conditions, such as
allergies, diabetes, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome
and reflux. To what extent must someone afflicted by these conditions extend
him/herself to fulfill these mitzvos? Does it make a difference if the
mitzvah is required min haTorah, such as matzoh, or only miderabbanan,
such as arba kosos, the mitzvah of drinking the four cups of wine at the
Seder. (Similarly, the mitzvah of maror is required today only miderabbanan,
since the Torah requires eating maror only when we offer the korban
pesach.
)

PIKUACH NEFESH

One is never required
to perform a positive mitzvah when there is a potential threat to one’s life.
Quite the contrary, it is forbidden to carry out any mitzvah whose performance
may be life- threatening. Therefore, someone who has a potentially
life-threatening allergy or sensitivity to grain may not consume matzoh or any
other grain product – ever — and this prohibition applies fully on Seder night.

NOT DANGEROUS, BUT
UNPLEASANT

However, must one
observe these mitzvos when the situation is not life threatening,
but is painful or affects one’s wellbeing? Must one always fulfill the
mitzvah, even though doing so is extremely uncomfortable or makes one unwell?

RABBI YEHUDAH’S
HEADACHE

The Gemara reports
that the great Tanna Rabbi Yehudah, who is quoted hundreds of times in
the Mishnah and Gemara, suffered from the consumption of wine.
The Gemara records the following anecdote:

Rabbi Yehudah
looked so happy that a Roman woman accused him of being inebriated. He
responded that he is a teetotaler, “Trust me that I taste wine only for
kiddush, havdalah and the four cups of Pesach. Furthermore, after drinking four
cups of wine at the Seder, I have a splitting headache that lasts until
Shavuos”
(see Nedarim 49b).

This passage implies
that one is required to undergo a great deal of discomfort to fulfill even a
mitzvah that is rabbinic in origin, and certainly a Torah-required law, such as
consuming matzoh on Pesach. Based on this anecdote, the Rashba (Shu”t
1:238) requires someone who avoids wine because he despises its taste or
because it harms him (“mazik”) to drink the four cups; this conclusion
is quoted definitively in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 472:10).
Thus, one might conclude that one must fulfill arba kosos in any
non-life-threatening situation, even when the consequences are unpleasant.

However, several
authorities sanction abstaining from arba kosos under certain
extenuating, but not life-threatening, circumstances, even though they also
accept the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch! For example, the Aruch
HaShulchan
(472:14) permits someone who is ill to refrain from consuming
the four cups on Seder night, and the Mishnah Berurah rules
similarly (472:35). They explain that the harmone must experience to
fulfill the mitzvah does not include physical harm, but is limited to
discomfort or moderate pain.

DERECH CHEIRUS

In Shaar HaTziyun, the
Mishnah Berurah explains why he permits refraining from arba
kosos
under such circumstances: Becoming bedridden because one consumed arba
kosos
is not derech cheirus, which I will translate as demonstrating
freedom
. His reference to derech cheirus alludes to the following Gemara:

One who drinks the
wine undiluted has fulfilled the requirement of arba kosos, but he did not
fulfill the requirement of demonstrating freedom
(Pesachim 108b).

What does this Gemara
mean? Why does drinking one’s wine straight not fulfill this mitzvah called demonstrating
freedom
?

The wine of the Gemara’s
era required one to dilute it before drinking. Imbibing it straight was not
the normal method of drinking and, therefore, would not demonstrate the freedom
that the Seder emphasizes.

The Mishnah Berurah
contends that a mitzvah whose purpose is to demonstrate that we are freemen
cannot require becoming bedridden as a result. Although a potential massive
headache, such as what affected Rabbi Yehudah, does not exempt one from the
mitzvah, becoming bedridden is qualitatively worse. The Aruch HaShulchan rules
similarly, although he omits the reasoning of derech cheirus and simply
assumes that the mitzvah does not apply under these circumstances.

(There may be a
difference of opinion between the Mishnah Berurah and the Aruch
HaShulchan
germane to mitzvas maror. The Mishnah Berurah’s
reason of derech cheirus applies only to the arba kosos, and
therefore he might hold that one must eat maror even if he becomes
bedridden as a result. However, the Aruch HaShulchan’s ruling may apply
to any rabbinic mitzvah, and thus permit someone who would become ill from
eating maror to abstain from performing this mitzvah.)

ALCOHOLIC CONTENT

Let us assume that our
patient could drink grape juice without any ill result, but may have some
difficulty with wine. Is there a requirement for him/her to drink wine?

The Gemara states
that “One may squeeze a cluster of grapes and then immediately recite Kiddush
over it” (Bava Basra 97b). Obviously, this grape juice has no alcoholic
content, and yet it is acceptable for Kiddush.

However, the Gemara’s
ruling that someone who drank the arba kosos without dilution does not
fulfill cheirus implies that the Seder mitzvah requires a wine
with alcoholic content, and therefore grape juice does not perform this aspect
of the mitzvah. Nevertheless, someone who cannot have any alcohol may fulfill
the mitzvah of arba kosos with grape juice (Shu”t Shevet HaLevi 9:58).

DILUTING WINE

Is it better for
someone to dilute their wine with water, rather than drink grape juice?

Some authorities
contend that one fulfills the concept of cheirus as long as one can
detect alcoholic content, even though the wine is diluted. However, before
diluting our wine with water, contact the manufacturer or the hechsher,
since some wines are already diluted to the maximum halachically
allowable that one can and still recite over it hagafen. The Pri
Megadim
(Eishel Avraham 204:16) rules that although Chazal diluted
their wine significantly (Shabbos 77a), our wine is very weak and should
be diluted only moderately. He contends that if one adds more water than wine
the bracha becomes shehakol; one can certainly not use this wine
for Kiddush or arba kosos. The Aruch HaShulchan (204:14)
rules even more strictly, that any added water renders our wines shehakol
and invalidates them for Kiddush or arba kosos. I suspect
that this was not a dispute, but a reflection of the quality of the wine
available; the wine available to the Pri Megadim could be diluted
without ruining it, as long as there was more wine than water, whereas that
available to the Aruch HaShulchan was easily ruined.

On the other hand,
diluting wine with grape juice does not jeopardize the bracha, and, if
the alcohol content is still noticeable, one will fulfill the concept of cheirus.

ARBA KOSOS SUBSTITUTES

If someone cannot
drink four cups of wine or grape juice, should they simply not drink anything
for the arba kosos?

The Mishnah Berurah
rules that one may substitute chamar medinah, literally, the
national “wine
.” This follows a ruling of the Rama (483) that
someone who has no available wine may fulfill the mitzvah of arba kosos with
chamar medinah.

Exactly what chamar
medinah
includes is beyond the scope of this article. For our purposes, I
will simply note that there is much discussion about this matter, some rabbonim
holding that tea or coffee qualifies, others contending that it must be
alcoholic and still others maintaining that most places today have no chamar
medinah
.

SOME PRACTICAL
SUGGESTIONS

Thus far, we have
concluded that someone who becomes ill enough to be bedridden may not be
obligated in arba kosos, but someone who finds drinking four cups of
wine or grape juice uncomfortable and even painful, but does not become
bedridden as a result, is required to drink them. However, note that sometimes
one may be lenient and use a smaller cup and drink a smaller proportion of its
wine than we would usually permit. These are matters to discuss with one’s rav.

WHAT ABOUT MATZOH?

Our second question
above read: “My body is intolerant of gluten. Am I required to eat matzoh on
Pesach, and if so, how much?”

Our previous
discussion only explained the rules pursuant to drinking the four cups of wine,
which is a rabbinic mitzvah. Does any leniency exist to exempt someone from
eating matzoh Seder night, in non-life-threatening situations? Granted one is
certainly not required or permitted to eat matzoh if doing so may be
life-threatening; but if the results are simply discomfort, to what degree must
one extend oneself to observe a positive mitzvah min hatorah?

The Binyan Shelomoh
(#47), a nineteenth century work authored by Rav Shelomoh of Vilna, the city’s halachic
authority at the time, discusses this very issue. (Out of deference to the
Vilna Gaon, the Jewish community of Vilna appointed no one to the title of rav
from the passing of the Gaon, until the government required them to do so,
in the era of Rav Chayim Ozer Grodzenski, over a hundred and twenty years
later.) In a lengthy responsum, The Binyan Shelomoh establishes how far
someone who is ill must go to eat matzoh, when there is nothing
life-threatening. He based his analysis on the following law:

Chazal prohibited spending more than one fifth of one’s money to
fulfill a positive mitzvah (Rambam, Hilchos Arachin 8:13, based on Gemara
Kesubos
50a. See also Rambam’s Peirush HaMishnayos Pei’ah 1:1).

The Binyan Shelomoh
reasons that since maintaining good health is more important to most people
than spending a fifth of one’s money, one is exempt from performing a mitzvah
that will impair one’s health, even when there is no risk to one’s life. (We
find other authorities who derive similar laws from this halacha. See
for example, Shu”t Avnei Nezer, Yoreh Deah #321; Shu”t Igros Moshe,
Even HaEzer
1:57). The Binyan Shelomoh applies this rule to all mitzvos:
One is exempt from observing any mitzvah, if fulfilling it will seriously
impair one’s health. Furthermore, one could conclude that, if fulfilling a
mitzvah causes such intense discomfort that one would part with one fifth of
one’s financial resources to avoid this pain, one may forgo the mitzvah.

According to the Binyan
Shelomoh
, if this law is true regarding matzoh, it will certainly hold true
regarding arba kosos and maror, which are only rabbinic
requirements. Thus, someone who will not be bedridden as a result of consuming arba
kosos
or maror, but whose health will be severely impaired as a
result of this consumption is absolved from fulfilling this mitzvah, as will
someone to whom the consumption is so unpleasant that he would gladly part with
one fifth of his earthly possessions to avoid this situation.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
MATZOH AND WINE

If we assume that the Mishnah
Berurah accepts the Binyan Shelomoh’s approach and vice versa, we
would reach the following conclusion:

MATZOH:

Someone whose health
will be severely impaired is not required to eat matzoh on Pesach, even if no
life-threatening emergency results.

ARBA KOSOS:

Aside from the above
leniency regarding matzoh, there is an additional leniency regarding the arba
kosos
.Someone who will become sick enough that he will be bedridden
is absolved from drinking four cups at the Seder, even though it will not result
in any permanent health problems. However, it is unclear whether this latter
leniency extends also to the rabbinic mitzvah of maror.

NON-WHEAT FLOURS

In the last few years,
matzoh for Pesach produced from either spelt or oat flour has become available.
For a variety of reasons beyond the scope of this article, only someone who may
not eat regular matzoh should eat these matzohs on Pesach. However, someone who
is absolved from eating matzoh on Pesach according to the above-mentioned
definition, but who can eat either of these varieties of matzoh, should eat
them to fulfill the mitzvah on the first night of Pesach. Someone who can
tolerate both spelt and oat matzoh should eat spelt.

Regarding this topic, the following responsum by the great nineteenth century authority, the Maharam
Shik
(Shu”t #260) is of interest.
Someone for whom eating matzoh or maror was potentially life-threatening
insisted on eating them at the Seder, against the halacha. The Maharam
Shik was asked whether this person should recite the bracha al
achilas matzoh
before eating the matzoh and al achilas maror before
eating the maror!

The Maharam Shik
responded that he is uncertain whether the patient may recite any bracha
at all before eating the matzoh and the maror, even the bracha of
hamotzi
! His reason is that consuming harmful food is not considered
eating, but is considered damaging oneself, and one does not recite a bracha
prior to inflicting self-harm! The Maharam then questions his
supposition, demonstrating that someone who overeats recites a bracha, even
though he is clearly damaging himself. He therefore concludes that one does not
recite a bracha when eating something that causes immediate damage.
However, when eating something where the damage is not immediate, reciting a bracha
before eating is required.

Pursuant to the
original shaylah whether one recites al achilas matzoh before
eating the matzoh and al achilas maror before eating the maror,
the Maharam Shik concludes that one should not recite
these brachos in this situation. Since the patient is not permitted to
eat matzoh and maror which is dangerous to his life, he is not
performing a mitzvah when eating them, but a sin of ignoring the proper care
his body requires, and one does not recite a bracha prior to transgressing.

In conclusion, anyone
to whom these shaylos are, unfortunately, relevant should discuss them
with his/her rav. We found that the Shulchan Aruch rules that one
is required to fulfill arba kosos, even if one will suffer a severe
headache as a result, and certainly if one despises the taste. However, should
one become bedridden as a result or suffer severe health consequences, there
are authorities who permit forgoing drinking wine or grape juice and
substituting a different beverage that qualifies as chamar medinah.
Similarly, there are authorities who permit forgoing consuming matzoh at the
Seder if one would suffer severe health consequences as a result — even if the
situation is not life-threatening.

Although not everyone
may be able to fulfill the mitzvos of eating matzoh, maror, and arba
kosos
, hopefully, all will be able to discuss the miracles that Hashem
performed when removing us from Egypt. In the merit of joyously performing the mitzvos
of Seder night, may we soon see the return of the Divine Presence to
Yerushalayim, the rededication of the Beis HaMikdash, and be zocheh
to fulfill all of these mitzvos, including the korban pesach!




Matzoh Shoppers Guide Part II

The Four Questions of Matzoh Purchasing

The First Question Is: On all other nights of the year, we do not check our matzoh and bread, although we sometimes check our flour before we bake with it; on this night of Pesach, we check our matzoh before eating it. For what are we checking?

The Second Question Is: On all other nights of the year, we eat any kind of matzoh; on this night of Pesach, some people eat only hand matzoh, others eat only machine-made matzoh, and still others eat hand matzoh for the bracha and machine matzoh afterwards. What is the basis for these different practices?

The Third Question Is: On all other nights of the year, we prepare our food leisurely; on this night of Pesach, we eat matzoh advertised as special “18-minute matzoh.” But I thought that matzoh dough becomes chometz after 18 minutes, so all matzoh left around longer than 18 minutes before baking should be chometz. So what is special about 18-minute matzoh?

The Fourth Question Is: On all other nights of the year, no guests arrive early in order to “lift up” their food before Yom Tov, but on this night of Pesach, some guests arrive before Yom Tov in order to “lift up” the matzos they intend eating at the Seder. Why do only some of my guests ask me if they can do this?

In last week’s post, we answered the first of these questions. This week we continue…

Let us now answer the second question:

“On this night of Pesach, some people eat only hand matzoh, others eat only machine-made matzoh, and still others eat hand matzoh for the bracha and machine matzoh afterwards. What is the basis for these different practices?”

Although most people today accept the use of machine matzoh for Pesach, it is instructional to understand a major dispute that existed among nineteenth-century poskim over its use. Dozens of renowned poskim and rabbonim became involved in this dispute. Unfortunately, the machlokes over the use of machine matzos became as heated as the temperature of the matzoh ovens, with each side issuing tirades.

Those who opposed the use of machine-made matzoh on Pesach did so because of the following major concerns:

  1. The economic factor: There was concern that introduction of machine matzoh would seriously affect the livelihood of many Jewish poor who were employed kneading and baking matzos.
  2. The chometz factor: There were major concerns about whether the factories’ matzoh met all the above-mentioned halachic requirements. Among the concerns raised were: Is all dough cleaned off the machinery, or does dough stick to the equipment and remain in place for more than eighteen minutes? Does the machinery work the dough constantly, or does it sit after it has begun to be worked?

Apparently, this was a big concern in the early matzoh bakeries. In a teshuvah dated Monday, Erev Rosh Chodesh Nisan 5618 (1858), the Divrei Chayim (Shu’t 1:23) refers to machine matzoh as chometz gamur (unquestionably chometz), based on the way it was produced.

  1. The lishmah factor: Another issue involved in the manufacture of machine matzos is whether it is considered lishmah? Is the intent of the person operating an electrically-powered machine considered as making matzos lishmah? The same issue affects many other halachic questions, such as the spinning of tzitzis threads by machine, the manufacture of leather for tefillin straps and batim, and the making of hide into parchment. Some poskim contend that pushing the button to start a machine is not sufficient to make it lishmah, since the pushing of the button produces only the very first action, and the rest happens on its own and, therefore, is not considered being made lishmah (Shu’t Divrei Chayim 1:23). There is much discussion and dispute about this issue in the poskim (see for example, Shu’t Chesed L’Avraham 2:Orach Chayim:3; Shu’t Maharsham 2:16; Shu’t Achiezer 3:69 at end; Sdei Chemed Vol. 7 pgs. 396-398; Chazon Ish, Orach Chayim 6:10 s.v. vinireh d’ein tzorech; Shu’t Har Tzvi, Orach Chayim #10; Mikra’ei Kodesh, Pesach II pgs. 11-17). It is primarily for this reason that many people today who use machine-made matzoh on Pesach still use hand-made matzoh for the Seder.

It is also curious to note that the initial matzoh machines over which these poskim debated were nothing more than hand-turned rollers that quickly made a large quantity of thin dough into circles, the way a cookie cutter operates. They enabled a fantastic increase in the output of one small factory.

Thirty years after the original dispute, the issue was still heated, as evidenced by the following teshuvah of Rav Yehoshua Trunk of Kutno, widely acknowledged in the latter half of the nineteenth century as the posek hador of Poland.

“On the subject of the new idea brought to knead matzos by machine, G-d forbid that one should follow this practice. Over thirty years ago, all the Gedolei Yisroel in our country prohibited it. At their head were the Av Beis Din of Tshechnov; Rav Yitzchok Meir of Gur (The Chiddushei Rim, the first Gerer Rebbe); and Rav Meir, the Rav of Kalish; all of whom signed the declaration prohibiting their use. Not a single individual was lenient about this matter. I therefore say to our brethren, ‘Do not separate yourselves from your brethren, since all the gedolim in our country prohibited this machine and virtually all the people accepted this prohibition” (Shu’t Yeshu’os Molko, Orach Chayim #43). Thus, it appears that in central Poland, where these gedolim lived, hand matzos were used almost exclusively.

Similarly, in a teshuvah penned in the year 5635 (1895), the Avnei Nezer (Orach Chayim #372), renowned posek and gadol hador a generation later, echoed this sentiment with emphasis. He writes that although he had never seen a matzoh factory, he prohibited eating this matzoh based on the fact that the previous generation’s poskim had prohibited it, quoting Rav Yehoshua of Kutno.

At about the same time that the Avnei Nezer wrote his above-quoted responsum, the Maharsham (Shu’t 2:16) was asked by the Rav of St. Louis, Missouri, Rav Zecharyah Yosef Rosenfeld, about a matzoh machine that took a half hour to prepare the matzoh. Rav Rosenfeld was highly concerned about several problems regarding this machine. The Maharsham ruled that if all the equipment is kept cool and all the other requirements are met, then the matzoh may be used.

In the contemporary world, one can plan and construct a factory for baking matzos in such a way that a minimal amount of dough adheres to equipment, and mashgichim can supervise the swift removal of any dough that sticks to the machinery. Someone who purchases machine-made matzoh is relying on the supervising agency or rabbi to guarantee that the operation runs properly.

Many rabbonim and communities contend that it is preferable to use machine matzos, because one can control the product better – thus, in German communities and in “the old yishuv” in Eretz Yisroel, machine matzos were preferred. Rav Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach,  zt”l, and his brother-in-law, Rav Sholom Shvadron, zt”l, ate only machine matzos on Pesach, as did Rav Yosef Breuer, zt”l, and I have been told of many other gedolim who ate only machine matzos on Pesach.

Among the reasons quoted for favoring machine matzos are:

1) Kneading by hand takes considerably more time before the matzoh is ready for baking. In addition, the dough is likely to warm up considerably by the hands of the kneader, which may lead to it becoming chometz.

2) Hand matzos are of uneven thickness, so that some parts of the matzoh are burnt while other parts may still be incompletely baked; thus, there could be a problem of a matzoh being removed from the oven before it is fully baked.

3) Machine matzos are thinner and thus less susceptible to leavening.

Although the following may be unappetizing, I have witnessed someone leaning over the table, busily kneading the dough for his matzoh, while beads of perspiration are falling into the dough. Aside from the lack of sanitary conditions, there are also kashrus concerns about matzoh produced this way.

On the other hand, many Chassidic circles eat only hand matzos on Pesach, following the long list of Chassidic poskim who strongly opposed machine matzos. In between these two approaches are those who feel that the kashrus of machine matzos is fine or even preferred, but who are concerned about whether matzoh produced by a machine is considered lishmah. To avoid any halachic problem, they use hand matzos at the Seder, but eat machine matzoh the rest of Yom Tov.

At this point, my son, I can answer your Third Question:

On all other nights of the year, we prepare our food leisurely; on this night of Pesach, we eat matzoh advertised as special “18-minute matzoh.” But I thought that matzoh dough becomes chometz after 18 minutes, so all matzoh left around longer than 18 minutes before baking should be chometz. So what is special about 18-minute matzoh?

Ideally, one should stop every matzoh machine every eighteen minutes to guarantee that the equipment is completely clean. However, factory owners feel that this is a non-profitable way to operate a matzoh factory. Thus, the equipment usually runs constantly with the hope that no dough sticks to it and remains from one batch to the next. To avoid this problem, many people who use machine matzoh insist on using only matzoh produced after the equipment was stopped for a thorough cleaning and examination. This matzoh is usually called “eighteen-minute matzoh,” that is, the machine has not been running for eighteen minutes from the last time that it was thoroughly cleaned.

Different hechsherim have different standards – thus, whether some dough remains on the equipment longer than eighteen minutes will depend on how tight the hechsher’s standards are. It is fair to assume that if the factory is not stopped for cleaning every eighteen minutes, some dough remains on the equipment for more than eighteen minutes from one production to the next. However, even if dough was abandoned on the equipment for over 18 minutes, it is batail, nullified, in the final product.

To quote a friend’s recent observation: “I went to a major matzoh bakery a few years ago where they had two runs simultaneously. One was mehadrin, where they stopped the equipment every 16 minutes for cleaning. The other production was constant, and we witnessed piles of dough building up along the sides of the conveyor belt that eventually mixed into the production dough.”

The Fourth Question was basically asking:

“A guest once asked me if he could pick up the matzos on Erev Pesach that he was planning on eating at the Seder. Why did he request this, and why have I never heard of this before?”

The halacha is that to fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzoh, the matzoh must be your property. Thus, one cannot fulfill the mitzvah with stolen matzoh. Some have the practice of being certain that they have paid for their matzoh before Pesach to demonstrate that the matzoh is definitely theirs (based on Mishnah Berurah 454:15).

There is an interesting dispute between poskim as to whether a guest at someone else’s Seder fulfills the mitzvah with matzoh that belongs to the host. Sfas Emes (commentary to Sukkah 35a s.v. beGemara asya) contends that one can fulfill the mitzvah of matzoh only with matzoh that one owns to the extent that one would be able to sell it. Therefore, a host must give to each of his guests their matzoh as a present before they eat or they have not fulfilled the mitzvah. However, the universally accepted practice is to follow the opinion of the Mishnah Berurah (454:15), who states that one fulfills the mitzvah with borrowed matzoh.

May we all be zocheh to eat our matzoh this year together with the Korban Pesach in Yerushalayim.

 




The Matzoh Shoppers Guide

The Four Questions of Matzoh Purchasing

The First Question Is: On all other nights of the year we do not check our matzoh and bread, although we sometimes check our flour before we bake with it; on this night of Pesach we check our matzoh before eating it. For what are we checking?

The Second Question Is: On all other nights of the year we eat any kind of matzoh; on this night of Pesach, some people eat only hand matzoh, others eat only machine-made matzoh, and still others eat hand matzoh for the bracha and machine matzoh afterwards. What is the basis for these different practices?

The Third Question Is: On all other nights of the year we prepare our food in a leisurely manner; on this night of Pesach we eat matzoh advertised as special “18-minute matzoh.” But I thought that matzoh dough becomes chometz after 18 minutes. So what is special about 18-minute matzoh?

The Fourth Question Is: On all other nights of the year, no guests arrive early in order to “lift up” their food before Yom Tov, but on this night of Pesach some guests arrive before Yom Tov in order to “lift up” the matzos they intend on eating at the Seder. Why do only some of my guests ask me if they can do this?

“Father, what is the answer to my four questions?”

“Son, before I answer your excellent questions, hearken to how matzoh is made.”

WE WERE ONCE SLAVES IN EGYPT

Although matzoh is the simplest of products, containing simply flour and water, much detail is involved at every step to process it in a halachically correct way. In addition, halacha requires that the matzoh eaten to fulfill the mitzvah on Seder night must be produced with the intention that it is specially supervised not to become chometz for the purpose of fulfilling the mitzvah. Thus, even if we know by remote-control camera that matzoh was produced 100% kosher for Pesach, but a well-trained team of chimpanzees manufactured it, one cannot use this matzoh to fulfill the mitzvah on Seder night, because it was not produced lishmah. Only adult Jews can produce matzoh lishmah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 460:1). Therefore, before beginning work each day in a matzoh bakery the workers must say: Kol mah she-ani oseh hayom, hareini oseh lesheim matzos mitzvah, “Everything that I am doing today, I am doing for the sake of producing matzos that will be used for the mitzvah.”

Although the Gemara (Pesachim 40a) discusses preparing matzoh lishmah, it is unclear how early in its production this must be done. We need not plant the wheat for the sake of the mitzvah, since nothing at this stage can make the product chometz-dik. Until the grain can become chometz, there is no need to guard it lishmah from becoming chometz.

The early poskim have three opinions concerning the stage when one must prepare matzoh lisheim matzos mitzvah:

(1) From the time of harvesting, which is usually the earliest time the grain can become chometz.

(2) From the time of grinding, at which time it is more probable that the flour could become chometz. In earlier times, most flour mills were located alongside rivers and used the flow of the river as their power source. Thus, there is great concern that the flour could become wet and begin to leaven.

(3) From the time of kneading, when one must certainly be concerned about the possibility of chimutz (fermentation).

Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 453:4) concludes that it is preferable to guard the wheat lishmah from the time it is harvested, but that it is satisfactory to use wheat that is supervised only from the time it is ground. Other poskim require lishmah from the time of the harvest (Pri Chodosh). Nowadays, shmurah matzoh generally refers to matzoh that was supervised against chimutz from the harvest, and kosher-for-Pesach non-shmurah matzoh is supervised from the time of the grinding.

HARVESTING CONCERNS

Fully-ripe grain can become chometz even while still connected to the ground (Piskei Tosafos, Menachos 208). Thus, in order to guarantee that the grain harvested for matzoh does not become chometz, it is harvested early, before it is fully ripe (Chayei Odom 128:2; Mishnah Berurah 453:22; Bi’ur Halacha to 453:4 s.v. Tov) and when it is dry. Before cutting the wheat, someone checks to see that it has not yet sprouted. Furthermore, we cut the wheat in the afternoon of a dry day to allow the night’s dew to evaporate in the morning. A combine used to harvest shmurah wheat must be clean and dry.

The poskim dispute whether a non-Jew may operate the combine when it harvests the wheat, or whether a Jew must operate it (Sefer Matzos Mitzvah pg. 26). Those who contend that Jew must operate it is because they hold that operating a large combine is technically equivalent to swinging a sickle, and harvesting lishmah requires that someone who is commanded to observe the mitzvah actually cuts the grain.

Sometimes, it seems that life was simpler when people harvested wheat by hand. A friend of mine who was born in the Soviet Union once described how his father used a hand sickle to harvest wheat for matzoh baking. Even today, some people are mehader to use hand-cut flour for their Seder matzos.

After cutting, the wheat must be stored and transported in a way that guarantees that it remains dry (Sdei Chemed, Vol. 7 pg. 383), and one must make sure that it always remains shamur by an observant Jew (Bi’ur Halacha 453:4 s.v. ulipachos). Furthermore, one must be careful to store it a way that it does not become infested by insects. One must also check grain samples for signs of sprouting, which is a chimutz problem (see Rama 453:3). There is a well-established custom that an experienced posek checks the grains before they are ground (Daas Torah to 453:1 s.v. ve’od).

GRINDING THE FLOUR

As mentioned above, most poskim require supervising the grain lishmah from chimutz from the time it is ground into flour, and all matzoh sold today as kosher lePesach is supervised at least from the time it is ground. The mashgichim must verify that the wheat is not soaked before being ground, which is common practice for non-Pesach flour in many places. Furthermore, a mashgiach must carefully inspect the milling equipment to ensure that no non-Passover flour remains in the grinders and filters.

Chazal instituted many halachos to guarantee that the dough does not become chometz prematurely. For example, one should not bake matzoh with freshly-ground flour, but should wait a day or two after the grinding to allow the flour to cool so that it does not leaven too quickly (Shulchan Aruch 453:9). They were also concerned that one should not bag the Pesach flour in old sacks previously used for chometz-dik flour. In many countries, grains are covered with leaves before grinding in order that they be moist when they are ground. This facilitates separating the different parts of the kernel. Of course, this is prohibited for Pesach-dik flour.

SPECIAL WATER: MAYIM SHELANU

Pesach matzoh must be baked exclusively with mayim shelanu, water that remained overnight (Pesachim 42a), a topic that we explored in last week’s article.

KNEADING THE DOUGH

One may not knead matzoh dough in a warm area or in a place exposed to the sun. Similarly, one must cover the windows, so that no sunlight streams through (see Mishnah Berurah 459:2). Furthermore, one must be very careful that the tremendous heat from the oven does not spread to other parts of the bakery, warming dough before it is placed into the oven (Shulchan Aruch 459:1). Thus, a matzoh factory must accommodate that the dough can be transported to the oven quickly, without exposing the kneading area to heat from the oven.

Once the flour and the water are mixed, one must strive to produce the matzoh as quickly as possible (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 459:1). If dough is left un-worked for eighteen minutes, it is regarded as chometz. However, if one works on the dough constantly, we are not concerned if more than eighteen minutes elapses before placing it into the oven. On the other hand, once one begins to work the dough, it warms up and may begin to leaven if left idle. Therefore the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 459:2) rules that once one begins working with the dough, it becomes chometz immediately if one leaves it idle. Although there are more lenient opinions as to whether the dough becomes chometz immediately, all agree that one must not allow unnecessary delay without working the dough (see Mishnah Berurah 459:18; Bi’ur Halacha ad loc.; Chazon Ish, Orach Chayim 121:16). Thus, practically speaking, it is far more important to work constantly on the dough to ensure that it does not begin to leaven, than to guarantee that it takes less than eighteen minutes from start to finish.

One should not assume that all hand matzoh bakeries have the same standard of kashrus. I once visited a hand matzoh bakery and observed dough sitting on the table ready for baking, without anyone working on it. I think that people paying the kind of money this bakery charges for its finished product should not receive matzoh that is kosher only bedei’evid (after the fact).

It is, of course, a much bigger concern if dough from an earlier batch is not cleaned off hands and equipment, and mixes into later batches. All equipment must be cleaned thoroughly after each batch to make sure this does not happen.

BAKING PROBLEMS

Several problems can occur during the baking of the matzos. If the baker leaves a matzoh in the oven too long it burns, and if he removes it too soon it becomes chometz. If he removes a matzoh from the oven before it is fully baked, he may not return it to the oven to finish (Rama 461:3).

Other problems can occur while matzoh is baking. Two very common problems are that matzoh becomes kefulah (folded) or nefucha (swollen). A matzoh kefulah is one that became folded inside the oven in such a way that the area between the folds is not exposed directly to the flame or heat of the oven. This area does not bake properly, making the matzoh chometz-dik (Rama 461:5). One may not use the folded part of the matzoh nor the area immediately around the fold (Mishnah Berurah 461:28).

A matzoh nefucha is a matzoh that swells up, usually because it was not perforated properly (Rama 461:5). During baking, air trapped inside the matzoh develops a large bubble. If the swollen area is the size of a hazelnut, the matzoh should not be used, whereas if it is smaller it may be used (see Mishnah Berurah 461:34 for a full discussion).

To avoid discovering these problems on Yom Tov, one should check one’s matzos before Yom Tov to ascertain that none of the matzos are kefulah or nefucha. I can personally attest to finding both among matzos that were meant for use at the Seder.

Of course you may ask, “Why didn’t the bakery mashgiach notice these matzos and remove them?” I, too, am very bothered by this question, but nevertheless, I and many other people have found that the matzos one purchases often include kefulos and nefuchos.

Now, my dear son, I am glad you have been so patient, because now I can answer your first question: “On this night of Pesach, we check our matzoh before eating it. What are we looking for?” We are checking that there are no folded matzos, or bubbles in the matzos the size of a hazelnut.

For part II of this article, click here.

 

 




The Mayim Shelanu Saga

Question #1: Who owns it?

Who owns mayim shelanu?

Question #2: Occupation or Preoccupation

“May I do something else while I bake my matzohs?”

Question #3: Mayim shelanu in Montevideo

“I have some experience at baking my own matzohs, and I will be spending Pesach in Uruguay. I intend to bake my own matzohs for the Seder. Must I use mayim shelanu for baking matzohs in the southern hemisphere?”

Answer:

Among the various instructions that the Gemara provides for baking matzoh is a requirement to use mayim shelanu, which should be translated as water that rested. This article will discuss the halachic requirements that Chazal instituted.

Who bakes the matzoh?

In the time of the Gemara, matzohs were baked fresh daily, and we see that the kneading and baking was usually the responsibility of the women of the household. Until fairly recently, this was common practice in many Sefardic communities, but among Ashkenazim, matzoh production has in most places become a commercial enterprise, since at least the nineteenth century. Today, few people bake their own matzohs, although I know people in Eretz Yisroel who still do so.

What is mayim shelanu?

Let us begin by quoting the Gemara that forms the basis of our discussion:

Rabbi Yehudah said, “A woman should knead dough for matzoh only with mayim shelanu.” Rav Masneh taught this in a public lecture in Papunia, a town in Bavel where the spoken language was Aramaic. Rav Masneh quoted Rabbi Yehudah’s exact Hebrew words, mayim shelanu, which can also mean our water. The next day, all the people came to him with their buckets, requesting that Rav Masneh supply them with his water, so that they could bake their matzohs. He then explained to them that he had meant water that rested, this time using the Aramaic words, maya devisu (Pesachim 42a).

The authorities debate whether Rav Masneh was teaching this as part of the traditional Shabbos Hagadol drosha, whose primary halachic purpose is to educate people regarding the details of the laws of Pesach, or whether he was delivering this discourse on Yom Tov. If it was on Yom Tov, why would Rav Masneh have waited until Yom Tov to tell them about an essential practice necessary to bake kosher-for-Pesach matzohs? The probable answer is that Rav Masneh was a visitor in Papunia on Yom Tov and chose to discuss this topic when asked to give a guest lecture.

Why the anecdote?

The rishonim ask why the Gemara needs (or should I say kneads?) to mention the story of Rav Masneh (Yerei’im). They do not answer that it is to teach us to have a sense of humor. What was the purpose of the story? There are several interesting answers to this question, two of which we will discuss at the end of this article.

But first, let us return to the continuation of the passage of Gemara:

“Rava taught in a public lecture: a woman should not knead her dough for matzoh under the sun, nor may she use hot water, even if it was heated only by being exposed to sunlight, nor may she use water that appears to be room temperature, if it was swept out of a water heater whose coals were removed. She should be careful not to ‘raise her hands’ from the oven until she completes making the matzoh,” which is another way of saying that she should remain focused on the matzoh production until it is finished, and certainly not do anything else in the interim (Pesachim 42a).

Occupation or Preoccupation

Thus, we can now answer one of our opening questions: “May I do something else while I bake my matzohs?”

The answer is that one may not.

After the fact

The Gemara then asks what is the halacha if someone made matzoh using water that did not meet the standards mentioned above, and cites a dispute between Mar Zutra and Rav Ashi whether the matzoh may be used. Mar Zutra permitted the matzoh thus prepared, whereas Rav Ashi prohibited it. The halachic authorities rule according to Rav Ashi, that this matzoh may not be used. The authorities then debate whether this ruling applies only to the latter cases — one who kneaded the matzoh outdoors or who used warm water — or does it apply even to someone who kneaded matzoh with water that was not mayim shelanu. Rashi is quoted as having ruled that matzoh prepared with water that was not mayim shelanu is permitted bedei’evid, after the fact, whereas most authorities prohibit this matzoh.

Mayim shelanu wherefore?

Why did Chazal prohibit using water for matzoh baking, unless it rested? The poskim cite two main approaches.

According to Rashi, mayim shelanu is required because, during the winter months, the sun traverses the earth much closer to the earth than it does in the summer. Thus, the areas of the earth in which there are open bodies of water become heated to a much greater degree in the winter than they are in the summer, making the water too warm for baking matzohs. Since Pesach in the northern hemisphere is at the end of the winter, it arrives when outside water is warmer than desired for matzoh baking, until it has had ample time to cool. Since the Gemara mentions specifically that the water was lanu, many authorities maintain that the water must rest in a cool place for a minimum of twelve hours (Gra).

Mayim shelanu in the southern hemisphere

It would seem that, according to Rashi, there is no need for mayim shelanu when making matzoh before Pesach in Argentina, Australia, South Africa and anywhere else in the southern hemisphere, since, in that part of the world, Pesach falls at the end of the summer, not the end of the winter. Similarly, someone baking Pesach matzohs in the summer months in the northern hemisphere would not require mayim shelanu. Although this last piece of information may not be germane to any existing kosher lePesach matzoh bakeries, it will be of interest to those producing matzoh for the grain offerings, the menachos, to be offered in the Beis Hamikdash when it is rebuilt, speedily and in our days, since, with only two exceptions, they may not be chometz.

River water

The rishonim quote that Rashi himself held that mayim shelanu is required only when using water from a spring or a cistern, but not when using water drawn from a river. Some explain that this is because we can assume that it has already had sufficient time to cool (Responsum of Rashi, quoted by Ravyah #485, as explained by Kolbo #48). However, later authorities (Ravyah #485; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 455:1) do not accept this lenient ruling and require that river water wait several hours before use for baking matzohs.

Here comes the sun!

The second reason for mayim shelanu is that provided by Rav Eliezer of Metz, a disciple of Rabbeinu Tam and the author of Sefer Ye’rei’im, an important early halachic source. The Ye’rei’im explains that one should not use water for matzohs unless it rested, because water drawn at night from underground was heated by the sun, since the sun is on the other side of the earth at night. He rules that water drawn at the very beginning of the night can be used immediately, since it has not yet had opportunity to become hot. This lenience applies to water drawn at the very end of the day, during twilight (bein hashemashos), or at the beginning of the night.

Luck of the draw

Among the major halachic commentaries to the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch, we find three different ways of understanding the Ye’rei’im’s position:

  1. According to the Taz, the Ye’rei’im required that matzohs be baked only with water that was drawn during the evening, as described above. Any water drawn at any other time is considered to have become heated and may no longer be used for matzoh production. The Taz contends that one may not use for baking matzohs any water that was ever known to be hot, even if it was subsequently cooled and allowed to rest. Several other authorities, such as the Hagahos Semaq 222:9, and the Mizrachi, also rule this way (as understood by the Beis Yosef and the Taz.) The reason why we refer to the water as “water that rested overnight” is because usually one needs to draw it at least a day before one will use it, and prior to the night.
  2. According to the Bach’s understanding of the Ye’rei’im, one may never use water drawn at night, but water drawn in the daytime becomes usable after it has been allowed to cool until the following morning.
  3. According to the Beis Yosef’s understanding of the Ye’rei’im, water drawn any time other than twilight becomes permissible for matzoh production after it has been in a cool place overnight. Thus, water drawn at night becomes usable the morning after the following night, whereas water drawn in the daytime becomes usable the following morning.

According to all three opinions, the Ye’rei’im permitted immediate use of water that was drawn in the evening, whereas Rashi required this water to rest overnight. According to Rashi, water drawn in the daytime is acceptable for matzoh production after it has been left for twelve hours in a cool place, whereas according to the Ye’rei’im (as understood by the Beis Yosef and Bach), this water may not be used until the following morning, which is considerably more than 12 hours. The halachic authorities rule that lechatchilah one should draw mayim shelanu in the evening and then wait overnight until one uses it, which is basically following the stringencies of both Rashi and the Ye’rei’im.

This means that one draws water from a spring, well, or river immediately before twilight and leaves it in a cool place for a minimum of one complete night to allow it to cool (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 455:1 and commentaries). One may draw water for several days at one time (Shulchan Aruch 455:1), provided one draws the water immediately before twilight and then stores it in a cool place, although some poskim prefer that the water be drawn freshly each night (Maharil quoted by Ba’er Heiteiv 455:7). The water should not be drawn or stored in a metal vessel since metal conducts heat and warms the water (Magen Avraham 455:9). In addition, the water should not be drawn or stored in a vessel that has been used previously to hold other liquids since some liquid may mix with the water, and this may cause the dough to rise faster than otherwise (Magen Avraham ibid.). Many contemporary poskim discourage using tap water for matzos because of concern that fluoride and other chemicals introduced into the water may cause the dough to rise more quickly (see Mo’adim U’zemanim 3:261). It is important to note that the requirement for mayim shelanu is not only for the matzos eaten at the Seder, but also for all matzos eaten during the entire Pesach.

Rav Masneh’s lecture

At this point, let us return to a previous question: The Gemara tells us the amusing anecdote concerning the misunderstanding that resulted from Rav Masneh’s lecture, where the people misunderstood mayim shelanu to mean Rav Masneh’s water, until he clarified that it meant water that rested overnight.  Why is it important for the Gemara to tell us this story? From the Ye’rei’im onward, many halachic authorities discuss this question, providing a variety of answers. Some explain that Rav Masneh delivered this lecture on Yom Tov, and they infer the following conclusion: If matzoh made without mayim shelanu is prohibited, Rav Masneh would have left the people of Papunia with nothing to eat – they would have had to destroy all the matzoh they had already produced, since it was not made using mayim shelanu, and they would have had nothing to eat the next day either, since they had no water with which to bake. Since the Gemara mentions nothing of the hardship that was imposed by his ruling, we should conclude that the Gemara’s purpose is to teach that mayim shelanu is required only lechatchilah, but, after the fact, matzoh made using water that was not mayim shelanu is permitted (Sefer Ye’rei’im).

Others contend that Rav Masneh taught this as part of the Shabbos Hagadol drosha, and that Pesach that year began on Sunday night. (In our current calendar implemented by Hillel Hanasi, Pesach cannot begin on Sunday night. However, Rav Masneh lived at a time when the central Beis Din still determined the calendar on a monthly basis, and, in that era, Pesach could begin on any day of the week.) On Sunday, the people came to fetch water from Rav Masneh, intending to bake their matzohs in the afternoon. This was the common practice in earlier days – matzohs for the Seder were not baked until the afternoon of Erev Pesach, a practice mentioned in Shulchan Aruch and still practiced by many.

Now that they had no water with which to bake their matzohs, what were they to do for matzohs for the Seder? Since the Gemara does not say that they had a matzoh-less Seder, there are a few options:

  1. As we mentioned above, it could be that mayim shelanu is only a lechatchilah rule, but, after the fact, one who has no mayim shelanu can bake matzohs with room temperature water (Raavyah; Semag).
  2. As long as several hours have elapsed since the water was drawn, it is called mayim shelanu, regardless as to when it was drawn. Thus, having heard Rav Masneh’s ruling, the people immediately drew water and began timing the cooling off period. Towards evening, they baked their matzohs (Ravyah #485), or possibly even in the middle of the Seder!

As we all know, matzoh is made of only two ingredients, kosher-for-Pesach flour and water. Although few of us bake our own matzohs, we now know that there are halachos germane to what water one must use for baking matzohs. This provides some information that enables us to understand what is involved in the kashrus of one of the two ingredients in the manufacture of matzoh.

Baking with Hallel!

While baking matzoh on erev Pesach, there is a custom of singing Hallel with tremendous emotion. The moments that we recite Hallel then, and on Pesach itself, can encapsulate the most fervent experience of His closeness. Reliving Hashem’s miracles rekindles the cognizance of Hashem’s presence. In the merit of joyously performing the mitzvos of Seder night, may we soon see the return of the Divine Presence to Yerushalayim and the rededication of the Beis HaMikdash, and be zocheh to fulfill all of these mitzvos, including the korban Pesach!