The Matzoh Shoppers Guide

clip_image002The 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 machine, 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?

“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, simply flour and water, much detail is involved at every step to process it halachically correctly. The matzoh that we eat to fulfill the mitzvah on Seder night must be “guarded,” or supervised, to guarantee that it did not become chometz.

The mitzvah of matzoh on Seder night is fulfilled exclusively with matzoh produced lishmah – that is, protecting it from becoming chometz for the sake of 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 lisheim 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 one must have active concern that it not become chometz. 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 the earliest time the grain can usually 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 of the harvesting, but that it is satisfactory to use wheat that supervised only from the time of grinding. 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.

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. Furthermore, we cut the wheat in the afternoon of a dry day to allow the night’s dew to evaporate in the morning. Before cutting the wheat, someone checks to see that it has not yet sprouted. 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). According to the second opinion, harvesting lishmah requires that someone who is commanded to observe the mitzvah actually cuts the grain – and operating a large combine is technically equivalent to swinging a sickle.

Sometimes, it seems that life was simpler when people harvested wheat by hand. A friend of mine born in the Soviet Union once described how his father harvested wheat for matzoh baking with a hand sickle. 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 considered 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. Nowadays, matzoh sold as kosher l’pesach is supervised at least from the time it is ground. This should include care that the wheat was not soaked before it was ground, which is common practice 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 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, non-Pesach grains are covered with leaves before grinding in order that they should 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 (Gemara Pesachim 42a). 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.

The words mayim shelanu, which mean water that rested overnight, also translate as “our water.” This once led to a humorous incident recorded by the Gemara: When Rav Masneh told the public in Papunia that they must use mayim shelanu to bake their matzos, the following day a long line of people stood outside his door, requesting that he provide them with water to bake their Pesach matzos! At this point, he clarified to them that mayim shelanu means “water that rested” and not “our water” (Pesachim 42a).

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 the other parts of the bakery, warming dough before it is placed into the oven (Shulchan Aruch 459:1). Thus, one must construct a matzoh factory so that 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 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 only kosher bedei’eid (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 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. Even 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).

Certain 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 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 (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 I intended to use for 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.

At this point, I think we can begin to answer the second question:

“On this night of Pesach, some people eat only hand matzoh, others eat only machine-made machine, 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 their use. The two main protagonists in the original 1850’s controversy were Rav Shlomoh Kluger, Rav of Brody, and the Shaul Umeishiv, Rav Yosef Shaul Natanson. Both of these renowned poskim, as well as dozens of other great Rabbonim who became involved in this dispute, were gedolei yisroel. Unfortunately, the machlokes over the use of machine matzos became as heated as the temperature of the matzoh ovens, with each side issuing broadsides and rallying support from other rabbonim.

Rav Shlomoh Kluger opposed the use of machine-made matzoh on Pesach primarily because of the following three concerns:

1. The economic factor: He was concerned 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.

3. 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 making 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 only produces the very first action, and the rest happens on its own and is not considered 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:OC: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, OC#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 that 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 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 so that a minimal amount of dough adheres to equipment, and mashgichim can supervise that whatever dough sticks is swiftly removed. 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 only ate machine matzos on Pesach, as well as 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 uniformly 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 his hand matzoh, while beads of perspiration are falling into the matzoh. 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 do not rush to prepare our food quickly, on this night of Pesach we eat matzoh that is advertised as ‘18-minute matzoh.’ What do they mean that they are selling 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 since it was last 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 that 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:

“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. biGemara 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 the mitzvah 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.

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