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Peninei Halakha > Pesah > 12 – The Laws of Matza

12 – The Laws of Matza

01. The Mitzva of Eating Matza

It is a Torah commandment to eat matza on the night of the 15th of the month of Nisan, as it says, “In the evening, you shall eat matzot” (Shemot 12:18). Even though the Torah also says, “you shall eat matzot for seven days” (ibid. 12:15), the Sages inferred, based on the rules for interpreting the Torah, that the Torah does not mean to command us to eat matzot all seven days. Rather, the intent is that matza is the staple food that we eat on Pesaḥ in lieu of bread. However, one who wants to live off of fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products may do so.

The simple meaning of this is that one who eats matzot all seven days of Pesaḥ does not thereby fulfill a mitzva. This is what the Sages meant when they said (Pesaḥim 120a) that eating matza during the seven days is “optional” (“reshut”). Yet many leading halakhic authorities have written that although eating matza is obligatory only at the Seder, and indeed that is why the Sages instituted the special blessing over the eating of matza at the Seder only, nevertheless one who eats matza on the other days of Pesaḥ still fulfills a mitzva, even if it is not obligatory. In this view, the Sages referred to eating matza on the remaining days of Pesaḥ as a “reshut” only by way of contrast with the obligation to eat matza on the night of the 15th. According to this view, the verse “you shall eat matzot for seven days” retains its simple meaning. This is how Ibn Ezra and Ḥizkuni explained the verse, this is implied by a statement by Rosh, and this was the practice of the Vilna Gaon. However, even they maintained that the mitzva consists of eating a kezayit (olive’s bulk) of matza at each meal, and that eating more does not add to the mitzva.[1]

[1]. Pesaḥim 120a explains this based on one of the rules for interpreting the Torah, namely, that any item singled out from a class of items did not leave the class to teach a new idea only about itself, but to apply the new teaching to the entire class. In this case, the “class” is “you shall eat matza for seven days.” However, the Torah says later on, “for six days you shall eat matza, and the seventh day will be a festival for the Lord, your God” (Devarim 16:8). Clearly, the “seventh day” was excluded from the general class in that there is no mitzva to eat matza on that day. This in turn teaches about the entire class – all seven days – that there is no mitzva to eat matza. Only on the night of the 15th, the Seder night, is there such a mitzva, for we were commanded especially: “In the evening you shall eat matzot.”

Most Rishonim and Aḥaronim do not mention any mitzva associated with eating matza during the seven days of Pesaḥ, implying that there is in fact no such mitzva. However, many Rishonim and Aḥaronim do actually mention such a mitzva, including: Ibn Ezra on Shemot 23:15, Ḥizkuni on Shemot 12:15, and Responsa Rosh 3:23 citing the Ge’onim that one does not wear tefillin on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed Pesaḥ, since there is already a “sign” on Pesaḥ, namely, eating matza. So states MB 475:45 in the name of Gra (Ma’aseh Rav §185).

02. Shemura Matza

There is a mitzva to safeguard the matzot from becoming ḥametz, as the Torah states, “And you shall observe (u-shemartem) the matzot” (Shemot 12:17). This refers specifically to the matzot eaten on the Seder night in fulfillment of the mitzva, for the very next verse states, “in the evening you shall eat matzot.” The other matzot one eats on Pesaḥ are like any other food: they may be eaten as long as there is no concern that they contain ḥametz. However, we have been commanded to safeguard especially carefully the matza used for the mitzva on Seder night. This matza is called “shemura”.

Le-khatḥilah, the safeguarding of the matzot begins with the harvesting of the grain to be used for the matzot. Common practice is to harvest the wheat while it is still a bit moist, for if it were to dry out completely and then get drenched by rain, it would become ḥametz. Likewise, the wheat kernels must be stored where there is no concern that they will come into contact with water.

One may also fulfill the mitzva of eating shemura matza with matzot that were guarded from the time the wheat was milled into flour. As long as the wheat kernels showed no signs of becoming ḥametz and nothing has happened that would undermine the presumption that they are not ḥametz, one need not be concerned that they had become wet and became ḥametz. However, this is not the best kind of shemura matza, since it was guarded only from the time of milling.

Under extenuating circumstances, when no flour that has been guarded from the time of milling is available, one may use regular, store-bought flour and fulfill the mitzva by guarding the dough from the time of kneading (SA 453:4). Even where it is customary to rinse grains of wheat lightly before milling them, it is still permissible in extenuating circumstances to buy regular flour in the market, since a brief rinse is presumed not to be enough to cause the grains to become ḥametz. However, where it is customary to briefly soak the grains in water, one may not buy flour for matza in the market, since it is presumed to be ḥametz (MB 451:24). Therefore, in practice, one should not buy flour that is not certified kosher for Pesaḥ since the wheat is often soaked in water and may have become ḥametz.[2]

In practice, today’s custom is to be scrupulous about shemura matza; matzot that have been guarded from the time of harvest are used to fulfill the mitzva of eating matza on the Seder night. The enhanced practice has taken root so thoroughly that people have come to call matza that has been guarded only from the time of milling “non-shemura matza,” even though it is considered shemura halakhically, and one may use it to fulfill the mitzva of eating matza.

[2]. According to Rif, Rambam, and other Rishonim, the wheat needs to be guarded from the time it is harvested; according to Rosh, from the time of milling, since the mitzva only begins when the wheat touches water, and wheat was usually milled by watermills. The implication of Rosh’s opinion is that as long as one mills the wheat without using water, the mitzva of guarding the wheat begins at the time of kneading (MA 453:7). However, several Rishonim wrote that the wheat must be guarded from the time of milling and did not mention the rationale of the watermill; among them are Rashi, Shibolei Ha-leket, and Smak.

Geonic responsa, cited by many Rishonim, state that if no wheat was guarded from the time of milling, be-di’avad one may purchase flour from the market. If the matza was guarded from the time of milling, one recites the berakha of “al akhilat matza” over it (BHL 453:4), because Ran and many other Rishonim explain that according to Rif and those who agree with him, guarding the matza from the time of harvest is merely the best way to fulfill the mitzva (“mitzva min ha-muvḥar”). According to Kaf Ha-ḥayim 482:1, under extenuating circumstances, one may even recite the berakha over matza that was only supervised from the time of kneading. It seems that most poskim concur that be-di’avad, guarding from the time of kneading suffices.

Tur and Beit Yosef state that according to Rif, Rabbeinu Yeruḥam, Ran, and Magid Mishneh, the need to guard the matza pertains only to the matza used to fulfill the mitzva on the first night of Pesaḥ. All other matza eaten on Pesaḥ need not be guarded (MB 453:21). (Although some maintain that one must be stringent and use shemura matza for the entire holiday, either because there is greater concern about matza, which is made of flour and water, or because they maintain that there is a mitzva to eat shemura matza all Pesaḥ; see below, section 5.) According to Baḥ and those who agree with him, the mitzva to guard the matza is rabbinic, and the rabbis merely supported their enactment using a verse from the Torah. However, according to most poskim, this mitzva is from the Torah. So states BHL 460:1 s.v. “ein”, citing Rashba, Pri Ḥadash, and other Rishonim and Aḥaronim.

03. Must the Safeguarding Be with the Intent to Fulfill a Mitzva?

Safeguarding the matzot to be used for fulfilling the mitzva of eating matza on the Seder night has two meanings: being extra vigilant to prevent it from becoming ḥametz and intending that the making of this matza is for the sake of the mitzva of eating matza (“le-shem matzat mitzva”). It is therefore necessary that the matza be kneaded and baked by Jews who are halakhic adults, who can be relied upon to focus their actions for the sake of matzat mitzva, not gentiles, minors, or the mentally unfit, since they cannot be relied upon to have the proper intent (She’iltot, Rashba).

Some dispute this second meaning. In their view, the mitzva of guarding the matza requires extra vigilance to prevent the matzat mitzva from becoming ḥametz but not that the matzot are baked with special intent. Thus, gentiles and minors are fit to knead and bake matzat mitzva, as long as an adult Jew supervises their work, ensuring that they work quickly and that the dough does not become ḥametz. His supervision should be for the sake of matzat mitzva (Ra’ah).

In practice, at the time of kneading one should take care to fulfill both meanings of “safeguarding.” Thus, one must insist that Jews knead and bake the matzat mitzva, taking care that the dough does not become ḥametz and intending that the matza be for the sake of the mitzva. However, at the time of harvesting and milling, the first meaning is sufficient. Thus, the wheat may be harvested and milled by gentiles as long as a Jew stands nearby and supervises their work, ensuring that it does not become ḥametz (SA 460:1; MB and SHT 4 ad loc.).[3]

Le-khatḥila, one should say out loud, when starting to work on matzot, that all the work is being done for the sake of producing matzat mitzva; be-di’avad, it is sufficient that he thought it (BHL 460:1, based on Pri Megadim). He should also have in mind that it is for the matzat mitzva that one eats on Seder night, but if he had in mind that it is for matza for Pesaḥ, he has fulfilled the obligation (SAH 453:14).

[3]. According to most poskim, there are two meanings of “safeguarding”: ensuring that it does not become ḥametz and intent to make the matza as matzat mitzva. According to Ra’ah, there is only one purpose: ensuring that it does not become ḥametz for the sake of the matzat mitzva. According to R. Hai Gaon and others, it is indeed necessary to intend to use the wheat for the mitzva, but if a Jew supervises a gentile or child and instructs him to knead the dough specifically le-shem matzat mitzva, we may rely on this for proper intent. SA 460:1 follows the view of most poskim that safeguarding entails intent to make matzat mitzva as well, so one may not use matza that was kneaded or baked by a gentile (MB 460:3, SHT ad loc.).

According to Baḥ and Eliya Rabba, those who believe that the guarding must begin at the time of the harvest (see the previous section) also require a Jew to harvest and mill the wheat le-shem matzat mitzva. Some are meticulous about this in practice. (According to those who maintain that turning on a machine does not constitute proper intent – see the next section – the harvesting and milling must be done by hand, not with agricultural machinery; very few people insist on this.)

Taz explains that the harvesting and milling need not be done with intention for the sake of matzat mitzva; therefore, one may have a gentile harvest and mill the wheat, provided that a Jew supervises and ensures that the wheat does not become ḥametz. The need to have Intentions during specific actions begins at the time of kneading, so it is necessary to ensure that a Jew performs the kneading and baking (according to most poskim). Consequently, SA 460:1 rules that gentiles are unfit to perform the kneading or baking of the matza. BHL 460:1 s.v. “ein” states that the universal custom is to be lenient in accordance with Taz, that gentiles harvest and mill the wheat under the supervision of a Jew. So states Ḥok Yaakov and SAH 453:16. Matza that is made this way is called “shemura mi-she’at ketzira” – supervised from the time of the harvest.

04. The Fitness of Handmade and Machine-Made Matza for the Mitzva

A great dispute has raged among poskim ever since the invention of matza-baking machines. The dispute centers on two principal questions: 1) Is there indeed no concern that machine-made matzot may become ḥametz? 2) Can one use them to fulfill the mitzva of eating matza on the Seder night?

Concerning the question of ḥametz, it is agreed that everything depends on the nature of the machine and on its supervision. As long as there are kashrut supervisors who ensure that there is no risk of ḥametz, the matzot are kosher for Pesaḥ. Thus even the most pious and God-fearing Jews eat machine-made matzot on Pesaḥ.

The second question, however, is still debated. Some say that the mitzva of guarding the matza requires that the entire process of kneading and baking be done with explicit intent that they are le-shem matzat mitzva, and since a machine cannot have intentions, one would not fulfill the mitzva of eating matza on the Seder night with machine-made matza.

Most poskim maintain that one can fulfill the mitzva by eating machine-made matzot, for several reasons. Firstly, as we learned, some maintain that the mitzva of guarding the matza only requires one to ensure that it does not become ḥametz, and it is irrelevant whether this is done while making the matza by hand or by supervising the activity of a machine (based on Ra’ah). Furthermore, a human being operates the machine, and if he operates it with the intent of making matzat mitzva, then automatically all of the machine’s operations are considered to have been done for the sake of the mitzva.

In practice, one may use machine-made matza to fulfill the mitzva of eating matza on the Seder night. Many are scrupulous to fulfill the mitzva with handmade matzot that were baked under good supervision, but it is not necessary to eat handmade matzot throughout the Seder meal. Rather, scrupulous fulfillment entails eating handmade matza for those kezayit quantities that constitute the mitzva (see below 16:22-25).[4]

[4]. Originally, the machines were operated with more human input, which caused concerns of ḥametz and of breaking from tradition. After the machines were enhanced and improved, these concerns abated, but the concern that operating the machine does not constitute intent remained and was even magnified. Among those who prohibit machine matza are: R. Shlomo Kluger, R. Ḥayim Halberstam (the Sanzer Rebbe, author of Divrei Ḥayim), R. Yitzḥak Meir Alter (the Gerrer Rebbe, author of Ḥidushei Ha-Rim), R. Avraham Bornstein of Sochatchov (author of Avnei Nezer), and most of the great Ḥasidic leaders. Even today, most Ḥasidic poskim tend to dismiss machine-made matza. Among those who permit are: the authors of Sho’el U-meishiv, Tiferet Yisrael, Ktav Sofer, and Arukh Le-ner. Some poskim even prefer machine matza to handmade matza, since there is less of a chance of the machine matza becoming ḥametz. This is the opinion of R. Meir Simḥa of Dvinsk (author of Or Same’aḥ) and R. Shmuel Salant, the head of the Jerusalem rabbinical court, who personally ate machine matza, as did the Lithuanian community in old Jerusalem. The main reason for preferring machine matza is that the most important dimension of guarding the matza is to ensure that it does not become ḥametz, and based on what they saw, machine matza was less likely to become ḥametz. R. Tzvi Pesaḥ Frank, cited in Mikra’ei Kodesh 2:3, states that since gentiles and children are intelligent, a supervising Jew cannot supply proper intent on their behalf while they knead. A machine, on the other hand, has no intelligence, so the intent of the Jew operating the machine is effective. Thus, my teacher R. Tzvi Yehuda Kook would eat machine-made matza at the Seder. R. Min-Hahar and R. Messas also preferred machine-made matza. R. Shaul Yisraeli stated that there is no preference for handmade matza over machine-made matza. According to R. Mordechai Eliyahu, even though one may recite the berakha over machine-made matza, handmade matza is preferable. (Responsa Oneg Yom Tov OḤ 42 explains that even though the mitzva to guard the matza is from the Torah, if for some reason one does not have matza that was guarded for the sake of the mitzva, he still has a Torah obligation to eat matza on the Seder night, presumably with a berakha, even though he has not fulfilled the mitzva of guarding the matza.)

I wrote that using handmade matza constitutes a more scrupulous form of observance based on my father’s explanation. Many things have changed in recent decades. Machines are more automated than ever, so there are more grounds for concern that no specific action was done for the sake of the mitzva. Perhaps in the past, when more human input was necessary to operate the machinery, this problem was less of a concern, but today the machines operate at the touch of a button. Moreover, when all of the matza was handmade, there was a concern that the pressure to supply matza to the entire nation meant that matza bakers would not be sufficiently meticulous in their efforts to keep the matza from becoming ḥametz. The machines were a great solution to that issue. Nowadays, on the other hand, most handmade matza factories are extraordinarily scrupulous, to the point that the situation may have been reversed, and there is less concern about handmade matza becoming ḥametz than there is about machine-made matza. Even though there is a consensus that the intent of the machine operator or the kashrut supervisor is sufficient, having the proper intent throughout the process (as is the case with handmade matza) enhances the mitzva. This is especially true if one bakes his own matza, since it is always better for one to fulfill a mitzva on his own rather than through an agent (this is indeed my father’s custom – to bake his own matzot mitzva).

05. Is it Proper to Eat Shemura Matza All Pesaḥ?

The mitzva of safeguarding the matzot was stated with respect to the matzat mitzva we are commanded to eat on the night of the 15th of Nisan. The idea is to honor the mitzva by guarding them especially carefully. In other words, it is permitted to eat matzot that were not guarded if there is no concern that they may have become ḥametz, but they are not fit for use as matzot mitzva since they were not safeguarded especially carefully for sake of matzat mitzva. Accordingly, throughout Pesaḥ, one may eat non-shemura matza that is kosher for Pesaḥ.

Nevertheless, some are meticulous about eating shemura matza throughout Pesaḥ. There are two reasons for this: One is that some poskim maintain that while there is no duty to eat matzot throughout Pesaḥ, one who does so fulfills a mitzva; therefore, one should eat shemura matza (as explained in section 1). It follows that one who wishes to fulfill a mitzva by eating matza must eat shemura matza. However, according to this view, it is sufficient to eat a kezayit of shemura matza at each meal. Similarly, it is enough to use our regular matzot (not labeled as shemura), which have been safeguarded from the time of milling, because, as we have learned (section 2), one technically fulfills the requirement for matzat mitzva with matza that has been guarded from the time of milling.

The second reason is concern about ḥametz. Out of all the foods we eat on Pesaḥ, matza is the likeliest to become ḥametz. Therefore, if the wheat grains are not guarded from harvest time, there is concern that some wheat kernels may have become ḥametz. Thus, there are grounds for the scrupulous practice of eating matza that has been safeguarded from harvest time throughout Pesaḥ.

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 18 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 milling, are kosher for all of Pesaḥ, le-khatḥila. Even those who maintain that there is a mitzva to eat matza throughout the seven days of Pesaḥ agree that one fulfills the mitzva with such matzot. Those who are more scrupulous eat matzot that have been guarded from harvest time, because these matzot are more carefully safeguarded from becoming ḥametz.[5]

[5]. The custom of the Vilna Gaon was to eat shemura matza the entire Pesaḥ for two reasons. Firstly, he maintained that there is a mitzva to eat shemura matza all seven days, but in this respect it only needs to be supervised from the time of kneading. Secondly, he was concerned about ḥametz, 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 ḥametz; accordingly, this applies to all matza that one eats over Pesaḥ. 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 ḥametz from the time of harvesting. Thus, the kernels are harvested before they dry out to prevent any concerns of rainwater potentially making them ḥametz. 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 ḥametz. On the other hand, wheat imported from abroad, from which all other matza is made, sometimes contains kernels that have already become ḥametz. Even though matza bakers are careful to purchase clean shipments, there is still a concern that some ḥametz kernels mixed in. And even though these kernels are batel be-shishim (because the matza is baked before Pesaḥ, according to most poskim the ḥametz is not ḥozer ve-ne’or on Pesaḥ, as explained above, 7:3-4), this matza is not as optimal. Since matza that was guarded from the time of harvesting is more optimal, bakers are careful to perform all of the other steps in the most meticulous way possible: during baking, they stop the machines every 18 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-shemura 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 18 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 18 minutes, since the cleaning is done while the machines are running, it is more difficult to clean the machines thoroughly.

Yet shemura matza is far more expensive than the regular matza (even if it is only guarded from the time of milling 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 shemura 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 le-khatḥila, 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.

06. Water That Has Stayed Overnight (“Mayim She-lanu”)

The Sages prohibited kneading dough for Pesaḥ matzot with lukewarm water, as warmth accelerates the leavening process. Unless workers are especially quick to knead and bake it, there is concern that it will become ḥametz. 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 Pesaḥ (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. Tzvi Yehuda Kook similarly would prepare mayim she-lanu from tap water).

[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).

07. Preventing Leavening during Kneading

The flour for matzot is milled at least one day before it is kneaded into dough, since milling heats the flour slightly, and if they do not wait, there is greater concern that the dough will become ḥametz (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 ḥametz (SA 455:5-6).

Le-khatḥila, 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 ḥalla from the dough with a berakha), as 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 ḥametz. Be-di’avad, if one kneaded a larger quantity, the matza is kosher as long as the dough did not rest for 18 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-khatḥila, to knead 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, and during a sharav (ḥamsin; a heat wave during which the sun is obscured by clouds and sand), one should not knead the dough outside or inside near to windows, because even though most of the sun’s rays are obscured by clouds, the whole sky radiates intense heat. Obviously, one should not knead in a place warmed by an oven (SA 459:1). Be-di’avad, if dough was kneaded in a hot place but no signs of leavening were seen in the dough or the matza, the matza is kosher for Pesaḥ (ibid. 5).

Le-khatḥila, 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 careful to cool their hands in water occasionally while they are kneading (MB 459:27).

08. 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 ḥametz 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 filaments 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. However, there is uncertainty regarding matza baked in a microwave oven, as some maintain that it is unfit for the mitzva of eating matza since it was not baked by fire. (R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach disqualified such matzot, and R. Shaul Yisraeli held them to be kosher; see R. Harari’s Mikra’ei Kodesh, p. 335.)

One may not decorate matza with pictures, lest it become ḥametz during the delay caused by decorating. One may not make a thick matza (thicker than 7.6 cm) on Pesaḥ, out of concern that the fire will not reach the center and it will become ḥametz (SA 460:4-5). However, one may bake a matza that is a bit thinner than a tefaḥ. Ashkenazic custom is to make thin, hard matzot, as this way the fire reaches them thoroughly and there is hardly any concern that the matza will contain ḥametz (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 well before Pesaḥ, and if they are not wafer-like, they will not last long (Kaf Ha-ḥayim 460:44).[7]

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).

[7]. Ashkenazim customarily prepare hard matza as it retains its freshness longer, and thus they were able to prepare enough matza to last all of Pesaḥ before the holiday. There is a halakhic advantage to preparing the matza before Pesaḥ, as then any ḥametz is batel be-shishim, and when Pesaḥ arrives, the halakha is that it is not ḥozer ve-ne’or (above, 7:3-4). Thin matza has another halakhic advantage: since they are thin, the fire of the furnace reaches them thoroughly, and there is no concern that any leavening occurred. In addition, the hardness of the matza is halakhically advantageous, as the ability to discern whether the matza started leavening depends on the presence of threads of dough that extend from the baked matza. With hard matzot, this is easily discernible, whereas greater expertise is required for soft matza. Since this custom also has halakhic advantages, it should not be dismissed for no reason. However, in times of need, such as for someone who is sick, it is possible to be lenient, since this was not established as an obligatory custom.

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