Shiur 13: Matza Ashira

  • Rav Shlomo Levy

            In this article we shall not deal with the question whether or not one is permitted to eat matza ashira on Pesach, but rather with the foundations of the law that one cannot fulfill one's duty to eat the obligatory matza at the seder with matza ashira. This law might have ramifications regarding the question, with which this article will also not be dealing, whether or not one may eat matza ashira on Erev Pesach. This, of course, is a particularly important issue in years when Erev Pesach falls out on Shabbat.

 

            The Shulchan Arukh rules (471:2):

 

Before the tenth hour, one is permitted to eat matza ashira.

 

            The Magen Avraham (ad loc., no. 6) cites the position of the Maharal:

 

I.e., [matza] that was kneaded exclusively with fruit juice, but if it was kneaded with fruit juice together with water – it may be used to fulfill one's obligation in times of great need, as is proven from Menachot, and thus one is forbidden to eat it on Erev Pesach.

 

            The Maharal distinguishes between matza ashira kneaded exclusively with fruit juice – with which one does not fulfill one's obligation, and matza ashira kneaded with both water and fruit juice – with which bedi'eved one does fulfill the obligation.

 

            The Magen Avraham himself disagrees with the Maharal:

 

Rather, without a doubt, even [when kneaded also] with water, one does not fulfill one's obligation with it, because it is matza ashira.

 

            According to the Magen Avraham, one does not fulfill one's obligation with matza ashira, even if it was kneaded with both water and fruit juice, and therefore one is permitted to eat such matza on Erev Pesach.

 

The problem with such matza is that it is not regarded as lechem oni – "bread of affliction." Accordingly, the Maharal and the Magen Avraham disagree whether this law of lechem oni is an indispensable element of the mitzva, or merely a law lekhatchila. In other words, is lechem oni an integral element of the definition of matza, and therefore it is indispensable even bedi'eved? Or is it an additional law that goes beyond the definition of matza, and therefore it may be dispensed with bedi'eved.

 

Be that as it may, the Maharal disqualifies for the mitzva matza that was kneaded exclusively with fruit juice, even bedi'eved. It seems that such matza has additional deficiencies beyond the problem of lechem oni.

 

The Gemara in Pesachim 35a states:

 

It was taught: Kusmin – a species of wheat. Shibolet shu'al and shipon – a species of barley. Kusmin – spelt; shipon – rye; shibolet shu'al – oats. These, yes; rice and millet – not. From where do we derive these laws? Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said… The verse states: "You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shall you eat unleavened bread (chametz) with it" (Devarim 16:2). With those things that ferment (chimutz) – a person fulfills his obligation with respect to matza, to the exclusion of those things that do not ferment but decay (sirchon).

 

            At the end of that passage, it is stated:

 

And fruit juice does not ferment.

 

            What is the foundation of the law that it is possible to fulfill the mitzva of matza only with those materials that come to fermentation?

 

            This condition might be regarded as an element in the definition of bread. The Gemara says about rice and millet that they do not come to fermentation, and therefore they are not regarded as "lechem," bread.

 

            It is possible to suggest a different approach, based on a later passage in the Gemara, p. 40a:

 

Rava said: There is a mitzva to moisten the grain [before milling], as it is stated: "And you shall guard the matzot."

 

            The Gemara discusses the issue of "shimur" (guarding) of the matza. A special law applies to matza requiring that actions be performed in order to guard the matza – this is matza shemura. According to this, it may be argued that the problem with materials that do not come to fermentation is that they do not require "guarding," and therefore they cannot be used to fulfill the mitzva.

 

            The Gemara on p. 36a brings a Baraita:

 

One many not knead dough on Pesach with wine, oil or honey, and if he kneaded [dough in this manner] – Rabban Gamliel says: It must immediately be burnt. But the Sages say: It may be eaten. And Rabbi Akiva said: I once spent [Pesach] with Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua, and I kneaded dough for them with wine, oil and honey, and they did not say anything.

 

The Gemara cites this Baraita as an objection to another ruling of Rabbi Akiva who said earlier on the same page that one is forbidden to knead with wine, oil or honey. The Gemara resolves the contradiction by distinguishing between the first day of the festival and the other days. What is the rationale underlying this distinction?

 

Most Rishonim understand that the Gemara means that one does not fulfill his obligation on the first night of Pesach with such matza – this is the meaning of the distinction in the words of Rabbi Akiva.

 

The Rif (p. 10a in Alfasi) records a dispute about the final halakha, and then concludes:

 

And it stands to reason like Rabbi Akiva and the law is in accordance with him on the first day, because we need lechem oni, and therefore it is forbidden. But on the second day, when we do not need lechem oni – it is permitted. For Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi agrees with him,[1] for he said to his sons, on the first day do not knead for me with milk; from then on knead for me [with milk].

 

The Ba'al ha-Ma'or disagrees with the Rif, arguing that Rabbi Akiva and the Sages disagree about a concern regarding chametz, whereas Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi is dealing with the issue of matza ashira, and therefore no proof can be brought from the words of the Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi to the disagreement between Rabbi Akiva and the Sages.

 

The Ramban rejects the view of the Ba'al ha-Ma'or and explains that Rabbi Yehoshua refers to matza kneaded with water and fruit juice, and not exclusively with fruit juice, and that is certainly connected to a concern regarding chametz. The reason that it does not deal with matza kneaded exclusively with fruit juice is that in such a case there is no novelty, for that is not at all regarded as matza, nor is it subject to the law of "guarding."

 

The Minchat Chinukh and other Acharonim understand that this dispute between the Ba'al ha-Ma'or and the Ramban depends upon another controversy regarding the law of "guarding."

 

            The Rishonim disagree whether shimur must begin at the time of kneading, this being the position of the Ramban, or already at the time of harvesting, this being the view of the other Rishonim.

 

            The Minchat Chinukh explains that according to the Ramban, it is clear that one cannot fulfill one's obligation with matza kneaded with fruit juice, because one cannot fulfill shimur, for from the time of kneading there is no concern about fermentation. But according to the other Rishonim, shimur can be fulfilled from the time of harvesting, even if the matza will later be kneaded exclusively with fruit juice.

 

            What is the connection between the two disputes; surely even according to the view that shimur begins at the time of harvesting, the shimur must continue even after the time of kneading!

 

            It seems then that the dispute concerning the time when shimur must begin is in fact a dispute concerning the nature of the shimur required for the matza to be used for the mitzva. According to the Ramban, the matza must be guarded against fermentation, and therefore there is no meaning to shimur when the matza is kneaded with fruit juice. According to the other Rishonim, however, shimur means protecting the grain from water. This being the case, there can be shimur even if the dough is kneaded with fruit juice, because it was necessary to guard the grain against water from the time of the harvest.

 

            What about the Ramban's argument that matza kneaded exclusively with fruit juice is not regarded at all as matza?

 

The Ba'al ha-Ma'or might say (similar to the position of the Ran) that the rule of materials that come to fermentation is a rule stated regarding the flour from which the matza is made. Thus, in the case of matza made from wheat flour, even if the dough is kneaded with fruit juice, it is defined as bread, and therefore the matza is fit for the mitzva.

 

THe position of the Rambam

 

            The Rambam writes in Hilkhot Chametz u-Matza 6:5:

With matza that was kneaded with fruit juice - a person fulfills his obligation on Pesach. But one may not knead it with wine, or oil, or honey, or milk, because of lechem oni, as we have explained.

 

The Rambam distinguishes between fruit juice and other liquids. Matza kneaded with other liquids is unfit for the mitzva because it is not lechem oni, but matza kneaded with fruit juice is classified as lechem oni.

 

The commentators discuss at length whether the Rambam refers to matza kneaded exclusively with fruit juice, or to matza kneaded with water and fruit juice. The Maggid Mishne brings a disagreement on this matter, and the Radbaz and other Acharonim write that the Rambam refers to matza kneaded with both water and fruit juice. In any event, the plain sense of the words of the Rambam imply that he refers to matza kneaded exclusively with fruit juice, and since the problem is that of lechem oni, such matza must be defined as lechem oni, and therefore it is fit for the mitzva. The Rambam also implies, against the Maharal, that the law of lechem oni is indispensable.

 

   The Rambam, however, makes another point that is suggestive of the position of the Maharal. The Rambam writes: "as we have explained." What does he mean? In chapter 5, halakha 20, he writes:

 

And similarly, one is permitted to knead or form the dough with water and oil or honey or milk. But on the first day one is only permitted to knead or form the dough with water. Not because of chametz, but that it be lechem oni. And it is on the first day that it must be a reminder of lechem oni.

 

   Rabbi Yitzchak Soloveitchik (the GRiZ), in his novellae on the Rambam, argues, according to this halakha, that the Rambam understands the law of lechem oni as an independent law, not necessarily connected to the obligation of eating matza, for this law appears in chap. 5, which speaks of what is permitted and forbidden on Pesach, and not of the obligation to eat matza on the night of the seder. There is a special law that on the first day of Pesach the matza must serve as a reminder of lechem oni.

 

Rabbenu David in his novellae writes that even according to the Sages, the reason that one is forbidden to eat matza ashira all seven days is not connected to concern about chametz, but rather that lechem oni is required all seven days. According to this as well, we see that the law of lechem oni is an independent law.

 

It is possible to suggest yet another understanding. The deficiency of matza ashira may be connected to the fact that it is not at all considered bread. Not only must we remember that our forefathers ate lechem oni, but matza ashira is not considered bread at all.

 

            The Shulchan Arukh in Hilkhot Berakhot 168 discusses pat ha-ba'a be-kisnin, and suggests as one of the possible definitions  - bread that was kneaded with a liquid other than water, e.g., fruit juice. The Magen Avraham asks on this:

 

This is difficult, for the Rambam himself ruled in chap. 6 of Chametz u-Matza that with matza kneaded with fruit juice one can fulfill his obligation on Pesach.

 

Some resolve the Magen Avraham's question by arguing that pat ha-ba be-kisnin may indeed be defined as bread, but nevertheless one recites the mezonot blessing over it. In any event, the Magen Avraham maintains that anything over which ha-motzi is not recited, is not regarded as bread.

 

            According to this, one might argue in the opposite direction: Matza ashira, since it requires a mezonot blessing, is not defined as bread.

 

In practice then - for Ashkenazim who are forbidden to eat matza ashira all of Pesach, there is no meaning to eating matza ashira on the night of the seder. For Sefardim as well, of course, it is preferable to eat regular matza and not matza ashira – not only for the ke-zayit of obligatory eating, but for all the matza eaten the night of the seder.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)

 

* The article was not reviewed by Rav Halevi.

[1] The reference is to a story about Rabbi Yehoshua that appears later in the passage, regarding which the Bach emends the text to read "Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi."