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 Gebrokts - Soaked Matzah Customs

The Mitzva Of Guarding The Matzo

Issues in Practical Halacha
Issue Number 24 - 11 Nisan, 5756
Compiled and Published by
Kollel Menachem - Lubavitch (Melbourne, Australia)
in the zechus of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
This article is not intended to decide halachic questions, but rather to clarify them in a clear and concise form. Please refer all your practical questions to your local Rabbi.

The Rambam writes, "Since the verse states 'And you shall guard the matzos'- that is, be careful with matzo and guard it from any kind of leavening - the Chachomim said that one must be careful with grain from which one eats on Pesach, that no water should come upon it after it has been harvested, so that there should not be in it any leavening whatsoever." That is to say, it is insufficient to establish that the matzo has not become chometz; rather, it requires a specific guarding for this purpose.

This guarding must be intended for the sake of fulfilling (with this matzo) the mitzva of eating matzo on Pesach. If the matzo were not guarded with this intention, one has not fulfilled with it the mitzva of eating matzo.

Matzo shmura is required only for the matzos eaten in fulfillment of the mitzva of eating matzo on the seder nights. The matzos eaten on the other days of Pesach do not need to be specifically shmura (guarded).

The Chok Yaakov writes, however, that the Jewish people are holy and are accustomed that all the matzo they eat during Pesach are shmuros.

The Biur Halachah states that the Gra was very stringent to eat only matzo shmura throughout Pesach.

The Shaalos u'T'shuvos Maharshag cites the P'ri Chodosh as saying that there is no basis for the stringency to eat matzo shmura all of Pesach. He adds, however, that the P'ri Chodosh lived in Egypt where the rainfall was limited to a specific season, and there was no fear that rain would fall on unguarded grain. In "our" regions, he continued, rain could fall at any time, so that there was a basis for "our" stringency to eat matzo shmura throughout Pesach. Many in fact have this custom.

The Birkei Yosef interprets the Rambam and Rif as requiring matzo shmura all the days of Pesach according to halacha (and not merely as a stringency).

The Time of Guarding

The Gemora concludes, after a discussion, that the guarding of the matzos has to be "from the outset", that is, already prior to kneading the flour with water. The meaning of "from the outset" is the subject of a dispute amongst the Rishonim.

According to the Rambam and the Rif, this means from the time of harvest of the grain. For, from that time, if water will fall on the grain, it can become chometz; whereas standing, unharvested grain can become chometz only when the grain has ripened fully and dried out completely.

For the Rosh and the Sh'iltos, however, the guarding need begin only from the time of milling (grinding the grain) - for then the grain is in the proximity of water, since the mills are driven by water.

According to this reason, the Mogen Avrohom notes that where the mills are driven by donkeys or by the wind, guarding would not be required from the time of milling.

The halachic ruling of the Shulchon Oruch is that it is "good" to guard from the time of harvesting, and "at least" from the time of milling.

The P'ri Chodosh states that the guarding must be from the time of harvesting and without this one has not fulfilled one's obligation even in extreme circumstances.

The Sha'arei T'shuva writes that the Noda Biyehudah stated that this applies only to those observing the greatest hidur (m'hadrin min ham'hadrin) in the mitzvos; but the Sha'arei T'shuva notes that many have adopted this stringency (of using matzo guarded from the time of harvesting), at least with the matzo used to fulfil the mitzva of eating matzo on the Seder nights.

The Shulchon Oruch states that, in extreme circumstances, one may even use flour from the market place and guard it merely from the time of kneading.

In explanation of the last ruling, the Taz and Mogen Avrohom state that "we do not presume issura [that something forbidden is present]". However, as the Mogen Avrohom states, where the practice is to wash the flour, it is forbidden to use it for matzo even in extreme circumstances.

The Mishnah B'rura states that this is in fact common practice nowadays. He further adds that it is forbidden even to keep such flour in one's house inasmuch as this constitutes transgression of the negative commandment "There shall not be seen to you any chometz... in all your boundaries".

Guarding "for the sake of the mitzva"

The Gemora states that on Pesach "one may fill one's stomach with the dough [products] made by non-Jews provided that one eats a k'zayis of matzo at the end."

Rashi explains this, that even where we see that these dough products made by non-Jews were kept from becoming chometz we nevertheless require, for the matzo eaten in fulfillment of the mitzva, that it have been guarded for the sake of the mitzva. For this reason matzo guarded against becoming chometz by a non-Jew is not acceptable, since a non-Jew is taken not to have had in mind the mitzva. Similarly a mentally infirm (shota) or deaf mute (cheresh) Jew or a Jewish child (under bar mitzva) is unacceptable for guarding the matzo since their understanding (da'as) is not adequate.

The Taz, however, qualifies this by saying that if a child can understand when we say to him that he should so something for the sake of a mitzva which Hashem has commanded then his guarding is acceptable, even though he is not yet thirteen years old. The Chok Yaakov argues that the boy must be thirteen years old.

Not only with regard to the guarding (supervision) but also to the actual making - the kneading and the baking - of the matzos does the above apply: the matzos are to be made for the sake of the mitzva and so may not be made by a non-Jew, or a Jewish cheresh, shota, or child - even with the supervision of an ordinary adult Jew.

As to whether the actual performance of the preliminary stages from harvesting (or from milling according to the Rosh) must be done - as distinct from being supervised or guarded - for the sake of the mitzva there are differing opinions.

The Taz writes that just as the guarding (supervision) must be for the sake of the mitzva, so too must be the actual performing of the tasks involved in making the matzo. He writes, however, that before kneading (i.e. from harvesting or milling) the guarding is required only in order that the grain should not become chometz (not positively for the sake of the mitzva). (Accordingly, it is sufficient that a non-Jew perform these tasks and a Jew supervise him.) Whereas, from kneading onwards, the positive intention for the sake of the mitzva is also required in the guarding and so too in the making . (Accordingly, only an adult Jew could actually knead or bake the matzos.) The reason for this distinction is that the essential making of the matzos is the kneading and baking so that these require positive intention, not the earlier stages which are merely a preparation for it.

The P'ri M'gadim observes in the unqualified statement of the Rashbo that there is a requirement of "guarding for the sake of the mitzvah", that no such distinction is made and all stages require this positive intention for the mitzva, unlike the distinction made by the Taz. He notes, however, that the view of the Rif would seem to support the Taz.

The Chasam Sofer queries why there should be any need to say that the making of the matzos - as distinct from the guarding (supervising) - has to be for the sake of the mitzva. The verse mentions only guarding. He concludes that this indeed is the case (that only the guarding need be performed for the sake of the mitzva): it is sufficient that a non-Jew do the actual harvesting or grinding (with the supervision of a Jew).

The reason why Shulchon Oruch nevertheless requires that a Jew do the actual kneading and baking is because from this stage water is added to the flour and the guarding against any leavening can only be performed by the person occupied with the actual making of it, therefore a Jew is required for this. In the case of harvesting and milling a Jew can supervise to see that no water comes from elsewhere upon the grain which another - a non-Jew - is harvesting.

With regard to the perforation (the rolling of holes) made in the matzo, the Taz rules that all of the tasks involved in making the matzos (including this) have to be through an adult Jew.

The Chok Yaakov writes that he saw that the custom is to be lenient to allow children to perforate the matzos under the supervision of adults and found it desirable inasmuch as a greater number should assist in - to hasten- the making of the matzos. Nevertheless, with regard to the matzos used for the mitzva, one should see to it as far as possible that children not be involved.

In extreme circumstances, as in the case of one who cannot attain proper shmuro matzos (and cannot make his own matzos), the Taz and Mogen Avrohom write that one may rely on Rav Hai Gaon, who permits making matzos - even for the mitzva - through a non Jew, provided that a Jew stands by and reminds him to make them for the sake of Pesach. (The Mogen Avrohom states that if a Jewish child is available for this purpose, it is preferable that the child do it, rather than the non-Jew).

Even though the supervision and making of the matzos for the mitzva could be performed by others, nevertheless according to the principle that it is preferable to perform a mitzva oneself than through an agent, Shulchon Oruch states that one should strive to be involved personally in producing the matzo shmuro.

 Gebrokts - Soaked Matzah Customs

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