Monday, February 04, 2008

Pesach: The Prayer For An Edible Matza

While I opposed adopting the minhag of saying a special prayer on Tu BiShvat for a beautiful esrog, for reasons I describe there, I think a nice tefillah that we might adopt is one for an edible matza. While there is no fear nowadays that we will not have a kosher or mehudar esrog available, the situation is not so great for hand-matzot.

Part of the reason is that while we can inspect esrogim, we buy sealed boxes of matzos. So we cannot see that the matzot therein are unburnt. And there is a great likelihood that a matza will get burnt, because they have a chumra deAti liydei kulla, a stringency that leads to a leniency. As Rabbi Tendler notes, nowadays they bake matzas in much hotter ovens than they used to, for fear that it would become chametz. And since the ovens are so hot, they cannot leave it in too long, or else it will get burnt to a crisp. And therefore they bake them in 2000 degree ovens for just 25 seconds. Any longer and the matzah gets burned. To cite an article about this:
"The whole process takes 18 minutes from mixing to baking, no longer. Otherwise, there is a chance the flour will become leavened and start to rise. That's another reason why we poke holes in the rolled-out matzah before it is baked for 25 seconds in a 2,000-degree oven."
Rabbi Tendler is of the opinion that 25 seconds is not long enough to cook the dough inside the matzah, even in such a hot oven. And then they remove it from the oven. So he is of the opinion that such matzahs are likely to be chametz. In the past, they used ovens at a lower temperature for a longer period of time, such that both inside and outside would be baked. And he bakes his own matzahs at this lower temperature.

While I do not hold by this shitta of Rabbi Tendler and in fact I eat these hand-matzahs (though I do not know enough about the scientific process of baking and chimmutz to know one way or the other), it is a good example of how people in all ignorance, yet well meaning, set out to increase the chumra level of something but actually end up with a kullah, or a michshol.

At any rate, in such a hot oven, of course a bunch of matzas will get burned. We've encountered cases in the past in which an expensive box of matzas had maybe one or two that were not charred, or had burn holes, and did not taste good at all, or were broken. I am not making a halachic statement about this (all sorts of factors can come into play), but on a conceptual level, it is hard to see how this is not theft and cheating one's customers.

The solution may be to buy and use SoftMatzas, like I did last year, but more about this in a different post, bli neder.

At any rate, 30 days before the chag of Pesach, when we start learning the halochot thereof and such that it is in our minds, it might be a good idea to address Hashem and ask for kosher, tasty, and non-chometz-dikke matzas. You can say this in your own words, or you can use the following nusach, based on the nusach about esrogim, and tell people you got it from the Ri me-"Josh."

So, say the following on Purim:

May it be Your Will Hashem our God, and the God of our forefathers, that You bless all of the matzah ovens to send out their matzot at the proper time, and that they shall send out matzot that are good, nice, beautiful, and clean from all cracks, char, chametz and folds, and that they shall be complete and they should not have any deficiencies. May these matzot be available for us and for all of Israel in every place that they are, in order to fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzah on the Holiday of Pesach, that shall come to us with good life, and with peace, as You have written in Your Torah by way of Moshe, Your servant, "Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread." (Shemot 12:15)

9 comments:

the chocolate lady מרת שאקאלאד said...

oomayn!

I tried soft matzo last year. I will not be trying it again. Not my cup of tea. No amount of sweet butter and coarse salt could help.

joshwaxman said...

:)

indeed. the taste will be part of a subsequent review.

thanbo said...

R' Yosef Wikler, of Kashrus Magazine fame, has said many times in shiur that he thinks machine matza is halachically better/stricter than hand matza. Why? Because with the hand matza, often there is a fold, in which some grains of flour may not be cooked. That's not even gebrokts, that's out and out chametz. Meanwhile, machine matza is uniformly cooked, flat.

Anonymous said...

" I do not know enough about the scientific process of baking and chimmutz to know one way or the other"...

The problem is that the halacha and the science are diametrically opposed. Science says that leavening is yeast, baking soda or baking powder. Halacha says it is a mysterious force that miraculously appears 18 minutes after water and flour mix.

So, halachacly, matzah that is 18 minutes & 1 second old is chumetz, but you can buy yeast, baking soda and baking powder with a pesadicha hechshire.

Yes, yeast will perciptate from the air if raw dough is left out long enough, but that takes hours, not minutes.

The fact is that the israelites in the desert did not eat anything like any matzah we eat today. It certainly was not a hard cracker like thing. The bread they ate was something like a pita or lavash. So their unlevened bread was probably pretty close to a tortilla. The soft matzah is closer, but is still way too thick compared to what the israelites baked.

To be truthful, I would love to find some guidelines that would allow me to bake my own tortilla like matzahs, but I cant seem to find any guidence to allow me to do so. If anyone has seen such guidelines to allow people to bake their own matzahs, I'd really ove to see them. Please feel free to email them to post them here.

joshwaxman said...

Anonymous, I would greatly appreciate it if you would choose a pseudonym.

As to the content of your remarks:
"The problem is that the halacha and the science are diametrically opposed. Science says that leavening is yeast, baking soda or baking powder. Halacha says it is a mysterious force that miraculously appears 18 minutes after water and flour mix."

Looking at the actual gemaras (asI did several years ago, but don't remember the exact daf for this), this is not really the case -- that it is "mysterious force that miraculously appears 18 minutes after water and flour mix" and that "halachacly, matzah that is 18 minutes & 1 second old is chumetz."

Rather, there are specific signs of chimutz, such as cracks of a certain sort, with a crack on the surface indicating multiple cracks below, and so on. Again based on the gemara, it is not that at 18 minutes it miraculously appears. Rather, in certain situations you cannot detect the chimutz, in which case 18 minutes is an *estimate*, a lower bound, at which point you have to worry about chimutz. So for various reasons, at 18 minutes and 1 second we must *treat* it as chametz, because of the doubt.

"The fact is that the israelites in the desert did not eat anything like any matzah we eat today. It certainly was not a hard cracker like thing. The bread they ate was something like a pita or lavash. So their unlevened bread was probably pretty close to a tortilla. The soft matzah is closer, but is still way too thick compared to what the israelites baked."
I am not sure how we can really know this, in terms of the thickness of the bread of the Israelites.
I see we can compare with ancient Egyptian bread
http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/bread.htm
but they also had pot-baked bread.
http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~semitic/hsm/GizaBuiltEgypt.htm
It is a nice theory, and it could be. I don't really care one way or the other what the exact ancient Israelite matzah was. It is quite possible that the matzah of the Exodus was actually halachically chametz. What matters is that there are specific halachic designations put forth ledorot which need to be met.

Chazal of the Mishna and the gemara made matzah. This is not necessarily the same matzah we have today. And they refer to matzah up to a handbreadth thick, which is certainly thicker than a tortilla, and thicker than the "Soft Matzahs." They refer to the lechem hapanim (showbread) of the Israelites, which was a handbreadth thick and could not be chametz. (See e.g. Shekalim daf 18.) And this might taste interesting.

I was planning a post on do-it-yourself matzah, and why it should be doable. Perhaps I'll get to it in the distant future. It definitely is doable, and I know of one rabbi who did it.

The problem is that, which this knowledge might have been commonplace in the past, such that a mimetic tradition existed, nowadays this is particular knowledge known to the people involved in it in the matzah bakeries. And personally, for myself, I would not engage in it until I (i) worked several years running at a matzah bakery, to get a hands-on sense of the process, (ii) had shimush under someone who could show me practically what the signs of chimutz are, and (iii) learned through all the relevant sugyot in gemara, rishonim, and acharonim so that I could know what is a potential problem -- because of a legitimate fear that I could be missing something.

It is thus something possible, for people to make their own matzot -- and it would save on the costs of buying really expensive matzah, but perhaps there is a danger in putting this into the hands of the uninitiated Hamon Am, especially reintroducing it where there has not been this mimetic tradition.

Kol Tuv,
Josh

joshwaxman said...

in terms of estimating chimutz, see Pesachim 48b:
דף מח, ב משנה שיאור ישרף והאוכלו פטור סידוק ישרף והאוכלו חייב כרת איזהו שיאור כקרני חגבים סידוק שנתערבו סדקין זה בזה דברי רבי יהודה וחכמים אומרים זה וזה האוכלו חייב כרת ואיזהו שיאור כל שהכסיפו פניו כאדם שעמדו שערותיו:

דף מח, ב גמרא תנו רבנן איזהו שיאור כל שהכסיפו פניו כאדם שעמדו שערותיו סידוק כקרני חגבים דברי ר' מאיר וחכמים אומרים איזהו שיאור כקרני חגבים סידוק שנתערבו סדקין זה בזה וזה וזה האוכלו חייב כרת והאנן תנן שיאור ישרף והאוכלו פטור דברי רבי יהודה אימא לרבי מאיר זה וזה האוכלו חייב כרת אמר רבא מאי טעמא דר' מאיר אין לך כל סדק וסדק מלמעלה שאין לו כמה סדקים מלמטה:

In terms of the 18 minutes, haven't found it offhand just now. But we see that there is a scientific definition at play.

joshwaxman said...

I could be wrong about the 18. I really have to go through the gemaras inside again, and am working from old impressions.

But we have e.g. a Yerushalmi Pesachim 21b that elaborates on a Mishna. The Mishna said:
בצק החרש אם יש כיוצא בו שהחמיץ הרי זה אסור

to define this type of dough: "If one has 'Cheresh' dough (one cannot tell whether or not it is Chametz; alternatively, it is as hard as Cheres (earthenware))"

and in this case of question, we have the gemara:

כיוצא בו שהחמיץ עד איכן. רבי יעקב בר אחא ר' עולא דקיסרין בשם רבי חנינה עד כדי הילוך ארבע מיל:

And in Bavli:
דף מו, א משנה בצק החרש אם יש כיוצא בו שהחמיץ הרי זה אסור:

דף מו, א גמרא אם אין שם כיוצא בו מהו א"ר אבהו אמר ר' שמעון בן לקיש כדי שילך אדם ממגדל נוניא לטבריא מיל ונימא מיל הא קמ"ל דשיעורא דמיל כממגדל נוניא ועד טבריא א"ר אבהו אמר רבי שמעון בן לקיש לגבל ולתפלה ולנטילת ידים ארבעה מילין אמר רב נחמן בר יצחק אייבו אמרה וארבעה אמר בה וחדא מינייהו עבוד דתנן וכולן שעיבדן או שהילך בהן כדי עבודה טהורין חוץ מעור האדם וכמה כדי עבודה א"ר (אינייא) [אייבו] א"ר ינאי כדי הילוך ארבעה מילין א"ר יוסי ברבי חנינא לא שנו אלא לפניו אבל לאחריו אפילו מיל אינו חוזר אמר רב אחא ומינה מיל הוא דאינו חוזר הא פחות ממיל חוזר:

It is interesting that both Bavli and Yerushalmi mention 4 mil. But Bavli for chametz specifically differs and says a single mil.

But at any rate, this was about "mute," or "earthenware" dough. Because of the doubt. But otherwise, they simply looked for signs of chimutz. So it is not a magical, mystical category.

brooklyn boy in exile said...

Mr. Waxman,

This is a very interesting thread. Unfrotunately, much of your discussion is not showing up on my browser. I assume it is because it is in hebrew, which my browser is not supporting. Can you translate the Halachic quotes into english?

From what I can tell, you are saying that the Halchic authrities believe that the dough crusts up and cracks after just about 18 minutes. This crusting up is what the sages define as leavining.

The only problem is that the crusting up and cracking does not have anything to do with leavining.

I bkae a lot of bread. In fact, I used to bake all my own bread, including my shabbat challot.

It might take 3 hours for the bread to rise twice. If I am doing everyhitng right, the dough should never crust up and become cracked.

It is only when I do something wrong, such as making the dough too dry that it crusts up and cracks.

Accordinly, I believe "Anonymous" may have been right that there is no linkage between the scientific and halachic definition fo leavening.

I look forward to further discussion.

Thanks

joshwaxman said...

Hi.
I am not sure I'll have time to translate all the quotes, and accurately. It is indeed in Hebrew. Do other sites show up in Hebrew for you? It shows up for me using a Windows Firefox browser. It might pay to look them up instead in the gemaras, in Yerushalmi Pesachim 21b, and Bavli 46a.

I am not sure I will be able to convey what I think is true here, even with several long comments.

To attempt to clarify, that is not what I am saying. Rather, what I am saying is that if you look at those sources, Mishnaic and Talmudic Chazal defined CHIMUTZ (whatever you want to call it) as a specific phenomenon which was manifested in reality. This process could take an hour, could take 45 minutes, could take 5 minutes (perhaps, I would suggest) depending on the situation of the materials going in to it, temperature, and so on. We are not yet talking about 18 minutes, so don't even focus on the time involved.

I am no scientist, so I don't know about the scientific definition of the English term "leavened." Perhaps it *is* equal to CHIMUTZ, and perhaps it is not. I am not a scientist and I have not investigated it. But even if CHIMUTZ does not equal the scientific definition of this specific English term "leavened," it still is a physically manifest in some way.

So when you say

This crusting up is what the sages define as leavining.
The only problem is that the crusting up and cracking does not have anything to do with leavining.


It is not clear that this matters. Because even *if* this is so, this is what they define as *CHIMUTZ*, not what they define as "leavening." (And it is definition rather than belief.)

(I am also not sure that one *would * define Chazal's definition as crusts up and cracks. See below.)

Therefore, based on what I said so far, to respond to your statement that "Accordinly, I believe "Anonymous" may have been right that there is no linkage between the scientific and halachic definition fo leavening."

I would say:
perhaps (or perhaps not) the scientific definition of leavening. But there is surely a linkage to a scientific definition of leavening. What Anonymous was suggesting was that it is entirely a magical/legal/mystical state which is entered into at the border line of 18 minutes. This is not so. They are dealing with a specific physical process. And if we can understand that physical process or state, then it can make halachic differences. But I do not understand exactly what this physical process or state is.

They *did*, though, as they dealt practically with it.

It is also possible that they did mean the same scientific definition of leavening, but they had their facts wrong. I would not even entertain this possibility until I was sure I had fully understood what exactly they are saying.

Now, these halachic authorities do *not* necessarily believe that "the dough crusts up and cracks after just about 18 minutes." Rather, there is a specific class of dough (again, I am not an expert in this so I am not sure what they are talking about here) which is called "deaf-mute dough," or else it should be translated as "clay dough." (What is considered such dough or bread is something that must be defined.) There, Chazal in the Mishna maintain that there actually *was* leavening taking place but that this is not physically manifest on the surface in a discernible way.

(This might accord to what you are saying about "If I am doing everyhitng right, the dough should never crust up and become cracked" though it is possible you do not understand what would be considered a crust or a crack. A slight raised ridge over the rest of the dough might be what they refer to, and unless you know what you are looking for, you might well be overlooking it, for it might well be imperceptible if you are not specifically looking for it. It is something called, locusts' antennae.)

If so, they say in the Mishna that we estimate leavening based on what a parallel loaf would do.

Then, the question is how long that parallel loaf would take. The Talmud Bavli brought an opinion that it is the amount of time it would take to walk a "mil." The Talmud Yerushalmi brought an opinion that it is the amount of time it would take to walk *four* "mil." To walk one mil is about 18 minutes. (Four mil would be about 4 times that.)

Again, they are not saying that the outward manifestation *is* leavening. But rather, in other situations, the threshold for leavening is discernible in 18 minutes (or 4*18 minutes), and therefore in other situations, we may assume that leavening also has taken place beneath the surface.

You can probably see why I said at the outset that I don't think I can really explain it al regel achat in even a lengthy comment.

There is much more to it. One thing to look at is this website, and its definition of SI'UR. As they write,
"As dough becomes Chametz it goes through a number of stages. 1. First it becomes pale like the appearance of a man whose hair stands on end out of fright. 2. It then starts to form thin cracks on its surface, which look like locusts' antennae (Karnei Chagavim). 3. Next the cracks begin to multiply and run into each other."

And there is a question about the status at each stage.

And again, I do not really have a firm handle on these processes, even as defined by Chazal and then manifest in reality that they witnessed. So please don't take my own ignorance as representative of Chazal's ignorance of the physical processes.

All the best,
Josh

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