Thursday, February 07, 2008

Soft Matza

Last year I decided to try some Soft Matza. Lamedzayin had mentioned, in a comment, that both Rav Bluth and Rav Schachter had stated that soft matza was allowed for Ashkenazim. If so, why stick with hard matza? Perhaps soft matza is tastier, and could be used as a laffa, as seems suggested by the idea of korech.

At my request, my father asked Rav Schachter about it as last year's SOY Seforim sale. And his reply was that in theory, it is fine. It is not chametz and one could use it lechatchila for the mitzvah of achilat matza. He did not see any reason specifically to do so, but it is fine. However, he noted, one has to find out about the particular manufacturer to make sure that they are selling you matza which is kosher lePesach. He did not know about the person selling it, but suggested I ask a Sefardic rabbi, such as Rabbi Ben-Haim, about the person baking and selling the matzahs.

And so I did. I went to Rabbi Ben-Haim's Bet Midrash in Queens, and waited around to ask him. While waiting, I served as a member of a three-person bet Din for hatavas chalom. Interesting. And I learned some interesting sefarim while there. Finally, I asked Rabbi Ben-Haim, and he said that the fellow who runs this is to be relied upon, but if I am looking for matzas, I (being Ashkenazic) should buy Shatzer matzas. Of course, I was not asking him for a pesak on whether these matzot were valid for Ashkenazim, but just about the reliability of the person baking and selling the matzos. So I ordered them online and, since they did not deliver to Queens, my father picked them up for me.

Here is the important thing about these matzos. They come frozen, and you are not supposed to let them defrost until 5 minutes before you are going to eat them, or else they will go stale. So keep them in your freezer. If your oven has a Yom Tov mode, then just put them in the oven for 5 minutes before eating them. If not -- as was the case by my in-laws -- you could come up with more creative ways. I put a matzah in a large pot, over a flame-spreader, and put some crumpled-up tinfoil at the bottom of the pot so as to prevent the matza from getting stuck.

I would note -- if you are eating at someone else's house for Pesach, it is a mean thing to do to impose your position upon them. It may well be that your host is uncomfortable with soft-matzas, and would consider them to be chametz, despite this pesak. I asked permission beforehand, and clarified several matters before receiving permission for this.

I only bought whole-wheat matzahs, which were the same price as white flour ones. And I would agree with the chocolate lady's comment that they are not very tasty (at least the whole wheat ones). Last year, there was a matzah shortage in Chicago, and my friend Eliyahu, who was going to his sister's, was requested to bring a bunch of this matzah. This was their assessment as well. (Eliyahu still felt uncomfortable enough about it to not eat it, though.) However, I must stress that they taste 20 X better when just out of the oven, when hot. (Even then, they are not that great.) Once they cool, they are not very good. So reheat them if necessary. My impression is that they did not keep them frozen, and did not heat them up immediately before use, as per the instructions (see below). I could be wrong.

Oh, and you cannot really bend these all the way for korech. It bends a lot, but after a certain point, it breaks.

One pound is approximately three or four matzas, depending on the diameter of the matza. But they are not going to be burnt, or not broken.

The benefits of such matzas:
  1. So that the children, and adults, should ask. It is good to keep things new. And it is good to show that different things are acceptable within the framework of halacha. This is an important lesson in and of itself.
  2. I would guess that there would be no problems in terms of Rabbi Tendler's concern: that regular hand-made matzot nowadays are bakes for 25 seconds in 2000-degrees ovens (as a chumra), and so they take them out before the outside gets burned, but the inside did not finish baking and goes on to become chametz. These soft matzos are baked at lower temperatures for a longer period of time.
  3. It is much easier to get a handle on a kezayit with these somewhat bendy, and thicker matzot. If you go for such things (I don't), the laminated matza shiur guide will not work for this matza, because you need volume measure, and they assume the thinnest white matza. Indeed, I think it is not a good estimation for whole wheat matza in general, which is about twice as thick.
As I was writing this, I remembered that I still had one soft matza from last Pesach in the back of my freezer. So I took it out and scanned it, because it is funny to scan a matza. (It is too!)

I was a bit worried to do so because, due to technical reasons, the matzas look much darker than they really are. So please, do not look at the pictures and think that the matzas are all burnt. Rather, I specifically bought whole wheat matzas, so they started somewhat dark. Furthermore, the icicles from being in the back of my freezer caused some smudges. And especially on the first matza picture (the obverse side), the darkness is due to shadow, since the matza was not entirely flat. The matza is really much lighter. Also, these images are scaled down.

On the other hand, the flip side of this particular matza really did have those black areas, but from what I recall eating these matzas in general, even if this is there it does not taste burnt, and as you can see, the blackness is shallow, and does not go through the entire matza.

Note the instructions which are designed to keep the matzas from going stale. Keep frozen. Then defrost 1/2 hour before use. And then 2 minutes in the oven will make them hot.

You can also see some pictures on their website. But these really look like matzas, just somewhat thicker, and soft.


Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Hey, I order the same "masot" from the same guy!

I think the primary benefit, aside from taste and texture, is the ease of downing a kezayit with them.

yaak said...

Great post!
Downing a kezayit itself w/the hard matza is not as much of a problem as downing the Kezayit Bichdei Achilat Peras.
I'll admit to never having had the soft matzot on Pesah yet, but perhaps, one day. (And yes, that Matza shortage was not fun last year.)

Ben-Yehudah said...

B"H I much prefer soft matzah. There are some good brands in Israel under hashgahah of Rav Mahpud, expensive though. My rav makes his own Erev Pesah. Several in the Shomron do as well.

You were right on the mark when you mentioned lafah. When we will be zokheh to eat the Qorban Pesah, it will will be like "al ha'aish" shwarmah b'lafah. This is not to cheapen the concept. Rather, when we eat shwarmah in lafah it is pining for the time when we can eat the real thing.

Anonymous said...

The assumption seems to be that for korech the maror goes in the matza but if you look in the rishonim and the yemenite custom, it is the other way around.


Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

last Pesahh i discovered that these soft matzas make amazing matza pizza; the usual chewy blahness of the matza is completely transformed!

Ben-Yehudah said...

Noam, which Rishonim? It seems pretty clear from the Ramba"m that one eats meat for the Qorban Pesah on the matzah (Hil. Qorban Pesah).

However, the pasuq Shemoth 12:8 does say "Eat the meat on this night, fire-roasted and matzoth on merorim you shall eat it." (I have seen translations of "al" as "with.")

Gershom said...

I see that you mentioned your question to Rav Shachter.. I have a question for him regarding this too. Rav shachter says in a sefer of his that the Rav JB Soloveitcheck ZTZ"L said the proper way to eat korech was to wrap the Romain lettuce around the matzah because of the lashon "Korech" and the matzah you cant wrap because it will break.
I wonder why didnt the Rav just say that the Matzah was softer back then?
Let me know what you think!

joshwaxman said...

Good question, and I don't know the answer. I would have to see it inside.

But to suggest a few possible answers, off the cuff:
1) Rav Schachter never said that soft matzah was required. Just that there is no requirement that it be hard. So long as it is not chametz, it is matzah. Perhaps the Rav believed that in actual practice back then, it was hard.

2) Perhaps the Rav did not encounter soft matzah, so the idea was not in his mind.

3) Perhaps indeed they wrapped the other way, and such would also be called korech, but since our matzah is hard, and the gemara talks about wrapping, the best way of doing a korech is the other way.

4) This matzah I bought is quite thick. I *tried* bending it around the lettuce, but it broke too soon, even though the matzah was soft. As I wrote above:
"you cannot really bend these all the way for korech. It bends a lot, but after a certain point, it breaks."

5) Or perhaps the Rav argues and feels that matzah back then was hard, and needs to be hard.

Kol Tuv,

Elkie said...

I had the soft Matza in Queens and now the one from R. Machpud in Israel.
The one in Israel is Much better, and made the correct way like a lafa.

Soft Massa: It’s the Real Thing

joshwaxman said...

thanks. a very interesting link.

i'll point out that Rav Schachter stressed that one must know enough about the particular manufacturer, which is why, at his suggestion, I asked Rabbi Ben Chayim, in Queens, about the rabbi producing it. I have not heard of Rabbi Machpud, but I'll try to ask around.

Thanks again,


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