Summary of the laws of Matzah-Part 1:
* For the full details and sources, please visit our website or see our Sefer “The laws and customs of Pesach” in the corresponding chapter!
A. The Mitzvah of eating Matzah:
- On the first night of Pesach: It is a positive command in the Torah to eat [a Kezayis of] Matzah [within Kdei Achilas Peras] on the night of the 15th of Nissan.
- In the Diaspora, one is Rabbinically obligated to eat Matzah also on the night of the 16th.
- Eating Matzah on the remaining days of Pesach: The obligation of eating Matzah only applies on the first night of Pesach. On all the other nights and days of Pesach, there is no obligation to eat Matzah, and one is simply warned against eating Chametz. Meaning, that if one desires to eat bread, then he must supervise it, and bake it in a way that is not Chametz. If, however, he does not care to eat bread, then he is not required to eat Matzah and may choose to eat other foods throughout Pesach.
- Nonetheless, this only means that there is no obligation, however, one who eats Matzah on the other days also fulfills a slight Mitzvah. Furthermore, eating Matzah on the other days has ability of drawing down a higher form of G-dliness, which can only be drawn through a voluntary Mitzvah as opposed to an actual obligation.
- On Shabbos and Yom Tov one must eat Matzah due to the obligation of having a meal on these days.
- For Matzas Mitzvah eaten on the night of Pesach, one only fulfills the mitzvah if the grains were supervised for the sake of Pesach from becoming Chametz from when the flour is mixed with water. [Meaning in addition to the fact that all matzos eaten over Pesach must be guarded from Chametz, in addition, those matzos eaten on the night of the 15th/16th must be guarded Lishma, for the sake of the Mitzvah.] This is from the letter of the law, however the custom of all Jews is to supervise the wheat used for all the Matzas mitzvah eaten on the night of the 15th and 16th from water, already beginning from the time that they are ground into flour. For the Matzas Mitzvah it is proper for one to be stringent if possible and supervise the grains already beginning from the time of harvest.
- Must a Jew thus actually grind the kernels? By the grinding, unlike by the kneading, it may be done by a gentile, as long as there is a Jew which is supervising him, and thus guarding the grains from becoming Chametz.
- Should one eat Shmura Matzah on all days of Pesach? The Jewish people are holy and are accustomed to even guard the grinding of the grains used for the Matzas of the rest of the days of Pesach.
Understanding Rasham versus Rashi:
Many Matzah bakeries offer two different types of Matzah, one called Rasham and the second called Rashi. The Rashi Matzas are traditionally more expensive. To the unaware, this may seem like Matzas which follow two different opinions of Rishonim, however in truth it does not refer to any person or opinion but rather to the form of grinding. Rashi means “Reichaim Shel Yad” or hand ground Matzah. Some opinions require that the grains be made into flour by a Jew. Rasham means “Reichaim Shel Mechona”, or machine ground flour. Admur ibid rules that there is no need for a Jew to grind the Matzas, as stated above, and hence in his opinion there is no need to purchase the more expensive Matzah called Rashi.
Understanding 18 minutes from table versus 18 minutes from kneading:
Many Matzah bakeries offer two different types of Matzah, one being 18 minutes from the table and the second being 18 minutes from the kneading. The 18 minutes from kneading Matzas are traditionally more expensive. To the unaware, this matter seems puzzling as how can the Matzah bakery sell Matzas that passed 18 minutes? The explanation is as follows: From the letter of the law so long as 18 consecutive minutes did not pass without the dough being worked on then it is not Chametz, even if many hours pass by. Furthermore, when one works on the dough the 18 minutes restart. For example, if after the dough was mixed with water it remained 17 minutes without work, and it was then worked on, then the 18 minutes restart. This is the meaning of “18 minutes from the table” Matzas, as these Matzas have passed a total of 18 minutes from the time of kneading with water, although they have not passed 18 minutes from the time of rolling the dough on the table, and is hence not Chametz. Nevertheless, the custom of all Jewry for some generations is to only eat Matzas that did not pass 18 minutes total from the time of it being kneaded with water even though the dough is being worked on in the interim. This is the meaning of the “18 minutes from the kneading” Matzas, as these Matzas did not pass 18 minutes from the time water was added until they were baked. Practically, one should try to purchase only the 18 minutes from kneading Matzah, as was the aged custom, however in a time of need one may purchase the 18 minutes from table Matzas.