Halacha L’Moshe MiSinai
Volume 2: Number 22
April 3, 2006
Mitzvah 23: Eating Matzah
Mitzvah 22 – It is a positive commandment to eat Matzah on the first night of Passover
Hafetz Hayim: Scripture states, “in the evening you shall eat unleavened bread” (Exodus 12:18) The Matzah need to be of one of the species of grain, which are wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye. Women also have the duty to eat Matzah. A young child who is able to eat is to be trained to have an olive’s amount.
By the law of the Sages it is forbidden to eat Matzah the day before Passover, so that the Matzah will be eaten at night with appetite. It is likewise a religious duty by the law of the Sages to have maror and haroset on Passover night. Over the maror it is necessary to say the blessing, “… who commanded us on eating maror” There is no blessing for haroset. It is in force everywhere, for both men and women.
It is forbidden to have any product made with wheat, barley, oat, spelt and rye on Passover unless it has been prepared under Rabbinic supervision and no more than 18 minutes have passed from the time the water first touched the flour until it was placed in a super hot baking oven. The vast majority of Matzah today is made from wheat flour. A small amount can be found made from oat flour for those with wheat allergies. Shemura Matzah, is wheat Matzah that has been made under stricter oversight. It is not necessary for anyone to be required to own or use Shemura Matzah, it is only a matter of personal choice.
It is customary not to eat Matzah on the eve of Passover, not so much because you might fill up on it too early, but the reason is so that it will be a new taste for you when you sit at the Seder. For those who eat Matzah all year, they usually stop eating it from the first day of the month of Nisan, two weeks before Passover so that the taste will be new to them. There is also the issue that, for many people, the taste of Matzah is not so great, and if they refrain from eating it for a while before Passover, they will be able to eat it for a while that evening before they remember why they do not like the taste.
It is only required to eat Matzah at the Seder. One may not eat regular bread in any form for the entire 8 days of Pesach, but you are not required to eat Matzah for all eight days. You can choose to refrain from all bread, leavened and unleavened after the Seder is over.
At the Seder, Matzah is eaten alone, and with Maror and Haroset. Contrary to popular belief, horseradish is NOT really Maror. According to the Mishna, Romaine Lettuce is what is called for. The Talmud does not know horseradish since it was only grown in Northern Europe. It enters the Seder during the Middle Ages. Harotset is a mixture of apples, wine and nuts that is supposed to symbolize the mortar used to hold the bricks of Egypt in place. Eating Maror is one of the Mitzvot of Pesach, there is no commandment to eat Haroset. That is why there is a blessing for eating Maror and not Haroset.
There are some Jews who, in their quest to be more strict than anyone else, do not eat even Matzah products that have been soaked in water or juice on the chance that perhaps some wheat in the Matzah may not have been mixed with water properly and when soaked, could possibly ferment. Such people do not eat either Matzah brei nor Matzah balls. This is their loss. This is just another example of the lengths some will go to be more kosher than anyone else. I should also note here that Matzah farfel is just Matzah broken into large pieces, and Matzah meal is Matza broken up into very small pieces. If you want to save money, break up the Matzah yourself.
Next week: Mitzvah 24: Telling the Story of the Exodus at the Seder