Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bentleys, Matzos, and the Chumra Machine

(Note: If you are reading this via email subscription, you will not be able to see the videos - please visit www.rationalistjudaism.com in order to see them.)

There's a funny video making the rounds lately. It starts as an advertisement for Bentley automobiles, and ends up being an advertisement for handmade matzos! The voice-over informs us that "Hand-made is always better" - and it tells us that this principle which is true for cars, is also true for matzos. "You can't ever compare the quality of hand made to mass machine made matzah," it says. "If you're going to do it, do it right."



The video is put out by Chabad, and reflects the Rebbe's insistence that his followers use Shmura handmade Matzah, at least for their sedarim. We are used to Chabad trying to spread Chabad ideology beyond its adherents. But there are others who are trying to spread its message.

We recently discussed the attempt of Rabbi Yair Hoffman to encourage everyone to eat one and a third matzos in two swallows in less than two minutes. In his latest column in the Five Towns Jewish Times and Yeshivah World News, he refers to the Bentley ad, and presents various arguments for and against the legitimacy of machine-made matzos. He concludes that "it would be proper, if possible to fulfill this Mitzvah in the manner that our forefathers have done and in a manner acceptable to most authorities," and thus to eat hand-made matzos. Is this true?

First, let's discuss the Bentley comparison. I've been in a Bentley, and I can agree that it is an extraordinary car. But does this mean that hand-made is always better? And is the superiority of a Bentley relevant to matzah? Let's take a look at another video about the manufacture of Bentley automobiles (actually, feel free to skip it - it's not that important):

 

Note that we are talking about a very small number of products, which are manufactured very slowly and carefully, by dedicated craftsmen who are presumably being paid very well. The possibility of human error is therefore very small. Second, and more significantly, it's not as though machine-made cars are likely to involve errors in their manufacture - they are less likely to do so. It's simply a matter of certain touches requiring fine motor skills that are better performed by hand. And note that certain parts of the Bentley manufacturing process, which require uniform processes done with great precision in rapid time, are done via machine!

With matzah, the Bentley advantage is simply irrelevant. There is no important aesthetic enhancement of matzah being produced by hand with fine motor skills. If we are talking about a concern to avoid the possibility of chametz, then machine-made matzah, which avoids human error and is more uniform across large scale processes, is superior.

In fact, this brings us to the fascinating case of the Liska Rebbe, described in Ami magazine. Due to "the fear that a small part of the Matzah that wasn’t baked properly can come in contact with liquid, thus rendering it chometz," the Liska Rebbe and his followers do not eat any matzah on Pesach except for the minimum quantity required at the seder. (The article notes that the Divrei Chaim was strongly opposed to this practice, yet the article states that this is a sacred custom.) Now, this is of course an extreme and arguably bizarre chumra. But it should be noted that it is based on actual incidents, and that this concern does not arise with machine matzos, only with handmade matzos. Thus, handmade is not always better.

There are, however, other concerns with machine made matzos. In particular, there is a question about whether machine matzos satisfy the requirement of being made with intent. There is no need to get into all the intricacies of that here; suffice it to note that there have been great rabbinic authorities on both sides of this dispute. Rav Yisroel Yaakov Fisher, for example, head of the Badatz Eidah Charedis, wrote that people should be scrupulous and only eat machine matzos, due to the absence of risk of human error. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ate machine matzos his entire life.

Now let us turn to Rabbi Hoffman's claim that "it would be proper, if possible to fulfill this Mitzvah in the manner that our forefathers have done and in a manner acceptable to most authorities." Let us first deal with the first part of his claim. Rabbi Hoffman's recommendation that a person should do what his forefathers have done appears to be recommending that people ignore family custom in favor of earlier historical practice. But is it not very problematic to tell people to ignore family minhag? And if he is recommending that people should do what our forefathers did in antiquity, does this mean that everyone should also eat soft matzah, and lettuce rather than horseradish for maror? (And that's just the tip of the iceberg!)

As for the notion of fulfilling a mitzvah "in a manner acceptable to most authorities" - this is really something that needs to be dealt with in a post on its own, analyzing whether halachah is about dealing with a metaphysical reality or following a correct decision-making process. For now, I will just note the following. If one does not have a particular family custom, or a rav to follow, then following the majority is one option - but another is to research the issue and form one's own conclusion. It's not as though hand made matzah is necessarily advantageous - as discussed above, some authorities feel that machine matzah is superior, while others feels that it is, at the very least, perfectly acceptable. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, who was considered one of the most significant halachic authorities of the generation, used machine matzos! And if one has a particular family minhag in this area, one should surely not abandon this merely in order to follow a majority of authorities (if it even is a majority of authorities), nor should one abandon it in order to adopt the historical practice of those who lived before machines had been invented. As I noted in my post Seder Historical Realities vs. Seder "Traditions," the living tradition is very significant, especially on Pesach. Dissuading people from following their traditions is not something to be done lightly.

(And while we're on the topic of doing mitzvos in the best possible way... the best way of giving tzedakah is to help people towards not needing tzedakah any more. Lemaan Achai is a local charity that excels at this. You can also fulfill the mitzvah of kimche d'Pischa with Lemaan Achai, via scrolling down at this link.)

Sources: Meir Hildesheimer and Yehoshua Liebermann, "The Controversy Surrounding Machine-made Matzot: Halakhic, Social, and Economic Repercussions," HUCA Vol. 75 (2004), pp. 193-262

60 comments:

  1. I am both surprised and very pleased that you write that a person should form his own conclusions. There are thousands of articles in English examining halachic issues from every angle which are read by thousands of people who have an advanced yeshiva background. And yet, almost all of them have a disclaimer telling people not to make their own decisions based on the information in these publications, but to ask a rabbi instead.

    This has never made sense to me. 1) Why write the article if no one should do anything based on it? Is the article mere intellectual exercise? 2) If one has an advanced yeshiva background and knows the facts of a particular issue, why must one ask a rabbi? A rabbi has semicha because he knows the laws of basar v'chalav and one or two other topics. How does this qualify him to pasken on an issue anymore that a random person with a yeshiva background who has read up on a topic?

    To me, it has always seemed like a denial of the use of one's mind to read tons about a certain topic but to then claim total impotence to act one way or another because, after all, one must ask a rabbi -- no matter how well-informed one may be.

    (Of course, if one has firm family or community minhagim, one should generally follow them. But many of us don't, and not all cases are subject to such minhagim; some cases, for example, are new -- e.g., organ donation, techeiles, chalav yisrael, serving in the army, etc.)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Could be the writer realizes there may be some errors in the article so the disclaimer is there for that reason... this is especially true with blog posts.

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    2. The articles help people realize when do they need to ask their Rav and what to ask.

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    3. There is a big difference between someone who was trained to learn in Yeshiva - even at a very high level - and someone who was trained to pasken shailos. They are two different beasts.

      In truth, as you can probably tell from many of Rabbi Slifin's posts, many Rabbanim fall short in this regard.

      The following statements from Rabbi Tendler about Rav Moshe are instructive (From an interview in Kol Hamevaser 8-31-2010; http://www.kolhamevaser.com/2010/08/an-interview-with-rabbi-dr-moshe-d-tendler/):

      "My shver was uniquely sensitive to society. Despite what they write in all the books about him, my shver never failed to read the Yiddish newspaper either the Tog in the early years or the Morgn-Zhurnal later on - cover-to cover every single day. People publish that he would walk down the street and avert his eyes when he passed by newspaper stands. There are a thousand talmidim of his who will testify, •r bought the paper and handed it to him in the lunchroom in the yeshivah," but it does not make a difference for some
      people - they do not want to hear that. Even when he was not well and the doctor insisted that he must lie down to sleep for an hour, he would go home, put on a bathrobe, and smuggle a newspaper into the bedroom so that his wife would not see it. He sat there reading the whole time, rather than sleeping. I
      used to ask him, "Why do you read this chazeray (junk)?" He would respond to me, "Dos iz mayn vinde" - this is my window [to the world]. He understood society and his piskei Hal.achah show that. He used to say, "People think that because I'm aware of society, I became a meikeI (lenient decisor).
      What do they want me to do - pasken incorrectly? I'm not a meikeI - I paskn. the way it has to be. The Halachah takes into account societal factors." This willingness to be exposed to society made his teshuvos more meaningful and more acceptable."

      And:

      "Q. What do you feel about the nature of pesak in. the U.S. since R. Moshe's passing in 1986?

      If he were alive, it could not happen. Pesak today is unrelated to Halachah and is instead completely dominated by societal factors. There is an agenda that has to be maintained. For instance, my grandchildren go to Bais Yaakov schools. The rabbanim in Bais Yaakov ruled this year that no father could
      attend graduation. A few years ago, they ruled that only fathers and brothers could attend - no strangers. Already for several years, the girls' valedictorian has been reading her speech behind a screen. That kind of shtik would never go if my shver were around.

      What has happened? Chasidic communities, in which, if I may put it bluntly, lomdus (learning) is not looked upon as an asset, began exerting significant influence on schools and institutions. As a result,frumkayt - whatever that means - has displaced Halachah. People are trying to recreate something that never was. But that is not the proper way. Halachah has to be dominant; if it is not, everything will go.


      At my shver's children's weddings, families sat together, husbands sat with wives. Have you ever heard of such a thing - that a husband and wife come to a wedding and the husband sits in one place and the wife in another? Was it that way in Europe? My shver had only one hang-up that I know about: shelo
      lehotsi la'az al ha-rishonim (not to give earlier generations a bad name). You think you are frumer than the last generation? They were the shkotsim (non-Jews) and you are the frum people? That attitude bothered him to no end. Respect for tradition includes an awareness that earlier generations of Jews knew what they were doing and how to practice properly. My shver upheld societal tradition in that way as much as possible."

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  2. Top Gear often features made by the amateurs, Jeremy, Richard and James. Some of their efforts would inspire even the most die-hard chassid to eat only machine-made matza.
    Of course, as you point out, the reason the Bentley is so good is that the actual important bits (e.g. engine) are made by machines.
    Sure, if you want bespoke designs and carvings on your matzos, go for handmade. But if you want one that "works" machine matza would be much better. (Though as you say, there are different minhagim, and each has validity).

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  3. Both Rav Elyashiv and Rav Shach were asked whether someone whose father ate machine matzos at the Seder should switch to hand matzos. Both responded that there is no reason whatsoever for them to depart from their 'minhag avos':

    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=49006&st=&pgnum=211&hilite=

    It should be noted, however, that R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach expressed a slight preference for being mekayem mitzvas achilas matzah with hand matza, and this was also his personal practice (Halichos Shlomo Chametz U'maror 10).

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  4. Two points:

    1. If the main concern is to do as one's forefather's did, then even today's hand matzot won't cut it: Manufacture of hand matzot today involves stainless steel and aluminum industrial-like dough squeezing machines that didn't exist before a few decades ago; plastic water pitchers and vats; plastic rolling hole punchers, and more. Doing as one's ancestors did would require making all sorts of instruments from metal and wood that don't even exist outside of museums.

    And, of course, going back just two or three hundred years means that even Ashkenazim should be eating soft matza.

    2. R' Leiman once gave a shiur in which he pointed out that the main, if not only, objection to machine matza when they came out was issues of possible chametz (not intent). For example, to make them look for "authentic," they cut them into circles. This left them with corner pieces of raw dough, which they then tossed back into the batch. This risked some dough being more than eighteen minutes old. So they stopped tossing it back in, and eventually simply left them square. Problem solved rather quickly.

    Another problem was that the heat was so great that part of the matza began to bake even before it got into the oven and it would be uneven. This was a bit trickier to solve, but eventually they put fans at the opening so baking wouldn't start until it was inside. Again, problem solved.

    The other objection, I recall, was that they feared that the hand matza bakers would be put out of business. In short, there seemed to be no "intent" question until all other problems had been solved, and no chametz issues at all eventually.

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    1. Are you for real?April 9, 2014 at 12:01 PM

      I have no idea where you get your info from, you should visit the world famous Shatzer Matza Bakery, they do not have any "industrial like dough squeezing machines" or any other of the items you mention - check your facts.

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    2. Do they draw their water from a well? Do they cut the wheat with wooden-handled iron scythes? How is the flour ground? Etc. etc.

      Even if they do all that, which I seriously doubt (and I *know* they don't make soft matzot), good for them. Lots of hand matzot factories use modern devices.

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    3. For a very modest fee I can recreate those Iron Age baking tools so you can bake authentic matzoh in the style of our forefathers :)

      Of course, the Children of Israel didn't have timers and stopwatches when they left Egypt, much less light boxes and magnifying glasses. And they might not have paid people to watch the fields in order to make sure the grain didn't even contact dew. So anything Moshe Rabbenu ate would probably be treif by today's standards.

      I have a grain mill that only comes out for Pesach, a metal griddle and a flowerpot tandoor. After a little practice the day's batch of chapati/soft matzoh can be baking within ten minutes. It might not be perfect, but it's closer to what our ancestors ate than anything produced by Streit's

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  5. It's known that after visiting a large handmade matzah baking factory, Rav Aharon Soloveitchik decided to no longer eat handmade matzah — he was that concerned by what he saw.

    Apparently Rav Aharon Lichtenstein also does not eat handmade matzah. Although I've only heard that one on the grapevine.

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  6. Last I checked, my forefathers ate kitniyot on Pesach. The whole claim of "it's what your forefathers did" falls apart when it's so selective. Not to mention that they ate soft matzot.
    As for the intent: Can you use a tool for mixing the dough? If so, what's the problem with using a rather large and thorough tool?
    When someone uses a machine for the entire process, someone needs to start it. That person can have in mind that he is doing it for the mitzvah, correct?

    So, you like stringencies? Tell me again how you sell most of your chametz!

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  7. Brooklyn Refugee SheygitzApril 9, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    I think that you get away from yourself a bit here.
    There are a few things that I know for certain - before a matza making machine was invented MOST Jews ate hand made matza and MOST jews did not avoid eating matza on Pesach. It's that simple.
    So frankly to my mind the choice between hand matza and machine matza should really boil down to tradition and preferences in taste - that's all.

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    1. "before a matza making machine was invented MOST Jews ate hand made matza"

      Before the machine was invented, EVERY Jew ate hand made matza, because there was nothing else. That's not a proof of any sort.

      Every single pair of tefillin made these days is made with the help of hydraulic presses that didn't exist a hundred years ago. Indeed, it was impossible to make "ideal" tefillin before then. No one asks questions about this.

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    2. Or that many sofrim use computer scanners to help check the parchment for disqualifying flaws.

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  8. Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, after his alyah to Israel, stopped eating handmade matzah and used machinemade matzah (mentionned in one of the Artscroll published Haggadah).

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  9. ...actually, it's Temujin (whatever happened to the name and email option thingie?)

    Anyhow, the machine matzo would, of course, produce a more uniform or "safer" product, but the hand-made process can or should follow the tradition to employ the community poor in the manufacture. This is not possible with the mechanized process because many of the steps have been taken over by machinery and trained and qualified employees, perhaps even unionized, can only do the rest.

    Nachum raises an important point about the implements we use today even in the hand-made process. Ever mindful of the importance of economics in the cohesion of communities, Temujin would raise the stakes by suggesting that reviving the whole "museum process" at least for the post-milling work might not be a bad idea if the community crafts people are employed in supplying the bakery with traditionally (i.e., pre-industrial, Iron Age) implements. No, one is not suggesting a new humra to an already irritated readership; just a quaint voluntary custom for folks who get into that sort of stuff. Better to spend surplus gelt on such than on tacky made-in-China Judaica. On that note, Temujin is quite handy with the hammers, anvil and bellows for any blacksmithing work that might become available!

    This is a post custom-made for Gavriel M and one awaits his contentious, but eye-opening input.

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    1. And how many hand matza places do you think actually employ the "community poor" these days?

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    2. Nachum asked: And how many hand matza places do you think actually employ the "community poor" these days?

      One hasn't the foggiest, Nachum. On another blog I read someone complaints about Beis Yaakov girls being hired by a matzo bakery, but not being up to the job as the work is fairly hard (bakeries are notorious for that) and someone else uncharitably complaining about Israeli Russian immigrants, "Cossacks" as he called them, supposedly not being trustworthy. It's merely a musing suggestion. Anecdotally Temujin can confirm that in his community he can think of at least a dozen people, some students, others who could use an extra dollar before the holidays, who given how they'll take on shlep jobs with non-Jewish employers, would likely prefer a stint as matzo bakers among fellow Yid'n. Again, one is not being machmir on the chumetz-risk issue or talking about a formal minhag, just that there are some customs which are useful from a culturally function perspective and should be maintained at least partially.

      By machine or hand, there is probably no difference in terms of risks of chumetz nowadays...although an empirical lab study would be interesting. All sorts yeasts are everywhere, in the air and on objects, but unless there is the commercial kind floating about, the 18 minutes seem like an overkill. Natural yeasts take two to three days to have an effect.

      -- Temujin

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    3. > ...the 18 minutes seem like an overkill.

      18 is a magic number. We're all taught as kids that dough starts to rise after 18 minutes, but I suspect that the number came first, and the justification later.

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  10. ...actually Temujn said...

    Regarding Nachum's mention of circular matzo "...cut them into circles. This left them with corner pieces of raw dough, which they then tossed back into the batch. This risked some dough being more than eighteen minutes old."

    Had no idea that die-cutters (think cookie-cutters) for sheets of dough are used when a machine-measured quantity in a shallow cylindrical shape run between rollers will produce a uniform circular or slightly ovoid product without wasting dough. Yes, one enjoys watching and reading up on food manufacture processes...there are worse hobbies to have. Apart from iron-mongery of scythes and flails, Temujin is available for the mechanical design of fully or semi-automated short processing lines with detachable and cleanable measuring and rolling implements. Maybe for next Pesach?

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    1. The dough run through the machines isn't in a cylindrical shape. It's in long sheets that are then cut.

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    2. Understood. Without having seen a matzo bakery one would guess a pasta-sheet extruder (for lasagna) would be used. Which is why a non-rectangular cut will always leave waste and which is why one proposed a different method where one starts with a cylindrical, hockey puck-shaped extrusion of dough which is then flattened through rollers and naturally assumes the circular or ovoid shape. Assuming there are no halachic problems with automatically extruding dough and cutting and running it through several rollers, the process wouldn't take much longer than using the "cookie-cutter" method. Purely technical musings on this.

      -- Temujin

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  11. Brooklyn Refugee SheygitzApril 9, 2014 at 3:58 PM

    "The other objection, I recall, was that they feared that the hand matza bakers would be put out of business"

    I don't think that the concern was that the hand-matza bakers would be put out of business. I.e it wasn't an encroachment on another's business issue.
    rather it was that traditionally the poor widows and orphans were granted the opportunity to work in making the matzot and thus have parnassa for the chag (as well as getting some matzot). It was depriving these poor workers of their seasonal parnassa which was the issue.

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  12. Another factor you didn't mention is the cost. People forget this is לחם עוני and yet is costs more per pound than first-cut brisket because of all this nonsense.

    Additionally, I would mention that the Shulchan Aruch does consider hand-made to be ideal... when it's YOUR hands! (OC 460:2). That is how it was done in antiquity, and what I plan on going this year. Unfortunately most people think matza is only kosher if it's made by chassidim.

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    1. Of course, in the time of the Shulchan Aruch, there were no machines. :-)

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    2. ...nor were there Chassidim...

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  13. It should be of interest to note that the Lubavitcher Rebbe's father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, supervised the machine matzoh factory in Russia and gave his approval (there was obviously no way to provide all the Jews of Russia with hand-made matzah).
    http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/117515/jewish/Rabbi-Levi-Yitzchak-Schneerson.htm


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  14. What is your source that Rav Shlomo Zalmen Aurebach used machine matza. As I recall he used to go to a matza bakery with his family to bake matzos for Pesach.

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    1. It's in the article mentioned at the end, plus my friend Ari Zivotofsky heard it from his son-in-law, Rav Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg.

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  15. Question: if there is, let's say, rachmana litzlan, a batch of hand-made matzah dough that gets a bit of liquid in the process due to human error, but it is not noticeable to the consumer, would this be chometz, and posul as mitzvah matzah, or could it be said to be batel to the rov?

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  16. A non-halachic, technical comment: A simple dough requires water or another liquid. Flour hydration determines the amount of water needed, but the percentage ranges from 10% to 30% percent.

    -- Temujin

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  17. How could machine matzah be acceptable? A whole matzah doesn't contain the Hazon Ish's kezayit!

    (tounge in cheek)

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  18. I have no expertise on the issue of hand-made vs. machine shmura matzah for the seder. Nor have some internet rabbis who offer judgments in this area. I'm sure that there are pros and cons both ways. For example, the difficulty in properly cleaning the equipment and machines on a very frequent basis vs. the inexpertise of some hand-made matzah workers. I have for decades now only used '18 minute' machine matzahs for Pesach besides the hand-made (Shatzer) shmura ones for the sedarim. However, I don't know if they really clean the machines every 18 minutes, or just at the start of the day's production. I also assume that an old, popular hand matzah producer like Shatzer has the procedure worked out well. If not, its not my problem, but theirs. This idea that all matzah is problematic, which leads to the strange conclusion of avoiding all matzah except for the minimum at the seder, is almost symptomatic of an OCD personality. The idea of eating your matzah in a paper bag to avoid crumbs on the table that may contact a liquid is almost as bad. Those who believe that oat matzot are less problematic and therefore preferable may be mislead. According to scholarly sources, oats are not among the 5 acceptable varieties mentioned in the talmud. This is in addition to the issue of not knowing how quickly oats ferment since the talmudic signs and time for such chimutz is specifically given for wheat dough. Those who insist on following some tradition yet change that tradition by adopting yeshivish chumrot are not very credible.

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    1. I heard a shiur of Rav Levi Yitzchak Halperin, from the Institute of Technology and Halachah. In explaining the distinction Chazal made between חימוץ and סירחון (the five grains undergo חימוץ, whereas rice undergoes סירחון) he made an interesting observation: he looked at the gluten content of the five grains, plus that of corn and rice. It seems that the fermentation is a factor of the amount of gluten and starch in the grain. Wheat and barley have the highest amounts of gluten. Corn has much less, and rice the least.

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  19. A post-Pesach cleanup story to keep one awake at nights.

    Much has made of searching and getting rid of chumetz, but after the exhausting clean-up, when all is set and ready, no one thinks twice about going to the store and picking up some fruit. Perhaps even grapes. Or plums?

    Alas, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, our culprit and the most useful species of yeast used in the making of bread, beer and wine since Egyptian times, lives as a fungus on surfaces of fruit, and can even be seen as the white stuff mixed in with the fruit wax on the skins of dark grapes and plums. It not only lives there, but munches happily on sugars like glucose, maltose, and trehalose. Yeast isn't just there, like a mineral, but actually replicates, usually through mitosis. But it gets worse; when there are sufficient nutrients and something stresses (perhaps all the Pesach cleaning with the running and shouting?) some of the little yeast fungi and they enter a state called meiosis becoming a "sexual form" of the fungus, they can actually...ehem...mate. This is the (oh, one's poor ears and whiskers) the "sexual form" of the fungus. In a friendly environment (that bowl of fruit on the Pesach table for example), they will double their number every hundred minutes or so. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-hah!

    Anyway, 'nuff of that; back to the Pesach cleaning...

    An informational blurb brought to you by Temujin.

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    1. to the mighty Temujin,
      as my Daddy z"l guide line would be (this is after all "your forerfather's" minhagim holiday):

      if you can't see'um, you surely can eat em.

      Elemir

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    2. A common misconception - yeast is NOT in and of itself Hametz! Yeast is what turned your 4 cups from grape juice into wine. However commercial yeast is usually cultured with hametz, so special KFP yeast is used by kosher wine makers. You could just use the natural yeast growing on the grapes, but the outcome would be rather random taste-wise and non-yeast microorganisms are likely to turn your wine into vinegar (sulphates are your friend).

      Now if we home brewers were able to buy KFP yeast in retail quantities then we could make all sorts of KFP ciders, meads and wines.

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    3. As one of those homebrewers I'd wonder if you could simply do serial culturing, i.e. build a starter on apple juice/honey diluted to 1.040 and repeat a few times off that starter. Of course this requires KFP erlenmeyers, but hey.

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    4. Lallemand makes kfp yeast. Contact the mashgiach for details, I believe his name is Rabbi Seckbach.

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    5. Joseph - the problem is that you need a kfp starter (the yeast in jfp wine is long-gone due to sulphate treatments against the molds that convert alcohol to vinegar). Culturing wild strains is really risky and fruit juices and honey do not have enough nutrients to culture yeast anyways (tomato paste is probably the best yeast nutrient available kfp)

      Yonasan - thanks for the tip, I will follow up after pesach. I had a brewery store look into it but they could not get retail quantities. My plan is to beg for some next time I visit a kosher winery, but I am in Calgary and the nearest one is a few thousand km away in California.

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    6. Trust the Great Kakhan to pillage and burn the thread with Science :)

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  20. If one does not have a particular family custom, or a rav to follow, then following the majority is one option - but another is to research the issue and form one's own conclusion.

    It implies that personal research is for those who don't have a Rav, in other words for those who are not very religious to start with. In this case, what such research can lead to? Aside from this, does not Torah command us to follow majority?

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    1. "It implies that personal research is for those who don't have a Rav, in other words for those who are not very religious to start with."

      There can be other reasons for people not having a Rav.

      "Aside from this, does not Torah command us to follow majority?"

      No, it does not, outside of certain specific circumstances.

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  21. Would you consider compiling all your halachic response one day? Your halachic decisions on brain death, organ donation, learning in kollel, eating locusts, size of an olive, whats defined as shaming talmidei chachamim, the best form of tzedaka, machine made matze vs hand baked yada yada. Maybe Artscroll would publish it?!
    Get my drift rabbi?
    Your making a right old fool of yourself by getting involved in things you aint got a clue.
    Stick with your dinosaurs, mud lice and rabbits old fella.

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    1. Mud *mice*, Oscar. If you're going to insult, at least get it right.

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    2. that's uncalled for. if you have a problem with the substance of something he has written, lets hear it. otherwise, you just prove that R' Slifkin has the right ideas and evidence regarding all those topics mentioned. speaking of which, i think your idea is a great one. seriously, r' slifkin, i think you ought publish a book of responsa one day on all these matters

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    3. What a sad little troll you are, Oscar, dear lad. Has it ever occurred to you that it is entirely possible, likely or even certain that young rabbis and Jewish intellectuals with solid education and sharply honed reasoning skills can sometimes run circles around some of those who have grown up in echo chambers and masked their methodological deficiencies behind the crushing weight of obscurantist mysticism, undeserved honours, honorifics, and battalions of fawning yes-men and friendly cronies?

      Temujin lacks the background and learning to comment in depth on the intricacies of halakha and hashgafa, so he judges things by what he understands. And what he understands is that the latest shandes with the hareidi marches, the hostile characterizations of the majority of Israelis and their current government, the blatant hatred of outsiders, the haughty classism, the censorship and repression, political and financial opportunism, cronyism, elitism and isolationism and all that are symptomatic of a catastrophic collapse of a sub-culture and its intellectual foundations. So, one is forced to ask, how can such obvious failures in elementary logic, communal responsibility and just common human decency even toddlers can understand, manage to coexist with presumably sound pronouncements and decisions? Not all in that sector are so blighted of, of course, but the voices of the decent and responsible seem to be lost in the din of the bullies and their sycophants. The emperor has no clothes, Oscar, no matter how stridently some may insist that he does. Serious stuff this, you know, and now, given this dismal state of affairs, it's the responsibility of everyone to doubt, check and verify, to question and present alternative interpretations. An age of deep revisionism is upon us. It's the way things will be from now on, so get over it and do something useful with your mind and your time.

      --Temujin the Disappointed

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  22. Elemir, alas Temujin's forefathers lived on horseback, ate saddle-tenderized, horse sweat-salted mutton in their stew and subsisted on mare's milk mixed with the afore-mentioned mare's blood from a vein in emergencies...or when they got a sweet tooth for such. Thus this man can't draw on any of their dietary minhagim under any imaginable pretense. Yes, S. cerevisiae cells are about 10 micrometres in diameter; too small to see with the unaided eye of course. But that’s not the problem as they are uni-cellular fungi, not bugs, so totally parve…it's what they do that matters, as Yannai Segal kindly reminds us.

    So, one’s suggested horror-flick scenario must then shift to the effect of the rapidly multiplying hordes, or ordas, of S. cerevisiae, energetically cavorting right in the fancy fruit platter (under the warming chandelier at one’s own Pesach table with ladies and children present), their population doubling every 100 minutes and in their concentrated and airborne state going after every available gebrocht item in the vicinity. After all, killing their brethren in the matzo is one thing, but the welcoming, sugar-filled and moist matzo meal kneidelach and even the kezais of a matzo in one's mouth are ready for instant yeast action, which is apparently caused by the yeast fungi's gassy flatulence as they digest the nutrients. The bottom-line then, is that there is no truly chumetz-free meal to be had on this world. Y. Aharon is right; one can easily veer into Obsessive Compulsive Disorders with all this stuff!

    --Temujin

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    1. as always, your wisdom knows no bounds. but that was my father's point, that despite what we know my be occurring, if the results of that function aren't noticeable (eg. white cracks or something similar, my memory escapes me), that the dictum holds.

      BTW, being of galicianer chassidishe background we consumed neither gebrochts nor kitniyos...despite my father's (learned) opinion that both were nonsense. go figure.

      question: is your use of the word chumetz (i.e. pronounced with "oo" sound) a typo on your part or was it intentional?

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    2. Thou art a shameless flatterer, elemir, but you forgot to praise Temujin on his proper spelling of your name. One is in a gentle, fortgiving mood today, though.

      Anyhow, this man sides with the approach of your late father. He appears to have retained that increasingly rare quality of common sense, a precious commodity, a golden thread that represents authentic Judaism throughout the turbulent ages.

      As for the non-gebrochts and absence of kitnyot in your family, well, it's an approach that may be halachically debatable, but on an intuitive level eminently sensible. One doesn't follow the non-gebrochts scrupulously, certainly not when invited for a feast, but avoids it at home when possible. Pesach lasts for only a week, for goodness sake, must people seek every which way to recreate that which they should abstain from if only just to remember? Gosh, one can now have cake and bread, bread that's kosher l'pesach! And chametz (sp.?) tastes so delicious after a regime of dry crackers and boring potatoes and eddoes (for Temujin's special Jamaican-style ox bone soup or meat stew). While Temujin's friends and family line-up around the block at the local pizzerias seemingly within minutes of the end of the chag, one gets his pair of chopsticks out, cracks a bowl of Gefen or Tradition noodles, adds a spoonful of fiery chipotle-spiced canned tuna, a good handful of spinach and few generous splashes of well-fermented Kikkoman soy sauce and thus enjoys his first taste of chumetz/chametz/choometz in peace and quiet.

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  23. Eating the minimal amount of matza sounds reasonable to me. Abstemiousness is well regarded in Jewish tradition; why *should* people eat a lot of matza? It's expensive and not especially good for you. By minimising our consumption we benefit our health *and* reduce the possibility of accidentally eating chametz. It's not the sort of thing I'd do myself, but I know many people who abstain from processed products for kashrut reasons. This is just another form of that policy.

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  24. The problem is that there is nothing else to eat, as they have no rice or beans.

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  25. Rabbi Slifkin,

    An interesting article, which I read through as I drove my own Bentley to work today, which grapples with the religious and theological. I was thinking not everyone has time to make their own produce,unlike the stereotypical Italian mother & homemade pasta ,but for me the issue to add to this discussion is cost,especially for larger families . Like the craze of 'organic' food, not everyone can afford 'hand made products', which like a Bentley will come at a higher cost than a Ford Fiesta or a hand made diamond wedding ring will be more expensive than a machine made one; but does it matter? Is not the functionality of the car/ the ring and the matzos & the reasons why they are used more important than the brand ? I did a quick internet search and found that Chabad matzos on one place were $18 for 16 ounces and then for machine made matzos which are sold in 10 ounce boxes, containing about 12 or so at $5.99 or $9.58 if it were sold by the pound (in local currency that's about 34/64 NIS) . So you are doubling your costs if you buy the non-machine matzos. If you are someone who doesn't work and have a large family, which is part of the general discussion on other posts, this does had an impact upon family finances. I can't see that is going to help families who are not exactly in a position to buy the Bentley's of the Jewish food world & perhaps not necessarily responsible leadership.

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  26. anyone who thinks machine matza is less likely to become chametz should see the following kuntrress which discusses the halachic problems with the modern machine matza ovens
    http://www.otzar.org/wotzar/Book.aspx?159094&

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  27. also see this link http://www.zomet.org.il/?CategoryID=257&ArticleID=321&Page=1
    I used to also think that machine matza was fine and amazing and the achronim who were matir it then will suerely be matir it now, however i have learned that until recently all the machine did was the rolling, not the baking. all the machine matzos in europe were baked in regular matza ovens. Today they use low heat biscuit oven that cause the matza to rise in the oven. for all the details read the article on the above links.

    As for lishma, Rw shlomo zalman (see Halichos Shlomo Chametz U'maror 10) and rav elyashiv and the Chazon Ish held it was not lchatchila to be somech on the lishma of machine.

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  28. Moshe E – If you’d actually checked the citation from Halichos Shlomo, you’d have seen that he rules that one can be yoztei mitzvas achilas matza with machine matzos le’chatchila, even though he expresses a preference for hand-baked matzos.

    Rav Elyashiv held that someone whose family traditionally used machine matzos at the seder has no need to change, as the article I linked to above notes. It also says that Rav Shach actively discouraged someone with this tradition from switching to hand-made matzos.

    And the article you referenced from Techumin was ably responded to by R. Levy:
    http://www.zomet.org.il/?CategoryID=257&ArticleID=322&Page=1

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  29. When some yeshivish guy told me RSZA prefered / ate machine matza (for acvuracy reasons cited above) i brought him a box of RSZA certified hand matzah. Of course, it ciuld just be one if his "askanim" certified the hand matzah in RSZA's name, just as they seemed (seem) to speak in his name.

    As for RIZMeltzer, I'm sure his son law / grandchildren eat hand. At least the ones in lakewood, the pnes that cpunt.

    MiMedinat HaYam

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    1. The ones that count? Um. Please tell me you are joking.

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    ReplyDelete

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