How To Eat Matzah
Rabbi Yair Hoffman’s article (April 4) on the halachic procedures for eating matzah on the Seder night opens with anticipated expressions of surprise and disbelief at what he is about to report. The optimal manner in which to observe the biblical commandment of eating matzah on the evening of the fifteenth of Nissan, according to Rav Yosef Karo, author of the Beis Yosef and the Shulchan Aruch, is to stuff two k’zeisim—the volume of two halachically sized olives—of matzah in one’s mouth at the same time and swallow them in succession.
Readers who experience this surprise are not alone. The Mishnah Berurah (O.C. 475:1:8,9), while dutifully explaining the position of the Shulchan Aruch as interpreted by the Acharonim, remarks in the Bi’ur Halachah (s.v. Kezayis mikol echad) that the requirement to eat two kezeisim in order to fulfill the mitzvah of matzah is tamuah and tzarich iyun—puzzling and in need of investigation. The Aruch HaShulchan (O.C. 475:4) finds no basis for eating an entire k’zayis of matzah at once, holding it sufficient that the k’zayis be eaten continuously. (Parenthetically, however, he concludes that since this halachah has emanated from the mouth of the Beis Yosef, one should take care to follow it if possible.)
The takeaway, perhaps, is that those of us who perform the mitzvah of eating matzah the way we were accustomed to in our parents’ home need not feel all that guilty.
Incidentally, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Bracha, observes that there is no need to observe an accelerated k’dei achilas pras timeframe for larger measures of k’zayis. As the time for k’dei achilas pras is directly proportional to the size of a k’zayis, if a larger size of k’zayis is utilized, the measure of k’dei achilas pras proportionally increases (P’ninei Halacha, Pesach 15:23).
Aryeh Dienstag, MD
Rabbi Hoffman Responds
The initial article explicitly stated that the Mishnah Berurah did not, in fact, agree with the position of the Shulchan Aruch on consuming two k’zeisim simultaneously and the four steps of the Mishnah Berurah’s recommended method repeated that very point explicitly. The article also stated that one who is uncomfortable performing this mitzvah in the manner that the Mishnah Berurah recommends as ideal is completely yotzei in the other two methods. This article was merely delineating the Chofetz Chaim’s ideal method of performing the mitzvah of achilas matzah. The Chofetz Chaim’s authority in both Hilchos Lashon Harah and in Orech Chaim has become normative Torah practice. We should follow what he writes both for what comes out of our mouths and what goes inside.
Machine vs. Hand
Rabbi Yair Hoffman (“Bentleys and Machine Matzah,” see Front Cover of this week’s issue) raises the important question whether machine-made shemurah matzah really fulfills the requirement of having intent (doing the mitzvah lishma) when making the matzah, and suggests that this is a reason why we should eat hand-made shemurah matzah. While there are certainly many respected rabbis who would take this position, there are several others who do not.
Rabbi Yisroel Yaakov Fisher, the head of the Badatz Eidah Chareidis, recommends that people only eat machine-made matzah, because the chance of human error is much less than with hand-made matzah. And Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ate machine matzah his entire life.
In addition, Rabbi Hoffman says that it is important for us “to fulfill this mitzvah in the manner that our forefathers have done.” Is he suggesting that we abandon longstanding family minhagim in favor of performing this mitzvah as our forefathers have done? Would he also recommend that we all go back to eating soft matzah because that is what our forefathers did?
While we certainly have many lessons and much to learn from our forefathers of old, often the living tradition is far more important than the ancient reality.