By Yaakov Charlap
What’s the difference which matzah I buy for Pesach? That depends on who you ask and if you really want your matzos to be kosher l’Pesach.
There’s a big controversy regarding whether hand matzos or machine matzos are more kosher for Pesach. Many families have been using hand matzos for generations and will continue doing so regardless of anyone trying to convince them that machine matzos are more kosher l’Pesach.
There are several reliable hand-matzah bakeries in the U.S., but unless you go and bake your own matzos, getting fresh matzos can be a challenge.
Regarding those families that use machine matzos, it comes down to one word: hiddurim—how stringent the bakery is and the type of oven they use.
After doing extensive research on machine-matzah ovens, the following was revealed: not all machine-matzah ovens are created equal. The difference is in the type of oven, how long the matzah remains in the oven, and the temperature of the oven.
According to Jim Ferguson of ABI, the American Baking Institute, most matzah ovens were really designed for crackers and modified to bake matzah. The temperature on these ovens was designed to fluctuate and “spring” up the dough during the first few minutes of slow baking, so the crackers rise up a bit and come out crispier. Yes, I said rise. This can create a huge problem of chametz. Yes, I said chametz.
After researching many bakeries in the U.S. and Israel, I came across only one dual bakery in Bet Shemesh, Israel (originally in Yad Binyamin) that was able to solve all the problems of hand- and machine-matzos.
For machine-matzah, they designed special matzah ovens that maintain consistent temperature throughout the entire baking process, and the dough remains in the oven for only 50 seconds. All the oven parts are removable, allowing them to clean the ovens thoroughly after each 18-minute run. Many other hiddurim were also implemented, too numerous and technical to mention in one article. In addition, R’ Elchanan Perr from Brooklyn supervised a special chaburah of machine-matzos at the bakery in Bet Shemesh under extremely strict guidelines.
When it comes to hand-matzos, the bakery in Bet Shemesh only bakes in small chaburos close to Pesach to ensure fresh and crispy matzos. All Matzot Charlap from Bet Shemesh are under the strict supervision of Badatz Shearis Yisroel. Matzot Charlap, hand- and machine-matzos from Bet Shemesh, Israel, are available in stores and through private distributors throughout the U.S. For a distributor near you or a list of all the hiddurim, please e-mail Yaakov Charlap at firstname.lastname@example.org. Call Yaakov Charlap at 718-380-1100 with any matzah questions.