By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5TJT.com
Yes, you had better check that Matzah.
This is for two reasons: The first is to fulfill a Torah Mitzvah of personally guarding the Matzah – and the second is to make sure that they are not Chometz. We will start with the second reason first.
Yes, it is possible, and even somewhat common, for the Shmurah Matzah that we have purchased from the best of the Matzah bakeries – to be Chometz
If the Matzah either has a fold (kefulah) or is swollen (nefucha) it is chometz. What is a Matzah kefulah? It is a Matzah that became folded in the oven in a manner that the area in between the folds did not get exposed to the flame of the oven. As a consequence, the area in between the folded over part did not adequately bake. The Ramah writes that it is Chometz (461:5). One does not have to throw out the whole Matzah, however. One just has to cut out that part and the surrounding area around the fold (See MB 461:28).
What is a swollen Matzah – a nefucha? Generally speaking, it happens when the Matzah was not properly perforated. Air that is trapped inside the Matzah forms into one large bubble. If it bubbles up to the size of a hazelnut – the entire Matzah should NOT be used. If it is smaller than that – the Mishna Brurah will allow it (461:34), but states that the area of the bubble should not be eaten. If there is a double bubble – even if less than the hazelnut amount it is still forbidden out of a concern that it may be chometz.
THE SECOND REASON – FULFILLING THE TORAH MITZVAH OF GUARDING THE MATZAH
As a preamble, let us be aware that tere are, in fact, two types of Matzos:
- Matzos Mitzvah and
- Regular Matzoh.
Matzos Mitzvah are those Matzos that are two be used on the nights of the Seder in fulfillment of the Mitzvah, “In the evening you shall eat Matzos..” Matzos Mitzvah can technically be baked from wheat, barley, oats, spelt, and rye. However, it is ideal, a Mitzvah min haMuvchar, to bake them from only wheat (Ramah 453:1 and MB 453:1).
GUARDING THE MATZOS
The posuk states “UShmartem es HaMatzos” (Shmos 12:17) – which literally means, “and you shall guard the Matzos.” Our sages extrapolated from this posuk that these Matzos require a special supervision that it not become subject Chometz.
In other words, it is not enough to just assume that nothing happened to them. Rather, ideally, the wheat of which a person wishes to make Matzos Mitzvah must be guarded to ensure that there is no concern of them becoming Chometz. This guarding is called “Shmurah.”
NOT JUST A HECHSHER MITZVAH
It is interesting to that obtaining Matzos for Pesach is not just a hechsher Mitzvah – a preparation for a Mitzvah. It actually involves this Mitzvah in and of itself – that of “ushmartem es haMatzos – guarding the Matzos.” This is indicative in the language of the Shulchan Aruch (OC 460:2).
DOING IT YOURSELF
The Mogain Avrohom (460:1) writes that it is ideal to bake the Matzos oneself because of the notion of Mitzvah bo yoser mib’shlucho – it is a greater Mitzvah to do something oneself than through a messenger. The Avnei Naizer (OC 472) decries the prevalent custom of people no longer baking Matzos themselves. The Mishna Brurah cites the view of the Arizal that one who works up a sweat through baking Matzos receives enormous merit.
JUST BUYING IT IS NOT IDEAL
Although it can be done through an appointed messenger or shliach, just buying the Matzos off the supermarket shelves is not the best way to fulfill this Mitzvah.
There are, thus, three methods in how people obtain Matzah.
- They either are deeply involved in the baking.
- They appoint a messenger to bake it for them (which can be accomplished through an order sheet).
- They buy it off the shelf (not the best way).
THE WORKAROUND WE SHOULD ALL DO
There is, however, a workaround for the off-the-shelf purchaser. If time is spent examining whether there are folds or bubbles in the Matzah that would render the Matzah unfit, then one does fulfill the special Mitzvah of guarding the Matzos.
Wishing everyone a chag kasher v’samayach – and a safe and healthy one as well.
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