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Egg Matza: Forbidden Because It May Be Hametz, or Forbidden Because it is Matza?

March 22, 2015

Laws of Blessings, 3:1-2, 9:

There are five species [of grain]: wheat (hitta), barley (s’ora), shifon, shibboleth shu’al, and spelt. Spelt is a sub-species of wheat, and shibboleth shu’al and shifon are sub-species of barley.

(I purposely omitted translations of shibbloeth shu’al and shifon, usually translated as oats and rye respectively, because research has shown that rye and oats are their own are actually very unlike barley or wheat, and can not be used to make bread doughs. Others have instead identified the two as two other varieties of barley.)

When these five species are in their stalks, they are referred to as t’vua (grain crop). After they have been threshed and winnowed, they are referred to as dagan (grain). When they have been milled and their flour kneaded and baked, they are referred to as path. Path made from these species is referred to as bread without any additional modifier. Before eating path, a person should recite the blessing, Hamotzi, “Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” Afterwards, he should recite the four blessings [of grace]. For dough baked over the ground as is baked by the Arabs living in the desert, one should recite the blessing “borei minei m’zonoth,” because it does not have the appearance of path. If, however, one uses it as the basis of a meal, one should recite the blessing “Hamotzi.” [Because then it is full fledged bread.] Similar [laws apply to] dough that was kneaded with honey, oil, or milk, or mixed together with different condiments and baked. It is referred to as path haba’a b’khisanin, lit. path with pockets . Although it is [a type of] path, the blessing “M’zonoth” is recited over it. If, however, one uses it as the basis of a meal, one should recite the blessing “Hamotzi.”

According to Maimonides, the halachic category of path, which has no English equivalent, can be subdivided into two more categories: actual bread, when it is made with mostly water and having the shapes people normally associate with bread, or path haba’a b’khisanin, what we call cake and the like, and this if the path has mostly other liquids or other flavorings, or if it is not in the standard shapes. Bread has certain halachic strictures, but cake only enjoys those strictures when it is eaten as the basis of a meal.

Now for the laws specific to Passover:

Leaven and Matza, 5:1-2, 20:

The prohibition against leaven applies only to the five species of grain. They include two species of wheat: wheat and spelt; and three species of barley: barley, shibboleth shu’al, and shifon…. With regard to these five species of grain: If [flour from these species] is kneaded with fruit juice alone without any water, it will never become leavened. Even if [flour] is placed in [these juices] the entire day until the dough rises, it is permitted to be eaten [on Pesach], for fruit juice does not cause [dough] to become leavened. It merely causes [the flour] to decay.

This is a critical point that would be lost at later points in our history: not all rising or puffing of dough is leavening. It could also be caused by the action of beaten eggs, the addition of baking soda which releases CO2, or when the dough is finally baked, superheated water vapor causing pockets in the dough, like what happens in pita, also from the word path.

The following are [included in the category] of fruit juice: wine, milk, honey, olive oil, apple juice, pomegranate juice and all other similar wines, oils, and beverages. This applies so long as no water whatsoever is mixed with them. If any water is mixed with them, they cause [the flour] to become leavened… It is permissible to place spices, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and the like into dough. Similarly, it is permissible to knead the dough with water and oil, honey or milk, or to baste with them. On the first day, it is forbidden to knead or baste [the matzoth] with any other substance besides water; not because of the prohibition against leaven, but rather so [the matza] will be “poor man’s bread.” It is only on the first day that the “poor man’s bread” must be commemorated.

Concerning the commandment to eat matza on the first night of Passover, Maimonides writes 6:5-6:

Matza that was kneaded with fruit juice: one may fulfill one’s obligation with it on Passover. However, [the dough] should not be kneaded with wine, oil, honey, or milk, because of the requirement for poor man’s bread, as explained above. A person who kneaded [dough with one of these liquids] does not fulfill his obligation. [One may fulfill his obligation] with matza baked in either an oven or a roasting pot. This applies whether the dough was stuck to the roasting pot and then the [pot] was heated, or whether the [pot] was heated and then the [dough] stuck to it. Even if the dough was baked in the ground, one may fulfill his obligation with it.

That last line is necessary because earlier, Maimonides mentioned that dough baked on the ground normally forms non-bread path.

Similarly, even if the matza was not thoroughly baked, one may fulfill his obligation with it, provided strands of dough will not extend from it when broken. A person may fulfill his obligation with a cake [of matza] soaked [in other substances], so long as it has not dissolved. However, a person cannot fulfill his obligation with matza that has been cooked, for it does not have the taste of bread.

That is, certain non-water liquids still do not make matza rich; only wine, oil, honey or milk do. Eggs and other juices leave the matza “poor.” Other authorities claim that anything that is not water makes the matza “rich.” This point will have ramifications later.

Maimonides also permits kneading matza with a combination of water and juice, despite the added risk; others prohibit taking the risk, and some even the results of that risk.

Matza and leaven are two further subcategories of path: if it is leavened, it is hametz, and if it is baked without leavening or without having had the time to naturally leaven, then it is matza.

Now let us consider the words of the words of the Shulhan Aruch, Orah Hayim 444:1:

When the 14th [of Nisan] falls on the Sabbath, we check [the house for leaven] the night of the 13th, and we destroy all of [the leaven] before the Sabbath, but we leave enough food for two Sabbath meals, as the third meal’s time is after Minha, at which point one may eat neither [ordinary] matza nor leaven but rather only rich matza, and he has to do so before the tenth hour. Gloss: In these countries, where they do not have the practice to eat rich matza, one should make his third meal out of types of fruits and meat and fish.


The Shulhan Aruch assumes that

  1. leaven may not be eaten after the third hour on the 14th of Nisan;
  2. matza may not be eaten on the 14th of Nisan,
  3. but rich matza may be eaten, presumably because rich matza may not be used for one’s obligation to eat matza the night of the 15th, and therefore was not prohibited along with ordinary poor matza;
  4. rich matza can only be eaten up to a certain point, the beginning of the 10th hour of day, at which point one can only eat other, non-grain-product foods.

The Shulhan Aruch thus recommends eating the third sabbath meal with rich matza early in the afternoon, so that at least he has what can be considered a “true meal.” This was also the practice of Rabbeinu Tam. Even though the rich matza is like cake and does not have the stringency’s of full-fledged bread, when it is the basis of the meal, it is treated like bread. The Rema makes an additional assumption:

  1. Rich matza is treated with the stringencies of both ordinary matza and leaven, and thus may not be eaten on the 14th whenever it would be forbidden to eat either matza or leaven.

Therefore, if one wants to eat his meal anytime in the afternoon, there is no form of path with which he can do so, and he therefore must eat non-path foods, which may result in him not actually fulfilling his obligation to eat the third meal.

However, there are those, like the Vilna Gaon, who do not recommend either of these positions. Instead, he, and the Mishna Berura after him, recommend that one just eat two meals with leavened bread the morning of the 14th before leaven becomes prohibited. This is an imperfect solution; one is able to eat three meals on the sabbath, but the third of those meals may not count because it is eaten well before its proper time: In the Vilna Gaon’s words:

“… and it is also thus in the Zohar, Parashath Emor, where it says that this meal [i.e., the third] is entirely pushed off. Learn from this that there is no solution at all, and it follows the opinion that one may only discharge his obligation for the third meal with path, and that is totally impossible [in this case]. See what the Magen Avraham wrote in the name of the Mordechai, Bayith Hadash, and Kol Bo [to eat two meals in the morning before leaven becomes prohibited.] That is the main opinion.

The Chafetz Chayim claimed that this opinion is based on that of Maimonides, namely, that it is forbidden to eat what we call rich matza or even foods made from cooked matza on the 14th of Nisan.

Here is the particular passage (6:12):

The Sages forbade a person from eating matza on Passover eve, in order for there to be a distinction between [partaking of it as food] and eating it on the evening [of the fifteen as a mitzvah.] Whoever eats matza on Passover eve is given “stripes for rebellion” until his soul expires. Similarly, it is forbidden to eat on Passover even from slightly before the time of Minha, in order that one will approach eating matza with appetite. However, one may eat some fruit or vegetables, but should not fill up on them. The Sages of the former generations would starve themselves on Passover eve so that they would eat matza with appetite, and thus hold the commandments as dear. In contrast, on the eve of Sabbaths or other festivals, one may continue eating until darkness.

That is, Maimonides differs with the Shulhan Aruch in that  he believes that all non-leavened path, whether ordinary matza, or the two types of matza made with non-water substances, what others call “rich matza”, is matza for all intents and purposes, and therefore included in Hazal’s prohibition against eating matza on the 14th of Nisan. Even if matza were the richest type, matza kneaded with oil, wine, and honey, and therefore invalid for the commandment of eating “poor” bread at the Seder, it is still covered by the Rabbinical prohibition against eating matza on the 14th of Nisan. Therefore, by the time the afternoon rolls around, there are no forms of path that one may eat, and therefore, no way to eat one’s third meal that afternoon if it is the Sabbath.

Touger (in his footnotes to his edition of the Mishneh Torah) claims that Maimonides does not include rich matza made with wine, oil, or honey in the prohibition against eating matza on Passover Eve, but as the Vilna Gaon and the Chafetz Chaim claim, Touger is incorrect. When you consider how Maimonides, following the sages of the Talmud, usually uses the word matza in the broader sense, the Vilna Gaon’s understanding is more convincing. Touger may have been misled by the fact that later authorities, like the Shulhan Aruch, use both terms, matza and matza ashira, most of the time with mutual exclusivity, but Maimonides considers them both matza, and calls them such, except when he points out that certain matzoth are not poor. The Shulhan Aruch’s distinction, namely that only poor matza is forbidden before Passover, is an idea first explicated by the Tosafists, but not one held by Maimonides. 

One might ask, so what did our sages prohibit one from eating after the start of the 10th hour on the 14th of Nisan, if both matza and leaven become forbidden by the morning? The answer is that not only are any forms of path forbidden, but once it is sufficiently late in the afternoon, one should avoid eating anything as much as possible, as Maimonides records the sages doing. The Rema disagreed with this, and that’s why he recommended eating a third sabbath meal of fruits and meat and the like.

As you may be aware, the standard practice in most years follows the Shulhan Aruch and Rema, and that one should avoid m’zonoth foods after the ninth hour on the 14th of Nisan, and that the prohibition against eating matza on that day only applies to the type of matza that can be used for fulfilling the commandment the following evening. However, the last time the 14th of Nisan was on the Sabbath, in 5768 (2008), everyone was told to follow the opinions of the Vilna Gaon and Magen Avraham as per Maimonides, and eat two meals of leavened bread that morning. Presumably, the next time this happens, in in 5782 (2022), people will also be told to follow the recommendation of the above authorities. This leads to a slight inconsistency in practice.

Some practical questions:

1. When the rabbis tell everyone to eat two sabbath morning meals come Passover Eve 2022, will they also allow people to eat egg matza at those meals? After all, the classical reason for Ashkenazim not eating egg matza, a type of matza ashira, rich matza, is because of the worry that it might be leaven, so it may be eaten before the time that leaven becomes prohibited, yet the assumption behind having two meals in the morning is that egg matza is prohibited that afternoon because it is matza!

2. During most years, what would the prohibitors of egg matza say about eating egg matza for breakfast on the 14th? Is it permissible only when leaven is permitted, or is it prohibited all day because of its similarity to matza?

It is because of these question and others, and because of our modern knowledge that egg matza has even less of a leaven issue than ordinary matzoth, that many Ashkenazim have abandoned the practice of not eating egg matza.


From → halacha

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