If the Lakewood roshei yeshiva are doing it already, we might as well be learning the halachos of it. Below, find a brief overview of the halachos of matzah baking.
Grinding the Wheat
Pious people observe the grinding of the wheat themselves carefully to ensure that there is no concern of the wheat becoming chometz during the grinding process (Ramah citing the Mordechai 453:8). At a minimum, a God fearing individual with some knowledge of the halachos should be performing it. A child or someone without such knowledge should not be the one performing the grinding (MB 453:41 citing the PMG).
The wording of the Ramah seems to differ from that of the Pri Megadim. Are the pious people watching it or doing it? Is it sufficient merely to ensure that the grains are ground properly or does the very act of grinding itself need to be done with the proper intentions?
Intent Regarding Grinding
Just as there is a debate regarding the nature of proper intent regarding harvesting, there exists a debate about the proper intent regarding the grinding of the grains as well. Ideally, one should follow the stricter view requiring that the flour be ground with the proper intent.
Therefore, the grinding should be done by hand rather than by machine. This is more of a serious issue than having the harvesting done by machine. More poskim hold that grinding is not an action attributed to the operator of the machine as much as the harvesting. When the term hand-ground is used, it refers to manpower rather than power by machine. Therefore, grinding done by a bicycle would also be permitted.
We find that the stringencies in regard to the grinding of the matzah have been practiced for thousands of years. Indeed, the Talmud Yerushalmi (Psachim 20) relates that Rabbi Yossi the son of Rabbi Abun did not wish to use a grinder who had been grounding wheat not destined for matzah because he was afraid that the grinder’s clothing may have had other wheat on it that was not designated for matzah use.
The machine used for grinding should be for exclusive Passover use. The reason is that other grinding machinery processes grains that were washed. The liquid from this water can gather in the machines and cause the flour to become chometz.
Grinder and Room
Must Be Clean and Dry
To be sure, the flour also has moisture content, and if the stones of the grinder are not cleaned from this moisture, the stones may also cause the flour to become chometz. Many God-fearing individuals replace the stones of Passover grinders each year, on this account.
If moist grains were ground in the room, the walls and ceilings must be cleaned in order to grind flour for Pesach, as the flour particles can fall and mix into the Passover flour.
When the grinding takes place in the rainy season, care must be taken to make sure that water is not tracked in with raincoats, wet boots and umbrellas. The workers should make sure that their clothing is clean and that their hands and beards are clean and dry as well. The concern is that a particle of flour will be mixed with the Pesach flour. Although it will be nullified by the more than 60 times the amount of kosher flour, during the holiday of Pesach itself it is reinstated. (MB 467:16)
Allowing the Flour to Cool
The grinding itself causes the flour to be warm. Therefore, a dough that is made on the day that the flour is actually ground is more susceptible to becoming chometz on account of the additional heat in the flour. Therefore, one should not knead the flour on the day that the flour was ground. One should wait at least a day or two. Ideally, it should be two days later.
At a minimum one should allow the flour to cool overnight (SA 453:9 and MB 453:42). If, however, it was done sooner than that, the dough is not forbidden. Rather, one should take extra precautions and handle the dough even more often so that it is not given a chance to rise.
When dealing with high speed grinders and a large volume of grain, the machinery can get very hot. The BaDatz Yerushalayim issued guidelines that the machine be slowed down so that the grinder temperature does not reach more than 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), and certainly never above 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit).
When grinding the wheat by hand, however, the flour does not warm up to any significant degree, and technically, one does not have to wait. However, it is good to be stringent in this matter (Be’er Heitev 453:20).
The Formula Recited
When grinding the wheat one should recite the formula, “L’shaim matzos mitzvah, for the sake of the mitzvah of matzoh.” (extension of Be’er Heitev 456:4 regarding drawing of the water).
The Flour Bags
Ideally, one should be careful not to place the bags of flour one on top of the other. One should also avoid sitting on top of the bags because the additional warmth can cause them to become chometz faster (See Ramah 453:7). If a person did place the bags on top of each other for a significant amount of time, they should be separated and the kneading should not begin until 24 hours have elapsed (MB 453:35).
It is permitted to place the bags next to each other even if they are touching, because in this manner they do not warm up to any significant degree. Likewise, it is permitted to stack the bags of wheat before they have been ground, because until they are ground they will be cool.
It is also worthwhile to keep the bags of wheat elevated above the ground in case of a water leak or flood.
Sifting the Flour
Before the flour is kneaded, it should be sifted. The sifter should either be new or one used exclusively for Pesach. One may not kosherize a sifter and use it for Pesach.
If a new sifter is not available, it is preferable not to sift according to the Mishna Berurah.
Preferably a 40 mesh sifter should be used for hand-ground flour and a 60 mesh sifter should be used for machine ground flour. These days, most facilities use electric sifters.
When sifting the flour, one should avoid speaking because saliva may come out of his mouth and ruin the flour (See Ritva Psachim 35a).
After the flour is sifted it is important not to force down the flour into the bags. Forced flour does not knead well (Ramah 456:1).
The Shulchan Aruch rules that one should not make a dough that is too large at one time, i.e. larger than the shiur of challah without a bracha. This size is 1200 grams according to the Chazon Ish and 1250 grams according to Rav Chaim Noeh. Chazal felt that a person would not be able to adequately work the dough from all sides on account of its large size (SA 456:1). If one had done so, however, it does not cause the dough to be forbidden (SA 456:2).
Some hold that the size restrictions are specific to when one individual was making the matzos, and the ovens were small ovens. Today, however, the production of matzos involves numerous people and the ovens are much larger. Therefore, a larger dough could be made without a concern that it would be too large to handle. Nonetheless, God-fearing individuals are still strict, like the first opinion.
Two Separate Rooms For Dough Mixing
One person should be appointed to place the flour into the mixing bowl, and a different person should be appointed to place the water in (See MB 459:45). One person should not perform both tasks because the water can drip onto the flour and cause it to become chometz. On account of this, it is worthwhile to have two separate rooms for this, where the person pours in the water through a portal.
When the flour is placed in the bowl one should recite the formula, “L’shaim matzas mitzvah.” (SA 456:1)
One should make sure that there are no cracks or lines on the bowl in which one kneads the matzah dough, as it will not be possible to clean it effectively afterward. It does not matter whether the crack is in the middle of the bowl or on the outer lip, there is a chance that some dough will enter the crack and become chometz and will contaminate a later dough (Ramah 459:4). One should also be careful in this matter regarding the other means of production, such as the table, etc. (MB 459:39).
The Water Requirements
One may only knead matzos with water that is called “mayim shelanu” (SA 455:1). This is a rabbinic requirement because regular water is warmed in the underground spring. Mayim shelanu is water that has been drawn before sunset from a spring, and allowed to have rested in pitchers for a full night. These waters have been cooled and will not cause the dough to become chometz.
One may not place one’s hand in the mayim shelanu, because it will warm up the water.
In a very pressing situation, as long as the water was drawn before midnight, and 12 hours have elapsed since the drawing, the water may be used (MB 455:4).
When it is difficult to draw the water, it is preferable to draw it before twilight than after tzais hakochavim, when the stars emerge (MB 455:5).
To be continued…
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By Rabbi Yair Hoffman