PESAH: Regular Matsa vs. Matsa Shemura

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One of the most important Mitsvot of Pesah is that of eating Matsa. The Matsa is a special bread made of a flat dough. The dough is prepared only with flour and water and without yeast. The flour usually comes from wheat, but technically, the Matsa could also be made from barley, oats, rye or spelt flour. The most sensitive issue in the preparation of the Matsa is time. To avoid the fermentation of the dough, the entire process of processing from the moment the flour is brought into contact with the water until the Matsa is removed from the oven, takes less than 18 minutes.

There are different types of Matsot.

Today we will explain the difference between regular Matsa and Matsa Shemura. The difference between these two Matsot has to do with the level of supervision (shemira) of one and the other, more specifically, from what point of the elaboration process the supervision begins.

REGULAR MATSA  Supervision of the normal Matsa begins from the moment the flour is produced. It is necessary to ensure, for example, that the flour is kept in a dry place because moisture causes the flour to be fermented and turn into Hamets . In addition, it must be verified that the water to be used to make the dough is at room temperature level, because if the water is warmer, for example, it would accelerate the fermentation process. Once the dough is made for the Matsa, it cannot be left to rest. Any piece of dough that has been left unattended for 18 minutes is Hamets, and if that piece of dough mixes with the Matsot, it might affect the validity of all of Matsot’s production. After every batch Matsot is produced and before producing the next batch, the machineries are thoroughly cleaned. These are some examples of the supervision to which regular Matsa production is subjected.

MATSA SHEMURA  In addition to observing the same rules for the elaboration of the regular Matsa, in the elaboration of the Matsa Shemura the supervision begins since the wheat grains are harvested in the fields. The grains, which are harvested fresh, before drying, are examined carefully to ensure, for example, that there are no broken grains, which would lead to premature fermentation. It is also supervised, for example, that there are no sprouted grains, which would also accelerate the fermentation process. In the case of Matsa Shemura the grain is selected, monitored when harvested, transported and stored, to ensure that it is safe from moisture.All this additional supervisory process implies a greater need for labor, and that is why the Matsa Shemura is substantially more expensive than the common Matsa.

Obviously, both the regular Matsa and the Matsa Shemura, are Kasher for Pesah. However, the Halakha indicates the use of Matsa Shemura, particularly during the first two nights of Pesah (in Israel, only the first night), when we say the Berakha al akhilat Matsa. Why? Because during the two nights of the Seder, when eating Matsa is a Mitzvah, we follow the words of the pasuq that says (Exodus 12:17) ושמרתם את המצות, “and you should take care (= strictly supervise) the Matsot.” During the other days of Pesah, there is no obligation to consume Matsa Shemura, because during the rest of Pesah there is no formal commandment to eat Matsa, only to refrain from eating Hamets.