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What is Shemurah Matzah?

by Rabbi Ari Shishler

  

Library » Holidays » Passover » Matzah | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Shemurah Matzah is (usually) hand-baked, unlike ordinary matzah, which is machine processed. Shemurah Matzah is more labor-intensive and is produced under a higher degree of scrutiny than regular matzah.

On Pesach, even the average Jew becomes somewhat religiously scrupulous. We do everything in our power to make sure there is no leavened bread (a.k.a. Chametz) in our homes for the week of Pesach.

We’re even stricter when we’re making matzah. The Torah tells us: “You shall guard the Matzot.1 This means that we need to “guard” the Matzah dough to make sure that it doesn’t rise and become chametz.

The wheat2 for Matzah is supervised from the time when it is taken to the mill to be ground into flour. Throughout the grinding, baking and packing, extra special care is taken that the flour and dough don’t come in contact with any moisture.

Supervisors ensure that the dough is processed quickly enough that it does not rise in the process.3 Only Mayim Shelanu - water that was drawn from a spring or well after nightfall and sat in a cool place over night is used for the Matzot. The appliances are also cleaned between Matzah batches, to make sure that there are no crumbs or pieces of dough left from the previous batch.

Shemurah4 Matzah takes the process a step further. The supervision begins from when the wheat is harvested. (Some Shemurah Matzot incorporate an extra precaution to reap the wheat before the sheaves dry out. Once the sheaves are fully dried, they may ferment due to precipitation, which according to certain opinions could make them chametz.)

Many people make a point of eating Shemurah Matzot at the Seder, even if they eat regular matzot during the rest of Pesach.

By the way, with all that goes into its production, you can imagine that Shemurah Matzah is more expensive than regular Matzah…(see Why is hand-made Matzah so expensive?).

Footnotes

  • 1. Exodus 12:17.
  • 2. Matzah can also be made out of spelt, rye, barley and oats. The same careful process would be in effect regardless of grain type.
  • 3. According to Jewish law, if the dough sits idly for 18 minutes, it becomes Chametz.
  • 4. “Shemurah” means guarded in Hebrew.

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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Chametz
Any leavened product which is produced from wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats. This includes bread, cake, cereals, crackers, biscuits, yeast, pasta and whisky. It is forbidden for a Jew to possess or consume Chametz throughout Passover.
Matzah
(pl. Matzot). Unleavened bread which is eaten on Passover, especially at the Passover Seder (feast), commemorating the Matzah which the Jews ate upon leaving Egypt. It consists of only flour and water and resembles a wheat cracker.
Seder
Festive meal eaten on the first two nights of the holiday of Passover (In Israel, the Seder is observed only the first night of the holiday). Seder highlights include: reading the story of the Exodus, eating Matzah and bitter herbs, and drinking four cups of wine.
Matzot
(Pl.: Matzot) Unleavened bread which is eaten on Passover, especially at the Passover Seder (feast), commemorating the Matzah which the Jews ate upon leaving Egypt. It consists of only flour and water and resembles a wheat cracker.
Pesach
Passover. A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.