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Title: Matzah  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Passover Seder, 613 commandments, History of responsa in Judaism, Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, Joseph Saul Nathansohn, Haiger
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Not to be confused with Mat Zo.
Matza or matzah (Hebrew: מַצָּה‎; plural matzot); (also matzo; plural matzos of Ashkenazi Hebrew dialect); is an unleavened bread traditionally eaten by Jews during the week-long Passover holiday, when eating chametz—bread and other food made with leavened grain—is forbidden according to Jewish religious law.

Biblical sources

Matzah is mentioned in the Torah several times in relation to The Exodus from Egypt:

That night, they are to eat the meat, roasted in the fire; they are to eat it with matzah and maror.
Exodus 12:8
From the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month until the evening of the twenty-first day, you are to eat matzah.
Exodus 12:18
You are not to eat any hametz with it; for seven days you are to eat with it matzah, the bread of affliction; for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste. Thus you will remember the day you left the land of Egypt as long as you live.
Deuteronomy 16:3
For six days you are to eat matzah; on the seventh day there is to be a festive assembly for ADONAI your God; do not do any kind of work.
Deuteronomy 16:8

Religious significance

There are numerous explanations behind the symbolism of matzah. One is historical: Passover is a commemoration of the exodus from Egypt. The biblical narrative relates that the Israelites left Egypt in such haste they could not wait for their bread dough to rise; the bread, when baked, was matzah. (Exodus 12:39). The other reason for eating matza is symbolic: On the one hand, matza symbolizes redemption and freedom, but it is also lechem oni, "poor man's bread." Thus it serves as a reminder to be humble, and to not forget what life was like in servitude. Also, leaven symbolizes corruption and pride as leaven "puffs up". Eating the "bread of affliction" is both a lesson in humility and an act that enhances the appreciation of freedom.

Another explanation is that matza has been used to replace the pesach, or the traditional Passover offering that was made before the destruction of the Temple. During the Seder the third time the matza is eaten it is preceded with the Sefardic rite, "zekher l’korban pesach hane’ekhal al hasova". This means "remembrance of the Passover offering, eaten while full". This last piece of the matza eaten is called afikoman and many explain it as a symbol of salvation in the future.

The Passover Seder meal is full of symbols of salvation, including the opening of the door for Elijah and the closing line, “Next year in Jerusalem,” but the use of matzah is the oldest symbol of salvation in the Seder.[1]


Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 1,653 kJ (395 kcal)
Carbohydrates 83.70 g
Fat 1.40 g
Protein 10.00 g
Water 4.30 g
Vitamin A 0 IU
Thiamine (vit. B1) 0.387 mg (34%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.291 mg (24%)
Niacin (vit. B3) 3.892 mg (26%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.443 mg (9%)
Vitamin B6 0.115 mg (9%)
Folate (vit. B9) 17.1 μg (4%)
Vitamin B12 0.00 μg (0%)
Calcium 13 mg (1%)
Iron 3.16 mg (24%)
Magnesium 25 mg (7%)
Manganese 0.650 mg (31%)
Phosphorus 89 mg (13%)
Potassium 112 mg (2%)
Sodium 0 mg (0%)
Zinc 0.68 mg (7%)
Percentages are roughly approximated
using USDA Nutrient Database

At the Passover seder, it is customary to eat matzah made of flour and water; matzah containing eggs, wine, or fruit juice in addition to water is not considered acceptable for use at the seder.[2] The flour can be made from the five grains mentioned in the Torah: wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats.


Matzah dough is quickly mixed and rolled out without an autolyse step as used for leavened breads. Most forms are pricked with a fork or a similar tool to keep the finished product from puffing up, and the resulting flat piece of dough is cooked at high heat until it develops dark spots, then set aside to cool and, if sufficiently thin, to harden to crispness. Dough is considered to begin the leavening process 18 minutes from the time it gets wet; sooner if eggs, fruit juice, or milk is added to the dough. The entire process of making matzah takes only a few minutes in efficient modern matzah bakeries.

After baking, matzah may be ground into fine crumbs, known as matzah meal.


There are two major forms of matza. In many western countries the most common form is the hard form of matza which is cracker-like in appearance and taste and is used in all Ashkenazic and most Sephardic communities. Yemenites, and Iraqi Jews traditionally made a form of soft matza which looks like Greek pita or like a tortilla. Soft matza is made only by hand, and generally with shmurah flour.[3]

Flavored varieties of matzah are produced commercially, such as poppyseed- or onion-flavored. Oat and spelt matzah with kosher certification are produced, and are suitable for people who cannot eat wheat. Organic wheat matzah is also available.[4] Chocolate-covered matzah is a favorite among children, although some consider it "enriched matza" and will not eat it during the Passover holiday. A quite different flat confection of chocolate and nuts that resembles matzah is sometimes called "chocolate matzah".

Matzah contains typically 111 calories per 1-ounce/28g (USDA Nutrient Database), about the same as rye crispbread.[5]

Shmurah matzah

Shmura ("guarded") matzah (Hebrew מַצָּה שְׁמוּרָה maṣṣā šəmūrā) is made from grain that has been under special supervision from the time it was harvested to ensure that no fermentation has occurred, and that it is suitable for eating on the first night of Passover. (Shmura wheat may be formed into either handmade or machine-made matzah, while non-shmura wheat is only used for machine-made matzah. It is possible to hand-bake matzah in shmura style from non-shmurah flour—this is a matter of style, it is not actually in any way shmura—but such matzah has rarely been produced since the introduction of machine-made matza.)

Many Haredi or ultra-orthodox Jews are scrupulous about the supervision of their matzah and have the custom of baking their own matzo, or at least participating in some stage of the baking process. Rabbi Chaim Halberstam of Sanz ruled that machine-made matzoth were chametz.[6] According to that opinion, hand-made non-shmurah matzot may be used on the eighth day of Passover outside of the Holy Land. However the non-Hasidic Haredi community of Jerusalem follows the custom that machine-made matzah may be used, with preference to the use of shmurah flour, in accordance with the ruling of Rabbi Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld, who ruled that machine-made matzah may be preferable to hand made in some cases. The commentators to the Shulchan Aruch record that it is the custom of some of Diaspora Jewry to be scrupulous in giving Challah from the dough used for baking "Matzot Mitzvah" (the Shmurah Matzah eaten during Passover) to a Kohen child to eat.[7]

Egg matza

"Egg (sometimes enriched) matzah" are matzot usually made with fruit juice, often grape or apple juice instead of water, but not necessarily with eggs themselves. There is a custom among some Ashkenazic Jews not to eat them during Passover, except for the elderly, infirm, or children, who cannot digest plain matzah; these matzot are considered to be kosher for Passover if prepared otherwise properly. The issue of whether egg matzah is allowed for Passover comes down to whether there is a difference between the various liquids that can be used. Water facilitates fermentation of grain flour, but the question is whether fruit juice, eggs, honey, oil or milk are also deemed to do so. The Talmud (Pesachim 35a.) states that liquid food extracts do not cause flour to leaven the way that water does. According to this view, flour mixed with other liquids would not need to be treated with the same care as flour mixed with water. Talmudic commentaries (Tosafot) explain that such liquids only produce a leavening reaction within flour if they themselves have had water added to them and otherwise the dough they produce is completely permissible for consumption during Passover, whether or not made according to the laws applying to matzot. As a result, Rabbi Yosef Karo, author of the Code of Jewish Law, (Orach Chaim 462:4.) granted blanket permission for the use of any matzah made from non-water-based dough, including egg matzah, on Passover.[8] Many egg matzah boxes no longer include the message, “Ashkenazi custom is that egg matzah is only allowed for children, elderly and the infirm during Passover.” Even amongst those who consider that enriched matza may not be eaten during Passover, it is permissible to retain it in the home.

Cooking with matza

Matzo balls and matzo farfel are served in soup. Matza meal is used as a binder in baked goods. Matzah brei is a dish of Ashkenazi Jewish origin made from matzo fried with eggs. Sephardim use matza soaked in water or stock to make pies known as mina (or, in Italian, scacchi). Matzo meal pancakes are made from a batter of matzo meal, egg, and milk. Some Ashkenazim do not cook with matzah, believing that mixing it with water may allow leavening;[9] the mixture is called "gebrochts" by Ashkenazic Jews. Kosher for Passover cakes and cookies are made with matzah meal or a finer variety called "cake meal", which gives them a denser texture than ordinary baked foods made with flour.

Christian beliefs

According to Western Christian belief, matzah was the bread used by Jesus in the Last Supper as there he was celebrating Passover; Communion wafers used by Roman Catholics (as well as in some Protestant traditions) for the Eucharist are flat. All Byzantine Rite Churches use leavened bread for the Eucharist as this symbolizes the risen Christ. Some Oriental Orthodox and Oriental Catholic Christians use leavened bread, as in the east there is the tradition that leavened bread was on the table of the Last Supper. In the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church unleavened bread is used for communion (called qddus qurban in the liturgical language of the Eritreans and Ethiopians Ge'ez).


At the end of World War II, the National Jewish Welfare Board had a matzo factory (according to the American Jewish Historical Society, it was probably the Manischewitz matzo factory in New Jersey) produce matzo in the form of a giant "V" for "Victory," for shipment to military bases overseas and in the U.S., for Passover seders for Jewish military personnel.[10] Passover in 1945 began on 1 April, when the collapse of the Axis in Europe was clearly imminent; Germany surrendered a mere five weeks later.

See also


External links

  • Matzo Guide
  • The Laws of Baking Matzot
  • The Meaning of Matzo
  • Laws of Pesach & Matzo
  • Gluten Free Matzo
  • Creative Matzo Recipes

Template:Jewish bread

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