Monday, March 4, 2013

Understanding Enriched Matzah, Egg Matzah and Matzo Meal.

The simple maṣa, made of wheat flour and water, is known in Hebrew as leḥem 'oni, the poor's bread. However, when the maṣa is elaborated with regular flour but instead of water,  fruit juice and/or eggs, oil, or honey is used, that maṣa is called maṣa 'ashira, or enriched Matzah.   Maṣa ashira cannot be used for the seder of Pesah but, for Sephardim,  it can be consumed during the rest ofPesaḥ. Many times maṣa ashira does not come in the shape of a maṣa but as cookies, pastries, or cakes.  It is important to know that even if a minimum amount of water is mixed with these fruit-juices, oils, etc.  the whole product will become ḥameṣ. That is why the preparation of maṣa 'ashira requires a strict rabbinical supervision. Most of these maṣa 'ashira products are elaborated in Israel. See for example this or this.

 The Ashkenazi custom is to refrain from maṣa 'ashira, becuase, as we explained , if one drop of water falls accidentally into the mixture of the flour and fruit-juice dough, it becomes ḥameṣ. Ashkenazi Rabbis would authorize maṣa 'ashira only for the elderly or ill. In the Ashkenazi jargon maṣa 'ashira products are popularly known as "Egg Matzah" ( see for example here)

Another element used to elaborate Kosher le Pesaḥ food is Matzo-meal (in Hebrew, qemaḥ maṣa. See here).  Matzo meal is made by finely grinding the maṣot into a breadcrumb-like consistency. According to most Rabbis maṣa crumbs do not become ḥames anymore, even when mixed with water.  The products made with Matzo-meal (the typical Ashkenazi food is Matzah-ball or kneydlekh) do not belong to the category of maṣa 'ashira and, provided they are duly supervised, they are permitted for Sephardim and most Ashkenazim.  Hasidic Jews follow a more stringent rule and do not use Matzo-Meal in Pesaḥ.