Selling Egg Matza to Ashkenazic Jews by Rabbi Chaim Jachter


This week we shall discuss the propriety of selling egg Matza to Ashkenazic Jews who avoid egg Matza on Pesach (except in case of great need).  We will discuss the debate between the Rishonim concerning the permissibility of eating egg Matza during Pesach.  We will also deal with an aspect of the prohibition to cause someone to sin (Lifnei Iver Lo Titein Michshol, or Lifnei Iver, see Vayikra 19:14).  Our discussion is based on Rav Ovadia Yosef’s responsum on this question (Teshuvot Yechaveh Daat 1:10).

The Egg Matza Debate – Rashi and Raavad vs. Tosafot and Rambam

The core of the egg Matza debate is the question of how to resolve an apparent contradiction between two passages in the Gemara.  On one hand, the Gemara (Pesachim 35b) states that flour that is kneaded with fruit juice cannot become Chametz.  On the other hand, the Gemara (Pesachim 36a) states, “On Pesach one should not knead dough with wine, oil, or honey.”  Rashi (ad.loc. s.v. Ein Lashin) explains, “Because it becomes Chametz quickly” and is difficult to insure that it has not become Chametz.  The problem is that the Gemara on Pesachim 36a express concern that dough mixed with fruit juice will become Chametz, yet the Gemara on Pesachim 35b state that dough kneaded with fruit juice cannot become Chametz.

The Rishonim resolve this apparent contradiction in two ways.  Rashi (ibid.) explains the Gemara on Pesachim 35b to mean that dough kneaded with fruit juice cannot become “Chametz Gamur” (full-fledged Chametz).  However, dough kneaded with fruit juice does, in Rashi’s opinion, become “Chametz Nuksheh” (partial Chametz).  Rashi explains that one is not punished with Karet for eating Chametz Nuksheh, but one is nevertheless forbidden to eat Chametz Nuksheh on Pesach.

Rabbeinu Tam (cited in Tosafot Pesachim 35b s.v. Umei Peirot) disagrees with Rashi.  Rabbeinu Tam interprets Pesachim 35b as teaching that fruit juice cannot become Chametz at any level when mixed with dough.  He explains that Pesachim 36a speaks of fruit juice mixed with water that one kneads with dough.  The mixture of water with fruit juice greatly accelerates the process of “Chimutz,” leavening.  It is therefore difficult to insure that it will not become Chametz and must be avoided on Pesach. 

The Rambam (Hilchot Chametz Umatza 5:2) adopts the same approach as Rabbeinu Tam.  He rules that pure fruit juice mixed with dough cannot become Chametz, “even if one lets the mixture rise the entire day until the dough becomes swollen it is permissible to eat, because fruit juice does not ferment; rather it merely decays” (Masrichin).  The Rambam adds that this applies only if no water has been added to the fruit juice.  For an explanation of the chemical difference between Chimutz and Sirachon see Dr. B.P. Munk’s essay printed in Techumin 1:97-99. 

The Raavad (ad. loc.), though, cautions that there are some who disagree with the Rambam and assert that fruit juice mixed with dough becomes Chametz Nuksheh.  The Magid Mishna (ad. loc.) responds that the majority of the Geonim and Rishonim agree with the approach of the Rambam and reject Rashi’s view.  The Magid Mishna asserts that the Rambam and Rabbeinu Tam are correct and records that common practice accords with their lenient ruling.  Rav Ovadia lists the Rishonim who side with Rabbeinu Tam and the Rambam, including the Rosh, Ramban, Rashba, Ran, Meiri, Raavya, Ri, Rabbeinu Simcha, Ohr Zarua, and Rokeach.  

Shulchan Aruch – Rav Yosef Karo vs. Rama

Rav Yosef Karo (Shulchan Aruch 462:1-4) rules in accordance with the lenient ruling of the Rambam and Rabbeinu Tam.  The Rama presents a compromise approach to this issue.  On one hand, he writes that Ashkenazim refrain from eating Matza that was kneaded with fruit juice unless they are elderly or sick.  The Vilna Gaon (Biur Hagra 462:4 s.v. Ubemidinot) explains that Lechatchila (ab initio) Ashkenazim seek to accommodate Rashi’s stringent view.  They are also concerned that water might have unknowingly been added to the fruit juice.  The Aruch Hashulchan (O.C.462:5) condemns those Ashkenazim who fail to abide by the stringent custom.  Sephardim (as noted by two great Sephardic authorities - the Pri Chadash O.C.462 and the Chida, Birkei Yosef 462:7), however, follow Rav Yosef Karo’s codification of the majority view of the Rishonim.

Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yechaveh Daat 1:10) notes that Ashkenazim are permitted to give Matza that was kneaded with fruit juice to children.  The Rama does not specifically mention children but elsewhere (O.C. 276:1 and 328:17) he writes that children are considered to have the status of a sick individual.  Twentieth century authorities dispute until what age a child has this status (see Nishmat Avraham 1:197).  Opinions range from age three to age nine.  Dr. Abraham S. Abraham (ibid.) is probably correct in suggesting that it is more appropriate to assess the health and maturity of the individual child, rather than assign a specific age for all children.  A proof to this is the fact that the Rama does not mention a specific age.

Egg Matza

Rashi (cited in Tosafot Pesachim 35b s.v. Umei Peirot) is uncertain whether flour kneaded in eggs has the same status as flour kneaded in fruit juice.  On one hand, egg liquid appears similar to water and thus the appropriate comparison should be to flour kneaded in water.  On the other hand, Rashi notes that flour that is kneaded in eggs rises in a manner that is thicker than flour that is kneaded in water.  Thus, Rashi is concerned that the Gemara’s prohibition to knead flour with fruit juice because the resulting dough will rise too quickly to properly supervise that it not become Chametz applies also to eggs. 

Tosafot, however, record that Rabbeinu Tam disagrees with Rashi and permits eating egg Matza on Pesach.  Moreover, Rabbeinu Tam practiced in accordance with his lenient ruling and ate egg Matza on Pesach.  The Rambam (Hilchot Chametz Umatza 5:2) indicates his agreement with Rabbeinu Tam by excluding eggs from the list of items such as grape juice that ferment when mixed with water and flour.  Nevertheless, the Ashkenazic practice to follow the stringent opinion applies to egg Matza as well as fruit juice Matza (see Shulchan Aruch O.C. 462:4).

Lifnei Iver Considerations

Accordingly, the question arises whether one may sell egg or grape juice Matza to Ashkenazic Jews.  Rav Ovadia rules that it is forbidden for Sephardim to sell egg Matza to Ashkenazim even though Sephardim regard egg Matza as permissible.  A precedent for this approach is the Mishna (Yevamot 13b) that states that men and women from the families of Bait Hillel and Bait Shammai used to marry each other.  The Gemara explains that this occurred despite the fact that Bait Hillel and Bait Shammai had different standards regarding Mamzeirut.  They were not concerned that a prospective mate was a Mamzer because they informed each other if a prospective mate would considered a Mamzer according to the others’ standards. 

Accordingly, the Rama (Yoreh Deah 119:7) teaches that a host must inform his guest that a food item is forbidden to the guest by his standards, even though the host abides by the lenient standard.  Thus, Rav Ovadia (Teshuvot Yechaveh Daat 4:53) rules that one may not serve products whose Kashrut depends upon the Heteir Mechira if his guests do not subscribe to the Heteir Mechira.  Similarly, one should not serve milk that was not rabbinically supervised to someone who subscribes to the strict opinion regarding Chalav Yisrael. 

Rav Ovadia notes that one who does not obey these rulings violates the prohibition of Lifnei Iver Lo Titein Michshol (Vayikra 19:14).  Rashi (commentary to Vayikra 19:14) explains that the Pasuk prohibits offering someone bad advice.  Presenting someone with an item that is forbidden to him by his standards falls into the category of giving bad advice.  This is similar to the Minchat Chinuch’s (Mitzva 232) assertion that one violates a Torah prohibition of Lifnei Iver if he facilitates the violation of a rabbinical prohibition, by his bad advice.   

Hence, Kashrut organizations print on the boxes of egg Matza that Ashkenazim are forbidden to eat this product unless they are old or infirm.  Bakery owners must prominently display signs that indicate which products are forbidden to Ashkenazim.  However, what should one do if he sees an Ashkenazic Jew purchase egg Matza on Pesach?

Rav Ovadia rules that one may attribute (Toleh) the purchase of egg Matza to a permitted purpose such as feeding it to a sick or older individual.  The precedents to this ruling are as follows.  The Mishna (Shviit 5:8) teaches that one may sell an ox in the Shmittah year to a farmer who is lax in his observance of Shmittah.  The Mishna permits us to be Toleh that the farmer is purchasing the ox for a permitted purpose such as for slaughtering.  The Chatam Sofer (Teshuvot Y.D.19) takes a similar approach regarding his ruling that a non-Jew is forbidden to eat eggs because it is defined as eating a limb from a live animal according to the Halachic standards for Bnei Noach.  He defends the accepted practice of Jews selling eggs to non-Jews, because the Jews are Toleh that the non-Jews are purchasing the eggs for a purpose that is permitted to them.

I am aware that one Rav instructed his congregants to avoid serving eggs to their non-Jewish workers because of the Chatam Sofer’s ruling.  However, it appears that Poskim have not accepted the ruling of the Chatam Sofer regarding eggs (see Encyclopedia Talmudit 3:131-132 where this ruling of the Chatam Sofer is merely referenced in a footnote).  In fact, even the Chatam Sofer introduces this assertion by stating that it is a novel idea.  One should consult his rabbi for a decision whether he must abide by this ruling of the Chatam Sofer.


The strength and vitality of Klal Yisrael rests upon respecting and revering the diverse Halachic practices of the various segments of the Jewish community.  Each legitimate group has a rock-solid basis for its practices and we should respect and protect them.  A synergy of the diverse sections of Klal Yisrael can be created only when we value our differences.  Hence, we are forbidden to cause someone to sin according to his standards even though we regard the matter as permissible.  Nevertheless, we may give someone the benefit of the doubt when there is a plausible Halachic justification for what he is doing.

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