The People Of Papunyah
Rosh Chodesh Nisan 5762. As the sun begins its descent below
the horizon, a crowd gathers at Motza. A common goal unites
them; they all hope to draw spring water at bein
hashmoshos. When the hands of the watch testify that the
time is coming closer, things start to bustle as people
jockey for a position so that they can draw water at the
exact time. The anticipated moment arrives and dusk is
illuminated with the excitement of mitzvos.
Almost two thousand years earlier Rav Masnah addressed the
people of Papunyah, instructing them that their matzos should
be made with mayim shelonu (literally: water that
rested). Much to his surprise, Rav Masnah was approached the
next morning by a throng of people from Papunyah with the
request to fill up their jugs with his water. They had
mistakenly understood that Rav Masnah meant to say that only
"our water" (an alternative Hebrew translation for the words
mayim shelonu) was suitable for matzoh making.
Rav Masnah corrected their misunderstanding, and told them he
had meant "water that rested".
Chometz is the number one enemy of matzoh baking,
and countless precautions are taken to avoid it. The work
area is kept immaculately clean in order that there should
not be the remotest possibility that even a crumb of
chometz should somehow get into the batter.
However there is another more subtle way that chometz
can find its way into the dough. Heat speeds up the
fermentation process, and therefore it is forbidden to use
warm water when preparing the dough. Most water has some
degree of heat in it, and Chazal understood that this could
potentially cause chimutz. Mayim shelonu is a
precautionary measure that removes the heat from the water.
The Rema says that the ideal is to draw the water
hashmoshos, but since it is difficult to determine the
exact time he rules that one should draw spring water as
close to bein hashmoshos as possible.
The Shulchan Oruch agrees that the spring water heats
up at night and should not be drawn then. However he
understands that the heat dissipates at dawn, and therefore
permits one to draw water any time during the day. Why then
does the water need to rest? When collecting the water by day
a new problem arises. The air and the resistance of the water
moving against the utensil into which it is drawn add a
slight amount of heat to the water. In order to cool it off,
the water must rest twelve hours before baking matzos.
Ashkenazim try to follow the ruling of the Rema to draw water
close to bein hashmoshos. However it is not clear what
constitutes "close to" bein hashmoshos. Although the
Brisker Rav was known for his scrupulous fulfillment of
mitzvos, he once drew water from Motza early enough to return
to his home before bein hashmoshos. On the other hand,
the Chazon Ish and the Steipler would spill out mayim
shelonu drawn even a minute before bein hashmoshos.
In a case of need many poskim are lenient. They rule
that even Ashkenazim may rely on the Shulchan Oruch and
draw the water earlier in the day. The guidance of a
competent rov should be sought to decide particular cases.
Some rishonim suggest that the heat in the water
referred to by our sages is purely metaphysical: "All
creations are composed of the four principle elements: fire,
water, wind and earth. Water is made up of all four elements,
the majority being water. Similarly we find in the Sefer
Yetzirah (1,10) that water contains fire. Therefore in
order to remove the fire from the water, mayim shelonu
is required to be used in Matzoh production all of
Other rishonim explain that it is not the heat of the
water that causes chimutz but rather its coldness:
"Water is cold by nature and this cool energy arouses the
heat of the substance that it is combined with. . . . When
the waters have left their source in the spring they still
contain this energy and therefore can not be used to make
matzoh. However, once they have sat overnight outside of the
spring they lose this property."
The Shulchan Aruch and Rema both require one to bake matzos
with mayim shelonu. Since laxity in this mitzvah could
involve a possibility of eating chometz on Pesach, the
utmost care should be taken to buy matzos with a reliable
hechsher to ensure that these halachos are
followed according to all of their intricacies. The
importance of this is compounded by the fact that in every
country the climate and weather conditions may call for
slight variation in halachic rulings. In every situation,
gedolim have been called upon to determine the exact
Matzoh In Argentina
HaRav Tzvi Pesach Frank was asked about baking matzos in
Argentina. Since it is in the Southern Hemisphere, Nisan is
in the summer months, and after resting the water is warmer
than beforehand. Rav Tzvi Pesach said they have the following
Bake matzos in Tammuz or Av when it is winter in Argentina.
Store the water and prepare the dough in an air-conditioned
Add ice to the water right before baking.
If the water is tepid, it may only be used in a case of great
need. Otherwise it is forbidden to use the water for matzoh
It is clear from the third option of cooling the water with
air conditioning or ice cubes, that Rav Frank understood that
our Sages were referring to a physical heat.
Rav Yaakov Emden writes that in northern countries since the
climate is cold, there is no need to rest the water before
baking matzoh since the water is already very cold.
Dayan Weiss was once asked about making matzos in
Switzerland. The water there is so cold (approximately twelve
degrees Celsius) that it will not mix with flour and cannot
be made into dough. May one heat up the water slightly (to
approximately fifteen degrees Celsius)? Dayan Weiss replied
that he could not permit this.
The proof to the above ruling is based on an incident that
took place in Italy. Water was drawn and left to rest in a
place which shared a wall with a room where matzoh was being
baked. This room was warm because of the heat of the oven.
However, after the water had rested it was tested with a
finger and found to be cold. The Chasam Sofer disqualified
this water for matzoh baking.
His reasoning was as follows: Since our Sages required the
water to cool off but never mentioned this method of
determining if the water is still warm, it must be that they
were referring to a subtle type of heat/energy that cannot be
measured with one's finger. Furthermore it is forbidden to
use water that originated from melted snow. Even though this
water feels quite cold, the gemora says that it heated
up while it was melting. He concludes that any addition of
heat/energy to the water renders it unfit for making matzos.
From the ruling of the Chasam Sofer and Dayan Weiss it is
clear that they understood that our Sages were not referring
to a noticeable physical heat, and therefore it can not be
tested with one's finger.