Oat Matzah

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Oats as One of the Five Grains and as a Source for Matzah on Pesach

Guest post by R. Michael J. Broyde

Rabbi Michael Broyde is a law professor at Emory University, was the founding rabbi of the Young Israel in Atlanta and is a dayan in the Beth Din of America

My view is that whether oats is one of the five grains remains a dispute between the rishonim and for matters of Torah law (and certainly for the mitzvah of matzah), one ought to be strict for both views. A survey of the rishonim and the Talmud sources makes my reasons clear.

The earliest source I am aware of to discuss this topic is the Aruch s.v. שבל which quotes two views, the second of which is that שבולת שועל is oats and the first is that it is a sub-species of barley named segala. It is true that a number of rishonim adopt the second view in the Aruch, translating שבולת שועל as avina, the Latin word for oats. In that group are Rabbenu Gershom (Menachot 70b) and Rashi (Pesachim 35a and Menachot 70b) as well as many others. On the other hand, there are a large number of rishonim who do not, and who make it clear that they think that שבולת שועל is a sub-species of barley called in Latin segala, a sub-species of barley. This group of rishonim has been given considerable support by the reappearance of the Rambam’s commentary on the Mishnah Kilaim 1:1 with the Arabic correctly translated (by Rabbi Kafach) where Rambam is clear that he is of the view that שבולת שועל is not oats at all. Other rishonim in that group include Leket Yosher (OC 1:74) and Rabbenu Natan Av Hayeshiva in his commentary on the Mishnah.

Furthermore, the translation of the term שבולת שועל to oats is difficult for many technical reasons that related to the scientific description of שבולת שועל found in the Gemara. The Gemara (Pesachim 35a and Mishnah, Kilaim 1:1) states directly that whatever exactly שבולת שועל is, it is a sub-species of barley, and this is cited by many rishonim. Oats is clearly not a part of the barley family – it is a distinct species of grain, unlike segala, which is a form of barley. Segala and barley cross breed, and oats and barley do not.

Furthermore, the Mishnah in Kilaim 1:1 indicates that שבולת שועל and שיפון and barley can all cross-breed, which is simply false for oats (but true for segala). This ability to crossbreed is explicitly codified in Shulchan Aruch YD 297:14 and thus the classification of oats as שבולת שועל is inconsistent with the text of the Shulchan Aruch.

Indeed, if one simply looks at the plants and the grain themselves, it is clear that oats do not even look like barley, unlike segala (which does). The four pictures (taken from the Encyclopedia Talmudit s.v. dagan unnumbered picture pages between pages 228 and 229) provide the following four drawings (from right to left, Wheat, Barley, Oats and Segala) show that oats bear much less physical resemblance to barley that segala).
Furthermore, the Jerusalem Talmud in Challah 1:1 notes that שבולת שועל grows in a row, which is consistent with the definition of segala (also known as two-rowed barley) and not for oats.

One can say with some confidence that oats simply do not fit the botanical description found for שבולת שועל in the Mishnah, Talmud, Shulchan Aruch or later codes. This fact casts significant doubt on the correctness of the definition of many rishonim who translate שבולת שועל into Latin and call it avena or oats and this further inclines me to think that Rambam is correct and that שבולת שועל has to be a sub-species of barley. (No less a contemporary authority that Rav Sternbach in Teshuvot Vehanhagot 1:302 notes that our “oats” (which he calls “Quakers”) are not שבולת שועל, a view seconded by Yad Chanoch, 22.)

Indeed, once one realizes that שבולת שועל might not be oats but a sub-species of barley, many other rules make sense, such as the listing of mixable grains found in Yoreh Deah 324:2, which only actually make sense if שבולת שועל is a type of barley and not if it is oats.

It is of course true that the tradition found in the achronim to identify oats as the fifth grain (see Chayei Adam 1:50:3, Mishnah Berurah, Sha’ar Hatziyun 453:20 and Aruch Hashulchan 453:3) is the common one of the last centuries (and perhaps reflects the distance Jews have socially experienced from many agrarian matters for centuries). One could make a claim that for most rabbinic matters (brachot and the like) it is reasonable to follow that historical understanding of the halacha, as these are very much matters of mesorah (since me’ikar hadin, at least bedieved, one can make a mezonot on any food, say hamotzi on any grain-based bread, and perhaps even recite birkat hamazon on any grain-based bread; see Iggerot Moshe OC 4:40(1), Nishmat Avraham 1:58:2 and Yabia Omer OC 7:35. Certainly, one can bedieved recite a hamotzi and birkat hamazon on anything called bread; see Betzel Hachochmah 5:124. This would certainly be encompassed (at the least) by the rule of safek brachot lehakel given the number of rishonim and achronim who call oats one of the five grains.)

Furthermore, of course, one should never consider fermented oats not-chametz since that would be directly against Rashi and those many rishonim who agree with him, and the many achronim who note our mesorah to treat oats as one of the five grains – to be lenient about the issur of chametz on Pesach is simply a mistake.

But when it comes to the eating of oat matzah, there are three grounds to be strict, and the historical practice is to be strict, and not to use oat matzah for the mitzvah at the Seder.

First, and foremost, oats does not fit the botanical description of שבולת שועל found in the poskim. Whatever the power of a mesorah, it is at its absolute weakest when it flatly contradicts a codified halacha, as it does in this case, where the Shulchan Aruch codifies that שבולת שועל must cross-breed with barley. I realize that Rashi and other rishonim do explicitly call שבולת שועל avena or oats, but that description contradicts the botanical statements in the Gemara about שבולת שועל and when confronted with a tension between a rishon and a Talmudic text, it is the rishon’s view that is considered difficult. No one has yet harmonized the Mishna and the Gemara with the view that avena is שבולת שועל on a technical level.

Second, there always was a very strong tradition not to use oat matzah at the Seder (as noted by Shevet Halevi 9:117 and Minchat Yitzchak 9:49). While there were many reasons for this tradition, this is also an ancient mesorah.

Third, there is a unique and special bracha recited (al achilat matzah) which according to all the rishonim who disagree with the categorization of oats as שבולת שועל is simply a blessing in vain (bracha levatala) and thus a sin. Even those who defend the definition of שבולת שועל as oats (as Rav Efrati does very well in “What is Shibolet Shual,” Mesorah 13:66-71) only do so as a stricture (lechumra) and not as a leniency (lekula) – to argue that people should never stop considering oats as chametz. Using oats as the matzah for the Seder is beyond that, but represents the use of oats as one of the five grains lekula, which is factually highly problematic.)

So, what should a celiac do who simply cannot eat wheat?

First, such a person might very well be exempt from the mitzvah.

Second, there might well be a better solution. Shulchan Aruch 453:2 states that one can make matzah from a mixture of wheat and rice flour and so long as the mixture has the taste of wheat flour, one fulfils the mitzvah, because rice flour is so bland that it merely serves as filler. Both Mishnah Berurah and Aruch Hashulchan permit this in a time of need even if the amount of wheat flour is less than the minimum measure of a kezayiit (as do the vast majority of rishonim). In consultation with food experts and after a number of sample bakings, it is clear that a mixture which is 90% rice and 10% wheat flour has the wheat taste and one can fulfill the mitzvah of matzah with such matzot, and almost all celiac individuals can, in fact, digest without harm less than 10 grams of wheat (for three matzahs) or less than 3 grams (for one matzah).) Indeed, it would be a halachic improvement if someone could make and sell such matzah’s for celiacs.

Even though these matzot perhaps entail being lenient on the custom of kitniyot, it would seem to me that this is a much better halachic solution to the issue of matzah at the seder for one who suffers from celiac than to rely on the use of oat matzah, which presupposes that oats are one of the five grains, against many rishonim, and in tension with the Talmud’s and Shulchan Aruch’s own scientific description of שבולת שועל as one of the five grains, which is as a sub-species of barley.)

Of course, a person who is completely intolerant of any wheat should use oat matzah without the unique bracha, as certainly it is a plausible fulfillment of a mitzvah and without a bracha is better than nothing. But the mixture of wheat and rice is superior to that in that the Talmud endorses this solution explicitly, as do the vast majority of rishonim, the Shulchan Aruch itself, as well as most achronim. (One who wants to be strict for those rishonim (Raavad and Rashba) who rule that one cannot fulfill the mitzvah of matzah on Pesach without at least the matzah being 51% wheat on (See Shar Hatziyun 553(14) and Aruch Hashulchan 553:9 who think it is best to be strict for such a view) can either add more wheat flour to the mixture if that is medically permitted, or in addition to the rice-wheat flour, eat oat flour as well, hoping to add a deeper list of rishonim to those who would accept such a compromise and allow for a bracha.)

About Michael Broyde


  1. This is a horrible article, Broyde regurgitates a issue that was first brought up by Professor Yehuda Felix
    and has the chutzpah not to quote him (and if he didn’t see what he wrote then he doesn’t know how to do research). He also misses the main issue brought up. The Talmud says that grains that can become חמץ are used for matzah. Oats don’t have gluten (which is what celiacs are allergic to) and they can never become חמץ. Oats are similar to the way the Talmud describes rice, they both don’t have gluten and only can only “מסריח”. Felix’s student has recently written a monograph about the 5 grains, he also has a audio shiur about it available online at http://www.mgl.org.il/he/torah/view.asp?id=1004 . Felix also claimed that historically oats didn’t exist in the region during the Biblical period; though this was disputed by Professor Mordichai Kislev.
    Broyde also makes another mistake, he understand כלאים of the Torah to mean crossbreeding (cross pollination). This is clearly wrong to anyone who has ever read מסכת כלאים. The talmudic understanding is that plants are forbidden to leech from one another. Then there is the issue of Broyde’s halachik methodology (contrast his view about women hair covering!!). He starts off saying since it is a macholket rishonim we should be stringent since it is a matter that concerns a biblical mitzvot. But doesn’t he realize that 3 out of the 5 grains are subject to controversy in rishonim (see Zohar Amar’s chart here http://www.mgl.org.il/audio/1004.pdf ). Should we be stringent in all 3 cases? Is he the first one that realized that this is a macholkes rishonim? Surely there have been many tamidei chachamim through out jewish history that new this; did any of them suggest that we be stringent both ways? There is a concept of arbitrament, a law professor surely knows that! One more issue, there is a anachronism! Yad Hanoch lived long before Rav Moshe Shternbauch, so he couldn’t have seconded him!

  2. R’ Broyde only touches on what may be the best solution: Admitting that a k’zayit is nowhere nearly as big as we’re told these days. Eat an olive-sized piece of matza- just one flat piece- and you’re OK.

    Of course, lack of knowledge of what the size of an olive is is related to thinking oats are one of the grains. I’d like to see a Sephardi/Ashkenazi breakdown here. (I think spelt is also a problem.)

    By the way, why are allergies so much more prevalent nowadays?

  3. In reference to the above anonymous: where do these people come from?


    “Furthermore, of course, one should never consider fermented oats not-chametz since that would be directly against Rashi and those many rishonim who agree with him, and the many achronim who note our mesorah to treat oats as one of the five grains – to be lenient about the issur of chametz on Pesach is simply a mistake.”

    See, we’re back to the “two types of Modern Orthodoxy” thing. And I simply can’t understand the above paragraph. If it is abundantly clear that oats are NOT one of the five grains, why would we not be lenient on the issur? The response of course is, “because we’ve been acting like it is one of the five grains for some 1,000 or so years (on the basis of a mistake)”. And the response to that is, “so what?” and the response to that is, “1,000 years of practice is sufficient to sanctify said practice by us” and the response is “well what makes you say that?” and, what seems to me the bottom-line response is, “we’ve been acting like that’s the case for the past 1,000 years as well”. This whole idea of “the Jews sanctifying practices by practicing them (enough)” seems quite circular to me, and especially in this case, completely pointless.

  4. Nachum, you raise a good point, and I planed on addressing it in my post above but I got too caught up and forgot. I think you misunderstood what he meant about the size one must eat. He says you only need 3gm per matzah, but he calculates this based on the traditional 30gm kzayit which if you made like he suggested contained only 10% wheat, which is 3gm. The historical kzayit was between 3-5gm. Picking 3 would seem like too much of a kullah to me. From what Ritva writes we can deduce that he thought a olive is 1/9 of a egg. Eggs in Pompeii were 45gm, even today the average egg is 50gm. I would say your safe with 5gm.
    Reverting back to the real size of the kzayit is best solution. Broyde should have taken this path since there have been many recent authorities which have endorsed it. Desputing the identification of Shibboleth Shual is to my knowledge is endorsed only by Rabbi Abady, although R’ S Z Auerbach was once choshesh for it until R’ Elyashiv rebuked him about it.

  5. “In reference to the above anonymous: where do these people come from?”

    They are famous to anyone that that tries to understand Torah from a scientific and historical perspective. Felix wrote among other things a sefer which is used in the chareidi world, called הצומח והיו המשנה
    and הצומח והחי המקרא. Amar and Kislev are the current propogaters of this method both based out of Bar Ilan university. Amar has even set up his own branch of study with a graduates program with over 400 enrollees thus far.

  6. sorry the above post should read במקרא and במעשה. I have trouble writing with the touch keyboard on my Android or it might have been the auto correct.

  7. sorry auto correct messed up again should read במשנה

  8. Actually, R’ Seth Mandel once gave a speech about this at an OU conference. He waved around sheaves of oats, wheat, and barley to show that oats are, clearly, not the same as the other two. I remember a few other points:

    1. Oats didn’t grow in the Middle East.

    2. People didn’t eat oats until recently- as Dr. Johnson points out, it’s a food for Scotsmen and horses. Oats were first pushed by Protestant whackos in the 1800’s (people like Kellogg, Post, Graham- names we should all recognize from food items) who thought they cured all sorts of spiritual and physical ailments. The funny thing is, they weren’t half wrong.

    3. Professor Feliks pretty much settled this, but since he was Dati Leumi, his opinion counted for nothing in the “velt.” (R’ Mandel is an ish emet. If he says it…) R’ Mandel referenced the “controversial” passage at the beginning of the Kehati Masechet Challa in which R’ Kehati cites P’ Feliks as stating that spelt, too, can’t be one of the five grains.

    Note, by the way, that spelt, being a species of wheat (like common bread wheat, which is also probably not one of the five species) would still be included l’chumra (e.g., for chametz or benching) without a doubt, and possibly even l’kula (e.g., for matza). (Rye, by the way, is also questionable on this list, but is similar enough in appearance that it would probably make the chametz list at least.) Oats doesn’t have that going for it. Still, I doubt R’ Mandel would eat it on Pesach, if only for kitniyot issues if not for more- in a general bread category, etc.

    The main point is this: Gluten is what makes bread rise. Only bread that rises- i.e., with gluten- can be chametz, and thus matzah. So really, someone who’s got gluten issues is in a bind that can’t be solved with non-gluten products.

  9. My error- from reviewing various sources, it seems P’ Feliks *does* count spelt. I think R’ Kehati cites someone else. It’s all very confusing.

  10. “Oats don’t have gluten (which is what celiacs are allergic to) and they can never become חמ”

    This is complicated. Most oats are contaminated with gluten from wheat and batley. While we can buy any in the supermarket for our gluten sensitive daughter in the supermarket, gluten free oats are a speciality item that is hard to come by. Furthermore, from what I understand, a significant percentage of individuals who dont tolerate gluten, dont tolerate gluten free oats either. It seems that oats do contain a protein that is quite similar to gluten. As such oats relationship to wheat and barley is complex and it makes sense that there should be a halachic dispute about it.

  11. R. Broyde’s article would be so much more effective if his halakhic methodology were clearer.

    For instance, he writes, “Whatever the power of a mesorah, it is at its absolute weakest when it flatly contradicts a codified halacha.” Why does “absolute weakest” not translate to “of no weight”? How can a mesorah have any viability when it has been so comprehensively disproved?

    Also, if our knowledge of oats’ botanical properties rules it out as being shibolet shual based on the Mishna’s and Gemara’s own criteria, do we still need “to be choshesh” for the opinion of some Rishonim? R. Broyde should give his justification for thinking that we should. This is similar to a point raised by R. Slifkin – are we bound to follow the view of Rishonim who identified the shafan with the hare, rather than the hyrax, when they had never seen a hyrax? The Baal Tosfos in Kiddushin, who had never seen an elephant, assumed that elephants could jump. Is Tosfos’ explanation still a viable one, now that we know that elephants can’t jump? The common sense answer is no. If R. Broyde thinks otherwise, he should state his justification for that position.

    Anonymous – you make good points, but please show some kavod to R. Broyde. Apart from being halakhic obligatory, it would make your argument more effective.

  12. How can a mesorah have any viability when it has been so comprehensively disproved?


  13. I agree with the criticism of R’Broyde’s halachic methodology even though am uncomfortable with anonymous criricism in halachic discourse. I would like to see dvarim bshem omro(are you afraid of telling us who you are?).From the sugiya in Challa Yerushalmi hal-1 even though shibbolet shual is very different from the other grains (gerirat issa velo gilgul issa the mefarshim(according to Schottenstein identify it as oats.
    Another choice for celiacs is matzah made from rye-shipon or spelt-kusmin.

  14. The assertion that Rashi would not have known what oats and barley look like strikes me as projecting modern life back to his time.

    In Rashi’s day farming was not something that happened out in Iowa or some other distant locale. Even a relatively urban area like Troyes would have been more like a (not too big) town in a modern farming area than New York. While I can’t find population statistics from Rashi’s time the city was only a couple of square miles then, and probably held well under 10,000 people. He would have been familiar with grain fields and would have seen unground grain being sold in the market place. This is the flip side of the olive discussion. Just as it is likely that rabbonim in northern Europe never saw olives, which don’t grow there, because food was generally not shipped long distances, so too at least the Early Rishonim would have seen food growing, because it was always local.

    Rashi might have been mistaken in his identification of oats as shibbolet shu’al, but it would not have been because he had never seen them.

  15. I can’t speak for R. Broyde but it could be that his argument is that as convincing as this argument may be, it is not a conclusive proof and therefore cannot be taken too far.

  16. Here, and in the posting on facebook, you had guest postings that we not recognizable as such on the home page. As it happens, they both wrote in the first person in the first few lines, highlighting this problem. Please include the byline on these posts on the blurb on the home page.

  17. Mike: But would Rashi have known that oats didn’t exist in Israel?

  18. MDJ: You are correct that I should do it. I used to do it consistently but it requires extra effort.

    Would that make you more or less likely to click through? The identity of the author is made quite clear on the full post.

  19. Rabbi Broyde’s basic point seems correct to me. There are dozens — literally — of rishonim and achronim who identify oats as the fifth grain. Being makil against them as one of the posters proposes and eating oats on Pesach seems very much outside the halachic methodology, which is exactly Rabbi Broyde’s point. On the other hand, we have no tradition to use oat matazoh on pesach, and it seems reasonable that oats are not one of the five grains, so we ought to abstain from it.

    I think Rabbi Broyde has it right. There is no need to be makil against the mesorah and eat oats on pesach — but there is no license to extend the mesorah beyond its current limits given the fact that oats seem not to be one of the five grains according to so many rishonim. I think the post that criticized Rabbi Broyde about Kelaim is over reading. Rabbi Broyde’s point is that the issur of kelaim is limited to different species and shebolet shual is not supposed to be a different species from barley.

  20. I don’t know that it would change my likelihood of clicking through. But it will prevent misunderstandings. I spent a few moments on each post trying to figure out if I knew who your brother the educator was and how the opening sentence of this post fit with RHS’s position on oats. I found it vaguely irritating each time to see that I was misguided in both cases. Nothing serious, mind you, but enough to prompt a comment/request.

  21. Nachum: I would imagine Rashi did not know that oats were not grown in Israel. But I am quite confident he would have seen both oats and barley as they are grown. And, by the way, while oats were mainly animal fodder in the US until the late 1800’s, they were an important part of the diet, especially for the poor, in medieval Europe.

  22. Ye’yasher kochakhem to R. Broyde as well as his interlocutors. See also R. Moshe Sternbuch’s recently published Teshuvot Vehanhagot V, no. 130. R. Sternbuch claims that oats are indeed shibolet shu’al and that matzah synthesized from oats is kosher for the mitzvah of akhilat matzah. However, he continues, because we do not have a culinary mesorah how to produce oat matzot, the minimum volume possible to feed those who require oat matzot should be produced, so as to avoid the danger of accidental fermentation during the baking process.

  23. The dilemma of how to deal with cases where the ‘metzius’ does not accord with the ‘mesora’ is most fiendish when the latter is not unequivocal. Shiurim are a perfect example – the shiurim introduced by the Tzlach were actually a product of a somewhat primitive attempt to make empirical reality jive with halachic texts – what is interesting is that this attempt, which in and of itself was a rebellion of sorts against the mesora, has been ‘canonised’ by the Chazon Ish due to the fact that it became part of the ‘mesora’ once so many gedolim accepted it. The question is what to do when the metzius is probably not in accord with any of the popular opinions on the subject (ie reviis, tefach etc) as Rav Hadar Margolin demonstrates here:
    The question is, now what do we do? If I think Rav Margolin is right that even R. Chaim Naeh’s shiur amah is too large can I use an eruv that relies on that shiur le’kula (eg for pirtzas eser)? Or a sukka for dofen akuma? How does the halachic consensus of poskim affect this? I am inclined to say that we should accept what the poskim say, and metzius be damned, but then we get onto the quesiton of which poskim, and of whether this means halacha just gets ‘stuck’ in mistaken and outdated conceptions of reality. Are we duty bound to follow the halachic opinions which are closest to the metzius? Are there some areas of halacha where the meztius is more important than others? Does it matter if it is an issue of pikuach nefesh? Do we need to wait until a recognized posek says nishtana hateva (8 month baby etc)?

  24. The problem with poskim who say nishtanu ha teva’im is that we really do not know what the teva was in the time of the Talmud. Could it be that an egg or olive’s bulk was much larger than those we know today? Maybe, but we just don’t know. We don’t even know for sure whether shiurim were determined by weight or bulk. In this case where it is a matter of mitzvah deoreita like matzah I think that we must heed those who pasken lechumra.
    This is of course a different question than what is the correct definition of the five grains. I think that long established mesorah of identifying shibbolet shual as oats cant be ignored. In this case oat matzah is not a “kula”. It is like the questions regarding kitniyot. Rav Aviner wrote a learned teshuva proving that peanuts should not be considered kitniyot. Then in the last paragraph he wrote that since the mesorah for hundreds of years is that peanuts are kitniyot we must continue to forbid eating peanuts on Pesach.

  25. “This is complicated. Most oats are contaminated with gluten from wheat and batley. ”

    I knew that when I posted, but like you say it is contaminated, it does not naturaly contain gluten. Amar emphatically said “the ashknazim are right about kitniyot” when discussing the findings of lab tests. It is do to the mills and silos that are used for both grains. Pesach made oats wouldn’t contain gluten. Regarding חימוץ see the article in תחומין that discusses from empirical testing what it’s criteria is.

    David, it would not be wise for a bochur in BMG to post his real name on the internet, especially with my style of writing.

  26. So come up with a pseudonym – it’s not that hard, and it makes it easier to follow the discussion.

  27. Anonymous – or change your style of posting. Are compelled to post in that manner?

  28. Some may enjoy this intro version of the debate on the plant names: http://www.balashon.com/2010/02/shibolet-shual-and-shifon.html

  29. Dear Anonymous-

    Basic derech eretz would call for “Rabbi” or at least “R.” to appear before hte word “Broyde” in your comment. At the absolute very least — at least the first time the word “Broyde” appears.

    In any event, the content (though not tone or style) is legitimate, so I wont delete the email.

    Ari Enkin

  30. since the mesorah for hundreds of years is that peanuts are kitniyot

    I think many of our parents/grandparents can remember eating peanuts on Pesach.

  31. Oops… At the time I posted my comment earlier at 10:40 a.m., I failed to notice that there is an apparent contradiction in R. Moshe Sternbuch’s rulings regarding oats. As cited by R. Broyde (and reiterated by R’ Anonymous), Teshuvot Vehanhagot I, no. 302 (final paragraph) rejects oats as shibolet shu’al. Here it is in the original:

    Yet, the newly published Teshuvot Vehanhagot V, no. 130 embraces oats as shibolet shu’al. Here is my English translation of the latter responsum:

    “I have received his letter regarding patients who are prohibited to eat wheat bread, because they are allergic to gluten, and if they eat it they experience discomfort for several weeks, and he brings a discovery that one can make flour from shibolet shu’al (“oats” in English), and with this there is almost no gluten, and they want to bake matzot like this for Pesach also to discharge the obligation of the first night, and he is asking that now that such matzot exist with kosher supervision, how to behave in this manner.

    “The truth is that shibolet shu’al is a sub-species of barley and is quick to leaven (and therefore it is prohibited by law to soak in water, see Mishnah Berurah siman 453, se’if katan 26), and we do not have a practical tradition how to bake matzot from barley in a manner that will not leaven, and also shibolet shu’al is exceedingly tart in taste and it is impossible to eat it unless we heat it in fire. And when it is heated it perspires greatly, and the perspiration is like fruit juice, and one cannot afterward knead the dough in water, because it will rapidly leaven (as per Shulchan Arukh [OC] siman 462 se’if 2), and furthermore there is fear that because of the fruit juice itself the dough might leaven. And even though they [the Sages] said that fruit juice do not cause leavening, but here where it is heated with an intense heat, and it perspires unusually, in this we have no tradition that the fruit juice fails to cause leavening, for on account of its potency and abundancy one should say that it causes leavening in its water more quickly than with water alone.

    “However, for the volume that is needed for the obligation of matzah, which is a kezayit and the like, since it is impossible in any other manner, he [the patient] can eat from shibolet shu’al (for also one can rely on the fact that if he kneads with water after the fruit juice has dried, it does not leaven, as explained in the Bi’ur Halakhah siman 462, s.v. ein., that in a time of duress one can rely to be lenient to knead in water after the fruit juice have dried). Only he must be exceedingly careful to bake by hand exclusively [i.e. not by machine —S. Spira] and small pieces exclusively, and he should bake it instantly (as elucidated in Shulchan Arukh that if one kneads fruit juice and water he must bake it instantly), but for the days of Pesach [other than the night of the Seder —S. Spira] it is proper only to bake in fruit juice without any water so that it will not leaven. And [when baking with fruit juice alone —S. Spira] according to the letter of the law it is permissible to knead normally and even in a machine, however the Mishnah Berurah (siman 462, se’if katan 19) is stringent that even if he bakes only with fruit juice he must bake it instantly, because one should be stringent like the opinion of Rashi that fruit juice alone causes leavening, and particularly here one should be concerned because it[the oats] produces more perspiration than normal, in this case we have no tradition from Chazal that it does not leaven, as we explained earlier. And even though we [Ashkenazim] are stringent not to knead in fruit juice, this is a mere stringency for the healthy and not for the ill, and one should write on the box of these matzot that they are only intended only for patients who cannot eat regular matzot.

    “However it has been publicized that multiple rabbis permit patients to eat matzah from shibolet shu’al that has been kneaded with water [even after the Seder —S. Spira] and they have not distinguished [between the Seder and after the Seder —S. Spira] as I have. And I say that this is a novelty that has arisen only in our days, such that for the volume of matzah that is required for the mitzvah [at the Seder] I concur to permit, but to permit the wholesale abundance of matzot [for after the Seder] I do not permit in my humble opinion except when it has been kneaded with fruit juice, as I explained.

    “And the truth is that it seems to me that previously in Israel [i.e. in previous eras] no one was concerned to be harmed [by eating wheat matzah] with just a kezayit. And perhaps they assumed that it was remote, and that “one who keeps a mitzvah will know no harm” [Ecclesiastes 8:5].

    “And that which in recent times the scientists question whether Chazal intended our shibolet shu’al, one who investigates will find that there is no foundation to their words, and all their intention is to question that which accepted in Israel from generation to generation.”

    [End of responsum]

    In conclusion, we see an amazing contrast between Teshuvot Vehanhagot 1:302 and 5:130.

  32. Besides the problematic points of Rabbi Broyde’s that anonymous outlined earlier in the comments section, I find further difficulty with the solution of mixing rice and wheat. Yes there is a notion of gereira that orez combines with chita. However, who says our rice is orez. It is well known that Rashi and Tosafos Brachos 37a debate the identity of orez. According to Rashi it is millet. The halacha as codified by Magen Avraham is that the identity of orex remains in doubt. Hence the practice of the Alter Rebbe of Chabad and many Chasidim to recite shehakol on rice. Although Mishna Berura paskens that orez is rice, based on a test performed by the GRA to allign the grains with the amount of pichut listed in Bava Metzia, this remains a questionable assertion for a number of reasons including Rav Soloveitchik’s famous derasha about not reconsttuing mesora. (This latter comment calls into question the entire methodology employed by this essay)

  33. Anonymous-others have commented on your comments re R Broyde in a manner that seemed to lack proper Kavod HaTorah, even if you disagreed. Am I correct in implying that Techumin, which also has enjoyed the contributions from R ZN Goldberg and other Charedi oriented Talmidei Chachamim is also not exactly a favored publication in BMG?

  34. In consultation with food experts and after a number of sample bakings, it is clear that a mixture which is 90% rice and 10% wheat flour has the wheat taste

    but this does not meet the halachik definition of kezayis bichdei achilas pras, which to most shitos is a 1:6, not 1:9, ratio.

  35. Without getting into the issue about Oats, one thing that Rabbi Broyde wrote is problematic on a medical issue:

    “almost all celiac individuals can, in fact, digest without harm less than 10 grams of wheat”

    I am neither a physician nor a nutritionist. However, my father is afflicted with celiac disease and I know a fair about his requirements both from general conversation with him and from finding out how to prepare food he can eat. His physician instructed him to be careful even for traces (obviously much less than 10 grams) of gluten in his food. I didn’t speak to his physician directly, but my father (though now retired) is a long time medical professor and has chazaka not to change or exaggerate instructions his personal doctor gives him.

    see also (at bottom):


  36. In my view, the whole approach of the article is misplaced. First of all, lechatchilah, one should use wheat for matzah if one can, because that is considered the finest type of bread, preferable even to barley, which is indisputably one of the five grains. Other than those with some allergy or digestive issues (e.g. celiac disease), I don’t know anyone who uses anything other than wheat for matzas mitzvah. So anyone who is eating oat matzoh for matzas mitzvah is already in a shaas ha dechak situation.

    There is a sufficient body of Rishonim and Acharonim for at least Ashkenazim to rely upon in this situation. Especially since that has been the mainstream view for centuries. Just because there is a dispute among the Rishonim does not mean that we do not rely on our Masorah, even on deoraysas. For example, the Rambam holds that melacha she eino tsrichah le gufo is assur min ha Torah, but it is generally accepted not to hold that way.

    If we are not talking about matzas mitzvah (say someone is just hungry on Pesach), then at worst we are talking about being meikil on kitniyos, a minhag. But there is a view that you can make matzoh out of kitniyos. Combined with the fact that many consider oat matzoh to be actual matzoh, I don’t see the problem, you have two sefeikos to rely upon: maybe it’s really matzoh, and even if it is kitniyos maybe one can eat kitniyos that were made into matzoh.

    There were two talmidim in YU who once traveled to EY and met with R. Sholmo Zalman Auerbach. They related to him their “chumrah” to treat oats as safeik chameshes ha minim, safeik not. (They would only eat it during a meal, or if they made the berachos on two other foods, one mezonos and one ha’adomah.) RSZA was very unimpressed with this “chumrah.”

  37. “Could it be that an egg or olive’s bulk was much larger than those we know today? Maybe, but we just don’t know.”

    Yes, we do know. (We have samples from the era.) And the answer is “no.” Emphatically.

    “Then in the last paragraph he wrote that since the mesorah for hundreds of years is that peanuts are kitniyot we must continue to forbid eating peanuts on Pesach.”

    This is simply incorrect. The “mesorah” is no more than a few decades old.

  38. Oh, by the way, peanuts? New World, like potatoes.

  39. Moish the spacedout BT

    Peanuts were mattir’d by the Yerushalmi Rabbis during the famine of 1917. Some families still eat them on Pesach.

  40. “Am I correct in implying that Techumin, which also has enjoyed the contributions from R ZN Goldberg and other Charedi oriented Talmidei Chachamim is also not exactly a favored publication in BMG?”

    I am not sure how I implied that, but if you want to know I don’t mind telling you. The yeshiva does in fact have most of the set. But that was do to the old librarian who didn’t care about politics and bought controversial books. But he left a few years ago, so they have stopped ordering it. Now they only buy books deemed kosher by the new librarian, but there is still plenty of stuff that seepes through that isn’t kosher according to their standards. You won’t find Rav Kook’s seforim in BMG (except his teshuvohs) and even Rav Kapach’s translation of Rambam’s commentary on the mishna is missing from the it’s two big libraries (they have a copy in beis aaron somehow). Nor will you find R’ Saul Lieberman’s sefarim, and the list goes on. At least they have a hebrewbooks hard drive that has them (hebrewbooks itself has since taken them down but probably only due to copywrite). Does anyone feel my pain?!

  41. Perhaps one can say –paraphrasing a quip describing another Jewish movement–that academic research into the basis of various halachos and minhagim “has a vote, but not a veto”. I think R’ Broyde is admirably trying to walk this fine line. He doesn’t say the current minhag is flat-out wrong, but is simply noting that the preponderance of evidence is weighing against it and one should be machmir as a result.

    This vote vs. veto given to academia might characterize the split between Reb Gil and his more academia-leaning opponents identified in a previous post about Rav Emden vs. Mendelssohn. His opponents would say the reverse–academic research should have veto power and mesorah/minhag has a vote.

  42. >But that was do to the old librarian who didn’t care about politics and bought controversial books.

    What kind of crazy nut-jobs consider Techumin controversial??

    The more I hear about the yeshivish velt, the more I am convinced that it is simply unhinged.

    How in the world is BMG considered an institution of higher learning when it encourages such ignorance and intelectual obstructionism?

  43. R’ Chardal,
    Ye’yasher kochakha and thank you for your important questions. I note that the gemara in Gittin 67a calls Rabbi Tarfon “a pile of nuts” (gal shel egozim), and thus I think it is an honor for the members of a particular yeshiva to be called “nut-jobs”. I fully agree with you that there is no basis to object to Techumin as a journal. RJDB frequently cites it in his “Survey of Recent Periodical Halakhic Literature” in Tradition. Of course, one may well object to specific pesakim that have been published in Techumin on a case-by-case basis (-as is the case to any Torah journal for that matter). No one at BMG said it is prohibited to read Techumin. Rather, BMG has chosen – beshev ve’al ta’aseh – to refrain from purchasing future volumes of Techumin. I don’t see intellectual obstructionism in that; if any BMG talmid wants to read Techumin, I am sure R. Aryeh Malkiel Kotler will tell him, ‘next time you visit the Big Apple, stop by Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan, you’ll find a copy of Techumin there, enjoy.’ [-or the equivalent thereof in Yiddish…]

  44. >Of course, one may well object to specific pesakim that have been published in Techumin on a case-by-case basis

    Has there been a single volume of shu”t ever published where one would not disagree with pesakim therein on a case by case basis? Why is Techumin singled out?

    And it is obstructionism to deny access to an important Torah journal in an institution which is supposidly a place where the search for the Torah truth is the greatest value.

  45. ” it’s a food for Scotsmen and horses”

    My wife and I both have direct ancestors who lived in Scotland, so it is our family minhag to eat oats.

    I’ve often joked that it would be great if oats were NOT one of the five grains, because then we could eat oatmeal on Pesach because nobody has yet said that it is kitniyot.

  46. an old post…but how would oats become kitniyot, when for generations they were considered one of the 5 grains and not kitniyot (unless one includes “new” foods such as potatoes under the rubric of kitniyot)?

  47. it seems that Dr. Felix is maskim that you can be yotzei with oats even if it isn’t one of the chmeishas haminim see http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=52252&st=&pgnum=24 and http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=52251&st=&pgnum=17

  48. I only recently saw this post, and I read the comments to see if my concern had been addressed, and it had.

    Carlos is exactly correct. I have celiac and there is no way I am going to eat any wheat no matter what it may satisfy religiously. Most celiacs will not even eat regular oats, because of the risk of cross contamination, and will only eat certified GF oats.

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