Shabbat Parashat Tzav | 5769
Ask the Rabbi: Making Egg Matzot Available to Guests at a Hotel
Ask the Rabbi
Question: I run a hotel that has many guests for Pesach. Can we put a box of egg matzot on each table so that those who need them will find them easily or must we be concerned of the very likely possibility that some will, out of ignorance or lack of interest, take these matzot when it is not warranted? Would it be considered lifnei iver (placing a stumbling block before the “‘blind”‘)?
Answer: Although you are aware of the basic bottom line on egg matzot, it is worthwhile to review relevant sources. The gemara (Pesachim 35b) says that fruit juices do not leaven flour. According to most Rishonim this applies to eggs as well (see Tur and Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 462). However, there are several problems with using this ruling to make various types of what we call egg matzot a simple Pesach solution. (Realize that different brands of egg matzos use different liquids other than water. We will call all of them egg matzot for simplicity’s sake.)
According to many Rishonim and the Shulchan Aruch (OC 462:2), not only can fruit juice mixed with water that is kneaded with flour become chametz, but it is expected to happen quicker than with flour and water alone. Thus, a hashgacha would have to ensure that the flour was not exposed to water before its preparation and not included in the egg matza dough. There is also a dispute between Rashi (stringent) and Tosafot (lenient) (Pesachim 35b) whether the gemara meant that egg matzot do not become chametz at all or just that their leavening is not complete enough for one who eats it to be chayav karet but that there is a lesser prohibition. Most Rishonim, including the Rambam (Chametz U’Matza 5:2) agree with Tosafot, but the Rama (OC 462:4) says that the minhag is like Rashi. The Rama’s compromise is that only when there is a pressing need to be lenient, such as a sick or a very old person, may one eat egg matzot on Pesach. The Shulchan Aruch (ad loc.) is lenient, and thus Sephardic practice is to allow eating egg matzot on Pesach (see Yechaveh Da’at 1:10). In any case, it would be wrong for healthy Ashkenazim to eat egg matzot on Pesach (They are allowed to possess them and eat them after Pesach- Mishna Berura 462:18).
On seder night there is an additional problem. An egg matza, even if not chametz, is matza ashira (rich), which is not valid for fulfilling the mitzva of the night. Therefore, even Sephardim and the sick should not have egg matza where matza is required for the seder. (Other alternatives for those who don’t chew or digest “regular matza” well exist but are beyond our present scope).
It is a good question whether putting egg matzot on tables, knowing that some people who shouldn’t be eating them will, is a violation of lifnei iver. (See Yechaveh Da’at (ibid.) who demonstrates that even a Sephardi, who may eat egg matza, may not give them to an Ashkenazi). If you are not aware of the status of the people at each table, then you could use the principle of t’liyah (see Yoreh Deah 251). This means that when it is quite possible that the object one is giving will be used properly, it is permitted to give it to another even though there is a good chance it will be used improperly. While this is a legitimate approach to take in cases with problems without easy solutions (e.g., someone who runs a large store and cannot keep track of who is buying what), it is not acceptable here. Firstly, what do you, your waiter, or your mashgiach do when he learns who is who and sees them acting improperly? Also, how could you allow those who were told the kashrut is good to make a mistake and eat that which was on the table?
A simple solution is to have a table in the corner with egg matzot with a large sign that identifies the egg matzot as something that Ashkenazim may eat only when the situation is pressing. You may suggest that those with questions should ask the rabbi/mashgiach.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
Hemdat Yamim is
Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.