SALT - Wednesday, 12 Nissan 5778 - March 28, 2018

  • Rav David Silverberg
En honor de mi señora madre María Ocotlán hija de Candelaria, que beezrat Hashem tennga pronta refuá shelemá.
(In honor of my mother, María Ocotlán, daughter of Candelaria, who beezrat Hashem) will have a prompt refuá shelemá. - her daughter)
            Yesterday, we noted the description presented in Targum Yonatan Ben Uziel (Shemot 12:39) of Benei Yisrael’s baking of matza when they left Egypt, telling us that the dough was baked in the sun.  Apparently, Targum Yonatan found it difficult to imagine Benei Yisrael having the materials needed to bake normally, and so he wrote that they simply placed the raw dough on their heads as they traveled so it would bake in the sun.
            Several later writers noted the seeming irony that arises from this description, in light of the fact that, at least according to some opinions, one does not fulfill the mitzva of matza with matza that was baked in the sun.  Several sources indicate an association between the properties of matza and those of bread with respect to the obligation of challa – the requirement to separate a piece of dough when baking and give it to a kohen.  The Torah in Sefer Devarim (16:3) refers to matza as “lechem” (“bread”), a term that is also used in reference to the challa obligation (“be-okhlekhem mi-lechem ha-aretz” – Bamidbar 15:19).  The Gemara in Masekhet Pesachim (37a) cites the view of Rabbi Yochanan that bread which is baked in the sun is not subject to the obligation of challa, as it does not formally qualify as “lechem,” and this is the view codified as Halakha by the Shulchan Arukh (Y.D. 329:6).  Accordingly, the Shiltei Gibborim (Pesachim 11b in the Rif), as cited by Chok Yaakov (468:8), rules that matza which was baked in the sun is not suitable for fulfilling the obligation to eat matza on the night of Pesach.  This ruling seems ironic in light of Targum Yonatan’s description of Benei Yisrael baking matza in the sun after leaving Egypt.  It appears from the Haggadah that the obligation to eat matza specifically commemorates the matza eaten by Benei Yisrael at the time of the Exodus, as the Haggadah explains that we eat matza “because the dough of our forefathers did not have a chance to ferment before the King of kings appeared to them and redeemed them.”  We might have thus naturally expected Halakha to allow fulfilling the mitzva with the same kind of matza that this mitzva commemorates.
            A number of writers suggested that we may reconcile Targum Yonatan’s account with the disqualification of sun-baked matza on the basis of Rabbeinu Tam’s ruling cited by several Rishonim regarding challa.  Rabbeinu Tam was of the opinion that if one prepared an ordinarily thick batter, the kind of batter normally made in the standard baking process, then it requires challa even if the dough is baked in the sun.  The exemption stated by the Gemara, according to Rabbeinu Tam, applied only to loose batter which was baked in the sun, due to its unusual consistency, but not to regular dough which is precisely the same as the kind of dough used when baking in an oven.  (This is also the view of Maharam Chalawa in his commentary to Pesachim.)  Although Halakha does not accept this opinion (see Shulchan Arukh, Y.D. 329:3), it perhaps accounts for the tradition expressed by Targum Yonatan, that Benei Yisrael baked their dough in the sun at the time of the Exodus.  (This theory is proposed by, among others, Rav Akiva Menachem Sofer, in his Ikvei Sofer annotation to his grandfather’s Hitorerut Teshuva, 236.)