|Volume VII. No. 10
Tebeth 5610 January 1850
The Passover Bread.
We have been requested from several quarters, in consequence of the near approach of the season when the Passover Bread will have to be prepared, to lay before the public the decision of the Chief Rabbi of England, the Rev. Dr. Adler, on the subject, which he lately addressed to Mr. Philip Levy, of New York, late a member of the board of trustees of the Elm Street Congregation. The matter is one of great importance to strict Israelites; however little its value may be in a literary point of view, and we offer, therefore, no other apology for inserting it in our magazine, since nothing which belongs to the doctrine or practice of Judaism should be foreign to the Jewish press. There is no doubt, at the same time, on our mind that much has been done in the preparation of the Matzote, which is against our prescribed rule, more through want of proper information than through willfulness; and, it is to be hoped, that the opinion of the Rabbi of London here made public may tend towards introducing a proper and legal reform in the premises, so that all conscientious Israelites may freely partake of the bread as prepared in the public bakeries, and to avoid the fatiguing preparation of the same at home, to which many of the strictest men have had to submit, sooner than transgress a point of conscience; and there surely can be no reason why, in America, all our religious acts shall not be conducted on the most rigid principles of ancestral prescription. We recommend the whole to the attention of the various congregations, in the full persuasion that all may benefit by the authoritative decision herewith laid before them. (Ed. Oc.)
“London, Tuesday, the 7th of Marcheshvan, 5610.”
“May the Lord grant you peace and life.
“In respect to the question concerning the mode of baking the Passover bread in America, I will now proceed to give you the following answer, after having inspected the drawing of the machine contained in the letter of Mr. Emanuel Goldsmith, hearing the seal of your Parnass:
1st. Regarding your complaint, that they do not use water which has stood over night, I have to remark, that although it is requisite to take care originally not to use such water, even if it be river water, still if they have drawn the previous evening a quantity which they deemed sufficient, they may be permitted to add ordinary water, so as to supply any deficiency which may occur.
“2d. Respecting the scruples you express that the doughs made are larger than a שיעור חלה (i. e, a measure equal to the size of forty-three eggs, equal five hundred and twenty drachms of Egypt, about six pounds), I have to state that, although it is not true that in London they make the doughs larger than this, because I have given the workmen strict orders not to exceed it, and have given my personal attention to the matter: still, as the machine in question is so large and powerful, that it is almost impossible for any little piece to be left unbroken and unkneaded, it is not necessary to confine the size of the dough to a simple שיעור חלה when such an instrument is used.
“3d. Respecting your scruples about the Mitzvote Shimurim, (i. e. those especial cakes destined for the first two nights of the Passover,) not to make them by a machine, it is to be remarked that, although one who is truly anxious to fulfill the word of the Lord, should bake them through means of an Israelite only, nevertheless, it will be enough if an Israelite commences to mix the dough, and stands by whilst it is made. But, as respects your
“4th observation, that the dough is cut in four pieces, and that a fourth-part is left without being handled within the influence of the heated steam of the machine full eighteen minutes, I have to say that, if it be as you state, such baking is next to leaven, prohibited by Scripture, and it cannot be permitted to be used in any manner whatever; for not only that this time is a שיעור מיל (the time required to walk a mile,) it is a well-known decision of the Possekim that, if there be an additional amount of heat, the process of leavening commences in the dough in less than the specified time. But Mr. Goldsmith, in his letter before me, denies your assertion, saying that the time of finishing the dough occupies but nine minutes, and that there is no heat in the (kneading) room. It is, therefore, the bounden duty of the governors of your congregation, whom God may preserve, to investi<<524>>gate the matter carefully, through the statement of credible witnesses; and, if it is as Mr. Goldsmith says, then you may make the Matzote with the aforesaid machine, with this condition, that there be present watchers, who are God-fearing men, who must take care to clean off the machine with all-possible care, removing therefrom any little pieces of dough which will adhere to it in working; and if it works imperfectly whilst kneading and breaking, to remove at once the leavened doughs, that they be not mixed up with the others. But, if it be as you assert, that you well deserve credit for refusing to bake with instrument in question. But I am sure and certain that the governors of your congregation will not be negligent in so weighty a prohibition, where the punishment of כרת is the forfeit (which God forfend); but they ought to take especial pains to work the machine, which is to make the Matzote, through means of wheel and crank, turned by hand power, as is done in many congregations in Germany and France, for instance, Cassel, Mentz, Metz, and the like. In the hopes that this may prove satisfactory to you, I pray that the Lord may fence in our breaches, and build up our ruins, and bring unto us abundant peace like the flowing stream.
NATHAN ADLER, Hackohen.