MAẒẒAH (plural, Maẓẓot):
Bread that is free from leaven or other foreign elements. It is kneaded with water and without yeast or any other chemical effervescent substance, and is hastily prepared to prevent the dough from undergoing the process of spontaneous fermentation, which would make it "ḥameẓ" (leavened bread). The word is derived from the Hebrew root ("to compress" or "to extract"). "Maẓẓah," in the singular form, is found only in Leviticus (ii. 5, viii. 26) and Numbers (vi. 19); elsewhere it occurs in the plural. The maẓẓah was the primitive form of bread. The discovery of the leavening process not only resulted in an increase in the mass of the dough, but made the bread more palatable. Maẓẓah, however, still remained the poor man's bread, as he could not afford to wait even twenty-four hours for it to leaven; and it was called therefore "leḥem'oni" (the bread of the poor; Deut. xvi. 3). Maẓẓah was necessary, also, when a meal was to be prepared at short notice for an unexpected guest; for example, at the reception of the angels by Abraham (Gen. xviii. 6), or at Sodom by Lot (Gen. xix. 3), or for Saul by the witch of Endor (I Sam. xxviii. 24). The usual form of the plain maẓẓah was that of a round cake ("ugah"); this is the usual form of bread eaten today in Syria and Palestine.The Use of Maẓẓah.
The maẓẓah offered at sacrifices was of various forms—"leḥem" (lit.= "bread"), "ḥallah" (= "loaf"), "raḳiḳ" (= "wafer"); the latter two were mixed or spread with oil (Ex. xxix. 2). Maẓẓot were required to be absolutely pure, as neither leaven nor honey was permitted in connection with sacrifices (Lev. ii. 11). The reason assigned is that maẓẓah is a symbol of purity, while leaven represents the evil impulse of the heart (Ber. 17a). Maẓẓah was partaken of with the lamb on Passover eve (Ex. xii. 8) because the lamb was considered an offering to the Lord. The eating of maẓẓot during the seven days of the Passover festival is intended to recall the hurried departure from Egypt, which event must be commemorated (Ex. xii. 14, 17, 39; Deut. xvi. 4) on every anniversary.A Symbol of Freedom.
The Zohar calls maẓẓah "naḥama 'illa'ah" (heavenly bread), an antidote to the Egyptian slavery and corruption and a symbol of freedom and idealism. Maẓẓah was to cure Israel and prepare him for the acceptance of the Torah (Zohar, Teẓawweh, p. 183b, Wilna, 1882).
Nevertheless, the eating of maẓẓah during Passover, unlike the prohibition against eating ḥameẓ, is not imperative; it is a voluntary act ("reshut"). That is, a Jew may abstain from eating both ḥameẓ and maẓẓah, except on the first eve, when the eating of maẓẓah is obligatory ("ḥobah"). This is deduced from the passage, "Six days thou shalt eat unleavened bread" (Deut. xvi. 8), though the other passages command that maẓẓot shall be eaten seven days (Pes. 120a). In accordance with this distinction, the maẓẓah of the first night is called "maẓẓat miẓwah" (= the "precept maẓẓah") or "maẓẓat shemirah" (= the "observance maẓẓah," based on Ex. xii. 7); it must be specially prepared and preserved for Passover eve (Pes. 38b). The special care of the "shemirah" consists in watching the wheat during harvesting, milling, and baking, that it shall not become leavened, either by rain swelling the grains or dampening the flour, or by too much kneading and slow baking. The shemirah is used principally for the Seder nights, while the more pious use such maẓẓot every day of the Passover festival. The ordinary maẓẓah is prepared of "ḳemaḥ min ha-shuḳ" (flour purchased at the market), and the bakers are careful only during the process of kneading and baking. The ordinary maẓẓah may be used for the first night's meal, when eating maẓẓah is obligatory. Yet even the market flour must be made only of wheat, barley, spelt, oats, or rye (Pes. ii. 5), rice and a species of millet being excepted (Pes. 35a).
On the theory that at night the sun underneath the earth warms the wells and rivers below and makes the water tepid (Pes. 94b), R. Judah ordered that the kneading for maẓẓah shall be done with "mayim she-lanu" (water that has "lodged" overnight at home and has been exposed to the cold night air). The aim is to have the water for kneading as cold as possible in order to prevent the fermentation of the dough (Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 455, 2). Although not necessarily againstthe Law, it is the custom to omit salt or seasoning from the maẓẓah (l.c. 455, 5).
The size of each mass of dough for maẓẓah may not exceed one-tenth of an ephah, equal to 43 15 medium-sized hens' eggs, and the time allowed for preparing it is the time required for a journey of a mile (= 2,000 cubits), that is, about twenty-seven minutes (l.c. 456, 1; 459, 2). However, a continuous kneading and frequent hand-washings in cold water may extend the time. According to R. Gamaliel, the preparation of the maẓẓah was performed by three women: one kneaded the dough, another formed the maẓẓah, and the third baked it (Pes. iii. 4).Size and Shape.
The thickness of the maẓẓah must not exceed the size of a closed fist, four fingers or four inches, which was the thickness of the show bread. A later custom was to make maẓẓah one finger thick ("Bet Hillel," Yoreh De'ah, No. 96). In modern times the maẓẓah is much thinner, varying from four to five maẓẓot to the inch, and is made in round form about twelve inches in diameter. In about 1875 maẓẓah-baking machinery was invented in England, and soon after introduced in America. Some rabbis opposed the innovation, claiming that the corners of the machine-made maẓẓah were trimmed round in a subsequent operation, thus prolonging the time and causing fermentation; as a result of their protest the form of the maẓẓah was changed to a square. Still, there are a great many, perhaps a majority, who use round, machine-made maẓẓot, while there are many pious ones who would use no other than hand-made maẓẓot. Eisenberg, at Kiev, Russia, recently invented a maẓẓah-machine capable of baking 15 poods (about 541 pounds) of dough in one or two hours ("Der Jud," 1902, No. 9).
The perforation of the maẓẓah, after being rolled into shape, and before baking, was for the purpose of keeping it from raising and swelling in baking. It appears that in the early centuries the perforation of the maẓẓah was quite artistic. In the house of R. Gamaliel the perforations of the maẓẓot represented figures. Evidently the perforating was done with an implement that looked like a comb, as the word "seriḳin" indicates. The figures were those of animals, flowers, etc. Artistic perforation was later prohibited, as it consumed too much time and caused fermentation. Baytus b. Zonin suggested stamping the maẓẓah with ready-made figured plates, but was opposed on the ground that no discrimination must be made in favor of any particular kind of perforation (Pes. 37a). R. Isaac b. Gayyat says the figures represented Greeks, doves, andfishes. Maimonides permits any fancy design if made by a professional baker, as he does it quickly ("Yad," Ḥameẓ u-Maẓẓah, v. 15). In later periods the perforating implement was a wheel, called the "reidel," provided with sharp teeth and attached to a handle. The perforator, usually a youth, would run his reidel through the maẓẓah in lines crossed at right angles and about one inch apart. The maẓẓah-machine has an automatic perforator that makes lines at intervals of a half inch.
The baking of pudding, fillings, or sponge-cake out of ordinary flour is prohibited during Passover for fear of fermentation in consequence of the delays in preparation. But it is permitted to make all kinds of pastry out of maẓẓah-flour, as no fermentation is possible after the flour is baked. For baking and cooking with maẓẓah-flour see Cookery. Ordinary flour may be kneaded with pure fruit-juices, with eggs, or with honey, as no fermentation is possible with them. This is called "rich maẓẓah," and may be eaten on Passover, except on the first night, when the regular maẓẓah, or leḥem'oni, is obligatory (Pes. 36a). In the early centuries maẓẓah-baking was done by the wife daily, for the household's use. In the Middle Ages preparations were made to bake maẓẓot thirty days before Passover, except the maẓẓah shemirah, which was baked in the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan, at the time when the Passover lamb was formerly sacrificed (Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 453, 4). Still later, when the community had a communal oven, it was incumbent on the "lord of the house" to superintend the maẓẓah-baking for his family (see "Am. Jew. Hist. Soc." ix. 70).Maẓẓah-Baking as an Industry.
In America maẓẓah-baking is an important industry. In New York city alone, in 1904, 10,000 barrels of flour were used in making about 1,700,000 pounds of maẓẓah, distributed among fifteen bakers, one of them making maẓẓah by hand, and one small bakery making maẓẓah shemirah. The larger bakeries commence work four or five months before Passover. New York supplies many cities in the United States and Canada with maẓẓah. Other large maẓẓah-making centers are Chicago, Pittsburg, Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Maẓẓot have become popular among non-Jews, who use them as tea-biscuits. R. Jacob Möln (d. 1420), in his "Sefer Maharil," mentions the custom, in baking maẓẓot, of starting the fire with the willows used for Hosha'na and for the lulab.
It is forbidden to eat maẓẓah on the day before Passover, in order that it may be more palatable on the evening of Passover. The three maẓẓah-cakes used at the Seder service on Passover eve are placed one on the other in a plate or in a threefold cover specially made for the occasion. The three maẓẓah-cakes are distinguished as "Kohen," "Levi," and "Israel." The fourth order of the Seder is Yaḥaz, in which the middle maẓẓah ("Levi") is broken into two parts, the larger being put aside as afiḳomen, with which the meal is finished; the smaller part isleft between "Kohen" and "Israel." When the Haggadah is recited the maẓẓot are uncovered and exposed to view. The eighth order of the Seder is Maẓẓah; in it a piece of the "Kohen" and a piece of the "Levi" are eaten after the benedictions "Ha-Moẓi" and "Maẓẓah." The "Israel" is eaten during the tenth order, Korek, with the bitter herbs, as practised by Hillel.
An ancient custom, which still prevails in some parts of the Orient and in Europe, is to keep a single maẓẓah hanging on the interior wall of the synagogue all the year in strict observance of the passage "That thou mayest remember the day when thou camest out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life" (Deut. xvi. 3). See Afiḳomen; Blood Accusation; Leaven; Passover; Seder.
- Pes. 35a-40a;
- Maimonides, Yad, Ḥameẓ u-Maẓẓah, v. and vi.;
- Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 453-462, 471-482;
- Benzinger, Arch. pp. 85, 432, 451, 467;
- Rodkinson, Maẓẓat Miẓwah wa-'Alilat ha-Dam, Vienna, 1883;
- Stanislawska, Sama de Hayye, a manual of Maẓẓot, Berdychev, 1895.