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Can I Have Gluten-Free Matzah on Passover?

Can I Have Gluten-Free Matzah on Passover?

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Note: Due to current confusion and misconception, we must stress that rice or potato matzah is not acceptable for the seder. Matzah for the seder must contain one of the grains mentioned below.

On Passover eve we are commanded to eat matzah, a thin cracker-like bread, in remembrance of the matzah that our forefathers ate when they left Egypt.1 While this matzah can be made out of flour from any of the five grains2 (wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats), the famed codifier of Jewish law, Rabbi Moshe Isserles, writes that the custom is to specifically use wheat flour for the matzah.3

(Note: Baking Kosher for Passover matzah at home would be extremely complicated, expensive and time-consuming. Before proceeding, one should consult a rabbinical authority knowledgeable in these laws. For this reason, there are few families who would venture to baking them at home.)

According to most opinions, the reason behind the custom is that wheat is considered to be the most special of the five grains, since the majority of people prefer it. However, if wheat cannot be used, then one should make matzah out of one of the other four types of grain.4

Others, however, maintain that the reason for the preference of wheat matzah has to do with the fact that other grains have a different leavening process and become chametz, leavened bread, faster; nevertheless, they would agree that in a situation where wheat flour cannot be eaten, one of the other four grains can be used.5

In light of the above, if one has an issue specifically with the consumption of wheat, one should preferably use spelt matzah, as spelt is considered a species of wheat.6 However, if someone has a problem with gluten in general, things get a bit more complicated.

(Note: It is best to use shmurah matzah, which contains wheat and flour that has been watched from the time it is harvested so that no water would come in contact with it. If it is difficult to obtain shmurah matzah for the entire Passover, you should make every effort to at least have it for the first two nights of Passover.)

Oat Matzah

Of the five grains suitable for making matzah, oats7 by far have the lowest gluten content. Because of this, in recent years some have started making matzah out of oat flour. To make these matzahs, they cultivated special breeds of oats that were known to be particularly low in gluten. At one point a small patch of gluten-free oats was found in Scotland, and they cultivated them to make “gluten-free matzah.”

The issue with oats is that, unlike the other four grains, in order to store them, the oats have to be treated with heat. When one of the five grains is treated with heat, it can no longer become leaven,8 which is problematic in terms of fulfilling the requirement to eat matzah (see footnote at length).9

In light of this, contemporary rabbinic authorities rule that in a situation where using one of the other grains poses a serious health risk, one should only use oat matzah that was treated with heat before it was stored.10 Therefore, it is important to ascertain whether someone’s issue is simply gluten intolerance, celiac disease, or a true allergy, as these conditions vary significantly.

However, recently on the market are gluten-free oat shmurah matzahs. Instead of storing and treating the oats with heat, they bake the matzah immediately after harvesting the oats. It would seem then that these matzahs are free from the above-mentioned concern that the mixture would not be susceptible to become leaven. However, it is still preferable to use wheat flour when possible.11

FOOTNOTES
1.

Deuteronomy 16:3.

2.

The Code of Jewish Law, Shulchan Aruch, Orech Chayim 453:1.

3.

Shulchan Aruch, ibid; Shulchan Aruch Harav 453:2; Mishnah Berurah 453: 2.

4.

See Shulchan Aruch Harav and Mishnah Berurah, ibid.

5.

Rabbi Shalom Mordechai Hakohen Schwadron, Maharsham, in a gloss to Orchos Chayim 453:2 and Reponsa Levushei Mordechain 2:148, Choshev Hoefod 3:9. See however Rabbi Yitzchok Yaakov Weiss in Minchat Yitzchak 9:49 where he writes that since the other grains have a different leavening process, and most of the guidelines about making matzah found in the Code of Jewish Law pertain only to matzah made out of wheat, we don’t have sufficient guidelines on making matzah out of one of the other grains, and therefore even in situations where wheat is not available, one needs to do one’s utmost to obtain wheat. He writes that the same would apply to one for whom eating a small amount of wheat once a year does not cause any serious harm; they too should use matzah made out of wheat. He would however agree that someone with celiac disease, for whom the consumption of wheat can cause serious harm, can use an alternative grain. See Responsa Shraga Hameir 5:8 where he quotes a personal communication from Rabbi Yitzchok Yaakov Weiss.

6.

Talmud Pesachim 35a. See Rabbi Moshe Shik, Maharam shik Al Taryag Mitzvot, Mitzvah 10 where he quotes Rabbi Moshe Sofer, the Chatam Sofer, that one should try to refrain from making matzah out of barley as it can lead to forgetfulness.

7.

Although some in recent years have challenged the translation of shibolet shual (Heb. שבולת שועל) as oats, this article follows the overwhelming majority opinion (based on the commentary by Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, Rashi, on Talmud Pesachim 35a, that oats are indeed one of the five grains. Rashi, in his French translation, uses the word aveine/avoin, which is close to the Latin word for oats, avena sativa).

One of the arguments against oats being one of the five grains is that they did not grow in Israel. This assertion has been refuted by Dr. Mordechai Kislev in Sefer Hayovel, Mincha L’ish (p. 155-168, 179-85). An additional claim is that oats many times do not contain gluten (something that the others grains contain). However, others have noted that what the five grains have in common is not necessarily gluten; rather it is that they all contain beta-amylase, which allows the fermentation to occur before the proteases cause the grain to become rancid. This last point is important since the Talmud lists as one of the similarities between the five grains (as opposed to other grains) the fact that they can become leaven (chametz), while other grains become rancid. Further discussion of whether oats are one of the five grains in well beyond the scope of this article.

8.

Talmud, Pesachim 39b-40a.

9.

The Talmud expounds on the verse (Deuteronomy 16:3), “You shall not eat leaven with it [the Passover offering]; for seven days you shall eat with it matzah….” From the juxtaposition of the prohibition of eating leaven with the command to eat matzah, we learn that a person can only fulfill the obligation to eat matzah on Passover with matzah made out of grains that become leaven when left to rise (Talmud, Pesachim, ibid).This excludes types of flour which do not become leaven, rather, they become spoiled, i.e., although it may appear as if the dough is rising, it is not due to a process of leavening, rather, it is due to a process of spoilage.

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, Maimonides, explains that the Talmud is merely providing the criteria for which species of grain are acceptable for fulfilling the obligation to eat matzah on Passover night, but there is no requirement that the specific grain used for making this matzah needs to have been able to become leaven (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Chametz Umatzah 6:5; See Maggid Mishneh and Lechem Mishneh, ad loc). According to this, using oats for the matzah would not be a problem.

However, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, Nachmanides, explains that the Talmud was giving a specific requirement that the mixture of grain and liquid used for the matzah must be susceptible to become leaven; if not, one cannot use that matzah to fulfill the obligation on Passover night (Milchemet Hashem on Talmud Pesachim 10b). Based on this, it would seem that one cannot use oats that were treated with heat to make matzah, since these oats are no longer susceptible to become leaven.

Rabbi Abraham Abele Gombiner (1635 –1682) as well as Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi rule in accordance with the stricter opinion that the mixture of grain and liquid used for the matzah must be susceptible to become leaven (See Magen Avraham 454:1 and 471:1; Pri Megadim, Mishbetzot Zehav, 461:2, Shulchan Aruch Harav 462:1. See also the Rebbe, Rabbi Menchem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, Hagadah Shel Pesach Im Lekutei Taamin Uminhagim, vol. 2, p. 397-99).

10.

Rabbi Avraham Danzig (Chayei Adam) in Nishmat Adam, Pesach 15; Rabbi Shmuel (HaLevi) Wosner in Shevet Halevi 9:117:4 .

11.

This article is largely based on an article in Sappirim published by the Chicago Rabbinical Council, CRC.

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Discussion (15)
October 28, 2014
Deadly gluten allergy
G-d commands us to celebrate Passover. How could G-d punish a person who has an allergy to gluten, meaning one cannot consume wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt? G-d created me with this deadly allergy. In ancient times I would have died. Are not allergists, doctors, created by G-d? It seems Jewish leaders need to realize many people who suffer from gluten allergies or from Celiac disease have no choice. Is it not true, if the fetus of a baby creates a deadly situation for the mother it is okay to abort the baby in order to save the mothers life? Jewish leaders have become too legalistic, instead these leaders should embrace people with food allergies. To say we have to eat wheat during Passover for people who have wheat allergies or Celiac disease discriminates against fellow Jews.
Anonymous
North Gates, NY
September 30, 2014
To Louise
As Rabbi Shurpin writes in the article, matzah is--by definition--made from grain flour and water. Rice is not a grain in the traditional Jewish view. Hence, rice cakes would not be matzah. Sure, they would not be leavened, but then neither do carrots or apples.
Gershon
KS
September 29, 2014
If a person has a gluten-intolerance such as Celiac disease, why can't s/he use rice cakes instead of matzo on Passover? They have no leavening.
Louise Kavadlo
NY
April 20, 2014
Yehuda and Manischewich gluten free matzoh are allowed to be labelled gluten free as the gluten content is within the official guidelines for celiacs in England, Canada & the U.S. Individuals may be more or less affected by ingesting gluten, and is a matter totally separate from certified GF certification labelling.

Luckily for those adamant that foods used during Pesach be labelled as such, both of the above-mentioned products have been given a kosher for Pesach certification as well as the GF certification.

Finally, there is probably, in my humble opinion, no reason at all why other certified GF products that also carry a kosher certification cannot be used at Pesach other than the manufacturers have seen no benefit to paying an additional fee to have the right to include the words "kosher for Pesach" on their products. I assure you, though, as a celiac who also keeps kosher, the year round kosher gluten free products are no less kosher or gluten free during the 8 days of Pesach.
Helen
December 7, 2013
way too inflexible
I have faith and belief in God. But, reading this article is an example of why I have an issue with many of those who practice Judaism and many of those that practice Islam. This inflexibility in addressing contemporary issues while expecting believers to follow what was followed 2000 years ago. I don't believe for one second God is taking notes and saying "that person ate gluten free product during seder, not good". I seriously doubt that. It's much like how I heard muslims whining about the goodness of eating with the right hand. I mean it becomes downright absurd and when you step back and see it for what it is, it comes across as a form of madness. Faith is organic and yes, there are rituals that are followed, but at the same time those rituals adapt and change with the society and times in order to address the needs of the people of that time. the needs of the people in 2013 America is a far cry from the needs of the people of the middle east of 2000 years ago.
mark
May 1, 2013
Yes You Can!
Manischewitz and Yehuda are best known for gluten free Passover products!
Lisa
Providence, RI
April 29, 2013
Celiac Disease?
People with Celiac Disease cannot have even a speck of gluten for medical reasons, and that includes products made with oats. Any exposure to gluten flattens the villi lining their small intestine and has serious health effects. Surely there must be accommodations in our tradition for cases such as this, when health would be compromised by religious observance, just as pregnant mothers and people with health issues are exempt from fasting.
Anonymous
Glendale, CA
March 20, 2013
Re: The 5 grains
The verse in Deuteronomy 16:3 states, “You shall not eat leaven with it [the Passover offering]; for seven days you shall eat with it matzah….” From the juxtaposition of the prohibition of eating leaven with the command to eat matzah, we learn (Talmud Pesachim 39b-40a) that a person can only fulfill the obligation to eat matzah on Passover with matzah made out of grains that can become leaven when left to rise. What the five grains (as opposed to other grains) share is the fact that they can become leaven (chametz), while other grains become rancid.
Yehuda Shurpin for Chabad.org
March 19, 2013
The 5 grains
Okay, my question never got answered? Where in Scriptures does it state the 5 grains that are ONLY considered for Matzah? We have to be careful what we add to Torah. There is nowhere in Scripture that an egg is commandment for Passover either and what an abomination and paganistic to add it to a Seder plate. So please advise where in Torah that is states specific 5 grains for the Passover bread?
TONYA
Calgary
March 18, 2013
Gluten free Matzah
I am not Rabbinical but Biblical and yes, I do plan to have Gluten Free Matzah even if I have to make it myself...I cannot have Matzah that has gluten...it is what it is and originally the wheat was called emer which is a non gluten ancient wheat which you can get from a farm that is both organic and kosher out of WA State just google in Emer wheat for sale.
Freyja
USA
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