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Can I Have Gluten-Free Matzah on Passover?

Can I Have Gluten-Free Matzah on Passover?


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


Deuteronomy 16:3.


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


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


See Shulchan Aruch Harav and Mishnah Berurah, ibid.


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.


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.


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.


Talmud, Pesachim 39b-40a.


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).


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


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

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Discussion (21)
March 27, 2015
As a person with celiac disease, life is difficult enough. Has anyone checked the price of a 10 oz box of G F matzoh, well I did, and had to pay 6.99 for 1 box.
You can buy the 5 pounds package from 5 to 8 dollars.
I feel that we are being taken advantage of, every product that is labeled G F is overly priced.
Once my 10 oz box of matzoh is consumed, I will return to my G F rice cakes. They are mad with rice, and I don't see why they should not be ok.
Those are my thoughts on the matter.
March 16, 2015
Re: Rice matzo for celiacs
First, It is not at all clear that “Orez” is actually rice. While it is true that some hold that you make Mezonot on rice eaten outside of a meal, the Shulchan Aruch harav holds that if you eat rice not as part of a meal, you make the blessing of Shehakol (not Mezonot) since we don’t actual know that “Orez” is indeed rice. So even "IF" the Halacha was like Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri, it is not clear that by eating rice you would actually be following his opinion...

Second, the reason why an individual or minority opinion is cited in the Mishnah or Talmud is not because we necessarily rely on it in extenuating circumstances. The Mishnah (Eduyot 1:6) states that the reason the minority opinions were included in the Mishnah was that, should a person claim, “I have heard a different tradition from my teachers,” we would be able to point to the Mishnah and say, “perhaps what you have heard was the opinion of so-and-so.”

Third, while it is true that in certain situation and disagreements we can rely on a minority opinion in extenuating circumstances, this would not hold true in the case of Rabbi Yochanan’s opinion, for the Talmud itself states (Pesachim 114b) that” no one is concerned for the ruling of Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri.”

Lastly, thankfully, In recent years it has become increasingly easier to get oat- gluten-free shemura matazah (you can even order it online), so while those with celiac still face a challenge, it is much easier for them to fulfill the Mitzvah of eating Matzah on Passover.
Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin
March 12, 2015
Confused by these comments
I am really confused by these comments. The only commandments that supercede the commandment to live are the prohbitions against idolatry, audultery, and murder. Acts which seriously affect ones health are included here. Therefore, for one with serious intolerance to gluten, the commandment to eat matzah at the seder yields to the commandment to live. Such a person is simply exempt from the commandment. (And sins if they eat.) The rabbi is assuming that a person who is considering the use of oats can tolerate the level of gluten found in the (USDA-acceptable) gluten-free oat matzah, and describing the halachic issues surrounding its use. I appreciate the article, as it raises a new issue for me.

Now, what to do about the fact that the oat matzah followed by wine is extremely bitter.
Nathan Zook
Washington, US
March 1, 2015
rice matzo for celiacs
Why not say that if no other matzo was available, a celiac could rely on Yohanan b Nuri's opinion in Pesachim 35a that rice is chametz? It's a minority opinion, but minority opinions are recorded for times of need.
January 7, 2015
I agree with Louise. As an example of a major change in interpretation, look at the new ways this shmita year is being circumvented in Israel. There must be change; the only other choice is that we all live like Hutterites, never moving forward. (Apologies to any Hutterites reading this).

I'm celiac and I keep kosher . My meals at my table, no matter what the holiday are always gluten free, including, especially, Pesach. It can be done!
Vancouver, BC
December 27, 2014
Rice cakes as a matzo substitute on Passover
Kohser/Kashrut laws were written more thn 2000 years ago. Things change. I feel that if eating matzo will compromise a erson's health for whatever reason, then rice cakes should be allowed as a substitute for matzoes.rice cakes are gluten-free and leavening-free.
Louise Kavadlo
Richmond Hill,Ny 11418
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.
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.
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
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.