The laws of Pesach-Summary & Review-Part 2-The Halachic definition of Chametz

* This article is an excerpt from the above Sefer

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Laws relating to Chametz: [Chapter 2]

A. Introduction:

  • There are several different commands and prohibitions regarding the owning and eating of Chametz on Pesach. There is a positive command to destroy Chametz, two negative commands not to own Chametz, a negative command against eating or benefiting from Chametz, and a Rabbinical command to search one’s house for Chametz. The following chapter will discuss all the general laws relating to Chametz. Further details of Chametz related laws are recorded throughout the later chapters, in their relevant areas of discussion.
  • Being careful from Chametz protects from sin: The Arizal states that one who is careful to avoid even a small piece of Chametz is guaranteed not to sin throughout the year. [This means that his nature will change to the point that he will not naturally do a sin inadvertently. However, regarding sinning advertently one always retains his freedom of choice.]
  • The Yetzer Hara: Chametz represents the Yetzer Hara. The entire idea of cleaning the house for Chametz is to get rid of bad traits.
  • Working on one’s character: The entire idea of cleaning the house for Chametz is to get rid of bad traits. [Accordingly, one is to take extra precaution on Pesach, and during Pesach preparations, to rid oneself of any bad traits of haughtiness, anger, and the like.]

B. What is defined as Chametz? [Chapter 2 Halacha 1]

*Important note: The Halacha below will deal with the general laws of the definition of Chametz and when dough becomes Chametz. Practical directives of how to make dough and bake Matzos for Pesach cannot be derived from this section, as there are various additional adherences brought in Shulchan Aruch and the later Poskim that have not been brought in this section. As a rule, baking Kosher for Pesach Matzas involves many details and is not to be done unless under expert Halachic supervision.

  • Chametz is defined as foods which contain any one of the five grains [wheat, barley; rye, spelt, oat] which have leavened. When these grains, or their flour derivatives, come into contact with water or water derivatives, they leaven after remaining with the water for 18/24 minutes. When the mixture of grains or flour with water has leavened it is defined as Chametz, so long as the Chametz remains edible. Thus, whether or not an item is Chametz depends on the following four factors:
  1. The species of grain.
  2. The type of liquid.
  3. The leavening process.
  4. Edibility
  • There are various qualities of Chametz. Certain types of Chametz are considered Biblical Chametz, under a Biblical prohibition. [See B-E] Other types of Chametz are considered Rabbinical Chametz [see G]. Likewise, there are foods that although they are not Chametz, they are nevertheless not eaten due to a decree against coming to eat Chametz. [See E-L] In addition, there exists different qualities of Chametz vis-a-vis the owning prohibition, and at times, what may be prohibited to eat due to the Chametz prohibition, is nevertheless permitted to be owned. This Halacha will discuss all the details of the foods that are not eaten or owned due to Chametz.


  • A. The grain/flour:
  • Only the five grains; which are 1) wheat, 2) barley; 3) rye, 4) spelt, 5) oats, can leaven and become Chametz. All other flours, such as flour made from rice [and corn] and all other legumes and starches, cannot ever leaven and become Chametz.
    • Although these flours also rise when kneaded with water, this rising is not a leavening but rather a spoiling. For example, if one were to take rice flour and the like and knead it with boiling water and then cover it with a cloth until it rises like dough that has leavened, in truth this act of rising is not leavening but rather a spoiling of the dough. The dough remains permitted to be eaten on Pesach. [Nonetheless, certain flours are considered Kitniyus and are accustomed by Ashkenazi Jewry not to be eaten on Pesach, as will be explained.]
    • Does there exist various species of the five grains? Yes. There are various species of wheat and other grains of the five grains. All these species are considered under the category of the five grains that can become Chametz through contact with water.
    • Is “bulgur” from one of the five grains? Yes. Bulgur is a cereal food made from the groats of several different wheat species, most often from durum wheat. Bulgur is a kind of dried cracked wheat and is most common in European, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisine.
    • Is buckwheat a grain or a legume? Despite its misleading name, buckwheat is not a grain. It is a seed of a plant which looks like grain, hence explaining its name. For all Halachic purposes, buckwheat cannot become Chametz. It does however fall under the category of Kitniyos.
    • The following is a list of Chametz items:
      1. Bread
      2. Beer
      3. Bulgur
      4. Cereal extract
      5. Couscous
      6. Cookies
      7. Crackers
      8. Cracker meal
      9. Flour of wheat, barley, oats, spelt or rye
      10. Farina
      11. Fu
      12. Gluten
      13. Kamet
      14. Malt or malt extract
      15. Pasta
      16. Pita
      17. Seitan
      18. Semolina
      19. Tabbouleh
      20. Triticale
      21. Triticum
      22. Wheatgrass
      23. Whisky
    • List of products and trace ingredients that may contain or be produced from Chametz, as given by the AAFA Allergy Foundation: Artificial flavoring, natural flavoring; Caramel color, Dextrin; Food starch, gelatinized starch modified starch, modified food starch vegetable starch; Glucose syrup; Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) Malt dextrin Monosodium glutamate, MSG; Soy sauce, shoyu, tamari, teriyaki sauce; Surimi; Vegetable gum.


  • B. The liquids:
  • The Biblical definition of Chametz refers only to dough that has been kneaded with water or with water derivatives. Only water or water derivatives can leaven the grain or flour. If one kneads 100% fruit juice, without any water, into the flour then the dough cannot become Chametz, even if the dough rises and remains un-worked for over 18 minutes.
    • However, there are opinions who say that not only does fruit juice make flour into Chametz, but it does so much quicker than water, in less than 18 minutes. Practically the main Halachic opinion is like the former/lenient opinion.
    • If, however, the fruit juice is mixed with even a minute amount of water, then according to all the dough can become instant Chametz, in even less than 18 minutes. [The Ashkenazi custom however is not to eat such Matzah over Pesach, as will be explained in E.]
    • Liquids defined as water derivatives: The following liquids are considered water derivatives that can make the grain or flour into Chametz:
      1. Tears, whether of a human, animal or fowl.
      2. Mucus of the ear, whether of a human, animal or fowl.
      3. Mucus of the nose, whether of a human, animal or fowl.
      4. Saliva of the mouth, whether of a human, animal or fowl
      5. Urine and bowel movement liquids of a human. The feces of a human, animal or fowl and the urine of animals and fowls have the same status as fruit juice.
  • C. The leavening of the dough:
  • The Biblical term of Chametz refers only to [five grain] dough kneaded with water that has leavened/risen. Leavened dough is considered Biblical Chametz whether the Dough leavened due to a fermenting agent or a non-fermenting agent, or even on its own, it is Chametz.
  • How long does it take dough to leaven? If dough remained a Shiur Mil without being worked on, it becomes Chametz. Some Poskim rule this is 18 minutes, while other Poskim rule it is 24 minutes. Practically, the main Halachic ruling follows the latter opinion, that there are 24 minutes in a Mil and it takes 24 minutes for dough to become Chametz. Nonetheless, one is to be stringent like the first opinion [that a Mil is 18 minutes and it thus takes dough 18 minutes to become Chametz] unless this involves a great loss.
  • Things that prevent dough from leavening even past 18/24 minutes: The above measurement of 18/24 minutes applies in general circumstances, however in certain circumstances dough can become Chametz in even less than 18/24 minutes and in certain circumstances it will not become Chametz even after 18/24 minutes. The following are the cases of exceptions:
  1. Working on the dough: Working on the dough prevents it from becoming Chametz even if one were to work on the dough for the entire day. If one worked on the dough even one time within the 18/24 minutes, it undoes the partial leavening that occurred prior to the kneading and the dough then requires another full 18/24 minutes without being worked on in order to leaven and become Chametz.
  2. Drops of water which fall on flour: If drops of water fall onto flour immediately one after the other, without any break at all in between, it prevents the flour from leavening and becoming Chametz, and thus even the flour were to remain under the drips for the entire day, it is valid.
  • Things that cause dough to leaven even within 18:24 minutes: There are a number of matters that cause the dough to leaven and become Chametz in even less than 18/24 minutes. These are:
  1. Warm flour/dough
  2. Liquids defined as fruit juice: If liquids defined as fruit juice are kneaded into the flour together with water, it causes the dough to become Chametz in even less than 18/24 minutes, as brought above.
  • Whole grain – Does wet whole grain become Chametz? Whole grains that come into contact with water can become Chametz. Nonetheless, the criteria required for grain to leaven are different than that of dough and flour. If a grain has begun to sprout, it is considered complete Chametz. If a grain has contacted water and split as a result of the water, then this is a sign that it will certainly immediately become Chametz, and it is Biblically forbidden to eat under the penalty of Kareis.  If, however, the grain has not split, then even if it remained 18/24 minutes with the water, it is only questionable as to whether it has become Chametz, and is thus Biblically prohibited to be eaten due to doubt. If, however, the grain has softened to the point that it is fit to have split, then it is disputed as to whether it is certainly Biblical Chametz, or only questionably Biblical Chametz.  If, however, the grain did not remain 18/24 minutes with the water, it does not leaven and is not considered Chametz.  Various laws are recorded in the Poskim regarding what to do if one discovered a grain in his food on Pesach. It is due to this ability for grains to become Chametz that the custom is to guard the Matzahs from the time of the harvest; in order to supervise that the grains do not come into contact with water and become Chametz. This Matzah is known as Matzah Shemura, as it has been guarded from water from the time of harvest.

D. Matzah Ashira-Egg Matzah:

  • As explained earlier, if one adds 100% fruit juice, without any water, into the flour then the dough cannot become Chametz, even if the dough rises and remains un-worked for over 18 minutes. However, there are opinions who say that not only does fruit juice make flour into Chametz, but it does so much quicker than water, in less than 18 minutes. Practically the main Halachic opinion is like the former/lenient opinion, however according to all if the fruit juice is mixed with even a minute amount of water, then the dough can become instant Chametz, in even less than 18 minutes. Due to this the Ashkenazi custom is to be stringent not to eat Matzah kneaded even with 100% fruit, even if baked right away. Thus, Ashkenazim may not eat egg Matzah or any Pesach product that states “Matzah Ashira” on them, and therefore, foods with the blessing of Mezonos are not available for Ashkenazim over Pesach unless it is made from cooked Matzah that has lost its blessing of Hamotzi, such as Knedilach for those who eat Gebrochts. Such foods, however, may be eaten by Sephardim, under a reliable Hashgacha, as they never accepted the custom to avoid Matzah Ashira which is made from 100% fruit juice. However, there do exist Sephardic communities who are stringent just like the Ashkenazim.
  • May one eat “Papushato” cookies? Based on the above, it is forbidden for an Ashkenazi to eat the “Papushato” company Mezonos cookies which is made using fruit juice. The same would apply for any Mezonos cookies that is made using fruit juice, that it is forbidden for Ashkenazim to eat it. Furthermore, many leading Sephardic Rabbis forbid the eating of such cookies for any person, as they claim it is not possible to supervise in such companies that not even one drop of water mix within the fruit juice that is used. Furthermore, it was discovered that in such cookies there is water placed in the wine, and other chemicals and spices, and hence they rule that the above cookies are absolute Chametz, and may not be eaten even after Chametz if they were not included in the Mechiras Chametz. 
  • Old or sick person: An old or sick person [who cannot eat other Matzah or foods], may be lenient to eat Matzah Ashira during Pesach, even if he is of Ashkenazi origin.
  • Owning Matzah Ashira over Pesach: It is permitted even for Ashkenazim to own Matzah Ashira products during Pesach, as the above adherence is only with regards to eating it, and not regarding owning.
  • Using Matzah Ashira for the night of the Seder: According to all opinions one does not fulfill the obligation of eating Matzah on the night of the Seder with eating Matzah Ashira.
  • At what time must Ashkenazim stop eating Matzah Ashira [egg Matzah]? Some Poskim rule that even according to Ashkenazim one may eat Matzah Ashira [egg Matzah] until midday of Erev Pesach. However, practically, the custom is to avoid eating Matzah Ashira beginning from the time that one must stop eating Chametz, which is the beginning of the 5th hour.

E. Chametz Nuksha:

Chametz Nuksha is dough that is not fit to eat [unless in a pressing situation] such as dough which has began the leavening process, but has not reached its completion, and is thus very sour, and is only eaten in pressing situations. Similarly, dough made for attaching papers together which is made from the flour-dust of the mills, and is not fit to eat when baked [unless in a pressing situation]. The same applies to all similar cases [that the dough is not really edible when baked, due to its rising or flour consistency].

  • Its law: Since the dough is not fit to be eaten [unless in a pressing situation] it’s not considered actual Chametz and is thus Biblically permitted to be eaten, as its not considered Chametz at all. However, it is forbidden Rabinically to be eaten, benefited from or even owned on Pesach, and one thus must destroy it.
  • Play dough/Play-doh: Play-doh is made up of actual Chametz. It is made of flour water and food coloring. It must be destroyed before Pesach or sold to a gentile. If one did not do so then he is to destroy it on Pesach as soon as he remembers. Nevertheless, a blessing is not recited upon destroying it. If one sold his Chametz then the play dough is to be placed in the area sold to the gentile.
  • Spoiled Chametz: Chametz, such as bread or Chametz wheat kernels, which was once fit to eat and thus was Biblically forbidden, remains Biblically forbidden even if it has spoiled to the point that it is no longer fit for human consumption, as long as it still remains edible for dogs.
    • If the Chametz became inedible even for dogs before the 6th hour on Erev Pesach, including if it was burnt until this point, then it is permitted for one to own on Pesach, although it is nevertheless Rabinically forbidden to be eaten.
  • Non-food products that contain Chametz ingredients: All non-food products that contain Chametz ingredients are permitted to be owned and benefited from over Pesach. However, care must be taken not to consume the product, and hence it must not come into contact with food or one’s lips. See Halacha 10D!
  • Kitniyos: Kitniyos, which includes various forms of legumes and seeds, is not Chametz. However, Ashkenazi Jewry forbids eating these products on Pesach as will be explained in Halacha 10E!
  • Gebrochts: Matzah that is dipped in water is not considered Chametz, even if it remains for less than 18 minutes. However Chassidic Jewry is careful in this regard and avoid eating any Matzah that contacted water, as will be explained in Halacha 11A!

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