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It's pretty commonly accepted that Matza used to be soft (sort of like a tortilla) and was used by Hillel to make a wrap (not a sandwich).

When did this change in various geographic locations which now use Matza that is dry and cracker-like? I'm looking for explicit statements by Rishonim, Achronim or other reputable historical sources regarding the consistency of their communities' Matza, not theoretical discussions about hard or soft Matza in general.

(I am not interested here in debating if one can use soft or hard Matzas today, various Hashgachas on soft Matzas, the practices of communities who today still use soft Maẓẓa traditionally, or any other Jewish Law type issue.)

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I could give you the basic story, but I can't remember, let alone find the source for it. Essentially about 500yrs ago in Poland as part of a persecution against Jews they began destroying bakeries to the point where there were not enough to supply matzah(soft) to all the Jews. The answer was to bake ahead. However soft matzah goes moldy. So they made dry. Over time it passed into custom. –  Rabbi Michael Tzadok Mar 22 '13 at 7:04
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@mekubal I've heard variants of that, with dates ranging from 300 to 600 years ago. I'd still be interested to find whatever exact information we know. –  Double AA Mar 22 '13 at 7:13
    
I will try to find the specific source that I found, it put the event shortly before the tiem of the Rema. However, being Sephardi it didn't overly concern me. –  Rabbi Michael Tzadok Mar 22 '13 at 8:03
    
Often, handmade matza is soft shortly after baking. There are gemaras in P'sachim that seem to imply that it was common to bake matza and eat it shortly thereafter (see e.g. the mishna at the bottom of P'sachim 46a which could be read to imply that it was common to bake matza during Pesach). –  Fred Mar 22 '13 at 19:54
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This recent essay says "the Chafetz Chaim advised that massa be made “soft as a sponge” (Mishna Berura, Orach Haim 486)." That's the most recent Ashkenazi source for soft matza I've ever heard of. –  Isaac Moses Apr 3 '13 at 15:35
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1 Answer

If you go to Yemen, or to Yemenite Jewish neighborhoods in Israel, you can still find soft matzah. This is probably similar to what the Jews of the Exodus carried with them as they left, as Exodus 12:34 teaches us that the Jews took their matzahs bound up in their clothes and carried them on their shoulders. Today's cracker-like matzahs would break under those conditions, but not Yemenite matzahs.

What makes matzahs cracker like is the perferations rolled into the dough. This allows air to escape during baking. The earliest opinion I know of concerning this type of cracker-like matzah came from the Rema (Rabbi Moshe Isserles ca 16th century) who held that matzah should be rekikin (defined by some as wafer-like or "thin"). (Rema, Shulchan Aruch 460:4) I understand that a commentator to the Rema, the Baer HeiTeiv (1730 - 1770) noted that soft matzos were available still in his era. It appears from my reading, that the cracker-like matzas were more of a result of mass production and the need to keep thme on the shelf longer. Soft matzas do not have a long shelf life.

Although it appears that many Ashkenazic Jews came to assume that perferating matzah dough was a requirement for it to be considered kosher for Passover, Rav Hershel Schachter, שליט"א, holds that this is not a requirement, and that Ashkenazic Jews can eat Sephardic soft matzah, citing as authority the Mishna B'rurah who speaks of "Matza made as soft as a sponge" which can be used for the Mitzvah of eating Matza.

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The Baer Heiteiv seems to indicate that the standard practice was soft Matzah (he even says that, although the Shulchan 'Aruch says you shouldn't make Matzah as thick as a Tefach, you don't really need to be so strict, although he advises you not to use it for the Mitzvah). –  Seth J Apr 3 '13 at 16:33
    
Why does Rekikin mean wafer-like or thin-as-possible? And if the latter, how do you know it means dry and not bendable? Seems to me the word means something more like flatbread which is as ambiguous regarding consistency as "Matza". –  Double AA Apr 4 '13 at 5:57
    
@DoubleAA: I made some changes that I think should satisfy your concerns. –  Bruce James Apr 4 '13 at 13:31
    
The only sentence in this post which is relevant is the citation to Baeir Heitev. The rest of it should be removed or made into a comment as it doesn't address the question. –  Double AA Mar 24 at 2:28
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