I've seen discussion of the need to check matzah for kefulos--particular types of folds (Mishnah Berurah 461:35)--before Pesach. However, I'm having trouble finding a good guide to what a kefula in matzah actually looks like.

Could someone please provide a picture, or else a clear discussion, of which types of folds are kefulos and which are not? What would a kefula look like--in machine-made matzah? In handmade matzah?

Separately, is there any reason to suppose that certain hechshers nowadays might obviate the need for this checking?

  • 1
    Are you using machine or hand matzot?
    – newcomer
    Apr 19, 2016 at 9:09
  • @newcomer Hand but would be interested in the answer for both
    – SAH
    Apr 19, 2016 at 13:11
  • I've never seen folds in hand matzot. I assume that the bakeries reject them rather than selling [possibly] chametzdik products. Apr 19, 2016 at 13:18
  • 1
    @SAH Just so you know, there is an argument amongst communities for what a kefula looks like. Ashkenazim have the impression that it's any part of the dough that rises. Middle Eastern communities view it as only pertaining to a rising of dough that was too thick and therefore part of it isn't cooking all the way and is therefore becoming chametz
    – Aaron
    Apr 19, 2016 at 18:33
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    @SAH sorry no, but I see them have an employee that is responsible for doing it, they would not pay for it if it is not their responsibility (sometimes they miss a few), (maybe the responsibility is of the hashgocho)
    – hazoriz
    Apr 19, 2016 at 21:00

3 Answers 3


Kefula means "doubled over." We have the same root word used in the morning bracha "zokef kefufim" (He straightens those who are bent over), or in upcoming Daf Yomi, "tenai kaful" (a legal stipulation where both possibilities are spelled out, if x then y, but if not x then z).

Then there's nefucha (swelled matzah), typically a bubble, similar in appearance to a bubble in a slice of pizza. (Another commenter here seems to have reversed the meaning of the terms.)

A kefula, according to all opinions, will involve the bending of the matzah over itself, either at the edge or in the middle. I believe most hold that there must simply be ANY spot that has two layers of what was previously rolled out dough.

The worries are:

  • Kefula: the dough ends up too thick to bake through properly, only a fully rolled-out dough is safe
  • nefucha: the air space insulates one or both inside edge of the dough within the bubble, and may allow it to remain raw

These were more problematic with the traditonal matza still used in some Sephardic communities. It looks like a laffa (or a pita), and can be quite thick and soft. The typical Ashkenazic matzah is so thin, and baked at such a high temperature, that there's really very little worry. However, since the kefula/nefucha rules are on the books, we still look for them. They don't make the matza chometz (unless you see that it really is improperly baked!), but we don't eat the kefula/nefucha area. Just break it off and toss it.

A discussion can be found in Orach Chaim 461, see in particular Mishna Berura 34 there.

Practical application of kefula, as seen in hand matza factories: At its most extreme, you would have a "taco" shape, with at least part of the two sides touching, but I've never actually seen that. More commonly, you have a small fold at the edge, either completely folded over, or a "roll" (a thin cylinder of airspace, with the edge of the matzah touching a spot perhaps 1/4 of an inch in from the new rolled edge). Sometimes you may also see a Z pattern in the middle, which is a double crease. All of these cases typically happen either in the final rolling of the dough as it is kneaded, or as the matzah dough is being placed in the over (it goes in hanging on both sides of a stave; the stave is then rolled to reflatten the matzah on the floor of the oven, and an error may result in a crease or in the edge not quite flattening out again). If the fold occurred during the kneading and rolling process, and the bend was subsequently "rolled out flat," but its outline still remains, it is OFTEN OK, if it is determined that it is "integrated" and not thicker than standard.

Practical applications of nefucha: Generally an air bubble.

The kefula can also have a nefucha aspect, if the airspace remains, as in teh "cylinder" example I gave above.

Commercial matza bakeries have a hechsher. The certifying agencies all do not permit fefula/nefucha to be sold. The bakeries are supposed to check every matza for these problems, break them off, toss out the broken off piece, and sell the remainder as "sh'varim" (broken matza that is less valuable, because it cannot be used in certain rituals). In practice, I have seen a few kefula matzos in my order every year, maybe one in 3%-4%. I have seen only one or two bubbles in the last few years, but I found two interesting cases this year. In one, there were two adjacent spots, with a pair of sharp relief concave circles in the matza that were lighter in color. In the other, along the edge, there was a 2-inch spot that was "stepped down," and also a lighter color. It seemed pretty obvious that a burnt surface had disintegrated after baking, or barely possible that they disintegrated in the oven after most of the baking had completed for these two matzos. I showed my rabbi, and he agreed that there were probably two "lost" nefuchos that disintegrated after baking, and the areas should be broken off and discarded..

  • 2
    Welcome to Mi Yodeya! While this answer largely accords with my own experience and understanding, most people who will read it don't know you or me, so have no reason to trust us. So can you cite any source for anything you write? If so, please edit it into your answer.
    – msh210
    Apr 19, 2016 at 21:56
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    Hi Dovid. Welcome to Mi Yodeya! Thanks for the edits which greatly improve your post. I look forward to seeing you around!
    – Double AA
    Apr 19, 2016 at 23:35
  • 1
    Time to make a shidduch between two productive new users. Can you answer this related question? judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/70481/…
    – Isaac Moses
    Apr 19, 2016 at 23:53
  • Thank you. I already cited Mishna but can't make much sense of the practicalities based on that, and it seems, at least according to one source ( shulchanaruchharav.com/Home-Database/default.aspx?pageid=matzah) that not all the instantiations of kefulos on your "practical application" list are truly problematic. For example, it says there, "If the fold is not touching the Matzah at both ends, even if there is only a tiny space of air in-between them, the Matzah is kosher, unless one sees that the area under the fold has not changed color"...
    – SAH
    Apr 22, 2016 at 2:41

Hand shmura matza, with a fold on the edge

Hand shmura matza, with a fold on the edge

Hand shmura matza, with a fold on the edge

Here are some photos of on that I found on the first day

  • This was in shmura with a hechsher?
    – SAH
    Apr 27, 2016 at 14:12
  • @SAH Yes a very good one, in Israel
    – hazoriz
    Apr 27, 2016 at 14:14

Kefula as is mentioned by the other answer, is a doubled over fold. You won't see these folds in store bought matzah as some of the comments have mentioned, because the ones that are baking look out for these folds and tend remove such matzot before sending the boxes out. Basically what happens is when one is placing the dough in the oven to be cooked, part of the dough ends up flopping over part of itself, like in the image below.

Wet dough, rolled out flat, partially folded over on itself

i understand that this picture has a fold on purpose, and that it isn't matzah, but this should give you a good visual representation for what is being discussed.

The real question is nefucha, which is commonly referred to as an air bubble, however i don't believe this is true. Nefucha is not prohibited by Yosef Caro in the Shulchan Arukh, but is prohibited by the Rema. But most people only quote the first part of what the Rema says, and conveniently leave out the words that immediately follow.

Shulchan Arukh 461:5

אם אפו חמץ עם מצה, לא נאסרה אלא אם כן נגעה בחמץ, ונוטל ממקום שנגעה כדי נטילת מקום והשאר מתר

מצה נפוחה באמצעיתה אסורה, אבל אם עלה עליה קרום כדרך שעולה על הפת בשעת אפיה, מתרת

If hametz was cooked with matzo, [the matzo] is not forbidden unless it touched the hametz, and one must remove from the place of contact to remove that spot, but the rest is permitted. Rem"a:...Matzo that is swollen in the middle is forbidden. If the upper skin rose like it does with bread during baking, it is permitted.

So clearly the Rema is speaking about a swelling in the middle that is forbidden, but he clearly states this swelling is NOT air bubbles, or any type of rising that is normal to the bread process. Unfortunately, despite the Rema's clear words, in the past 200 years most Ashkenazim rule that a nefucha is an air bubble. But if the Rema isn't prohibiting air bubbles, then what is he prohibiting? There was an incident regarding this issue that happened a few hundred years ago between a traveling rabbi from Jerusalem to a Yemenite community.

Yemenite Rabbi Mansura’s comment on this issue was written into the margin of a Shulhan Arukh with the Pri Hadash commentary. Here we cite some of what he said:

I would not have had to write this, were it not for a certain incident that happened. Namely, in the year 132 (for documents, i.e. 5579 or 1819) Rabbi David Nahmias, an emissary from the Holy City, appeared in our holy community and was put up in the home of the notable dayyan and holy man of G-d, my rabbi and teacher Rabbi Joseph Karah, z”l.

When they were setting the table, Rabbi David Nahmias made fun of us and cast doubt on our kashruth, saying that (Heaven forfend) we were eating hametz on Passover, since there were bubbles on the surface of the loaf, and this he said was the puffed up matzah of which Maharil wrote. Hence he did not want to eat.

In other words, Rabbi David Nahmias of Jerusalem refused to eat the Yemenite Jews’ matzah because he thought the matzah which they made fell into the category of matzah which is puffed in the center, and such matzah is forbidden. Rabbi Nahmias erred in not understanding that Rema’s reference to “ matzah which is puffed in the middle” pertained to thick matzah, since when it is thick it might not be baked through thoroughly. With Yemenite matzah, however, the law of matzah which is puffed in the middle does not apply since the Yemenite Jews bake extremely thin matzahs, and the bubbly surface on the matzahs which they served were not an indication of it being “matzah which is puffed in the middle.” Regarding this Rabbi Mansura wrote:

In my humble opinion it seems to me that these words apply to their matzahs, which are one tefah thick … but according to our custom, there is no reason for apprehension, since if you take ten of the matzahs that we bake and pile them one on the other, the stack will still not be one tefah thick.

Rabbi Mansura criticized the way matzah was baked in the Land of Israel, in contrast to the way it was made in Yemen:

You should see our beautiful cool water, and such fast kneading, that even in your land it is not equaled. It is also baked speedily, in one minute. Not so in your land, for we have heard complaints that you bake an extremely thick loaf, without hearing the flames of the furnace, and that it remains stuck to the walls of the oven for a long time; hence one suspects that it is way too far away from the fire for it to be baked in the blink of an eye, as our bread is made.

Moreover, to refute the words of the aforementioned Rabbi David (meaning Rabbi David Nahmias), who boasted of the practice in his land and criticized the matzah-baking custom of Sanaa, it is written in the work of Rabbi Pri Hadash, par. 459, 2, that the practice in the holy city of Jerusalem is not proper, for their dough ferments, and there is no one who properly understands this (see the above reference to the Pri Hadash).

Source: http://www.biu.ac.il/JH/Parasha/eng/pesah/gim.html

So according to the Rabbis of Yemen, a nefucha is a swelling in the dough that is caused by attempting to cook too thick of a matzah in an oven that's not hot enough to cook the matzah all the way through. Which makes sense since the Rema speaks of a swelling in the middle, which is the last part of the matzah to be cooked as the heat radiates from outside to in, and if your oven isn't hot enough you could end up with a center that isn't cooking and therefore starts to rise.

But despite clearly distinguishing these two ideas, most modern Poskim rule that one has to poke holes in their matzah to prevent air bubbles, which they call nefucha. But either way, in modern matzah that is made with perforations and is cooked incredibly thin and dry, one will never run across a true nefucha, and the perforations usually prevent any air bubbles, so one typically has nothing to worry about when buying packaged matzah that is a hard cracker.

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