6

It seems universally we make hand matzos circular and machine matzos square. I'm assuming the reason for square machine matzos is to distinguish them from hand ones and also because it is more economical to bake them in a cut up sheet of similar forms. (Please feel free to correct it if this is wrong.)

Circular hand-made shmura matza
"Shmura Matzo" by Yoninah. Licensed CC BY-SA 3.0.

My question is, why are hand matzos circular? It seems sefardim and ashkenazim make them like this, which suggests this is a universal minhag of some sort. Are there halachic or midrashic or kabbalistic reasons why this is so?

  • See: chefshalhoub.com/Ancientovensbaking.htm. – mevaqesh Mar 19 '17 at 14:03
  • 1
    @mevaqesh This is a good answer. You should summarize it in an answer and not just leave it as a comment – sabbahillel Mar 19 '17 at 14:07
  • Related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/14392/759 – Double AA Mar 19 '17 at 14:10
  • @mevaqesh what it seems from your post, the design of the Roman oven had a large cylindrical shaft so the bread would come out rounded? Or did I miss something in the link? Surely we were making matzos before Roman ovens -- do you think they were round-ish also? – gt6989b Mar 19 '17 at 14:42
  • It seems from some reading that ancient bread; particularly flatbread was generally round, whether it was made in Rome, Egypt, or elsewhere. – mevaqesh Mar 19 '17 at 14:48
10

In שו"ת מהרי"א סי' קנ"ז (seen here and continued here), it speaks about the shape of matzos being specifically round. This was written during the period of controversy regarding machine matzos.

  • The word עוגה (as in עוגות מצות) means round.
  • At first glance the word "עוגות" is superfluous; why do we need to know what shape they made their matzos? And even if there is a need for it, we can infer it from the פסוק which says they didn't have time to make leavened bread, and the fastest way to roll a dough is into a circle.
  • Therefore, there must be a reason why the Torah tells us they were made round - because we should also be making them round.

Now that we have established that they must be round, there must be a reason why they should davka be round:

  1. Matzos are called "לחם עוני". Poverty is like a wheel that turns, hence it is round.
  2. תשעה באב falls on the same day of the week as the first night of Pesach. Therefore, as a remembrance for the אבילות on the חורבן, we eat eggs by the seder; for the same reason the matzos are round.
  3. At the time, the law in מצרים was that one made his bread in a triangular or squared shape according to how many "gods" he believed in. Therefore, in order to separate themselves from this, the Jews made their breads round, signifying the Oneness of Hashem.
  • Wish I could give more +1 for each answer---well done! The OU notes the reason machine matza isn't round is due to the concern "pieces of dough would have to be cut off and combined with the general dough mixture....with fear of those pieces becoming chametz before being returned to the dough." – NJM Mar 19 '17 at 21:13
  • Actually that is also mentioned briefly at the beginning of the תשובה. – Ploni Mar 19 '17 at 21:15
  • fantastic, i heard of this teshuva but could not find neither it nor the author, thanks for tracking it down and writing a great summary for reference. If I could +2, I would :) – gt6989b Mar 20 '17 at 16:19
  • 2
    Very interesting info. IIRC, a Hassid told me that this is one of the reasons why many Hassidim eat only hand matzot during Pesach. Practically, from what I have read, in automating the process, square matzot are easir to make because they can be evenly cut into sheets and quickly packed into square boxes while staying flat and uniform. Hand matzot are actually more easily made round. If you've rolled enough dough (not specifically for matzot), it takes longer to roll a square than a circle. – DanF Mar 20 '17 at 16:27
  • Machine matza is made in a long continuous ribbon which is sliced lengthwise and widthwise just before it enters the oven – SamuelManuel Mar 20 '17 at 19:12

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .