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My understanding is that there are 5 grains that may be used for fulfilling the mitzvah of matzah at the seder: wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt.

In U.S., the majority of matzot sold are made from wheat, though I have seen matzot made from oats and spelt. I gather that there are barley and rye matzot, though I haven't seen them in any markets.

Is there an order of preference of which grain to use for Seder matzot?

Also, may one use multigrain matzot? If, say, wheat is the 1st preference, does one fulfill this requirement with the majority being wheat, or does it need to be 100% wheat?

Note: I am referring to what I gather is the "current" translation / application of these 5 grains. I am aware that there are various interpretations of שועל and some of the other terms. Please do not delve into this unless it influences the answer.

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    For your note: I think one factor is how certain we are that the grain you're eating is actually one of the 5, so that will influence the answer. – Heshy Mar 14 '18 at 19:28
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The Mishna in Pesachim 2:5 reads as follows:

אלו דברים שאדם יוצא בהן ידי חובתו בפסח: בחיטים, בשעורים, בכוסמין ובשיפון ובשיבולת שועל

These are the things with which a person may discharge his obligation on Pesach: wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats.

[Note that these are the commonly accepted translations of the five grains. As mentioned by Dan F in his question, some of these identifications are a matter of controversy. I will not address this in my answer.]

R. Yosef Karo (Shulchan Aruch) in Orach Chaim 453:1 quotes this Mishna more or less verbatim, and writes that all five grains may be used for the mitzva of matza at the Seder.

1. Preference for wheat matzot

(Pseudo-)Rema (to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 453:1) writes that the custom is to preferably use wheat matzot.

The source of this custom traces back to Maharil, who held (Hilchot Afiyyat HaMatzot 1):

עיקר מצוה ליטול חיטין דלא מישתמיט שום תנא בלשניה כי אם חיטין לפסח

The main mitzva is to use wheat, because no Tanna ever talks about using something other than wheat for Pesach.

R. Mordechai Yaffe writes similarly (Levush HaChur 453:1):

נוהגין לקחת דוקא חיטין שהוא המובחר ומוקדם למצוה

We are accustomed to specifically use wheat, which is the choicest and first for the mitzva.

I have come across two approaches explaining this preference for wheat matzot:

Mishna Berura (453:2) explains that this custom is due to people preferring the taste of wheat matzot, and is thus a fulfillment of hiddur mitzva.

Maharsham (comments to Orchot Chaim 453:2) adds an additional reason to prefer wheat matzot; namely, that we are more experienced in ensuring that they don’t become chametz, as compared with other, less commonly used grains.

Thus, for Ashkenazim, it seems that the preference is to use wheat matzot, where possible.

2. If wheat matzot are unavailable

R. Ya'akov Reischer (Chok Ya'akov 453:2) mentions a possibility that one should follow the order of the Mishna. Thus, if wheat is unavailable, use barley, followed by spelt etc. However, he ultimately dismisses this.

R. Mordechai Yaffe (Levush HaChur 453:1) writes simply that if wheat is unavailable, one uses any of the other four grains, implying that there is no preference between them.

However, Mishna Berura (453:2) rules that if wheat matzot are unavailable, one should use whichever of the remaining four species of grain he prefers eating, so that he eats matza with appetite.

  • Maharsham's principle would apply to all the days of Pesach. If wheat Matza is available to you, then you shouldn't eat oat Matza at all on Pesach. – Double AA Mar 14 '18 at 20:12
  • The simple reading of Maharil/Levush is just that fundamentally wheat is the preferred method of doing the Mitzva. – Double AA Mar 14 '18 at 20:13
  • Re Maharsha"m in particular - I wonder if this opinion may have changed, somewhat, in time. While wheat matzot are still majority, here, there appears to be more concern towards gluten free and wheat allergies, etc. In some ways, from what I notice on the boxes, the oat and spelt hand shmurah matzot have more hashgacha symbols than the wheat ones. So, perhaps, these days, these grains are watched equally if not more than wheat is. – DanF Mar 14 '18 at 20:34
  • @DanF See p21 of this article which suggests your argument for greater leniency nowadays. – Joel K Mar 14 '18 at 20:56
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    @danf Buy oat flour. Add water. Watch it. There's a reason no one makes oat bread (at least without blending in other flours or chemical additives): it doesn't rise. It just sort of rots. That's why we can prove oats aren't one of the species in Talmud listed as able to become Chametz or Matza (such as שבולת שועל). Oat Matza is a bit like relying on Rabbenu Tam Zmanim: it's clearly contradicted by plainly observable natural phenomena. This isn't a secret even if most rabbis don't talk about it much. – Double AA Mar 14 '18 at 21:28

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