It is a recognised fact that Jewish people love to argue, sometimes even if no one else is within a twenty mile radius we have been known to argue with ourselves! The Torah describes the Jewish people as ‘Am K’shei Oref hu’ – ‘A stiff necked people’. I would like to mention probably the most well known mitzvah of Pesach. Matzah—you know, that food like marmite which either you love or hate. An argument has ensued for the last 176 years regarding the type of matzah we chomp. So what happened? What started this barney?
It was caused by what we sometimes call today ‘progress’. In 1838 a gentleman by the name of Isaac Singer introduced the concept of machine matzahs! Until then matzahs had always been handmade without the employment of any manner of automated machinery.
You may now be questioning why this caused such a stir that has lasted for close to 200 years?! The reasons are complex, but suffice to say that the concept of‘מצה שמורה – ‘Guarding The Matzah’ (effectively to make certain it does not become chametz) comes in to play. The question is essentially: Do Machine matzahs fulfil the requirement of ‘guarding the matzah’? Prior to the use of machines, the matzah would have been produced by humans throughout the entire process and was therefore within sight of a human being. The machines however, are said to heat the matzah as Rabbi Shlomo Kluger argued that the machines produce heat and they cause the dough to become hotter than normal and more susceptible to becoming chametz.
The matzah issue has led to many varying opinions ranging from not allowing any type of machine baked matzah, to only purchasing the round shemura matzot which is often a costly exercise as no machines are used, or only having machine baked shemura matzah as this is dependent on the extent to which the grain was guarded prior to baking so that it has been safeguarded and is certain to have not become chametz, all the way down to the standard Rakusen styled matzahs made by machines.
What of the notion of the Jewish folks as a stiff necked people? Does this argument bring the Jewish people into disrepute due to our internal squabbles? I would suggest a resounding NO! A dispute such as this is a holy dispute. It is caused by Torahdiker Jewish souls arguing for the sake of heaven, arguing over the minutiae of the Holy Torah, arguing in a menschlech manner as has become so well known within the Yeshiva world. In Ethics of the Fathers we are told: “Any dispute which is for the sake of Heaven will ultimately endure, and one which is not for the sake of Heaven will ultimately fail. What is a dispute for the sake of Heaven? This is a debate between Hillel and Shammai. What is a dispute not for the sake of Heaven? This is the dispute of Korach and his assembly.” Hence, our greatest Halakhic devisors Hillel and Shamai were arguing for the sake of heaven. Korach by contrast who sought to belittle Moses and cause difficulties for him is considered a ‘dispute against The Almighty’ and that is why ‘it’ and ‘he’ did not endure.
May we all continue to squabble and argue in health and happiness, but only for the sake of heaven, arguing in a non heretical manner, a non defamatory manner and in a way that will ultimately lead to the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days, Amen.