Chamets & Matza, Astounding Halacha
WHAT IS MATZA?
Matza is bread made from flour and water exclusively and which has not been given even the smallest opportunity to “rise”.
When we make bread, it is common to add yeast to the dough in order to make the dough rise which in turn makes a pleasant baked bread with a spongy texture.
WHAT IS CHAMETS?
Chamets is any flour dough that has been modified through the activity of yeast.
WHAT IS YEAST?
Yeast is a living organism. Yeast is microscopic and there is hardly a place on our planet that is not occupied by yeast.
As a fruit tree “eats” water and sunlight and “manufactures” sweet fruit, so too yeasts “eat” sugars and “manufacture” two very important products, alcohol and carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, in bread making the alcohol evaporates during the baking process but the carbon dioxide gas is trapped in the gluey mass of dough. It is this trapped gas that fills the dough with thousands of tiny bubbles, which make it rise, and which expand even further when heated in the oven.
Yeast however is not an ingredient that must be added to bread dough. Yeast is a living organism which lives almost everywhere on our planet and it is next to impossible to keep it completely out of any dough or anything else we make or have.
Yeast is microscopically small and will float about at the whim and fancy of the capricious winds and fortunes of fate. There is probably no natural supply of flour or water that is not charged with millions of yeast spores. They float in the air we breathe and they are an unavoidable component of every dough we make.
YEAST IS NOT CHAMETS
But yeast on its own is not Chamets. It is only when yeast interacts with flour that Chamets is created. Yeast will only interact with flour if the conditions are suitable. Firstly we require moisture and secondly some warmth.
But not every interaction between flour and yeast is Chamets. Chamets is produced only when the interaction is sponsored with water. If wine for example, is used instead of water, although the dough will rise, the dough is not Chamets.
Similarly, any other grains or grain like flour when kneaded with water and even if yeast is added to the mix, does not become Chamets even when it rises.
And not every interaction between flour and yeast in the presence of water is Chamets. It will depend on the change that has occurred to the dough. This is the foundation for the well-known refrain, 18 minute Matzot. Although the Talmud did not measure time in minutes or seconds, it offered a measure which reflects 18 minutes, before which a mixture of flour and water in ordinary climatic conditions could be safely assumed to have not yet become Chamets.