Can I Have Gluten-Free Matzah?

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I want to note that I am not Jewish so my knowledge is coming only from those I know who are and studying the practice on the most reliable source I could find on Jewish tradition, chabad.org. There is a lot of confusion and frustration regarding the practice of Matzah on Passover for those living with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. As I heard the genuine concern in the voices of local members of my gluten free community about whether they were adhering to the strict observance of eating matzah during Passover when consuming the gluten free version, I wanted to find the truth for these people. If you don’t entirely understand the full commandment of Passover, you would assume that the gluten free matzahs on the market are suitable. This is what I thought too. I was educated when I learned the following from a woman in my community living and breathing this religion.

A true matzah is made of any of the HaMotzi grains (wheat, barley, rye, spelt, oat) and is under rabbi supervision not to  be sitting in water longer than 18 minutes before it’s truly cooked. All regular and GF matzahs have to be cooked in under the 18 minute mark or else leavening (rising) takes place, and of course a major commandment associated with Passover is to rid Jewish houses of leavened bread during the holiday. The cracker-like imitation is tasty (even addictive!), and made of tapioca starch and a few other things, but by definition, it’s a cracker (which has no stipulations on ingredients or cooking times) . It’s not matzah (which I tried to define up above). Did it cook in under 18 minutes? Who knows. Was it made with one of the Hamotzi grains. Nope.

I wanted to understand even further and get the church’s official standpoint on this so I went to chabad.org for the answer. This is the article I found. Below is the portion of it I found most helpful. Thank you Chabad.org for explaining this in such depth.

Note: Due to current confusion and misconception, we must stress that rice or potato matzah is not acceptable for the seder. Matzah for the seder must contain one of the grains mentioned below.

On Passover eve we are commanded to eat matzah, a thin cracker-like bread, in remembrance of the matzah that our forefathers ate when they left Egypt.1 While this matzah can be made out of flour from any of the five grains2 (wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats), the famed codifier of Jewish lawRabbi Moshe Isserles, writes that the custom is to specifically use wheat flour for the matzah.3 However, if someone has a problem with gluten in general, things get a bit more complicated.

The issue with oats is that, unlike the other four grains, in order to store them, the oats have to be treated with heat. When one of the five grains is treated with heat, it can no longer become leaven,8 which is problematic in terms of fulfilling the requirement to eat matzah (see footnote at length).9

In light of this, contemporary rabbinic authorities rule that in a situation where using one of the other grains poses a serious health risk, one should only use oat matzah that was treated with heat before it was stored.10 Therefore, it is important to ascertain whether someone’s issue is simply gluten intolerance, celiac disease, or a true allergy, as these conditions vary significantly.

However, recently on the market are gluten-free oat shmurah matzahs. Instead of storing and treating the oats with heat, they bake the matzah immediately after harvesting the oats. It would seem then that these matzahs are free from the above-mentioned concern that the mixture would not be susceptible to become leaven.

Whether you choose to observe this in the specific way Chabad.org asks you too is entirely up to you, however it is so incredibly important for us to be sensitive to those who want to follow their Jewish commandment with exactness and are trying to stay true to what they believe while also taking care of their body. Have any of you found any other answers that would be helpful to those looking for it?

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