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In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 1 Mar 2019 07:42 PM and ends Sat 23 Feb 2019 08:50 PM
ה' אייר ה' אלפים תשע"ב
ערב ש"ק לפ' "זאת תהי' תורת המצורע ביום טהרתו" תזו"מ, ה' אייר תשע"ב
Important clarification from Rabbi M Gutnick on the "Soft Matza" Issue.
At the COSV Question and Answer session before Pesach this year I cited a written clarification by Rabbi Tzvi (Hirschel) Shachter of New York concerning his ruling on the use of "soft matzas" for Pesach. I stated that Rav Shachter confined his ruling allowing Ashkenazim to eat soft matzas on Pesach to traditional (mesoredike) Sefardi matzas only. Rabbi Shachter clearly used the words "Sephardi matzas" in his clarification and not a generic term such as "soft matzas". Accordingly, I added that Rav Shachter's clarification specifically did not include laffa, mountain breads and wraps and other such imitation "soft matzas" that did not conform with the traditional (mesoredike) Sefardi method in appearance or processing methods.
The issur (ban) placed on using such laffa/mountain bread products for matza on Pesach that was issued by various poskim in Eretz Yisroel and by the local Australian Rabbinate has been well-publicised, Nevertheless, in the interest of presenting a fair, authoritative overview of the whole issue, I felt an obligation to convey Rav Shachter's dissenting opinion at the COSV session - but clearly confining it to traditional Sephardi matzos in accordance with his written statement we had received the previous year.
Rabbi Meir Rabi, the producer and certifier of a locally produced laffa/mountain bread for Pesach has harshly challenged my statements in a number of forums. He claimed to have received an email from a confidant of Rabbi Shachter saying that Rabbi Shachter's permissive ruling applied to ALL soft matzas reliably produced Kosher for Pesach and not to any specific traditional matza process. He therefore continued to strongly insist that Rav Shachter's opinion endorsed his particular laffa/mountain bread product.
As a result of the conflicting interpretations of Rabbi Shachter's rulings I presented the issue again to Rav Shachter in the past week for clarification.
I asked, simply, whether I was right in conveying his original written clarification as pointedly permitting "only traditional (mesoredike) Sephardi soft matzas produced in a traditional (mesoredike) manner" given that his opinion had been more widely applied to other "soft matza" products - such as the laffa or mountain bread products that are produced with different appearance, form and processing method than traditional Sephardi matza.
I received the following answer by return from Rabbi Shachter's recorder of halachic policy - Rabbi Eli Gersten, Rabbinic Co-ordinator at the OU in New York.
Dear Rabbi Gutnick,
I showed your letter to Rav Schachter.,
He asked me to write back that he was indeed only referring to traditional Sephardic soft matza.
He is not sure what all these other styles of bread are and certainly did not express an opinion on something that he has never heard of and does not know what it is.
He reiterated that he does not endorse any particular manufacturer of soft matza.
Rabbi Eli Gersten
The reply from Rav Shachter clearly confirms what I have relayed concerning his views. Namely - that Rav Shachter has issued an opinion ruling that Ashkenazi Jews may eat traditional (mesoredike) Sephardi soft matza but that this ruling does not include other laffa and mountain bread products marketed as soft matza. He personally has certainly not endorsed any "soft matza" production - traditional sefardi or otherwise.
I further reaffirm my own advice that given the stricter and lenient opinions extant one should consult with one's own Halachic authority as to whether an Ashkenazi Jew may consume even the traditional Sephardi matza and as to whether any particular such product should be accepted as produced acceptably Kosher for Pesach.
Since receipt of that answer to my personal query I have now received a hand-written general pronouncement from Rav Shachter for circulation within our community addressing misrepresentation of his views that are still extant. A copy of the original is attached.
The letter translates as follows:
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
I have been asked many times over the past years if it is correct for Ashkenazi Jews to fulfil their obligation for eating Matza on the night of Pesach with Sephardic Matza. I have always answered that in my opinion this is not against custom provided that they should be produced under expert supervision under the strict guidance of reliable and responsible rabbinic authorities. My intention was in strict reference to the Sephardic Matzas that are known to us here in New York. I have now been informed from afar that there are new varieties called Laffa and Mountain Bread that I have never seen and know nothing about and I have not expressed any opinion concerning them, for one may only rule on what one's eyes have seen. It is impossible to give my opinion on anything that I am not familiar with. I am greatly astonished how a "living person can contradict a living person" and how it is possible that anyone can say things in my name that have totally never entered my mind.
Signed: Tzvi Shachter.
I am issuing this statement, after consultation with Rav Shachter, in order to confirm the clarification I relayed in the name of Rav Shachter particularly in the wake of what is considered a continued major misrepresentation by others of Rav Shachter's views. I sincerely hope that those concerned will read these clear clarifications and disclaimers by Rav Shachter and correct their misrepresentations accordingly.
With blessings that we all be granted the merit to convey and observe authentic Torah teachings,
Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick
Senior Rabbi, Elwood Shule
Senior Dayan, Melbourne Beth Din
Rabbinic Administrator, Kosher Australia
Past President, Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia