Spelt and Gluten-Free Matzos

Photos: Oded Kaizerman/Anash.org

Ask the Rov: What is the best grain to use for matzos if one can’t tolerate wheat?

By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin – Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah

In recording the mitzvah to eat matza, the Torah connects it to the prohibition to eat chametz. Chazal derive from this that matza must be made from a grain that can potentially become chametz. The proper leavening process only happens to the five grains — wheat, barley, rye, oats, or spelt.1 Although legumes such as rice and beans also undergo a form of fermentation, it is not called chimutz, but rather sirchon, a “decomposition” accompanied by an offensive odor.

Halacha states that the optimal way to perform the mitzva is with matzos made of wheat. Various reasons are offered, including that (1) the Mishna consistently mentions “wheat” in connection to matza,2 (2) wheat is mentioned first in the posuk listing the shivas haminim,3 (3) wheat is most tasty and therefore enhances the cherishing of the mitzva.4 Poskim write that one who does not have wheat can use whichever one of the other four types one likes the most, and in this way fulfill the mitzva with an appetite.5

However, some later poskim discourage using flours other than wheat, since other grains have a greater likelihood of becoming chametz and require extra precautions that are detailed in Shulchan Aruch, beyond what is necessary for wheat flour.6 Yet, in place of illness, such as one who can’t tolerate wheat, poskim allow making matza from the other grains.7

Is there any preference among the other four grains?

Halacha notes that barley is quicker to become chametz. When choosing between the alternative grains, spelt is considered an offshoot of wheat, while rye and oats are considered offshoots of barley. While the Alter Rebbe extends the concern of rapid chimutz to barley’s offshoots – rye and oats – he doesn’t apply it to spelt.8 For this reason, some write that if not using wheat, it is best to make matza from spelt.9

Due to the various concerns, when making barley or oat matzos, one should make a smaller amount at a time to enable working with all the dough throughout the entire process and avoid chimutz.10

See Sources (open PDF)

From The Weekly Farbrengen by Merkaz Anash

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    1. Spelt is not an option for someone who is celiac, but many people with a gluten sensitivity can manage with a few kazeisim of spelt by the sedorim. For such people, it is preferable to oats.

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