Parsha Mitzvot: Bo: Machine Matza
The first such machine seems to have been invented in Austria in 1857, and the use of it quickly spread to various countries, especially to Germany. There was an immediate and violent reaction on the part of the rabbis to its use.
The machine had already been used in various cities in Germany when it was brought to the Galician city of Cracow. Solomon Kluger wrote a letter to Rabbi Hayyim Nathan and to Rabbi Lebush Horowitz of Cracow, declaring that the matzot baked on such a machine were contrary to the law and could not be used for Passover, particularly for the mandatory matzot, the matzot mitzvah. Kluger’s letter, together with a number of other opinions from well-known rabbis agreeing with him, he published under the title Moda’ah l’Bet Yisroel (“Announcement to the House of Israel”). This was published in Breslau in 1859. In the same year, the famous rabbi of Lemberg, Rav Joseph Saul Nathanson, gathered the contrary opinions, which declared that the machine was certainly usable and the matzot baked by it kasher. These he published the same year in Lemberg and entitled the pamphlet Bittul Moda’ah (“Annulment of the Announcement”).
The arguments which were used by Rav Solomon Kluger of Brody became the basic arguments for all opponents of machaine matzot. First, he said, the fact that the machine is used in cities in Germany is of no relevance at all, because nowadays what is done in Germany should not be a guide for more observant communities.
Rav Kluger continues with the following argument, namely, that just as the Talmud never permits the shifting of the reading of the Megilla to the Sabbath because the poor count on receiving Purim gifts and would not receive them on the Sabbath if that day were celebrated as Purim, so it is with the baking of matzot. The poor people of the community are given a chance to participate in the baking (that is, because the matzot must be baked hastily so that the dough will not be given a chance to leaven, and many hands therefore are needed); the machine would prevent the poor from receiving an annually-expected income. (The basis for the Weinberg family custom to only eat hand matzah on Pesach)
Secondly, the mandatory matzah, which must be eaten on the first day and the blessing recited over it, must be baked under the supervision of an adult, intelligent Israelite; and, if the people doing the work are deaf-mute or insane or minors, even the supervision of an adult Israelite is not sufficient to make the matzah kasher. But the machine has not even the intelligence of a child; certainly, therefore, matzah baked by such an object without intelligence cannot be used.
Thirdly, the dough requires continuous kneading, lest in leaven before it is baked. The machine kneads the dough and lays it out for a while on the cutting-table and near the fire, where leavening, because of the heat, is all the more probable. Rav Kluger concluded with an appeal as follows: “Therefore change not the custom of your fathers. Let the Germans do as their heart desires, but we will go in the footsteps of our fathers.”