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Tuesday, March 28, 2006


What does the Charedi world have against women?

My previous post about matzah--with the chumros baked right in--got me thinking. The matzah bakery I visit every year (which will have to remain nameless, for reasons that will soon become clear) had, until recently, a squad of some 20 women rolling the dough into matzah-shaped circles. Or circle-shaped matzah. But I digress.

About two years ago, I started seeing signs touting the higher level of holiness and purity and mitzvah-readiness of "Menner Matzah" - matzah that was made wholly and exclusively by men. Because, really, who wants yucky girls touching their matzah?

Now, what's the advantage of menner matzah? The men are touted as avrechim and yirei shamayim, naturally, but I've seen those terms misappropriated before. Is there a halachic problem of women making matzah? I don't think there is. They're not attempting to be motzi us - fulfill an obligation on our behalf - by making the matzah. So what's the deal?

I have the same problem with tzitzis that are touted as being 'tviyas gavra' - 'spun by men.' I assume this means the threads were spun by men, as opposed to women. (It could mean spun by hand, as opposed to machine, but I don't think it does.) Moshe Rabeinu and Aharon Hakohen had no problem wearing uniforms that were made with thread spun by women. We just read it three days ago! G0d Himself had no problem dwelling in a mishkan covered with tapestries spun by - you guessed it - women.

So what's the freakin' problem?!

Back to the matzah. This year, the rolling table staff was markedly different. There were still four or five women, but the rest of the group was male-oriented. And they were divided into 'starters' and 'finishers.' The starters (all the women were starters) take the initial glob of dough and roll it into a rough circle. The finishers roll it the rest of the way, on metal tables, with metal rolling pins. This makes the matzah exceedingly thin. And the finishers were all men.
Is this the wave of the future? Will there be no more world-weary but cheerful women rolling the dough, calling out "Matzah!" when their matzos are ready, reading Tehillim on their breaks?
And really, are the men so much holier and more special? The ragged tee-shirt-wearing Israeli teenagers who hang out in the alley, smoking cigarettes and cursing at one another in Arabic? These are the avrechim and yirei shamayim who are going to super-charge my matzah with extra mitzvah power?

Or is it just the guy at the oven, and the guy who pours the water, who have to be really frum? Because they have payos, so they must be at least three levels higher than the rest of us, right?
And by the way, we found out what Rashi matzos are. Rashi stands for Rechayim Shel Yad - which means that the flour was hand-ground. More than justifies the double price, right?

I would like someone to explain to me - via e-mail or the comments or on another blog - what's wrong with a woman rolling the dough for my matzah?

I have not persued this question with anyone in the industry but I can give you some sources. See Kaf HAchaim siman 455 ois 16 ,in the name of the Ben ish chai (tzav 17) that a nidah should not touch the water for the matzos. It seems the K"H adds the same would apply to any working with the dough(kneading ect.){agav see K"H siman 460 ois 20 that if a women helps in the grinding and cutting of the wheat it is a segulah not to miscarry. maybe the Ben ish chai's 'kepeduh' only applies after water was added to the flour because now it is 'mekabel tumah'} maybe this is part of the reason -------------- hatzlacha...
after Das Torah's beautiful explanation, I hate to be cynical... but it might have to do with money...
Das Torah, why don't we have that k'peida with challah that's baked all year round? Also, if we're worried about a nida touching the dough, why aren't we worried about the men - especially the teenagers - who may be tomei with keri? Shouldn't they have to go to Mikva before working on the dough?

In my humble opinion, ein l'davar sof. You know what I mean?
I think it's a brilliant idea, now they will be able to charge even more for pessach products.
Since you are a big fan of yotzros, you will remember that in the piyut 'Elohei Haruchos' from yotzros for Shabbos Hagadol, it mentions that it is the women that do the kneading. Just a thought.
Regarding tzitzis, its preferable that someone who is required to wear tzitzis should make them. Regarding matzos, many bakeries employ russians (I have never seen a heimishe lady rolling dough) whose status as Jewish is questionable.
P.S. Dont bash chareidim because of your ignorance.
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