Saturday, April 12, 2008

A 'Kezayit' May Be Smaller Than We Thought

Israel - Researchers from Bar-Ilan University's archeological botanics lab say they have identified the strains of olive upon which the minimal halachic requirement of matza consumption is based. And their conclusions, if rabbinically endorsed, would be good news for those who have trouble digesting too much of the unleavened bread.

The size of an olive (kezayit) provides the Talmud's standard for the smallest amount of matza a Jew is obligated to eat at the Pessah Seder within a very short time. But because strains of olives come in various sizes, the precise required quantity has been unclear.

Prof. Mordechai Kislev, who headed the team with Dr. Orit Simhoni, Yonit Tabak and Ofer Tzarfati-Zuta, maintains that Syrian and Nabali strains, whose weight per olive is only around five grams (about a sixth of the weight of a machine-made matza), are the model for the halachic standard. The researchers said these types of olives, smaller than today's olives, were the most common during ancient times.

There are rabbinical arbiters who maintain one must eat a whole machine-made matza at the Seder, while others are more liberal and require only half of a matza or even only five percent of a matza. While eating a whole matza is usually not a problem for healthy people, it is for some, and especially for celiacs, whose digestive systems are highly disturbed by the gluten in wheat flour; some buy special, expensive matza made of oats, which do not contain gluten, but too much of these can cause digestive problems.

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