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Halachic Time Limits Matza, Maror, and Wine at the Seder


  1. Some of the basic mitzvos on the Seder night involve eating matza and maror. How much of each must be eaten during the Seder, and how much wine must be drunk for each of the four cups? How did the matza recipe change over the centuries, and what was the reason for it? Why are matzos today smaller than in the past? How should matzos be measured to determine if they are a kazayis? How is the Seder wine drunk – can it be enjoyed in small sips? What should the elderly or feeble do if they find eating the requisite amount of maror difficult? For all the practical guidelines, read on.

Halachic Amounts

The mitzva of eating matzah at the seder is the only Biblical eating mitzva still fulfilled today. As a once-a-year mitzva we all wish to fulfil it in the best possible way. The following article will outline all the details of the mitzva – sizes and speed of consumption.

Eating less than a kezayis is not halachically considered eating. Therefore, one who ate less than that size (which will be defined below) is not considered as having eaten at all.

In order to fulfill the mitzvos on the Seder night it is best to eat a total of 5 kezeysim of matza and 2 kezaysim of maror.

The 5 kezeysim are as follows:

At Motzi Matza we have 2.5 matzos on the table: 2 whole matzos for the two loaves eaten at every Shabbos and holiday meal, and a half piece to fulfill the mitzva of eating lechem oni – Bread of Affliction, because the “afflicted”, or poor, are accustomed to eating only leftovers. Therefore, preferably, one should have one kezayis from the 2 whole matzos, and one kezayis from the broken matza and the two kezaysim should be eaten together.

The next kezayis is eaten at Korech along with the maror according to Hillel’s understanding of the required fashion of eating the Korban Pesach.

At the end of the Seder one should preferably eat 2 more kezaysim of matza as afikomen – one to commemorate the Pesach Sacrifice, and the other for the matza eaten along with it. However, if one finds this difficult he should eat one kezayis.


Maror is eaten twice – once on its own, and once as part of the Korech sandwich mentioned above.

Matzos – Past and Present

Matzos in the past were made out of a very wet watery dough, and resulting in a soft, thick matzah. The only drawback was their shelf life – they had a very short lifespan and got moldy quickly. These matzos had to be baked fresh every day.

As long as matzos were baked at home, adhering to the stringent halachos of Pesach was possible. In fact, Yemenite women traditionally baked fresh matzos every day of Pesach. They would bake only one batch a day, and no more. Once baking matzos at home became impossible (due to modern ovens, kitchens, and transitioning to commercial production) it became impossible to ensure that even one single crumb from the previous batch would not get mixed in with the next run. This, along with other considerations, led to the change in the matza recipe. Now the matzos are much harder, contain much less water, and have a very long shelf life. As much as 500 years ago we already find mention of matzos as being hard cracker-like bread, with a very long shelf life. These matzos can be baked months before Pesach and keep for years. In fact, decades-old matzos from various locations have become collector’s items.

Ashkenazim took on an extra stringency approximately 150 years ago, prohibiting baking matzos during Pesach due to the above mentioned and other considerations (excluding the matzos for the Seder which some are careful to bake on erev Pesach, after midday).

The soft matzos used by Eidot Hamizrach today continue to be soft, although they are baked before the holiday and preserved by modern preservation techniques, or frozen.

Kezayis in Hard Matza

A soft matza is quite large and contains nearly ten kezeysim each, so the three matzos at the Seder can easily supply many participants. Hard matzos, though, are thin and contain very few kezaysim, requiring more matzos to supply Seder participants with enough kezeysim. In order to rectify this, some poskim maintain that every boy over bar mitzva should have 3 whole matzos from which to eat his kezayisim, and every girl over bas mitzva should receive a kezayis from the 2 central matzos. Where there are many women, each should have her own set of matzos. However the mainstream ruling requires only the leader of the Seder to use the main set of matzos, and the rest of the participant eat 2 kezaysim from other matzos.

It is important to note that the Mishna Brura (475:1) is indecisive regarding the necessity of eating the second kezayis at the time of hamotsi. Therefore, one who finds eating the matzos difficult can certainly be lenient and eat only one kezayis of the broken central matza, and just a taste from the two whole matzos.


Korech commemorates the way the Pesach sacrifice was eaten when the Mikdash stood in Jerusalem. Today, the mitzva is fulfilled by eating a separate kezayis. The Igros Moshe (OC III, 66) writes that the ill, even if there is no danger to his life, who find eating a kezayis of maror difficult, can be lenient not to eat a full kezayis of maror during Korech, but one who does not find it difficult should certainly make the effort to eat the full amount.

Defining Measurements

The size of a kezayis is a volume measurement, defined by the Tosefos as half an egg, and by the Rambam as a third of an egg. (An egg, according to the Chazon Ish is 100 cubic centimeters while according to Rabbi Chim Na’eh it is 54 cubic centimeter). Many tests were conducted to determine the weight of a kezayis since measuring volume is much more difficult. The results differ between  matzah manufacturers. Practically, the consensus is that for every gram of matza contains there are more or less 2 cubic centimeters.

While large air bubbles don’t count towards volume, small ones do.

In order to fulfill the mitzva of eating matza, 25 grams of matza are more than enough. For those who need the lower end of the scale – 16.6 grams of matza should contain enough matza according to the Chazon Ish (who follows the Rambam’s method in ruling). According to Rabbi Chaim Na’eh 13.5 grams of matza suffice (according to the Tosefos).

For those who eat soft matza, measuring the kezayis is much easier as well as eating the required amount.

Practically Measuring

While measuring volume is difficult, once one establishes how much his matzos weigh, he can easily determine the required amount of matza for the Seder.

For those who need to only eat the required amount and nothing more, weighing the matzos before Pesach is important. A simple kitchen scale can be used (after proper cleaning), and the matzos can be prepared before the Seder in plastic bags.

Without a scale one can still determine the weight of the matzos in his box by counting the number of matzos in the box and dividing the weight on the box by the number of matzos. We can’t provide any numbers here since there are large differences between manufacturers, and between hand and machine matzos.

Measurements for the Seder

The Mishna Brura (486:1) notes the differences in measuring the kezayis – both the Tosefos and the Rambam’s opinions. He rules that for Torah obligated mitzvos (e.g. Matza at the Seder) one should use the larger measurement – i.e. 50 cubic centimeters, but the ill can be lenient and eat the smaller size of 33.3 cc. For maror, although the mitzva is rabbinic, since a blessing is recited over it, one should also prefer to use the larger measurement so the blessing will not be for naught. Here, again, the weak who find eating the larger amount difficult can suffice with the smaller size.

Therefore, according to the Mishna Brura one is obligated to eat the larger measurement of kezayis only for the first eating of matza because the rest are rabbinic and for which no separate blessing is recited, and the smaller measurement is sufficient.

According to the Chazon Ish, the same measurement of 33.3 cubic centimeters is sufficient for both matza and maror, and even one eating only one kezayis each time can rely upon this amount.

Kedei Achila Pras

For an amount to be considered eaten it must be consumed within the length of time called “kedei achilas pras” (OC 475:6) – the time it takes to eat a pras, which is, according to the Rambam – bread the size of 3 eggs, and according to the other Rishonim — 4 eggs. In order to calculate it, one must estimate how long it takes to calmly eat 300-400 cubic centimeters of bread together with a dip. According to Rabbi Chaim Na’eh the size of bread is 162-216 cubic centimeters.

Translating this amount into minutes takes in account two factors – how much the pras is, and how long it takes to eat it.

The Chasam Sofer (volume 6, chapter 16) mentions no tradition as to the length of time. He deduces from the Gemara (Shabbos 34a) 2 very different times: one is 9 minutes, and the other is 2 minutes. While he sees 2 minutes as being too short of a timespan, 9 minutes appears too long. Therefore, one forced to eat on Yom Kippur should wait 9 minutes between each morsal in order to ensure he is not considered having eaten.

The Bikurei Yaakov (699:13), Rabbi Chaim Palagi (Moed Lechol chai 20:33); Melamed Lehoil (OC 113:5) define kedei achilas pras as 7.5 minutes. Gulas Aliyos (Mikvaos 10) quotes the Ba’al Hatanya as defining it as 8 minutes. The Tzemach Tedek (Sha’ar Hamiluim 9) writes it is 6 minutes.

The Kaf Hachaim conducted many experiments and found it to be between 4-5 minutes. For matza he rules that one should be stringent and finish a kezayis within 4 minutes, and for those forced to eat on Yom Kippur they should wait at least 5 minutes between morsels. The Chazon Ish (39:18) writes that matza should be eaten in less than 9 minutes and his brother-in-law, the Steipler notes (Shiurin Shel Torah, Shiurei Hamitzvos, 30) that one should preferably be stringent to finish the kezayis within 2 minutes according to the Chasam Sofer’s stringent understanding, but not more than 4 minutes.

The Igros Moshe follows the Marcheshes’ opinion (chapter 14) that kdei achilas pras is 3 minutes, although for Yom Kippur he requires waiting 9 minutes between bites.

Practically, most authorities require finishing the kezayis of matza within the first 4 minutes. For the ill or elderly who find eating quickly too difficult, they can be lenient and eat the smallest kezayis in the shortest amount of time possible, then continue the larger amount of kezayis until the longer time span.

Four Cups of Wine

As for the four cups of seder wine: according to Rabbi Chaim Ne’ah the cup should contain 86 cubic centimeters of wine, while according to the Chazon Ish it should have 150 cubic centimeters. Since the four cups are a rabbinic obligation, one can be lenient with the size if necessary, while preferably the larger cup should be used because a blessing is recited over it. The timespan for drinking is according to some opinions shorter than that for eating — which is 2-3 consecutive sips. However, if necessary one can drink within the time of “kedei achilas pras” as explained above.

Only One Kezayis

One who can only eat one kezayis of matza – either because he doesn’t have more, or because he can’t eat more – should eat his kezayis for afikomen. In this case the classic order of the Seder changes: Motzi Matza is skipped. After Magid one would proceed to Marror, Shulchan Orech-finish his meal and only then recite Hamotzi and Matza and eat the kezayis of matza for afikomen — 33 cubic centimeters of matza consumed within 4 minutes.


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