03 May 2016

Harvesting Wheat for Shmurah Matza Pesach 2017

Ultra-Orthodox Jews hasten to harvest wheat for shmura matza, before rain falls
As wheat that has come into contact with water is considered leavened and thus unsuitable for Passover, wheat for shmura matza must be harvested on dry days.

An ultra-Orthodox man harvests wheat for shmura matza, May 3, 2016. Photo Gil Cohen Magen 

"As one Passover ends, preparations for the next begin. Ultra-Orthodox Jews hastened to harvest wheat for shmura matza on Tuesday before rain was expected to fall the following day, in order to ensure the wheat remains unleavened.

"Hita shmura is wheat that has been under supervision since it was harvested to ensure it has not come into contact with water. When wheat is ripe and dry – and no longer drawing nourishment from the soil – it is considered to be the same as harvested wheat that is lying on the ground. However, the moment it comes into contact with water, it is considered leavened. For that reason, particularly dry areas are chosen to become fields for growing wheat for shmura matza.

"During the period in which hita shmura is harvested, rainfall is closely monitored and weather forecasts are consulted. Furthemore, the wheat is only allowed to be harvested after four hours have passed since sunrise – to ensure the nightly dew has completely dried up – and only on days without rainfall. This helps ensure the moisture level of the harvested wheat remains at beneath its permitted limit of around 12 percent.

"With weather forecasts saying rain is nigh, dozens of ultra-Orthodox Jews have begun hastily harvesting the ripe wheat, in order to prepare the shmura matza for next year.

"The harvesting itself is done manually with a sickle. After the grains of wheat are separated from the dry stalks, the wheat is stored in large sacks and kept in warehouses, which are rid of insects and various pests in order to prevent infestation during storage.

"As harvesting is forbidden during the shmita (sabbatical) year and hita shmura is not imported from abroad, special care is taken in harvesting wheat the year before shmita to ensure that the harvest will last for the following two years. During the shmita year, Rabbincal law prohibits sefihin, grains, including wheat, that grew in a fields where sowing is forbidden."

Entire article from Haaretz online, at link above.

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