IN PICTURES: 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.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
An ultra-Orthodox man harvests wheat for shmura matza, May 3, 2016.
An ultra-Orthodox man harvests wheat for shmura matza, May 3, 2016.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen
Gil Cohen-Magen
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.

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

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.

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

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

SUBSCRIBE
Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

בנימין נתניהו השקת ספר

Netanyahu’s Israel Is About to Slam the Door on the Diaspora

עדי שטרן

Head of Israel’s Top Art Academy Leads a Quiet Revolution

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

Skyscrapers in Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv.

Israel May Have Caught the Worst American Disease, New Research Shows

ג'אמיל דקוור

Why the Head of ACLU’s Human Rights Program Has Regrets About Emigrating From Israel

ISRAEL-VOTE

Netanyahu’s Election Win Dealt a Grievous Blow to Judaism