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What is Matzah?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein

  

Library » Holidays » Passover » Matzah | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Matzah is a cracker like flat bread that comes in various shapes, sizes, and flavors. The word Matzah most often reminds you of (the Kosher section in your local supermarket, and more importantly) Passover. However, not all Matzah is kosher for Passover.

Passover and Matzah is a match made in Heaven. The Torah says:1 "In the first month on the fourteenth day in the evening you shall eat Matzah… for seven days leaven shall not be found in your houses". Hence a Jew has an active obligation to eat Matzah on the first night of Passover, and whilst s/he doesn’t have to eat Matzah for the rest of the week, s/he has a passive prohibition from eating/possessing any leavened bread.2

not all Matzah is kosher for Passover.
Since the Matzah we eat on Passover stems from a Divine Commandment, special measures must be taken to make sure the Matzah qualifies for Passover use. In order to prevent leavening only water3 and flour4 are used in the making of Passover Matzah (for Egg Matzah see here). Additionally, the Matzah is made in record breaking time: no longer than 18 minutes from when the water is poured into the flour until the baked product comes out of the oven. Passover Matzah is also made with the specific intent of using it for the Mitzvah.

When shopping for Passover Matzah check the package to make sure it says Kosher for Passover. Kosher for Passover Matzah is available in most supermarkets in the United States, and is fairly inexpensive (especially the week after Passover). The Rolls Royce of Passover Matzah is Hand Baked Shmurah Matzah, which is available from specialized Matzah Bakeries or through your local Chabad Rabbi, and begins at about $18 a pound.

because "we are what we eat" we actually bring faith, healing, and humility (poor man's bread) into our personal lives, enabling us to escape and transcend the personal afflictions of life.
Passover Matzah is also known as the "bread of affliction"5, "poor man’s bread"6 , "bread of faith"7 and "bread of healing"8 .

Those four terms actually sum up the reason behind eating Matzah on Passover: when our ancestors were slaves in Egypt (affliction) G-d miraculously redeemed them (healing); the Jews followed G-d out into the desert without knowing exactly where they were going or how they would survive in the desert (faith), carrying with them just simple dough which didn’t have time to rise (poor man’s bread).

By eating Matzah we commemorate the Exodus of the past, and because "we are what we eat" we actually bring faith, healing, and humility (poor man’s bread) into our personal lives, enabling us to escape and transcend the personal afflictions of life.

Footnotes

  • 1. Exodus 12:18-19
  • 2. Talmud Tractate Pesachim page 120. Rashi Exodus 12:15
  • 3. This water is drawn from a spring the evening before baking and sits in storage overnight to achieve a perfect temperature.
  • 4. The flour must be made from one of the following five grains: wheat, spelt, rye, barley or oats. The process from grain to flour must be in accordance with the laws of Kosher for Passover.
  • 5. Deuteronomy 16:3
  • 6. Deuteronomy 16:3 as explained in Talmud Tractate Pesachim the end of page 115b
  • 7. Zohar Volume 2 page 183b
  • 8. ibid.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Holidays
Holidays » Passover

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Matzah
(pl. Matzot). Unleavened bread which is eaten on Passover, especially at the Passover Seder (feast), commemorating the Matzah which the Jews ate upon leaving Egypt. It consists of only flour and water and resembles a wheat cracker.
Passover
A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
Kosher
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
Exodus
1. The miraculous departure of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in 1312 BCE. 2. The second of the Five Books of Moses. This book describes the aforementioned Exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the erection of the Tabernacle.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.