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Matzo Symbolizes “Bread of Aflliction and Freedom”

Passover is a week long festival, and if you’re still eating matzo here’s some food for thought on this key symbol of the Passover Seder.
This flat cracker that we eat at Passover may appear plain and inconspicuous, but the entire Exodus story can be told using this one single edible prop. At the beginning of the Seder, we hold up a piece of matzo and say, “Let all who are hungry come and eat.”

I took this pic on the 1st night of Passover. This round shaped unleavened bread is called a shmurah matzo and looks different from the ordinary square sheets found in the box at the grocery stores. This shmurah matzo was included in the “Bring-Passover-To-Life Box” that I picked up from Aish St. Louis and is described in a previous post. The shmurah matzo is used for the sole purpose of the Seder, unlike the other kind that I like to eat year round schmeared with butter, a favorite topping, or made into brei and drizzled with syrup or honey, plus the Tam Tams crackers are great for dipping (which I’ll share a recipe tomorrow). But I digress….
The shmurah matzo has a heartier crunch (still kinda tastes like cardboard) and is imperfectly round, bumpy, and often burnt on the edges, and that’s because it’s made by hand unlike the square matzo that is processed in a machine. Both types are baked quickly at a high temperature in under 18 minutes and will suffice at the Passover Seder. But the shmurah matzo is the real deal. The shmurah matzo, which means “guarded,” is supervised from the time the wheat is harvested to when the grain is grinded into flour, making sure it doesn’t touch water, which prevents it from rising and turning into chametz. The mitzvah is to eat a piece of matzo at the beginning of the Seder and break off a piece and hide it for the afikomen, or “dessert,” at the end of the ritual meal. Traditionally, whoever finds the afikomen wins a prize, but we all have something to gain, besides carbs.
This broken piece of matzo represents our own journey to the unknown, which we experience at some point in our lives, perhaps more than once. To become independent and free, we must break away from the past, and leave behind what is home and familiar to us, as we begin to build our own future. This separation is a good thing in order to understand the kind of person we are and who we want to become. And like anything else worthwhile in life, this take courage, time, and making mistakes–a good reminder as a parent when our children leave the nest.
This is why the “bread of affliction” is also the “bread of freedom,” because it describes our ancestors journey out of Egypt, as well as our own. Without struggle, there is no liberation.
Matzo sustained us while we were slaves and starving, and matzo kept us alive during a difficult journey in the desert to the land of milk and honey.
Our freedom begins when we are able to embrace others who are afflicted, as a way to overcome grief with gratitude for what we do have.
In the words of the beloved British Orthodox rabbi, philosopher, theologian, author, and public figure, Jonathan Sacks: “Sharing food is the first act through which slaves become free human beings. One who fears tomorrow does not offer their bread to others. But those who are willing to divide their food with a stranger have already shown themselves capable of fellowship and faith, the two things from which hope is born. That is why we begin the Seder by inviting others to join us. That is how we turn affliction into freedom.”
Hunger remains an epidemic to this day and the number of families who are food insecure has grown even more during coronavirus. One way to share our blessings is to donate to a food pantry, such as the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry, which provides fresh nutritious food and helps sustain children, families and seniors of all backgrounds and denominations in the St. Louis community.
Here’s the link:
May you continue to have a joyous Passover and avoid constipation from eating too much matzo. OY!