What is Matzah?
Matzah is a cracker-like, unleavened bread made of white flour and water eaten by Jewish people on Passover instead of bread. It is pricked all over and is not given enough time to rise when baked. Indeed the time taken from the moment the flour touches the water until the Matzah enters the oven must not exceed eighteen minutes. The sages concluded that after eighteen minutes the dough ferments making the dough rise and ultimately forbidden to a Jewish person on the festival of Passover.
Leavened products are forbidden on Passover and there is a positive commandment to eat Matzah on the first night of the festival of Passover which falls on the fourteenth day of the Hebrew month of Nissan, during the spring.
What does Matzah symbolize?
- A historical explanation for Matzah is linked to the fact the festival of Passover commemorates the Jewish Exodus from Egypt. As the Jewish people hastened to leave, the bread that they had prepared for the journey didn’t have time to rise, resulting in Matzah.
- Matzah is also regarded as “poor man’s bread”. Despite the fact that the first night of Passover is a remembrance of the redemption from Egypt, the Matzah symbolizes the fact that the Jewish people must never forget their suffering, how it felt to be the underdog. The act of eating Matzah essentially enhances one’s appreciation of freedom.
- Alternatively, Matzah has become a primary symbol of the Seder night (the first night of Passover) since the Paschal lamb offering, the original primary symbol of Passover ceased to exist. The Paschal lamb offering was offered up in the Temple in Jerusalem but since the destruction of the Temple such offerings are forbidden. Indeed, the Afikoman (the last portion of Matzah eaten at the Seder) is eaten in place of the Paschal lamb. The Afikoman is placed in a special case, of which many beautiful examples can be found at our Afikoman covers– product page.
- Matzah undergoes special treatment to ensure there is no leaven. Every Matzah is perforated using an instrument called a reidel. This prevents any rising of the dough. Many view this process as symbolic of the need to eliminate pride and arrogance from our personalities.
- The Matzah on the Seder Table on the first night of Passover is often placed on a specially designated plate or tray that beautifies the ceremony. Click to follow to our Matzah Plates and trays and make this year’s festival that bit more special.