Matzah — The bread of poverty

Rabbi Marcelo Kormis

If you have been to your local supermarket lately, you have surely noticed a dedicated section full of Passover products. These products are there to facilitate the observance of the dietary laws on the holiday, which are very strict.

One of the most pre-eminent products on the Passover shelves is the Matzah. You may have seen it coming in different boxes, sizes and shapes. When preparing for the celebration of the holiday, some people prefer to bake their own Matzah, others consume a manually kneaded Matzah, while others prefer a guarded Matzah (shemurah) which has been closely supervised since the harvest of the wheat to prevent any fermentation.

The eating of this flat unleavened bread is based on the story of the exodus from Egypt. According to the book of Exodus, the Israelites left Egypt in such a hurry that they couldn’t wait for their bread dough to rise and took the unleavened bread as their food for the journey. As a remembrance of this haste on the journey from slavery to freedom, we don’t eat any kind of leavened bread on the holiday, including certain grain-based foods.

On the first two nights, during the Passover meal, we start the narration of the Exodus with the words “HaLachma Aniyah — This is the bread of poverty that our ancestors ate in the Land of Egypt.” On Passover, the Matzah is not only the bread of haste and liberation but also the bread of poverty and persecution that our ancestors ate in Egypt.

As such, this flat, simple, unleavened bread should be a powerful reminder for us that there are others who are suffering from hunger, poverty and persecution in our time. According to the Connecticut Food Bank, nearly half a million Connecticut residents struggle with hunger, and more than 140,000 children are food insecure.

The Matzah teaches us that we cannot be truly free if there are still people suffering in our midst. We cannot be truly free if there are children who don’t have a plate of food on their table. As Leonard Fein, founder of Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, wrote, “We are slaves because freedom means more than broken chains. Where there is poverty and hunger and homelessness, there is no freedom; where there is prejudice and bigotry and discrimination, there is no freedom; where there is violence and torture and war, there is no freedom.”

The narration of the exodus begins with an invitation to everyone who is in need to join us at the table because we cannot be free if others are suffering around us. As we get ready to celebrate the holiday of freedom, may God inspire us to share our Matzah with those in need and to continue working together for a better and more just society for all.

Rabbi Marcelo Kormis is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth El in Fairfield.

About author

By participating in the comments section of this site you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and User Agreement

© HAN Network. All rights reserved. Stratford Star, 1000 Bridgeport Avenue, Shelton, CT 06484

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress