By Carol Glassman
With the coming of Passover on the evening of April 6, Jewish communities around the world and locally too, begin to prepare for the eight-day holiday. There will be housecleaning in extra-special ways to remove all traces of foods that may not be eaten and shopping for those that are permitted; special menus and recipes will be retrieved and the Passover dishes to put them on will be unpacked. Even old Passover jokes will be dug up for the occasion. Matzoh, that plays such an important role in the traditional, ritual Passover dinner, the Seder, makes a wonderful scapegoat. After taking the blame for situations like gastric distress, harmless looking matzoh cracker is referred to by some as “hemstitched cardboard” and elicits the story of a blind man running his fingers over a sheet of it and demanding, “Who wrote this, anyway?”
On a more serious note, Chabad of Naples treated its Hebrew school students to a hands-on visit from the Traveling Matzoh Factory run by ‘baker’ brothers Rabbis Schmuly (also known as Rabbi G) and Schloime Gutnick from the Chabad Youth Network.
Rabbi G, with a quick and humorous line of patter, led the children through making the two-ingredient crackers, producing flowers for flour and masquerading as ‘Farmer Joe’, complete with a straw hat and chewing on a stalk of wheat. He showed his rapt audience how wheat grows from seed, emphasizing that reaping wheat for the Passover matzoh must be supervised by a rabbi to ensure that it will be completed in 18 minutes and that it has had no contact with water, as that could start the leavening process. He then showed how to separate wheat grains from chaff, and organized a parent vs child contest. By the time the children were declared the winners of submitting the most clean wheat grains, the floor was covered with chaff.
Undeterred, Rabbi G demonstrated the stone grinder, the next step in making flour. Only stone — not porous wood or metal that could become heated and create water — can be used. The stone-ground wheat was sifted and finally mixed with water to make dough.
During the Exodus from Egypt, Rabbi G said, the Jewish people left Egypt in such a hurry that their unleavened lumps of dough became baked in the sun of the desert. But Rabbi G had his brother with his Tzivos Hashem Model Matzah Bakery fired up and ready to go. After the kids were given chef’s hats, they were shown how to roll out their dough pieces as thinly as possible. They poked holes in both sides and then entrusted the raw dough pieces to Rabbi Schloime who set them on a paddle, slid them in the oven, and baked them.
During the baking process, Rabbi G reviewed the format of the Seder and how it related to the Exodus. He handed out manna (lollipops) cautioning the children that taking more than one would result in waste, as manna did not last.
Finally the Chabad bakers-in-training took off their chefs’ hats to use as receptacles for the hot, freshly-baked matzoh which they couldn’t wait to taste.
Although the children made short work of eating their matzoh samples, they were advised that their matzoh would not qualify as being kosher for use at Passover, as it had not been made within the 18 minutes, as it should be.
When Passover does arrive, all the Chabad students will not only appreciate the origin of their matzoh and how it was made today, but they will also be aware of how and why the Seder evolved. Everyone agreed the Matzoh Factory is more than a simple cooking lesson.