Stop! Don’t Touch That Matzah

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So I don’t know if you noticed, but we just finished up with Purim. So many kind strangers and people-from-my-synagogue-whose-names-I-sort-of-know-but-don’t-exactly were kind enough not to be weirded out by my early-1990s raver costume (Arabic noise-rock t-shirt, fluorescent dummy, paisley jacket, purple parachute pants). Not only did they still talk to me whilst wearing that getup, but they gave me presents of candy bars and huggy drinks. And now that my kids are having their naps, I have ingested a ridiculous amount of those things (we are, on ordinary days, an organic-stuff-only household), and now I am bouncing up and down.

Ironically, one month to the day after we gain possession of all this wondercandy, we’re required by Jewish law to get rid of it. Because we’re 30 days away from Passover, and in order to make our bodies (and our mouths) ready for the experience of the holiday, there’s an idea that we’re not supposed to eat any matzah for 30 days before Passover begins.

(Insert clever joke here about how you don’t need to be persuaded, because you wouldn’t dream of eating matzah one more day than you absolutely have to.)

But before you write off the custom, and before you write off unleavened bread — if you haven’t already — just stop and think about the idea. Staying away from any single kind of food for 30 days, whether it’s your favorite food in the world or a food you despise, will let you try it new again. You’ll be able to sample it fresh, new, and unadulterated, with a clean taste (both figuratively and literally) in your mouth.

So this year, before starting off your Paschal season prejudiced against the very flatbread that’s the reason for the season, try living 30 days matzah-free. Then, on the seder night, pick up a piece. Karate-chop it in half. Feel how it hits your tongue. How it serrates against your teeth. Maybe this isn’t the usual taste of freedom, but maybe your next piece of matzah will be a whole new experience.

Posted on March 22, 2011

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2 thoughts on “Stop! Don’t Touch That Matzah

  1. Mikha'El J.

    Where does it say in the Torah that we Required to abstain from eating matzah for 30 day before Passover?

  2. Matthue Roth Post author

    It doesn’t say anything of the sort in the Torah! Don’t know where you got that idea from. However, many sources, including the Jerusalem Talmud, Maimonides, and the Shulhan Arukh say varying customs of this — either the week before, two weeks before, or the month before. The general idea is, you want to be able to say a “shechechiyanu” prayer on the night of Passover — and you want that taste to be new and unfamiliar in your mouth.

    I didn’t want to include the whole list in my post, because I really just wanted to talk about the idea. But here’s a really good post that breaks down all of the sources, if you’re curious:

    http://www.torahlab.org/doitright/matzoh_before_pesach/

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