Why Bake Your Own Matzah?

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In his last post, Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, the author of Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us about Building Vibrant Jewish Communities, wrote about new models for engaged Jewish life. He’ll be blogging all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning’s Authors Blog series.


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A few years ago, my friend and colleague Rabbi Ethan Tucker wrote an article about independent minyanim in which he asked, almost as an aside, “We all cook and bake. Why shouldn’t every community be baking its own matzot?”

I admit at the time I thought this was a relatively marginal goal in the general trend toward Jewish empowerment. After all, we need people who can pass on the core Jewish principles of study, worship and acts of lovingkindness, not a competitor to the ably skilled people at Streit’s.

But Ethan’s challenge was an interesting one. He put it a different way in a lecture series he recently gave on halakhah (Jewish law). Does your own Jewish community have the skills, knowledge and confidence to truly own the Jewish tradition? Or, to put it another way, if we all eat matzah on Passover, why is it that none of us know how to make it?

And here I thought I was an empowered Jew. After all, I just wrote a book called
Empowered Judaism
. But I have no clue how to make matzah, one of the oldest commandments of Jewish living. And until this year (see below), I didn’t even know anyone who could do it (and believe me, I have a lot of Jewish friends on Facebook).

What’s worse: we free ride on other communities that don’t really buy into our approach to Jewish life in order to get matzah on Passover. Isn’t it odd that the people I buy matzah from would never be a 10th person in the minyan I daven in on Shabbat? We live in parallel Jewish communities, but only one group is totally dependent on the other to celebrate Passover (and make tefillin, and ritually slaughter animals, and write sifrei Torah, with a few exceptions to the latter two.)

Posted on April 8, 2010

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