I kind of have to open with this joke...
Q: Why isn't Matzah popular outside of the Jewish Community?
A: Because it's never been on the rise.
But you probably won't get it unless you're Jewish (like me--hello, your favorite Jewtina!) or unless you've heard my quick history lesson about the origin of Matzah (which I'm capitalizaing for emphasis). I promise this will be fast! Matzah is the food Jews eat on the Jewish holiday of Passover. It’s basically made out of dough that didn’t rise. So it’s a very thin flat bread that’s crunchy like an oversized cracker. Jewish people eat this type of bread throughout all days of Passover and refrain from eating any other type of bread or non-kosher food while observing the Passover holiday. The reason we do this is to remember how quickly the Israelites had to flee slavery from the Pharoah of Egypt. They didn’t even have time to let their bread rise, and so they ate the flat "cracker style" matzah bread instead. Today the story of Passover is one that celebrates freedom. And something we say a lot during this time (to God) as a gesture of gratitude for freedom is "it would've been enough". Because as the Torah puts it, God really extended himself to help free the Jewish people and pretty much screwed the Egyptians with a lot of plagues (like really really bad ones)!
And that's the story of how we got matzah. It's slightly more complex than that, but I promised to keep it short and interesting.
Throughout the years, Jewish people have been trying to make matzah delicious. We buy it, designed to be the most boring kind of bread EVER, in order to remember an important time in Jewish history...but the reality is we have to eat it. So let's just say we found ways to give it flavor! Many of our recipes are unique, and one might even ask: wouldn't that recipe be much better off without the matzah? The answer is normally "YES" but I've put together some of my favorite recipes where the matzah actually makes the dish better.
This first recipe is my own: Matzah Bark!
It can get really messy but the joy of it is you can make so much of it with just 1 box of matzah. Cellophane wrap a few together and give them to your friends or neighbors. They'll be utterly confused at first until they take a bite and realize "this cracker thing is pretty good".
It's honestly super easy to make. Go buy dark and white chocolate morsels (the kind meant for melting down), heat up about a cup at a time in a pot and then spread across a full matzah square. Pick out your topping combos in advance and have them at the ready so you can sprinkle them on top while the chocolate is still hot. Then, just refrigerate and break apart. If you choose healthier toppings, they make for a nice pre or post-workout snack. TIP: Try and give most of what you make away because I think I gained 5-8 pounds after eating matzah bark for a week straight during the beginnng of the pandemic. My NYC apartment building was pretty empty so I had to eat all the bark myself. I knowww...Jewish girl problems!
Last but not least, this year I did a bellydance inspired Matzah Dance to raise awareness for the annual Matzah Challenge put on by the UJA Federation of New York. This is a wonderful challenge of awareness and education that I participate in every year, to spread the story of the Jewish holiday of Passover and the good we do to help the greater community.
Last year, we raised $$$ to help treat New Yorkers hospitalized with Covid-19. This year, we're using the money raised through this challenge to help Holocaust survivors get their Covid-19 vaccine including transportation to their appointments. It's a wonderful cause. By watching this video of me performing a difficult balancing act with a matzah on my head (please like and comment on it), you're helping this cause.
You'd be helping even more by sharing it! Every share, repost or even making your own post, raises money. Thanks for helping! Most of all, thanks for taking the time to read about why matzah is important.
I'd love to ask YOU what kind of tradition is the most bizarre and simultaneously heartwarming in your culture/religion?
I sort of feel like matzah is one of our weirdest traditions, and wondering if you have one that tops it?! If so, please share in the comments below. Love and appreciate you!