Monday, April 20, 2009

A Subconscious Complaint

Over Pesach, it occured to me why so many people complain about eating matza. It is not the taste they are really complaining about; subconciously they are allowing their yetzer hara to vocalize a complaint regarding what matza represents.

Matza is known as michla dimhemunusa, "the food of emuna". Rebbe Naftali of Ropshitz taught that eating matza on Pesach actually strengthens the emuna in a person's heart.

In today's world, however, emuna is not such a sought after commodity. People literally drive themselves insane trying to control the myriad of logisitical details in their daily lives and reacting to the "random" occasions when things do not go as they had planned.

If you have any questions about how a person truly views the world around him, listen to how he talks about matza on Pesach. His words will reveal everything about his level of emuna.


At April 20, 2009 at 5:00:00 AM EDT, Blogger chanie said...

Perhaps my stomach doesn't like matza. But the rest of me does. Who complains about matza? That's a new one.

At April 20, 2009 at 5:45:00 AM EDT, Blogger devora said...

Nice. I can see it.

At April 20, 2009 at 6:56:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i respect greatly what matza stands for. but it wreaks havoc on my intestines. what can i do? if i try to eat it, it messes with my stomach, this hurts my back, and makes me miserable. what can i do?

At April 20, 2009 at 7:43:00 AM EDT, Anonymous ben zeev said...

Anon 6:56: Try shmura matza instead of regular. Shmura is usually made from whole flour, regular is usually not.

If that doesn't work, go for thick sefardi shmura matzos, they're much less likely to cause problems.

I very much hear what you're saying. I think matza is also called nahama d'asvata - bread of healing (is that true, hope I'm not confusing things?). I have my doubts that the matza we're all used to eating is nahama d'asvata - it's very not filling, and most people eat it to the point of explosion! Especially non shmura ones, that's real junk food! However the matza I baked this pesach with a friend, from coarse ground organic whole wheat flour was DELICIOUS and very filling! Just like nahama d'asvata is supposed to be!

Something in me feels that us Ashkenazim went a bit overboard with pesach chumros. To the point that instead of feeling proud to be a jew on pesach, most people feel stupid, Chas v'shalom. I'd like to eat the matza that our forefathers ate on the way out of egipt. That David Hamelech ate. That Rabbi Akiva ate. And they did not eat the thin white flour crackers that make people over eat them and have stomach problems afterward. What they ate was real bread, but one that has not risen. Sefardim still make those. No wonder they have less problems than us.
Something to think about.

At April 20, 2009 at 9:55:00 AM EDT, Anonymous emunatidbits said...

I was very happy to read your post because my kids LOVE matza. So now I'm assured that their Emuna is doing great.

At April 20, 2009 at 10:19:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Another anon said...

Anonymous: the only time eating matza is a mitzvah is at the seder. The rest of the days of Pesach, there is no need to eat it. And if it hurts your health, certainly you should eat the least you can. If you think even eating the minimum amount at the seder is likely to harm your health, you should consult your rabbi.

At April 20, 2009 at 1:06:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

from anon 6:56
thanks very much.
ben zeev: that is very insightful. i would love to try THAT matza.

as to the sfaradi not having problems...i don't know..we all have our challenges..but, from an ashkenaz perspective the grass may look greener. simple jew, take note, this would be an interesting dialogue between sfaradi and ash.
we have to remember that we all are originally from the eretz.
i have never had the thick sefardi matzot as you described. wouldn't the matza that is strict kosher be like the ones we ate long ago?
i may have had trying to recall.
i also appreciate that the mitzva is at the seder. that's a relief. then it's just to figure out what else to eat.
it is supposed to be a healing thing. the bread of affliction and the bread of freedom. i just really don't need the stomach affliction anymore!!!!

At April 20, 2009 at 2:06:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Great post and, I think, very true!

At April 20, 2009 at 4:23:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Dovid Sears said...

Shmurah matzah is not usually a whole grain product (although it may be more digestible and more filling for other reasons). If you want to eat whole wheat or spelt or oat matzos, you'll have to track them down somehow. Big stores like the Pomegranate in Flatbush usually have these alternatives. But you can pre-order them, too. We often buy whole wheat shmurah matzos (in Yiddish called "razeveh matzos") from the Pupa-Tzelem bakery in Williamsburg. Or you could get them from the Charedim Matzah Bakery in Borough Park. Or from any number of other bakeries in NY.

However -- even the whole wheat matzos are a mixture of between 40-60% whole wheat flour and the rest while flour. This is necessary so that they the matzos will hold together and not disintegrate.

At April 20, 2009 at 4:35:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Dovid Sears said...

Re. Matzah "chumros":

The reason Ashkenazim started using the flat, thin, cracker-like matzos instead of the soft, thick ones of old goes back to the early 1700s. Because the soft pita-like matzos became stale quickly, people commonly baked again on Chol HaMoed -- and many got into trouble with producing chometz on Pesach. So when the thin cracker-like matzos were developed, the new product solved this problem.

However, because the ovens sometimes didn't heat evenly and the dough was sometimes not kneaded enough, the thinner matzos were at greater risk for uneven baking. Some less than fully cooked flour might still be present. That's why the chumrah of not dipping the matzah in water or products including water
(called "gebrokhts") became more widespread, especially among the Chassidim.

At April 20, 2009 at 5:54:00 PM EDT, Anonymous ben zeev said...

R' Sears:

"This is necessary so that they the matzos will hold together and not disintegrate."

Whoever told you that was wrong, I baked matzos this year from wheat that I personally milled (I have a home mill) into a coarse flour, and they held together perfectly fine.

Re Matzos & chumros: My point was that with all the reasons for these chumros, somehow our holy sefardi brothers find a way to keep baking matzos exactly the way our forefathers made them. And Ashkenazim have to bend over backwards and be machmir, with the result that our matzos don't even look and taste like the real thing! (Without even mentioning the fact that it's much easier to bake thick matzos, which could ease the finantial burden off the poor people). Add to that all the other Ashkenazi chumros, and you end up with the fact that many Ashkenazim, quietly... don't like Pesach. That's why I'm not surprised that historically we've had much worse problems than our Sefardi brothers. Even looking at the chilonim in Israel, many of the Ashkenazi ones are viciously against religion, and most of the Sefardi ones, although not halachikly observant, still have respect for Torah.

Sorry for going on such a tangent, but I think it's important to consider these things. I see many of our kids ready to almost fly off the derech C'V. Why? Because ultimately they don't feel that it's the real thing. And in many ways, unfortunately they're right! Isn't there something we can do about it if we only open our minds a bit? Just make sure that our brains don't fall out, but that's a different topic.

At April 20, 2009 at 7:28:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Dovid Sears said...

Ben Ze'ev

I appreciate your good will and desire to make things a bit less daunting. But I must disagree about this being any sort of answer to the problems of "kids at risk" and the religious dilemmas of the Jewish people in Israel and anywhere else. These are complex issues. I don't believe many people go "off the derekh" because it is so difficult -- but because the meaning of what we do has become so obscure, and because so many young people have been mangled in one way or another by the system, and not least of all, because we are surrounded by so many confusing things and so many temptations! Please check out what Rabbi Yakov Horowitz of Monsey has to say about this.

As for the mysteries of matzah, I, too, have baked them (although not from wheat I personally milled, and I was just one member of the crew). And the people who ran things at both matzah-baking operations both said that the whole wheat flour needed to be combined with at least 40% white flour for the matzos to hold together.

Did you bake thin ones or thick ones? Maybe that's the difference. Ours were quite thin.

Best wishes

At April 21, 2009 at 10:01:00 AM EDT, Anonymous ben zeev said...

R' Sears:
I baked them thin, it was my friend's oven and he's a bit more traditional than me. Also, I'd rather first see a sefardi bake thick ones before trying it myself.

I think this thing about 40% white flower is a big myth someone once made up and everyone bought, just because they've never tried anything else. Most bakers now days don't even know what a grain of wheat looks like.

About going off the derech, I think you misunderstood me. I did not mean that it's because it's too difficult, but because it's not real. (In case of ashkenazi matzos, it is real from a strict halachic point, but it just ain't the thing that our forefathers, that David Hamelech, that the Neviim, that Baalei Mishna and Gemara ate!) And when it's not real and also drives people crazy, no wonder some opt to leave it all together, and some hate it with passion! (and some quietly dislike it, which makes their kids leave the derech, or worse, be fakers) That, IMHO is the reason why historically sefardim had much less trouble than us, both external (holocoust) and internal (haskala, assimilation).

Look, I'm very happy to afflict myself when the Torah or the chazal command it, such as on Yom Kippur or the arba tzomos. I really fast b'simcha raba and I'm happy to do the will of Hashem, as I'm sure all kosher jews are. But to keep chumros when there are other ways to avoid the isur (and half of klal yisroel is doing that quite successfully), and these chumros drive people crazy and makes many miss out on feeling a special bond with the mitzva and makes them dislike the entire chag, well... You hear what I'm saying?

I know we can get into the whole topic of daas Torah, where does one draw borders, etc etc etc. But I think in our trying times it's important to bring these things to light. Although I disagree with R' David Bar Chaim on many things, I say kol hakavod to him on being brave about this topic.

I hope you realize that I'm not trying to start another conservative movement or anything like that.

At April 21, 2009 at 3:08:00 PM EDT, Blogger tea mad hatter said...

Hi Rabbi Sears, is it ok for Ashkenazim to eat the soft matzos? been itching to get me hands on some of them to try :)

At April 21, 2009 at 4:29:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

1. I do like to eat Matzo, handmade or machine made. How do I know if this is for spiritual or for physical reasons?

2. How do you characterize matzo meal products (cakes, kneidlach, ...) in your analysis?

At April 21, 2009 at 7:16:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Dovid Sears said...

Ben Ze'ev

Thanks for the clarification. I understand you better now. I'll look into the mixture of flours question again and let you know if I find out anything earth-shaking, bli neder.

Tea Mad Hatter

Ask your Rov.

In theory, it might actually be OK -- our current method of baking thin matzos is only 200 years old. But practically speaking, I never heard of an Ashkenazic Rov today giving a hekhsher to thick matzos such as those used by Sefardim.

At April 21, 2009 at 7:53:00 PM EDT, Anonymous yaakov said...

asj: please take note. the idea of a productive dialogue between ashkenaz and sfaradi on these topics would be great.

although i understand what ben zeev said i have some observations: ashkenazim (all of whom, in some way or another come from sfaradim!) experienced a much harsher xn antisemitism. being in this kind of fire resulted in a different kind of devotion.

and, please take careful note: the chassidus that came from this: the besht, reb nachman and all these amaaaaazing rabbonim...came from where? yiddish speaking communities in the heart of ashkenazi land.

and, in israel and elsewhere who is flocking to reb nachman and breslev chassidus? yep. sfaradim.

i find this very interesting.

main point: we have to remember the essential mitzvah, to love your fellow yid. this will help us thru all this stuff.

a little shmura, a little kreplach...


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