Home > Lembas, Matzah, Passover, Yenta > Stop! In the Name of . . . Matzah?!

Stop! In the Name of . . . Matzah?!

Wednesday night marked the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Commemorating the Jews’ Exodus from Egypt some 3,300 years ago, Passover is noted for two main things: a festive meal (called a Seder) on the first and second nights of the holiday, and eight days of eating matzah. For those of you who don’t know, matzah is basically bread in cracker form . . . and the single most destructive force in the universe!

So why eat matzah? Well, as the story goes: when the Israelites were freed by the Egyptian Pharaoh, they were told to “Leave now!” (“. . . and never come back!” as Smeagol would say.) Not wanting to give the Pharaoh a chance to harden his heart (or swallow his tears, as Quarterflash would say) like he had done after witnessing all the previous plagues, Moses told the Israelites to pack it in and head on out—posthaste! Baking bread would obviously not fulfill the “posthaste” part, so they had to bring whatever they had on hand or could make in a very short time. Since matzah could be made in under 18 minutes from the combining of ingredients (water and flour) until being fully-cooked, that was what they made.

Legend has it that one woman decided she would have time to actually bake bread and still catch up with the others. I mean, let’s face it: the entire nation was picking up and leaving! If the lines to cross the Nile bridge were bad when just the men were going to work, foot traffic that night was going to be horrendous! So this woman, let’s call her Yenta, started pulling out all the ingredients for bread and found she was completely out of yeast. Well, Yenta knew that her good friend, coincidentally (or not) also named Yenta, had some yeast, so Yenta went over to Yenta’s. When she got there, the Yentas started to shmooze (as yentas will do).

Yenta 1: Hi! Can I borrow some yeast? Solomon’s packing for the exodus and asked me to put together some food, so I decided to bake some bread.
Yenta 2: Sure! Come in! Hey, did you hear that Pharaoh’s firstborn was smitten tonight?
Yenta 1: No! Really? Well, the other day I was talking to Shifra the mid-wife, and she told me that she delivered sextuplets for Judith! Again! I swear, she must be using fertility reeds.
Yenta 2: Ain’t that the truth! You know, Abiram’s wife thinks her husband has been spiking his Haroseth again, since he keeps insisting that Moses killed an Egyptian taskmaster.
Yenta 1: That doesn’t surprise me: Abiram and his pal, Dathan, always liked to hit the sauce.
Yenta 2: Hey, didn’t you want to borrow something?
Yenta 1: Hmm, I forgot what I needed!
Yenta 2: Oh, well. Let’s make some fresh bread and have some tea. Say, what do you know about fertility reeds? Saul and I have been having trouble conceiving. . . .

And on they went straight through until morning, when it occurred to them that it was pretty darn quiet outside. When they went to check, they found that everyone had left. Stunned (and not a little bit angry) that their husbands had forgotten them, they went back inside—where they decided to wait until, realizing their error, their husbands would return for them. They were still sitting there in Yenta 2’s living room when Pharaoh returned from the Red Sea, his entire army drowned within. Thinking to have the final say, he brought Yentas 1 and 2 into the palace, vowing never to set them free. One hellish week of mindless gossip later, he gave them horses, provisions, and maps and begged them to leave. This came to be known as the Second Exodus.

Getting back to matzah, what, I hear you asking, makes it so dangerous? Well, much like Tolkien’s Lembas, matzah is a waybread. The only difference being that whereas a single bite of Lembas was “able to fill a grown man’s belly for a whole day,” matzah can fill a grown man’s intestines for at least a whole day. Usually it’s more like two or three days. There have even been some rare instances where its effects lasted up to a week!

I am reminded now of a Passover many years ago, when my mother prepared a “special” dish. Cholent, a Sabbath staple in Jewish households, is a meat stew that is largely comprised of beans and barley. However, since both beans and barley are forbidden to be consumed on Passover, my mother had to improvise when preparing the Sabbath food for that holiday. It was thus that she came to make a beef stew with the secret ingredient of prunes “for medicinal purposes.” I don’t remember how it tasted, but I do remember that my bowels thanked her. Profusely.

This year, late Friday afternoon (the second day of Passover), I was awakened from my nap by a strange noise. As I became more alert, I thought the sound—simultaneously haunting, yet also ecstatic—to have been a trick of hearing as a result of my waking dream. This was not the case, however, as ten minutes later (and ten pounds lighter) I knew the sound for what it was: my neighborhood’s collective sigh of relief.

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Categories: Lembas, Matzah, Passover, Yenta
  1. April 12, 2009 at 7:29 am

    it’s actually all about telling the egyptians we don’t need their stinking fancy schmancy bread.

  2. April 17, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    as i promised, a comment for youuu! and, once again, you have produced a brilliant and hilarious blog.i luv ya, man.i just may post this on my facebook (with credentials and permission?) to get some friends to discover you :)give gabby and riley big smushy kisses for me!

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