Passover is right around the corner! In the lead-up to this iconic Jewish holiday, we’re bringing you a series of articles and guides to answer all your questions and help with your Passover prep. Sign up for our emails over on our main site to get all our top content and promotions, and check out our Passover gifts category for all your Passover needs!
One of the most famous Passover mitzvot is the eating of matzah. Learn the origins of this ancient Jewish tradition, and why Passover is also called the Festival of Matzah!
The Origins and Meaning of Matzah
The cracker-like flatbread known as matzah in Modern Hebrew (plural matzot) or matzo/matzos in Ashkenazi Hebrew / Yiddish is basically synonymous with Passover. We are not only commanded to not eat leavened grain products during the holiday – such as breads, cakes, or oatmeal – but the Torah also specifically commands us to eat matzah during this time. Everyone will have to have at least 1 or 2 sheets at the Seder, so make you’re that you’re stocked up beforehand.
The eating of matzah is such an important part of Passover that the holiday is also known as Chag HaMatzot or the Festival of Matzah!
The Tanakh describes how as the Israelites were preparing to leave Egypt, they made bread for the road but being in such a hurry they didn’t have enough time for it to rise, resulting in an unleavened flatbread.
God then commanded the Jewish nation, according to the Book of Exodus in the Hebrew Bible, to refrain from regular leavened bread and eat matzah – a replica of the Israelites’ Exodus flatbread – during the holiday of Passover.
Matzah is known by name names including the Bread of Affliction and the Bread of Liberation. Both are true, that on the one hand we remember the circumstance of slavery, but most importantly how we rushed out of Egypt to receive the Torah. This liberates Jews who, in observing the holidays and Shabbat cannot be slaves forced to work.
It is also the common bread. Leavening is considered haughty—mostly filled with air—whereas matzah allows us to sympathize with even the most afflicted.
Today, we consider the matzah we eat during the Passover Seder (the famous ceremonial dinner at the beginning of Passover) to be fulfilling this Biblical obligation of partaking in matzah. The matzah for this special ritual purpose must traditionally be made using only flour and water.
Make your traditional matzah look festive in the spirit of Passover and get your whole family excited about the holiday with a gorgeous matzah cover, lovingly crafted in the Land of Israel.
The Evolution of Matzah
Though this is not how many now view matzah as mentioned in the Bible, in private homes and in the Temple, matzah was a soft flatbread, similar to a thick tortilla. This version is still eaten in some Jewish communities today such as those hailing from Yemen, or the Near East region from the Levant to Mesopotamia.
Most modern matzah, including just about all commercial matzah, however resembles a hard cracker, baked to a crisp to ensure that no pockets of wet flour remain that could potentially rise and violate the prohibition of leavening.
Handmade matzot are usually round while machine-made – the ones most often favored by the modern Jewish consumer – are square. Whether you buy sheets, hand-made discs, or find a community where soft matzah is eaten, it will all be made in the same conditions that adhere to the laws of matzah making.
Many Jews find matzah by itself to be very plain and even unappetizing, but the purpose is not to suffer! While the Passover Seder matzah is consumed either plain or with charoset and bitter herbs, many people have a tradition throughout the rest of the week of the Passover holiday of turning matzah into fun delicacies like pizza, matzah brei (similar to French toast), or chocolate-covered treats.
No matter what your matzah eating tradition is, you’ll love beautifying your holiday with our gorgeous Israeli-made matzah essentials such as plates and holders, matzah covers and afikoman bags, and beautiful Passover tableware sets!
Can’t decide on the perfect matzah accessory for yourself or a loved one? We have a top matzah essentials guide too.
And don’t forget everything else you’ll need for a meaningful and enjoyable holiday with our Passover Judaica and gifts straight from the Land of Israel!
We have all the top matzah accessories from Israeli artists – check out the best matzah plates, covers, and even matzah-themed décor and fun gifts!