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The Unreported Benefits of Matzah

April 5, 2017 | by Yonatan Levi

Why matzah is a detective's dream.

Students can cut class, business partners can cut ties and Kevin Bacon can cut loose (footloose, kick off your Shabbat shoes!). Jews, however, cannot cut matzah, at least not without making a crumby mess or an edible jigsaw puzzle. Like a fragile octogenarian seeking plastic surgery, matzah is far too brittle to go under the knife.

"This is Matzah! Total Matzah!

Yes, eating matzah certainly is easier than Egyptian slavery, but it still is no day at the beach. Actually, on second thought, matzah is like a day at the beach because matzah and sand (like unwelcomed in-laws) have the same tendency to annoyingly linger no matter how often you brush them away.

Of course, matzah is not supposed to be easy, which is why we traditionally refer to it as the “Bread of Affliction.” The question is: despite being the “Bread of Affliction,” does matzah have any positive qualities?

Forensically speaking, matzah is a detective's dream. Imagine arriving at a crime scene and finding a trail of matzah crumbs conveniently leading you to the perpetrator. In fact, if everyone ate matzah all of the time, no crime would go unsolved. Then again, if everyone ate matzah all of the time, every game of hide-and-go-seek and Marco Polo would be ruined.

The loud crunching sound of matzah is one reason movie theatres and Broadway shows do not offer matzah as a refreshment. In addition, if you eat matzah in a library, you undoubtedly will incur librarian wrath. (The only thing that makes librarians angrier is gratuitously trashing the Dewey Decimal system.)

Matzah, like a house built on an active fault line, will inevitably crumble. Such crumbling, however, is a blessing when you are eating soup and desire some floating texture. In that connection, I've always wondered how the first box of matzah farfel (matzah broken into small pieces) was made. I imagine a klutzy employee working at a matzah factory and accidentally dropping a stack of matzah on the factory floor, causing it to shatter into thousands of pieces. As the bumbling employee apologies profusely, the factory owner bends down, runs his hands through the edible shards and exclaims: "Stop apologizing. You're a genius! We can sell the broken pieces and make a killing. We'll call it Matzah Farfel! And the lazy numbskulls out there will actually pay for this stuff instead of just crumbling matzah themselves." (I'm pretty sure a similar story explains how granola bars turned into granola and how chocolate bars turned into chocolate chips.)

Matzah is easy to store and it has a relatively long shelf-life. In the event of a nuclear event, you should be able to sit in your bomb shelter and munch on matzah until the radioactivity has sufficiently subsided. Plus, when help arrives, they'll be able to find you rather easily by simply following the cacophony of crunching.

Matzah, of course, was supposed to be bread, but the Hebrews leaving Egypt were in too much of a hurry to let it bake to perfection. Thus, matzah is inherently something that has been rushed. As a result, the word "matzah" can serve as an effective one-word admonition. Imagine a sales team pitching an idea to their CEO but it's obvious they have acted too hastily and have not thought the concept through. Instead of the CEO taking the time to explain how half-baked the idea sounds, the CEO can simply yell: "This is Matzah! Total Matzah. Next!"

Matzah, an almost-bread, also is something that has not fully risen to the occasion and thus has fallen short. So, if your stockbroker recommends a stock but it underperforms, you should complain that the investment is "Matzah!" If your child brings home a report card that is inexcusably filled with subpar grades, you have every right to scream "Matzah!" If a seven-foot tall professional basketball player goes up for a dunk but gets insufficient lift and is rejected by the front of the rim, everyone in the stadium should chant "Matzah, Matzah, Matzah" until the player is benched.

Comparatively speaking, when it comes to commemorating the Exodus, there are worse things that Jews could be forced to do than eat matzah. For example, imagine if throughout Passover, Jews had to make bricks. (Then again, I’ve been served some pretty hefty matzah balls that could have doubled as bricks) Imagine if, at the end of the Seder, Jews had to sing the famous and long Passover song "Chad Gad Ya" fifty times in a row, loudly and enthusiastically. (Yes, this is how Jewish prisoners-of-war would be tortured.) Imagine if, during the Seder, Jews were forced to competitively and savagely search for the Afikoman like it was the Hunger Games. (By the way, the "Hunger Games" more accurately describes the first half of the Seder during which some starving Seder souls spend all of their time counting the pages until the festive feast.)

Bottom-line: On Passover, serving matzah ball soup makes perfect sense but to celebrate the miracle of the Exodus, you should consider serving “Split Sea” Soup.

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