Is there any way to recapture that sense of joint family effort in handcrafting the Yom Tov’s focal mitzvah?
Photos: Shlomo Stroh
IF you close your eyes for a moment and imagine the Pesach our ancestors enjoyed, the picture that comes to mind is one of singular family unity. For them, the holiday’s primary focus was a mitzvah that was as organic as it was critical; the Korban Pesach couldn’t be commercialized even if you tried.
Those days are over. Pesach is still a family time, but the tableware is ordered on Amazon, and the matzah, maror, and charoses can be picked up in any of the dozen grocery stores within a five-minute radius. Is there any way to recapture that sense of joint family effort in handcrafting the Yom Tov’s focal mitzvah?
There is. Believe it or not, do it yourself matzah baking has come into vogue. And while the thought of installing a burning furnace in your own backyard might sound intimidating, a motivated group of forward thinkers have gotten past the initial fear and are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work, all while their wives watch from the kitchen window.
In a recent seminar, a group of matzah enthusiasts, led by longtime matzah expert Rav Dovid Leibish Bochner, got together to discuss ideas, share trade secrets, and innovate new ones.
When it comes to baking matzos, a perennial struggle is being able to ensure that the dough doesn’t stick to the stick used to insert the matzos into the oven. Most bakeries use paper, but that can be costly. Rav Asher Landau, a dayan who was present at the meeting, said he bought a special sock from a medical supplies company that is the perfect size to fit over the stick.
Duly impressed, the group decided to send out a mashgiach to the factory in Wisconsin that manufactures these medical socks and certify that they have no kashrus or chometz issues.
Keeping Dry and Moist
Another of the issues discussed was the need for washing hands every 18 minutes, to prevent the dough, which inevitably clings to fingers, from becoming chometz. The constant handwashing will often result in painfully dry skin over Yom Tov.
One of the participants at the meeting suggested wearing medical sleeves as an alternative to washing hands. They’re easily washable, and for a dollar a piece, make a sound investment.
Rabbi Avraham Reit, who has written a booklet on the “zero crumb method” to baking matzah, addressed the issue of ensuring the matzos emerge as perfectly rounded as possible. His suggestion was simple as it was brilliant: rolling the dough out on silicone pastry mats. And although pie itself wouldn’t be recommended for Pesach, the pastry mats (previously unused) are perfectly Pesach friendly.
There’s always room for enhancement when it comes to kashrus on Pesach. The matzah is rolled out on tables covered in paper-like tablecloths, and although there’s no glaring halachic concern regarding tablecloths, one participant informed the rest of the group that there are brands of this table covering sold with a hechsher on them, certifying that the materials contained within them present no chometz issues. The group did some due diligence and discovered that a store in Williamsburg had these table coverings in stock.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 956)
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