The Humility of Matza
By Naomi Soman
On the first day of Passover, I can’t wait to eat all the classic Pesach foods… Matzah pizza, matzah and cream cheese, matzah brie, matzah and charoseth, chocolate matzah, matzah crackers, matzah everything. After about four days of nothing but matzah though, I am just about sick and tired of it. Why couldn’t the Jews just have waited fifteen more minutes for the bread to rise? Then I wouldn’t be stuck eating matzah until it comes out my ears.
Matzah is known as poor man’s bread because it’s essentially made of flour and water. No fancy yeasts or special ingredients, just flour, water, and eighteen minutes. Actually, most boxed matzah is made in 3 or 4 minutes. Anyways, matzah doesn’t take that much effort to make.
My mom taught me her recipe for challah when I was little, and I like to make it with her on Friday afternoons. It needs yeast, salt, sesame seeds, wheat germ, flour, water, oil, and honey. Then I have to adjust to get the right consistency, knead the dough and let it rise. After letting it rise once, I braid it with six strands, and let it rise another 45 minutes. Only then can I egg wash it and bake it (another 30 minutes). While my mom’s always turn out better than mine, I always look forward to light, fluffy challah on Friday night.
The challah I make with my mom, takes at least three hours, plus a lot of dirty dishes to clean up. It’s a whole lot more work than matzah. Plus, challah turns out soft and airy while matzah is hard and dry (especially if it’s shmura matzah). Matzah is a symbol for humility—it doesn’t rise up like bread, it remains flat.
Moshe Rabeinu was known as one of the most humble men alive. He was the greatest Jewish leader, but he never bragged to other people. He never said, “Look at me, I just split the sea,” or, “Dude, my stick just turned into a snake. How cool am I?” Moshe had so many opportunities to boast, but he didn’t. He was humble.
Pirkei Avos teaches us that, “If you have studied much Torah, do not take credit for yourself, because that is what you were created to do” (2:9). It’s saying, G-d made every single person unique and special. He made some great singers, fantastic artists, and incredible dancers. Some people are brilliant and others are good at making friends, but that is the way G-d made those people. So, if someone is talented, he has to realize who gave him that talent.
No one likes a show-off. Show-offs are annoying and inconsiderate. It’s okay to be proud of accomplishments, but there’s a fine line between pride and arrogance. Pesach is a time when we have to step back and think about how we were slaves in Egypt. Slaves are at the bottom of the social pyramid. They are as humble as can be. While it’s wonderful that Jews are free today, we can’t forget what Moshe Rabeinu taught us. Be proud for who you are and what you stand for, but never forget who made you that way.
Naomi is a senior at Williamsville North High School and regional board member of Upstate New York NCSY