History in their HANDS

First Posted: 4/4/2012

At 11 a.m. April 1, a group of children arrived at the Jewish Discovery Center in Clarks Summit ready to make and bake Matzah, unleavened bread eaten by people of the Jewish faith during Passover. “We are going to make Matzah…” Rabbi Benny Rapoport, center director, told the children and they in turn vocalized their enthusiasm by loudly chanting, “Matzah, Matzah, Matzah…lots of Matzah, Matzah.” All eyes and ears were on Rabbi Rapoport, as he explained the significance of the Matzah.

He told them, “When the Jewish people left Egypt, they went so fast they had no time to bake bread and instead of bread they had Matzah (unleavened bread). On Passover, we think about ego and we’re going to become very, very humble, really small and really flat. When the Jewish people left Egypt, God said, You are going to become my people. We’re going to go to a mountain called Mount Sinai, but in order to become my people, the Jewish people have to become humble…we have to not be egotistical.’ “

Among the children in attendance at the program were Tova Myers, 10, Clarks Summit, and Emily Kessler, 6, of Scranton. Myers said, “I always come to the Jewish Discovery Center with my family for all of the activities. They make everything fun and exciting and they’re really good friends of our family.” Kessler said, “It’s fun.”

This year, Pesach, or Passover, is observed April 6 – 14 and Matzah is eaten on the first two nights, fulfilling the Torah’s commandment, “Matzot shall you eat…” according to chabad.org. The Passover Seder, or Seyder in Yiddish, is a Jewish ritual feast that marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday, Passover.

Matzah symbolizes faith and represents slavery, and consists only of flour and water. It is not allowed to rise and must be baked in 18 minutes or less.

The round Matzah baked April 1 at the center was “Model Matzah,” symbolic of the handmade Matzah made by Jewish people as they fled Egypt. The Matzah is broken at the Seder and a piece put aside in an “afikoman,” a small bag.

“We don’t have the Passover lamb so we keep the small piece of Matzah in the afikoman to remind us. The Matzah is hidden during the Seder – we put it away in the beginning and take it out at the end. This broken middle Matzah symbolizes humility, and will be eaten later as the “bread of poverty,” said Rapoport.

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