What I Learned Making Matzo
March 01, 2020 | Lisa Degrenia
Passage: Deuteronomy 16:1-8
This is Andrew McGowan. He’s Australian. He’s an Episcopal priest and seminary professor. He’s the Dean of the Divinity School at Yale and an expert in ancient bread making.
Last week we passed out copies of one of his recipes. Andrew’s 18-Minute Kosher Matzo
If we’re thinking about bread in the Scriptures, we have to start at the beginning with the unleavened bread of those running for their freedom from slavery under Pharoah. The Bread of Affliction.
Deuteronomy 16:1-3, The Passover Remembrance Instructions
1 Observe the month of Abib by keeping the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. 2 You shall offer the Passover sacrifice to the Lord your God, from the flock and the herd, at the place that the Lord will choose as a dwelling for his name. 3 You must not eat with it anything leavened. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it—the bread of affliction—because you came out of the land of Egypt in great haste, so that all the days of your life you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt.
What I Learned Making Matzo-
The Bread of Affliction
Last night at about 10:00 pm, I decided to make matzo. I had to come over to the church to get a rolling pin. We didn’t have one. I don’t bake.
Prepare- I had to gather the ingredients. How different was my experience than that of folks in the ancient world, especially slaves. They have to grind the grain into flour by hand. They had to gather the water by hand in the heat of the desert. Was it bitter? Was it nearby? They had to gather whatever they used to make fire by hand.
All I had to do was turn on the oven. But I had to wait for the oven to heat to 490°. A blazing, oppressive 490°. As I waited, I began to imagine the slaves waiting for freedom. The longing. The praying for deliverance for hundreds of years, for generations.
What deliverance have I been praying for for a long long time? Who else is longing and praying for deliverance?
As I’m waiting, I’m looking at the ingredients. There’s only two- water and flour. No oil. No spices. Not even salt. It is the bread of affliction. I’m baking old fashioned paste.
For the slaves, there was never enough. They were always scraping, always hungry. This would have to do.
The oven was ready and it was time to begin. I wound my old school tick, tick, tick timer to 18 minutes. On your mark, get set, go.
I began working the water and flour together with my hands like they would have. I used spelt flour, so it had a darker color and rougher texture than refined, white flour. It was also brown. The color of mud.
My mind went to the slaves working the mud into bricks. With tools. With their hands. It was hard, awful, back-breaking work.
18 minutes- tick tick tick tick. It’s just sitting there on the counter laughing at me. Will there be enough time? For the slaves, there was never enough time. Never enough time to do all the work for Pharaoh. Lash of the wipe. Shouts of the overseers.
Never enough time. Never enough time. Tick tick tick tick. Never enough time to rest. Rest? There was no rest, you’re a slave.
The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.
It must have been bad- ruthless is in there twice. Bitter water. Bitter bread. Bitter lives. I can’t think too much. Tick tick tick tick
Time to divide the dough into 4 pieces. Division. The divide between the rulers and the slaves. Power and oppression. Division due to fear, injustice, prejudice. God calls us to be peacemakers, to end division. I can’t think about that too much. Time is moving, tick tick tick tick
Time to roll out the dough. Push and pull and push and pull. This was work. I don’t bake. Push and pull and push and pull tick, tick, tick tick.
Work harder. Work faster. Make bread. Make bread without salt. Make bricks. Make bricks without straw. Tick tick tick tick
Then I realized, I am making slave food! I am literally making slave food! And slavery has not ended. Thousands of years later. Cant’ think about that too much. Tick tick tick tick
The dough became so thin, so fragile. How fragile life is. How fragile life was. Would it tear as I lifted it from the counter to the parchment paper?
Once it’s on the parchment paper you have to take a for and pierce it. Stab, stab, stab, stab. It’s brutal. The brutality of the slave drivers. Where in my life am I using my words and power in a brutal way?
Then there’s the brutality Jesus experienced- the mocking, the whipping, the stab of the spear in his side. The brutality Jesus experienced that we might be free from slavery to sin and death and shame.
I get it into the oven and wonder- what will happen?
The Israelites groaned under their slavery and cried out. Out of the slavery, their cry for help rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.
What’s going to happen with all the slavery, shackles, division, and brutality? God takes notice. God hears our cries.
At first, there was not enough time to work, not enough time to rest. Then it was not enough time to prepare to leave. The Israelites are going. God is saving them. They’re heading out through the sea and through the wilderness and into the promised land.
It is time to leave. Leave, leave now. Tick tick tick tick. In the middle of the night, leave this slavery for freedom. Leave this slavery for home.
That’s what happened to them and that’s what can happen for us. It’s time to leave the slavery for freedom. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom…
13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”
What is it? It is manna which literally means, “what is it?.” God frees us and provides for us.
This is manna, not matzo.
Matzo is the bread of Pharaoh. The bread of affliction, slavery, brutality, prejudice, division, exploitation, and fear.
God provides manna, the bread of heaven. How different! New life. So different, so hard to understand. I can’t even wrap my head around it. What is it?
It is manna, the bread of heaven.
It is sweet. It is flaky. It is freely given.
I don’t have to push and pull and strive.
Rest, freely given. I’m no longer a slave. I can sabbath.
Freedom, freely given.
Grace, freely given.
“…In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning, you will see the glory of the LORD…”
New life, freely given.
New every morning, day after day after day after day…
for them and for us
Bread- simple, ordinary, yet a powerful reminder of God and God's ways