Food for Thought: Making Mindful Connections to Our Passover Meals

A few years ago, a well-known New York chef embarked on a mission to explore why some matzah—at least in his opinion—tastes better than others. He had enjoyed shmura matzah, which means "guarded” or “watched,” and in tracing the matzah back from the bakery to the field where the wheat grew, found a new appreciation for the entire matzah-making process.

Guarding against chametz begins with the grain, from harvest through to milling. Rabbinic scrutiny ensures that the wheat ripens in the field without use of mechanical driers or chemicals, and is harvested at the ideal moment when moisture content is between 13 and 15 percent. 

"The requirement for close inspections means I’m observing things that would otherwise go unnoticed,” said Klaas Martens, a grain farmer, in the New York Times story. “I apply it to other crops, not with the same vigilance but with … I don’t want to sound corny, but it’s mindfulness. Mindfulness is a part of all my work now, and it benefits just about everything I grow.”

The rabbinic strictures forced the farmer to find ways to better preserve the quality of the grain, leading to farming techniques that encourage crop diversity and soil improvement for everything else he grows the rest of the year. The attention to detail in growing the grain for shmurah matzah has raised the consciousness not just of the farmer, but of people like the chef who can literally taste the difference.  

Beginning this Passover with the first bite of matzah—whether it's shmurah or not—experiment with being more aware of how that morsel came to be and gratitude for it. Then you can help children make connections between what they eat, the environment, and Jewish values. 

As Rabbi Ellen Bernstein, founder of Shomrei Adamah and author of the new haggadah The Promise of the Land, writes, "Dayeinu teaches that when we take a moment to feel satisfied with what we already have, we recognize how blessed we are."

She continues: "The coronavirus is teaching us — the hard way — many of the ecological lessons that we’ve needed to learn for decades: We live in intimate connection with each other and the whole world. Our actions have consequences. We are learning that an act as simple as a sneeze can have devastating results.

We are learning to live more simply. Nothing teaches us the value of simplicity as much as matzo, the unleavened bread that is the primary symbol of Passover. Made of the most basic ingredients, wheat and water, matzo teaches us that the freedom we know on Passover comes when we rid ourselves of the burden of excess."

Click here to read the full New York Times story, "Why is This Matzo Different from All Other Matzos?"

Wishing you a healthy and meaningful Passover. 


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