• Jonathan Shuerger

Finding Jesus in Passover: The Matzah

Today I want to investigate the matzah, the traditional unleavened bread baked for Passover.

How It Is Made

Matzah, or sometimes spelled matzo, is just kosher flour and water. It can only be made using one of five grains: wheat, spelt, barley, rye and oat. As these normally take about 18 minutes to start rising after being mixed with water, the entire process from mixing to entering the oven cannot take more than 18 minutes.

Immediately upon mixture, the flour is kneaded vigorously, then taken to a special machine to be rolled out and perforated with the tiny holes dotting the matzah bread. These holes allow air to escape to prevent any rising of the bread. Rabbis have written about how it is necessary that the matzah be both perforated and striped.

The matzah is placed in a very hot oven, between 600 to 800 degrees Fahrenheit. The high heat further prevents rising of the dough, ensuring that the bread is as flat and unleavened as possible.

Why Matzah

Matzah bread is about as low as you can go. It is supremely simple, being just flour and water, so just about anyone can make it, regardless of economic station. Unless, of course, you're in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and the grocery store hasn't had flour in 3 weeks. I'm not bitter.

The bread itself is also flat, more like a cracker than anything. It is a very humble bread, easily broken, easily shared. It is not like leavened bread, which in Jewish tradition is very puffed up with its own importance.

Use in the Passover: The Yachatz

On the table, a container of matzah is placed. It's odd to see, at first. It's a cloth container with three pockets, and into each pocket, an unbroken piece of matzah is inserted. At a certain point in the Passover, the Jewish dad pulls out the middle piece (carefully, without breaking it) and breaks it in half.

One half, he places back in the middle pocket. The other half, he wraps in a linen napkin and hides somewhere in the house, but not somewhere difficult. This hidden piece is called the Afikomen.

In the Passover, the dad will send the children to search the house and find the Afikomen. They will find it, bring it back to him, and after saying a prayer, he will break off several pieces, hand them to each member of the family and say, "Take and eat."

The Bread of Life

If you weren't weird Christian-fan-girling over that description, then we probably can't be friends. Although if you're one of the three people reading this, we are probably friends. Likely family.

The container holding the matzah is three pockets in one container, a clear representation of the Trinity, where God is three-in-one. The middle matzah is removed, representing God the Son. The bread is pierced and striped by the roller, just as Jesus was pierced by the nails and the spear, and striped by the vicious beaten He took before crucifixion.

This bread is ritually broken, and one piece is inserted back into the container, showing that Jesus is still God.

The second piece, after being broken, is wrapped in a linen napkin, just as Jesus was when He was taken down from the cross. It is hidden in the home, but so easily hidden it can be found by children.

At the Last Supper, Jesus broke the matzah and gave it to His disciples, saying the ritual words of "Take and eat."

But then He went on.

"Take and eat; this is my body, which is broken for you."

Jesus was humble and lowly, broken, pierced and striped, and without sin. This is the significance of the matzah in the Passover.