1. We Eat Matzah at the Seder

The Seder (Passover Feast) is a highlight of the Jewish calendar, when Jews of all backgrounds and levels of observance gather with family and friends to celebrate our nation’s miraculous Exodus from Egypt. This feast includes drinking four cups of wine, retelling the story of the Exodus, and eating certain ceremonial foods. The most important food of all is the matzah, which is eaten at several key points during the evening.

Read: What Is Matzah?

2. We Ate Matzah During the Exodus

Even before our ancestors left Egypt, they were told to prepare a lamb to be eaten together with matzah and bitter herbs. The following morning, they finally left Egypt. They departed in such a hurry that there was no time to wait for their dough to rise, so they ate matzah, unleavened bread. With only this food (but with great faith), our ancestors relied on the Almighty to provide sustenance for the entire Jewish nation—men, women and children. Each year, to remember this, we eat matzah on the first two nights of Passover, thereby fulfilling the Torah’s commandment, “Matzahs shall you eat . . . ”1

Read: 20 Exodus Facts Every Jew Should Know

3. It Used to Be Eaten With Passover Lamb

From the time of the Exodus until the destruction of the Second Temple, with brief breaks in between, matzah was enjoyed together with the Passover lamb, which was sacrificed that afternoon. As recorded in the Haggadah, the great sage Hillel would wrap his lamb together with matzah and bitter herbs, an act we recreate every year (sans the lamb) when we eat the korech sandwich.

Read: Korech: The Hillel Sandwich

4. Matzah Has Just Two Ingredients

On Passover, we eat nothing that contains grain that has risen through contact with water (chametz). Matzah is something that can theoretically become chametz but did not, since we took care when baking it to prevent it from rising. Classic matzah, the kind we eat at the Seder, contains just two ingredients: wheat flour and water.

Watch: How Matzah Is Made

5. Matzah Made With Egg or Juice Is Not Ideal

The matzah eaten at the Seder is referred to as “poor man’s bread.” If the mix contains egg, juice, etc., it is no longer poor, but rich, and not fit for Seder use. An additional issue with matzah that contains anything other than flour and water is that it may rise and become chametz quicker than the flour-and-water variety. For this reason, Ashkenazim only use such matzah for the elderly or infirm on Passover (and not for the Seder).

Read: Is Egg Matzah Kosher for Passover?

6. It’s the “Food of Faith” and “Food of Health”

The Zohar refers to matzah as both the “food of faith” and the “food of health,” implying that eating matzah actually improves your physical health and bolsters your faith in G‑d. The first Chabad rebbe would say: The matzah of the first evening of Pesach is called the Food of Faith; the matzah of the second evening is called the Food of Healing. When healing brings faith (“Thank you, G‑d, for healing me"), then clearly there has been illness. When faith brings healing, there is no illness to start with.

Read: Bread of Faith

7. Round, Handmade Matzah Is Ideal

Matzah Bakery by Linda Feinberg
Matzah Bakery by Linda Feinberg

Commonly known as shemurah matzah, round, handmade matzah is preferable for the Seder (or for the entire Passover). In addition to being traditional, it has the important benefit of having been made by an actual human being who baked it with holy intentions and took care to ensure that it did not rise—a requirement for the matzahs used at the Seder.

Read: Why Shemurah Matzah?

8. Not All Matzah Is Kosher for Passover

This may come as a surprise, but not all matzah is kosher for Passover. The box may look similar, and it may even have Hebrew letters all over it, but if there is no seal from a supervising rabbi or organization stating that the matzah is actually kosher for Passover, you can assume that no care was taken to ensure that the dough did not become chametz, and it may not be eaten on Passover.

Read: What Is Kosher for Passover?

9. Matzah Was Once Thicker and Softer

Did you know that the word korech (which we translate as “sandwich”) actually means “wrap”? That’s because until a few hundred years ago, matzah was thicker and softer than our thin, cracker-like matzah and was easily wrapped around the bitter herbs (and lamb).

Read: How Matzah Became Hard and Thin

10. Soviet Jews Clung to Their Matzah

Baking matzah in the shtetl (photo: Yad Vashem)
Baking matzah in the shtetl (photo: Yad Vashem)

Many Jews from the Former Soviet Union can attest that their parents and grandparents went to great lengths to procure matzah for Passover. Even as successive generations of Jews knew less and less about their Jewish heritage and observance due to Communist suppression, they clung tightly to the mitzvah of eating matzah on Passover.

Read: The 1929 Struggle to Send Matzah into the Soviet Union

11. You Can Get Oat and Spelt Matzah

While traditional wheat flour is preferred, those with celiac and other conditions can use matzah made from spelt or oat flour, which generally costs more (it is a specialty item) and is not advisable for those who can eat regular matzah.

Read: Gluten Free Matzah for Passover

12. It Is the Only Mitzvah You Ingest

In today’s era, when there are no longer Temple sacrifices, the only thing we eat to fulfill a biblical commandment is matzah. So savor the moments you spend eating matzah, recognizing that doing so gives pleasure to your Creator.

Read: The Commandment to Eat Matzah

13. It Must Be Eaten After Nightfall

We eat matzah during the Seder, after night has fallen. This is in accordance with the verse, “In the evening, you shall eat unleavened cakes.”2 Practically, this means that the entire Seder, which centers around the consumption of matzah, must begin after night has fallen.

Read: When Is the Earliest Time to Start the Seder?

14. Matzah Was Offered in the Holy Temple

While many of us are familiar with animal sacrifice, the fact is that wine libations and stacks of matzah (!) were regularly offered in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Read: The Temple Sacrifices

15. We Stop Eating It a While Before Passover

The long-established practice is to not eat matzah on the day before Passover, so that when we eat it at the Seder, it feels new and exciting. Some stop eating it two weeks or even a full month in advance, giving plenty of time to build up our matzah appetites.

Read: 30 Days Before Passover

16. It Has the Same Blessing as Bread

While matzah is very different from puffy bread, it is essentially . . . bread. That’s why before eating matzah, you wash your hands and say the same blessing you would say before eating bread, acknowledging G‑d, “Who brings forth bread from the earth.”

Learn the Hamotzi Blessing

17. Matzah Meal Has Mixed Reviews

Crushed matzah can become a type of flour, which can then be used to make kosher-for-Passover cakes and, of course, matzah balls. But before you jump on the bandwagon, note that many (including Chabad) are particular not to eat anything that is made with matzah that has become wet. The exception is the eighth day of Passover, when gebrokts, wetted matzah, is a welcome addition to the Passover menu.

Read: Wetted Matzah

18. We Eat Matzah Again on Pesach Sheni

A month after Passover, we celebrate Pesach Sheni (Second Passover), which was the day that those who missed bringing the Passover offering in Jerusalem were able to make up for their loss. Today, it is marked primarily by eating matzah and reliving the day’s message: it’s never too late to make up for a missed opportunity.

Read: What Is Pesach Sheni?