My brother and I were brought up in a very Zionistic/Conservative home. As my mother watched Judaism fall by the wayside in many homes in our small Southern town, she encouraged both of us to be more observant.

So, with our parents’ blessings, my brother went to a small yeshivah a few hours from where we lived, and I attended a Jewish college in New York City. It was quite an experience for me, to say the least! I had only a few Jewish friends back home, and now I was thrust into a school surrounded by young Jewish women, plus I was living in such a vibrant Jewish community. I was soaking it all up and enjoying myself immensely.I had no idea where to purchase shmurah matzah

One day, my brother called and asked me for a favor: could I bring home a box of unbroken shmurah matzah for Pesach this year? Since my brother very rarely asked me to get him anything, I quickly acquiesced to his request. I just had one slight hesitation: I had no idea where to purchase shmurah matzah!

I went to one of the rabbis who taught in my school and asked him if there was “a place” in New York where I could buy shmurah matzah. With a smile and a twinkle in his eye, he graciously told me that I would be able to buy shmurah matzah in many different places, but the easiest place for me to obtain it would probably be Brooklyn. He went on to say that if I waited until right before I left to go home, I could get it fresh.

Now, bringing something to my family that was fresh was a special thing indeed! All of our kosher products came from out of town, and we never really had that “just popped out of the oven” taste to linger over and enjoy. At one point a baker from England converted to Judaism through our local rabbi, and for a few years our homes (and stomachs) were filled with delicious, fresh challah and baked goods. To this day, whenever I see a kosher lemon meringue pie, which was his specialty, I think fondly of that baker!

I convinced my best friend to come with me to buy the shmurah matzah. We took the subway to the heart of Brooklyn, where I was immediately swept up in the holiday spirit. And I found plenty of places where I could purchase those elusive shmurah matzahs. I went into a store and asked for unbroken shmurah matzahs, and again, I think I made a rabbi smile! I was quite taken aback by how much a box cost, but I just assumed that the exorbitant price meant the texture and taste were infinitely more delicious.

Holding the matzahs on the subway and not breaking them was as big a feat as getting them on the airplane. I held the box on my lap for the entire three-hour flight home. I didn’t think they would be rendered non-kosher if they broke, but I didn’t want to take the chance.

When the plane landed, I made sure to place the box of shmurah matzah in the capable hands of my brother before I even gave my parents a hug. As he lifted the cardboard top and saw that all of them were still whole, he gratefully thanked me. I was so glad that this nerve-racking assignment was over! Mission accomplished!

On the first night of Pesach, It barely concealed their rounded edgesthe shmurah matzahs were covered with the matzah cover we always used in the past. It barely concealed their rounded edges. As the four of us went through the Haggadah, all of us were anxiously anticipating tasting the matzah that sat in a place of prominence on our Seder table. We were sure that these rounded matzahs would be far superior to the square ones that we ate all year long.

And then, as the anticipation was building . . . the moment we had all been waiting for finally arrived! As we washed, made the hamotzi blessing and bit into our shmurah matzah, I thought Elijah the Prophet would come to our house a little earlier that evening! The specialness of this moment, I was sure, would linger on in our family folklore for generations to come.

Crunch. One bite into the matzah left all of us speechless! My brother was eating away, looking blissfully happy, but my parents and I were looking at each other. Were we missing something here? We could barely chew it and get it down!

I was so disappointed! This is what I so carefully looked for and shlepped halfway across the country? I wholeheartedly let my brother have the rest of the matzah to enjoy for himself. This was one time when I would not ask him to share with me, that was for sure!

The time has quickly flown by, and Pesach is upon us once again. Over the years I have acquired a taste for shmurah matzah, and now I actually prefer it to the square, boxed kind! There is just something about bringing those shmurah matzah boxes into the house right before Pesach that fills me with special memories about the first time I tried shmurah matzah.

But it’s much more than that. What those shmurah matzahs symbolize to me is the continuation of a journey that has taken on a life of its own. As I slowly grew in my Judaism, I tentatively took on more mitzvahs in my quest to become more observant. I I felt more like a lady when I went out in skirtsremember what a difficult decision it was to start dressing more modestly, but then I realized I felt more like a lady when I went out in skirts instead of worn-out jeans, and I gained more confidence in myself, too. And when I fully took on Shabbat observance, it was such a welcome relief to know that at the end of my hectic week I would have a day on which I could really focus on my spiritual growth.

Putting one foot in front of the other and tenaciously moving forward (even with stepping backwards now and then) propelled me to religious heights I didn’t even know I could attain. And when I put my mind and heart to it, the difficult things became easier to take on as time went on. Just like my first taste of shmurah matzah, it got only better through the years.