It’s 2022, and this year your matzah may likely taste radically different from all other Passover matzahs.
The simple Passover matzah, made of nothing but flour and water, has survived our turbulent history and continues to serve as a reminder of the past, a symbol of freedom and hope for the future. Even in the most challenging of times, Jewish people found a way to obtain this “bread of faith” and gained the fortitude to look forward to a better future.
This year, with the tzuris in Ukraine, the message of faith and hope for freedom is as relevant as ever. As millions of refugees flee and thousands more have lost their lives, every decent human being feels deep concern for the people of Ukraine. Yet we’ve also seen a courageous and bold response to tyranny, and nothing inspires us more than people standing up to fight oppression, even against one of the most powerful armies in the world.
What’s that got to do with matzah? Well, to start with, one of the largest shmurah matzah bakeries in the world is based in Ukraine. Over the years, the bakery has produced hundreds of tons of this hand-made matzah exported to Jewish communities locally and around the world.
This year, even after the war began, the bakery remained open and continued baking matzah while under siege. Under threat of shelling and bomb explosions, the Jewish community of Dnipro, Ukraine, continued baking matzah, so that Jews around the world would have this precious resource to celebrate Passover.
As we prayed for the relief and freedom of Ukraine’s people, and its Jewish population in particular, the people of Ukraine demonstrated their grit and gumption, proving that the courage to fight for freedom is a form of freedom itself.
Many of us will be celebrating the seders with shmurah matzah from this baker in Ukraine. But no matter which brand of matzah you will have, this year it will taste different as you reflect on the innocent refugees and thousands of shattered lives. Eating it at the seder may be the perfect act of solidarity with the people of Ukraine. May we do so mindful of their struggle, their suffering and the great courage of their convictions. Let us savor the taste of resilience and Jewish conviction as we fulfill the mitzvah of eating Passover matzah.
May HaShem bless each and every one of us, and especially the people of Ukraine, with true freedom from all oppression and relief from both internal and external struggles, and may we finally be granted the ultimate blessings of peace and healing.
Gedalia Potash is the Chabad rabbi serving the Jewish community of Noe Valley, California