Friday, March 30, 2018

What Is The Difference Between Kosher for Passover and Regular Kosher Matzah? -The Human Capacity To Disagree

Over the years philosophers, psychologists, and other observers of the human condition have identified what they thought made humans distinct from other species.  A BBC exploration of that question begins with with Aristotle:
 We are "rational animals" pursuing knowledge for its own sake. We live by art and reasoning, he wrote. 
I'm not going to claim that disagreement makes us unique, but it sure seems be be common.  I probably don't have to give you any examples.  You probably can come up with some that occurred in the last hour.

But since tonight begins Passover, here's an example that makes my point.  Not just that people disagree over things that clearly have consequences (who to vote for, what to eat for dinner), but also things that seem to be disagreement for disagreement's sake.

Since our daughter and granddaughter are visiting next week, and since it's Passover, we can't make a bread together.  So I thought we could make matzah instead.  Matzah boxes are marked
"Kosher - not for Passover"  and "Kosher for Passover."

So I wanted to know what the difference was.  It's mostly about how carefully the wheat is treated from the time it is ground to flour.

On keeping Passover Matzah kosher:
"Most authorities maintain that it is sufficient to guard the wheat from the time it is ground, in order to use it to fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzah. Some authorities dispute this, however, and maintain that the wheat must be guarded from the time that it is harvested." 
In my role as a mediator at times, I came to learn that such disagreements - that seem to be about differences that don't really make a difference - are based on unspoken assumptions or issues that are the real problem.  It's not the purity of the grain, so to speak, but some other value it represents.

Perhaps it's just about who is right or who has the power to make the decision.  Or it could be that the stricter interpretation reflects a generally greater concern for detail by that position's advocate.

I would argue that the Jews in Egypt who first baked the unleavened bread before their exodus from Egypt, did so because they didn't have time to wait for bread to rise a few times before they had to leave.  And I'm sure they didn't use special flour that had been carefully guarded.

The use of the matzah today is symbolic.  It's to remind Jews of the suffering of their ancestors and to remind them that they too were strangers in a strange land and had to flee.  And thus Jews should remember to help others today who have to flee their homelands.  So whether we use extra special wheat to make matzah probably really makes no difference.  No one eating matzah can tell the difference.  It's the symbol that matters.  And if Jews eat made from the most vigorously guarded wheat, but forget how to apply the lessons of the story to those suffering a similar fate today, they've gotten so tied up in the rules, they've missed the whole point.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Kosher labels of food packaging, here's a website that looks at the Kosher labels and the labeling authorities.

1 comment:

  1. Matzah, matzo, they all get soggy here in England. One of our favs this time of year, we're never without them. But here, and your there, we spell things differently.

    Something that I wondered about (and checked out this morning) was this difference in British and American spelling (and saying, in some quarters) the word BAGEL (or BEIGEL). This is the first entry I found:

    According to New York Times columnist William Safire, the Yiddish beigel was shortened and anglicised to bagel around 1932.

    So, we're closer to the Yiddish. Shame things changed in the New World, but you know Americans. (smile)


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