Baking Matza for Passover

    April Passover 2004 Edition            
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Baking Matza for Passover


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Visiting the Matzo Factory

by Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein

From the outside it looked like a decrepit old building, maybe a used furniture store or an old hardware store hidden behind wooden slats. One would not know that so much life, such hustle and bustle was going on inside. Certainly I was unprepared. When I entered the factory, to the left I saw a room with long tables. Mostly women worked on both sides of the tables with long thin rollers, similar to a rolling pin but three times as long and one third as thick.

The women were dressed in house dresses and other forms of simple clothing, such as full skirts and blouses with kerchiefs around their heads, reminiscent of the 'old country'. They were busy making matzo, working quickly with eighteen minutes total preparation and cooking time allowed for Passover matzo.

I found myself energized and moved watching the women, several of whom smiled at me. I yearned to stay with them, to be taken in by them, given a 'rolling pin' and a spot at one of the tables--maybe even a housedress. I did not wish to go back into the street. They were triggering some very old memories and feelings in me that had faded but not died, of being taken in by people and feeling safe. The positive energy level was so palatable that you could taste it. I would like to tell you about one of the memories.

I was with a college friend, Joannie. Joannie lived with her parents in a very small house that looked run down by my ranch house suburban standards. They had a living room with old stuffed furniture, a dining table and chairs squeezed into one end of the living room and a very outdated kitchen. I couldn't even see any appliances.

That night when I went to visit, her mother came to the door in a large print housedress with messy hair, no make up and a voluminous body. Clearly a friendly woman, she gave me a big hug. After we chatted and had snacks, music was put on.

Joannie was a violinist and I knew there was a love of music in this family. As the music filled the small rooms, Mrs. R. jumped up and started folk dancing all by herself--turning, bowing and spinning. The house was filled with warmth and energy. I loved watching her and being there. Soon we were all moving and swaying. The rooms seemed to expand to hold our movements. Mrs. R. was a true ballerina of the soul!

When I left and went outside everything seemed cold and empty, almost sterile. I was confused by my reaction, by my joy at being there and my desire to remain. I was confused because in terms of values, at least in external values that I had been taught, her family didn't represent most of them. It was important to have a nice house with a clean new kitchen and big rooms.

It was important for one's mother to wear make up, be thin and have stylish clothes. Joannie didn't meet my standards either. She was ordinary looking and didn't wear make up. She was brainy but that was the only attribute where she met the mold. How was I to make sense of my internalized suburban (what I now see as shallow) values jarred by penetrating feelings of a positive connection to a person that didn't fit?

Now years later, (after watching my friend's mom dance from her soul, so light on her feet, natural and at ease in her own living room) I was in a matzo factory in a small building watching Russian immigrants working. They too, were unassuming, at ease and they danced with their arms as they rolled the dough.

Here were people who had lived their lives--unable to celebrate Passover. Now they molded sacred Passover dough. In the large barren room where they worked, standing at wooden tables, it seemed as though they created a positive energy system that gave me a sense of comfort and welcomed me--made me a part of things rather than being apart from things. This was an energy that made colors richer and external values seem to matter less. I knew in my soul as I watched, that metaphorically I was watching Joannie's mom dance all over again. It is hard to put it any other way.

It's not the only time that I have felt elated or excited, or really enjoyed myself, but the people in that room touched one of the deepest cores that I could account for in my being. They touched a sense of validation of the human spirit, a space that had a form to it as solid as a rock, yet brilliant and transparent like quality sunlight.

As we left the matzo factory, I stepped back in to watch for a few more minutes. One woman smiled. I didn't want to leave. Finally, I was dragged out, so to speak, as you remove a child when it is absolutely time to go. At first the sidewalk felt cold and it seemed as if the sunshine had gone away. I felt it was all in that room, not outside, even though it was bright.

If I had been a little younger--maybe a little braver--I would have let the tears of soul knowledge pour down my face or I would have run back into the matzo factory and hugged some of them saying, "thank you for being here and embracing me with your positive energies!" But, I didn't have the courage. I went along with my day as best as I knew how, working as hard as I could to knead their sunlight into the bread of my life!


Some forms of enchantment touch deeply into our souls. Passover is a time when our souls are once more encouraged to strengthen and stretch. Both Jews and non-Jews respond to the cry of the Exodus--"Let my people go!" Or we could say, "Let me go! Let me be free to grow and develop and not be imprisoned by depleting thoughts or feelings. Let my soul soar, while I attempt to dance freely--my arms and legs moving in harmony with the universe as I find ways to bring heaven down to earth--a bit here, a bit there!"

May the sea always divide for you and let you through to your promised land. And may you be dancing and playing on Tambourines as Miriam and the other women did as they crossed the Sea of Reeds.

Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein , originator of THE ENCHANTED SELF®, a method of bringing delight and meaning into everyday living, invites you to view her new line of ENCHANTED WOMAN products, downloadable e-books, and free gifts at


from the April Passover 2004 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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