Monday, April 21, 2008

The rules...

This week is Passover, which is one of my favorite holidays of the year. I find it to be the most meaningful, and has the best present day traditions as well. I won't go into more that that now, but I'm sure I could.

I was in the grocery store yesterday, picking up some things for dinner and there at the little kosher for Passover table I picked up and looked at a box of Kosher for Passover brownie mix. I was looking at the ingredients, the normal things that you would expect, matzah meal instead of flour, potato starch, chocolate....sodium bicarbonate....wait.

Sodium Bicarbonate? That's leavening. That is leavening. Sodium bicarbonate is baking soda, who's purpose is to make your brownies fluffy. So clearly (in my mind at least) it is strictly off limits for anything that is Kosher for Passover.

When did the rules become, no grain products rather than no leaven foods. To me eating brownies with sodium bicarbonate in them ever if they are made with matzah meal made under the strictest rabbinical direction just doesn't make any sense! It's some giant loop hole that just doesn't add up.

So you have to sit down and think about why we don't eat leaven food during Passover. The Jews left Egypt in haste, and had not the time to let their bread rise and to commemorate this we don't eat bread with leavening. "For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And whoever eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel, whether he is an alien or native-born. Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread." (Exodus 12:19-20)

OK looking at this it strictly says nothing with yeast. But is also says unleavened. To be fair baking soda was not a prevalent factor in Biblical times, but its purpose is solely leavening (and cleaning?), so in my mind it's definitely out. It is very interesting to me that the rules have sort have been distorted to nothing with grain in it unless the grain was matzah first.

Are we really trying to re-create the experience of wandering in the desert? if so I can think of a lot of food we would not eat: Brisket, Matzah ball soup, etc...Also in the desert if they found (at an oasis) wild rice, they clearly would have eaten it. We don't stop eating leaven food to punish ourselves, but to be conscious for an entire week of the Passover story, and what God did for the Jewish people. I guess that perhaps eating mediocre brownies from a box made with matzah meal might make someone conscious of this as well. But really. It's just a week. Eat ice cream for dessert, though they certainly did not have that in the desert.


Sarah said...

I was really excited to read this after sorting through a ton of donated food to see if it's kosher. Did you know that canned mushrooms are usually not kosher because because most manufactures line the can with lard... gross!
Anyhow Merry Passover! I'll be making matza ball soup today and it'll be delicious (I have discovered that matza balls are delicious!)

Nina said...

A very good friend of mine, a pretty rigorously practicing Conservative Jew, was trying to explain all the different less-than-sensical Passover dietary restrictions to me. At about the time when she got to legumes and the added ritual complications of Passover beginning on Saturday this year, she threw up her hands and declared, "You know what? It's all desert voodoo anyway." I found that statement giggle-inducing, endearing, and comforting.

Alex said...

I've been picking Yotam's brain about how all of the rules work over the past few days. I agree that they are quite odd in certain situations.

Yotam takes a very conservative (read: strict... I have no idea whether it actually qualifies as conservative) stance on whether food is kosher for passover.