Whole Foods matzoh factory in Northbrook teaches children about Passover
Rabbi Yitzchak Bernstein talks about making matzoh at a Hands-On Model Matzoh Factory on March 10, at Whole Foods in Northbrook. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 15, 2013 10:51AM
NORTHBROOK — Never has simple flour and water come together with such significance and delight as it did Sunday in the hands of most of the children rolling it into Matzohs.
About 30 youngsters, who were accompanied by at least that many adults, gathered at Whole Foods Market in Northbrook to participate in a hands-on Model Matzoh Factory, presented by Chabad Lubavitch, a Jewish Learning Institute, synagogue and Hebrew school in Northbrook.
The children re-enacted the process of making matzohs, from grinding the flour to kneading the dough, to baking the Matzohs in a stone oven – all within 18 minutes – the time in which matzohs must be made, said Rabbi Meir Moscowitz, director of Chabad Lubavitch.
On the first two nights of the celebration, which is usually eight days long, a Seder is held to commemorate the Passover, the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt, he added.
Rabbi Yitzchak Bernstein, who co-directed the event, retold the story of the Exodus, and the children listened as if hearing it for the first time.
The story is that more than 3,300 years ago, when the Jewish people were enslaved by an Egyptian pharaoh,
God helped the Children of Israel escape slavery there by causing 10 plagues to fall upon the pharaoh, Bernstein said.
The tenth and worst of the plagues was the death of the Egyptian’s first-born. The Israelites marked the door posts of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb, and upon seeing these marks, the Lord passed over the first-borns in these homes, which led to the name of the holiday, he added.
“When that happened, the pharaoh told the Jews to get out! They didn’t stop for provisions, because there were no Starbucks around at that time,” Bernstein said.
“They left in such a hurry that they couldn’t even wait for bread dough to rise.”
In commemoration of the deliverance, for the duration of Passover no leavened bread is eaten, which is why the holiday is also called “The Festival of the Unleavened Bread,” Bernstein said.
The Seder requirements include not only eating matzoh, a brittle, flat piece of unleavened bread, but also consuming four cups of wine and bitter herbs, as well as recounting the story of their people’s fore bearers’ exodus from Egypt.
So “a flour girl” and “a water boy,” two volunteers from the crowd, entered two small plastic “rooms” signifying the way matzoh is made in a real factory, with the ingredients kept separately so the flour does not absorb moisture until just the right time.
Then, Bernstein blended and kneaded together the flour and water that the girl and boy were holding, and distributed small pieces of the dough to all the children to flatten on flour and paper-covered tables.
Some children rolled the dough and some hit it with their rolling poles, then they stabbed it with forks.
Most thoroughly enjoyed being dusted with flour during the process, some making hand prints on the tables and wiping it on other children’s faces.
Then the young bakers placed their matzohs on the poles and presented them to the Rabbis to be placed into the oven.
“It is critical to note that the Matzohs produced at the Model Matzoh Factory are not to be used on Passover, Moscowitz said.
“Actual Passover Matzoh needs to be manufactured in a highly-controlled environment to ensure that it does not become leavened.”
Then, the rabbis handed out samples of properly made matzohs to the children.
Jacob Engel, a nine-year-old Northbrook resident who was lightly dusted with the white powder, noted that his favorite part of the event was working with the flour.
His five-year-old brother, Nathan, said he really liked rolling the dough.
“I got to make my own matzoh, which was really fun,” said Aliza Gussin, 10, also of Northbrook. I’m going to think about doing this whenever I eat matzohs from now on.”
But Ezra, her seven-year-old brother, said he didn’t learn much from the event at all.
“I knew all about this already,” he said.