Saturday, April 2, 2016

Pesach - Part 1, Shmurah Matzoh

The festival of Pesach (Passover) follows on the heals of Purim. Because of the dietary restrictions of Pesach carefully observed ritual preparation begins weeks before the holiday. The preparation of matzoh must be done in a controlled environment so that there is no contamination with leavening and to guarantee that the baking process doesn't result in any rising of the dough. Here's a complete explanation of the the procedures and their meaning. In all, the process must not exceed eighteen minutes - it's a number with deep mystical significance. The water must be at a proscribed temperature, the dough must not have any moisture in it, the sticks that roll the dough flat must be fresh wood with no contamination of previously rolled dough, and the final matzoh must not have any burn imperfections.

Because a shmurah bakery is used only for a few weeks a year, it's usually an extremely confined space with many people moving around doing various tasks, and many rabbis observing the entire process to insure that their batch of matzoh is done to perfection. Many of the people working in the bakery are Russian Jews who have a hearty distrust of photographers. The whole process is a real challenge to photograph.

Saying the afternoon mincha prayer before beginning a new batch of matzoh:

Hands must be washed and completely dried before handling a new batch of flour for the matzoh dough:

The rabbis getting ready to supervise the new preparations and baking:

Ninja warrior matzoh helpers:

Each of the matzoh discs must be perforated with holes so that there is absolutely no rising of the dough:

A hot job:

Inspecting each piece of matzoh before packing to make sure there's no rising and no burn spots: