Sunday, February 11, 2007

You Can Learn a Lot from a Cookbook

I came across some very nice insights on Matzah in Joan Nathan's, The Foods of Israel Today. On pages 90 and 91 she quotes Clinton Bailey - she says he is the foremost authority on Bedouin culture -
The unleavened desert bread, which is essentially matzoh, is the staple of the Bedouin diet, which they bake three times a day ... It was not until the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt that they ate leavened bread. Still today, to the Bedouin, yeast is the sign of a settled people, of contamination in the city. Pure bread for them includes no yeast because there is no leaven in the desert.
If this is true, I think it adds a lot to how we should understand the ta'amei haMitzvot of Chametz u'Matzah. I never knew that there is no leaven in the desert (it must be that it is too dry for yeast to survive). I had heard previously that Egypt is where bread was invented but this adds a whole new dimension. The bread B'nei Yisrael are commanded to eat when they are abandoning Egypt and her ways is not just non-Egyptian bread it is the bread of their forefathers - Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. I still want to do some more fact checking on this.

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