Breaking the 18-minute rule…writes Rabbi Michoel Gourarie

March 26, 2015 by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
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In just over a week we will celebrate Passover, which begins with the Pesach Seder. One of the important Mitzvot of the Seder is the eating of Shmura Matzah.

Rabbi Michoel Gourarie

Rabbi Michoel Gourarie

It is well-known that Matzah is baked very quickly. From start to finish it must not take longer than eighteen minutes. By definition Matzah is a mixture of flour and water that has not risen or fermented even slightly. Dough that is left unbaked for longer than eighteen minutes begins to rise.

Matzah is a symbol of selflessness and humility. On Pesach we celebrate and experience internal freedom. The first step in the process of personal liberation is not to be wrapped in ourselves and trapped in our own arrogance. Bread that rises is like an inflated ego and is prohibited on this festival of liberation

But there is a small, lesser known detail in the laws of baking Matzah. It states that as long as you keep kneading and working the dough it will not rise, even if it is takes longer than eighteen minutes. As a precaution, Matzah bakers do complete the entire process in eighteen minutes. But technically the eighteen minute limit only applies to idle time, because the dough will only rise if left alone.

Humans by design are not perfect. Even when we succeed at personal growth and spiritual improvement we don’t always get it right. We are often strong on the one day and weak on the next. But achieving perfection is not the goal. What is critical to our mission is that we constantly work hard, putting in the effort to develop and improve. What is imperative is to realise that we are not perfect and to constantly strive to get better.

As long as we keep challenging ourselves to grow, putting in the effort to take the next step, we will be protected from arrogance. As long as we work hard, realising that there is always room to improve, we will remain humble. But as soon as we “stop working the dough” becoming complacent and satisfied at where we are, we will develop apathy and arrogance that will imprison our soul and prevent us from expressing our potential.

So remember this Pesach lesson – keep working the soul and enjoy the Matzah experience.



3 Responses to “Breaking the 18-minute rule…writes Rabbi Michoel Gourarie”
  1. Avigael says:

    Eleonara, our lives depend on the halacha, in my view its worth being picky about. Nothing worse than false or incorrect statements (Im not assuming Rav Gourarie did this on purpose). 24 minute youtube on why this is not the halacha can be accessed here . The Australian Rabbinate is far too laid back and apathetic about nearly every subject I can think of – halacha included. They need to pull their socks up, because its an embarrassment.

  2. Eleonora Mostert says:

    Avigael not so picky, I understood from Rabbi’s story that we shouldn’t let up on kneading ourselves. To work on improving but not becoming wrapped up in our own arrogance, but be humble and selfless. But next time I’m in Israel I shall go to Kinneret an walk the shore.

  3. Avigael Cassel says:

    18 minutes is set by the time it takes to walk 1 mil. It is now known that this measurement is actually an error in the Talmud Bavli and the correct measurement is 4 mils, which is recorded by the Talmud Yerushalymi. This is the distance to walk between two towns along the shores of the Kinneret, Israel. This distance has been measured and confirmed to be 4 mil, not 1 mil. So it is not correct to state that the time is 18 mins due to this error. See if you require more information.

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