Breaking the Eighteen Minute Rule

March 22, 2013 by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
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It is well-known that Matzah is baked very quickly. From start to finish it must not take longer than eighteen minutes…writes Rabbi Michoel Gourarie.

Rabbi Michoel Gourarie

Rabbi Michoel Gourarie

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 realize 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, realizing 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.


One Response to “Breaking the Eighteen Minute Rule”
  1. Geoff says:

    From where does the good Rabbi Gourarie get his 18 minutes in the making of Matzo. Seems to me that even a sundial was not too easy to find in the days of the first matzo-bake. A bit like the story of music in the taxi that’s been doing the rounds recently??

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