Q: What is shmurah matzah?
A: L’shmor means “to protect” or “to guard” in Hebrew. Shmurah matzah is made with wheat that has been carefully watched from the second it is harvested until it goes into the oven, making certain it never comes into contact with moisture, which could result in leavening.
Because it requires such careful supervision, shmurah matzah is more expensive than regular matzah, so many families use it for the seders only. This does not mean that other kosher-for-Passover matzah is not good enough. Shmurah matzah is simply top of the line.
The Alt-Neu (Old-New) Synagogue in Prague
Q: Are there any fascinating legends about this holiday?
A: There are many! One of the most intriguing involves the golem, the mythical figure said to have been brought to life by 16th century Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel of Prague. The golem, created to protect the Jewish people (especially between Purim and Passover, the most popular time for the notorious blood libel accusations), could only come alive when the rabbi uttered a series of secret words.
It may only be legend, but here’s a bit of fascinating information that is true. When not out protecting Jews, the golem was said to reside in the Alt-Neu Synagogue. The building remains standing to this day, one of the few synagogues the Nazis did not destroy because they were afraid to go too close.
Q: Why is that one of the last things we do at the seder is sing about a goat?
A: “Chad Gadya” (“One Kid”) is believed to have made its first appearance in a Haggadah in 1590. And while the lyrics do focus on a goat, it’s not really about a goat. Throughout history, scholars have offered different interpretations as to what it DOES means, with elements of the Jewish people, God, enemies, astrology, the State of Israel – you name it! It’s fun to look online at all the interesting ideas people have about “Chad Gadya.” Better yet, come up with your own!
The Sarajevo Haggadah
Q: What’s the most valuable Haggadah in the world?
A: That would be the Sarajevo Haggadah, which originated in the mid-1300s in Barcelona. Today, this Haggadah (which, interestingly enough, still has wine stains, so it was never simply a museum piece; it was actually used time and again at seders) is in the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Most estimates put its value at about $770 million.
Q: Where can I find some cool and exciting charoset recipes?
A: Italian, Persian, California, Moroccan! Our favorite collection of great charoset recipes is right here.