When Shmurah Matzah Becomes an Enterprise
PassoverChana’s Corner

When Shmurah Matzah Becomes an Enterprise

Some people will go to great lengths to find Tenenbaum matzah even if they have to pay for it.

Chana Shapiro

Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.

Perhaps you are a fan of shmurah matzah. On the other hand, you may never have heard of the large, round, hand-made matzah scrupulously “watched,” or guarded, from the harvesting of the wheat until the final baking.

Because of stringent requirements, this matzah is made by trained workers specifically for Passover. Many of the “factories” in which this specialty kosher item is produced are in Brooklyn.

My friend Annie visited me recently. I offered snacks, but she spotted two large cardboard boxes set apart from the other food in our house.

“Oooh!” she exclaimed. “Do I see shmurah matzahs?”

She was hoping I’d open one of the boxes and give her a sample, but the liberation date of the treasure is the first night of Pesach at our seder and not a minute before.

Annie has only one vice, and that is the love of good food. I’ve never included shmurah matzah in the category of fine cuisine; however, the scrupulously created matzah does have its own mystique and allure.

Even though every piece of kosher-for-Pesach matzah throughout the world has identical ingredients in identical ratios and is rolled and baked within identical timing, shmurah matzah baked in different factories each has its own taste and, for want of a better word, groupies.

This is a story about one woman’s devotion to her favorite shmurah matzah.

Several years ago, Annie was a guest at the seder of Chabad Rabbi and Mrs. Tenenbaum in California. It so happens that these Tenenbaums are related to the matzah-making Tenenbaums of Brooklyn. It was at the California table of this illustrious family that Annie’s obsession with Tenenbaum shmurah matzah was hatched.

She’s not alone: The Tenenbaum matzah has a cult following that stretches far and wide, but, alas, it is unavailable in any of Annie’s area supermarkets.

Once she tasted perfection, Annie vowed that she would celebrate every Passover with the Tenenbaums’ choice product. Unable to satisfy her desire locally, she contacted Mrs. Tenenbaum, at whose seder she had first tasted it.

Mrs. Tenenbaum had good news. A member of Chabad was traveling from New York to California and would be passing through the area where Annie lives.

An assignation was arranged, during which Annie’s money would be exchanged for the Tenenbaum matzah. Annie was instructed to meet her supplier (let’s call him Moshe) in the parking lot of a bowling alley. Although my friend is usually cautious to a fault, she asked no questions, readily agreeing to meet a total stranger at a questionable designated time and place. Annie wanted that matzah.

Yes, Annie loves Tenenbaum shmurah matzah, but the woman is not a glutton. She simply needs her annual fix, and here’s what happened in the bowling alley parking lot. Remember: Annie had enjoyed Tenenbaum shmurah matzah and wanted more, but she had never purchased any herself.

Moshe: “Shalom, ma’am. I have your matzah right here.”

Annie (thrilled and relieved): “This is wonderful! How much do you charge per piece?”

Moshe (slightly taken aback but aware that there are many kinds of Jews in the world, and each has a spark of holiness): “Er, how many pieces do you want?”

Annie: “I’ll take two, please. So can you tell me how much I owe you?”

Moshe (considering not charging her but not wanting to embarrass her): “Feel free to pay what you wish.”

Annie (delighted at the fulfillment of her heart’s desire and appreciative of Moshe’s flexibility): “Will $18 for each piece be OK?”

Moshe (awed at the mysterious ways of Hashem): “$18 each! Thank you, and I wish you a very happy Pesach.”

Annie and Moshe each drove away, content that their respective missions were successful. Later, one of Annie’s friends told her that a whole box of shmurah matzah could be purchased for less than she had paid for a single slice.

But what did Annie care? Not everybody has the opportunity to procure two perfect pieces of Tenenbaum shmurah matzah from a messenger in a bowling alley parking lot.

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