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    Was matzah something new?

    Matzah existed before the Exodus.

    Since the Egyptians are said to have pioneered the leavening process in baking bread, unleavened bread must previously have been the norm.

    Even when leavened bread became available, it was probably limited to the aristocracy and the wealthy. It was too expensive for the ordinary person, who had to continue eating something like matzah (though the matzah they made was thicker and softer than ours).

    This may be why the Haggadah calls matzah lechem oni, the bread of affliction or poor man’s bread “which our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt”.

    It is said that by the time of Moses, there were as many as forty types of bread in Egypt, and some or all would have been flavoured and eaten with onions.

    When the waters of the Nile were too low, the economy was in jeopardy and people threw bread into the river as an offering, since divinity was attributed to the waters. Maybe this is the origin of the phrase, “Cast your bread upon the waters” (Kohelet 11:1).

    Originally bread (as well as matzah) was baked at home. It was only about three centuries ago that professional matzah bakeries began and the matzah became hard and crisp, though some non-Ashkenazic communities still prefer soft matzah.

    When the Israelites left Egypt they looked forward to eating rich men’s bread as a mark of freedom, but they were in such a hurry that there was no time for the dough to rise and they had to make do with unleavened bread once again.

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