From the time the water hits the flour to pulling the hot bread from the oven, only 18 minutes are allowed to pass to be considered unleaven.
Where does the 18 minutes come from?
Last week I went on a gastro-adventure while researching for Taste and See: An Aspiring Foodies Search for God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Makers (Coming soon!).
A whole chapter is dedicated to bread and I’ve been interviewing a slew of bakers. I travelled to New Haven, Connecticut, to spend time with an expert on ancient breads.
Andrew McGowan, the Dean of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale Divinity, poured emmer flour into a bowl then set an alarm. He pressed start when the water hit the flour.
The duration is based on length of time that it takes to walk a “mil” a Talmudic unit of distance. Two rabbis, arguing over the duration, debated whether it took 18 or 24 minutes. To honor the law, they went with the more conservative number.
Because flour and yeast will start to ferment and leaven on its own, making truly unleaven bread, requires flour, water, a pre-heated oven, a clock, and great speed. We baked like fiends and beat the deadline with 3 seconds to spare.
The whole experience reminded me of today’s reading in Remarkable: 40 Days in the Gospel of Mark for the #LentChallenge. In Mark 10:1-2, we find the Pharisees arguing the law regarding divorce. They want to see if Jesus will affirm those looking to skirt the law or those who follow the law to a T.
Yet Jesus highlights the greatest law, the law of love. Teaching us…
Love doesn’t need a loophole.
Though we may look for ways over or around or under a regulation, Jesus reminds us that if that’s all you see, you’re missing the point.
So the next time I try making matza, I’ll be ready—not just with a hot oven or a timer—but looking how I can bake love into every bite.
Where are you looking for loopholes rather than leaning into the law of love?