Matzah travels on the production line of the Tiferet HaMatzot factory in Dnipro, Ukraine, Dec. 8, 2014. (Photo/JTA-Cnaan Liphshiz)
Matzah travels on the production line of the Tiferet HaMatzot factory in Dnipro, Ukraine, Dec. 8, 2014. (Photo/JTA-Cnaan Liphshiz)

This year, matzah symbolizes Ukrainian courage and resistance

Have you ever wished for a different flavor matzah? More buttery? More crunchy? Something more tasty than the plain flour and water recipe we have been eating for thousands of years?

Well, this year your matzah may taste radically different — but not for the reason you may expect.

Throughout the ages, the matzah has captured the imagination of the Jewish people in cities and countries all across the globe. Whatever the circumstances, this simple matzah has served as a reminder of the past as well as a symbol of freedom and hope for the future. Even in the most challenging of times, it has rekindled our faith and empowered us to hope for a better tomorrow.

With current events in Ukraine, this message of faith and hope for freedom is as relevant as ever.

As millions of Ukrainians flee and become refugees, and thousands more have lost their lives, every decent human being has felt a deep concern for the people of Ukraine.

At the same time, we have been deeply inspired by their sheer courage and resilience: courageously rejecting tyranny and oppression at the hands of one of the most powerful armies in the world.

You may be surprised to learn that one of the largest matzah bakeries in the world is based in Ukraine. Over the years, the bakery has produced hundreds of tons of shmurah matzahs that have been enjoyed by Jewish communities locally and around the world, and even here in San Francisco. (Shmurah matzah is handmade with a higher level of supervision than most other types of matzah.)

This year, even after the war began, the bakery remained open and continued baking matzah while under siege for as long as it was able to.

Yes! Under the threat of shellings and explosions, the Jewish community of Dnipro, Ukraine continued baking matzah, ensuring that Jews around the world would have this precious resource to celebrate Passover.

If this is not a display of commitment and courage, I don’t know what is!

RELATED: War in Ukraine could put a crunch on shmurah matzah supplies

These Ukrainian-baked matzahs aren’t just symbols of courage and hope; they are objects of courage and hope.

Just when we thought we knew the depth of Ukrainian courage, we are blown away by their unparalleled grit, determination and commitment. Just when we thought we needed to be hoping for their relief and freedom, Ukraine has taught us what it means to fight for one’s freedom and stand up for Jewish values and traditions.

To put it simply, Ukraine has taught us that having the courage to fight for freedom is a form of freedom itself.

As we sit around the seder table, we will be thinking about the innocent refugees and thousands of shattered lives across Ukraine, hoping and praying for their freedom and safety

When we eat the matzah during Passover, we will have the opportunity to pause and envision the faces of our Ukrainian brethren, whose lives have been turned upside down by this tragic war. With a little kavanah (intention, or direction of the heart), we may be able to taste the flavor of their resilience and Jewish conviction.

Though normally it’s the maror (bitter herbs) that brings forth the tears of pain and suffering, this year, as I eat my Ukrainian-baked matzah, it will be the matzah that stirs the emotions and brings forth tears of resilience and hope.

Whichever matzah you have, this year it will taste different.

Eating it at the seder may be the perfect act of solidarity with the people of Ukraine. In doing so, we will hopefully internalize some of their courage and resilience, reminding ourselves to infuse our own Jewishness and freedom with increased passion, conviction and even joy!

May Hashem bless each and every one of us, and especially the people of Ukraine, with true freedom from all oppression and relief from both internal and external struggles!

May the world usher in an era of universal peace for all mankind. May it be very soon! Amen!

Happy Passover!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of J.

Rabbi Gedalia Potash
Rabbi Gedalia Potash

Rabbi Gedalia Potash and his wife, Leah, have been the leaders of Chabad of Noe Valley in San Francisco since they launched it in 2000. He is a native of London, England.