The matzah baked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Kfar Chabad on Tuesday was reportedly tossed in the trash after his visit. The reason given was strict adherence to Jewish law, but reports in the Israeli media could not help but connect the incident to the ongoing crisis between the prime minister and the ultra-Orthodox community over the recently passed universal conscription law. (Chabad later insisted the reports were inaccurate, and that matzah made by Netanyahu was intact and would be used.)
The gulf between Netanyahu and the Haredi community began in ernest with the prime minister’s exclusion of the ultra-Orthodox parties — his “natural partners” — from the governing coalition early last year. Netanyahu has since been referred to as “the big traitor” and “Haredi hunter” within the community, according to the Walla News website.
So when the prime minister’s matzot were thrown out in Kfar Chabad, after he had taken the time to pour water on the dough, flatten it, roll it, etc., it seemed natural to assume that it was some small retribution for Netanyahu’s policies.
The ultra-Orthodox journalist Ishai Cohen was quoted by Walla as saying that matzah is traditionally baked by pious Jews, and therefore it was proper to throw Netanyahu’s matzah to the trash. He described the prime minister’s visit as a publicity stunt. Other Haredi sources were largely in agreement.
A spokesman for Chabad, however, took issue with the way the events were presented in the Haredi media, saying that the reason for throwing out the matzah had nothing to do with Netanyahu.
“At a matzah bakery, there are always matzot that get eliminated for having laid on the table too long, or for other halakhic reasons,” said Menachem Brod.
“During Netanyahu’s visit, some of the workers left the task of rolling the matzah and gathered around the prime minister. The overseer subsequently ordered those matzah that had been left out to be invalidated. There was no connection to the matzot touched by the prime minister, and any attempt to tie the two things together is an ugly attempt to fan the flames of hatred and division, and Chabad rejects it in disgust,” he added.
“Every year, for decades, I have been getting shmurah matzahs from Chabad,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday. “But this is the first time that I actually got to make it myself.”
According to Chabad.org, the Kfar Chabad matzah bakery produces many tons of hand-crafted round shmurah matzahs for communities all over the world.
JTA contributed to this report.