I Don't Know What Cocaine Does To Your Gastrointestinal System, But It Can't Be Worse Than Matzah

06/10/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Passover is over and now the chametz is gone. The house is safe and our future is assured.

We've cleaned for weeks and covered our shelves and counters, throughout the whole kitchen, with aluminum foil.

I once knew a guy who was out of his mind. He felt that extraterrestrials were going to cross the entire universe, come to earth, and take him back to their home planet as a human specimen to be studied through a series of tests that would be both painful and ultimately deadly. The only thing keeping him safe was the thin layer of aluminum foil with which he had covered the inside of his studio apartment. Of course, this begs the question: why would these aliens be able to cross the entire length of the universe and enter our atmosphere only to be stopped by a thin layer of aluminum foil? But that's a discussion for another day.

I'm not dealing with aliens, I'm dealing with the wonderful unleavened bread we all know and love: matzah.

A week of matzah! (Seven days for Israelis and eight for people who live outside the land of Israel.) Going to the store to purchase matzah is like dealing cocaine: knowing what to buy is almost as complicated. Sure, matzah is not a street drug and no laws have been broken in the commission of making it -- unless, of course, you make your matzah with the blood of kidnapped Christian children, which really so few of us do. But just like Baskin Robbins has 31 flavors, the same can be said for this Passover staple.

There is regular machined matzah, the kind you see in the one-pound boxes often sold packaged as five boxes together in the grocery store. This is your Manischewitz's or Streit's varieties. Grocery stores sell this very inexpensively, as they know we also will be purchasing macaroons, ring gels, and gefilte fish. But "religious" people (okay, crazy people like myself) are not eating the store bought variety ... no way!

We are buying "Shmurah Matzah," meaning guarded matzah. It has been guarded since being cut to make sure no fermentation has taken place and we don't have chametz. The lowest level of shmurah is machine shmurah. The hesitation people have with machine shumurah is that matzah has to be made with the intention of making unleavened bread. How can a machine have intentions? Next there is Hand Shmurah, made by very religious people deep in a basement in Brooklyn. The water touches the flour and the timer starts quickly. It is kneaded and pounded, pounded and kneaded, and finally rolled very thin. A roller with points then runs over it so that the matzah is covered with holes and there is no spot where flour or water can hide and make chametz. The Hand Shmurah is then thrown in the fire and quite literally burnt to a crisp, all in less than 18 minutes.

This is all done in the week before Passover, the closer to the holiday the better. The matzah is then sold by my Rabbi for $24 a pound.

And all I'll need to make it through the holiday is, say, five or six pounds of this stuff, to eat for eight days.

I don't know what cocaine does to your gastrointestinal system, but it can't be worse than matzah.

A Rabbi once remarked to me that we did so many things as we left Egypt. We marked our doorposts with blood of the Korban Pesach (paschal lamb), we ate the lamb and had the first Passover seder. We organized and moved a couple of a million people out overnight. We even had time to take the possessions of our Egyptian neighbors.

Apparently the only thing we didn't have time to do was to let our bread rise. What would it have taken? Another couple of hours?

And what is the price that we would have paid for that two hours?

We've now eaten, conservatively estimated, 24,500 days of matzah!

Yisrael Campbell is currently starring in Circumcise Me, at Off Broadway's Bleecker Street Theater.