In his last post, Rab­bi Elie Kaun­fer wrote about new mod­els for engaged Jew­ish life. He’ll be blog­ging all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ings Vis­it­ing Scribe.

A few years ago, my friend and col­league, Rab­bi Ethan Tuck­er, wrote an arti­cle about inde­pen­dent minyan­im in which he asked, almost as an aside, We all cook and bake. Why shouldn’t every com­mu­ni­ty be bak­ing its own matzot?”

I admit at the time I thought this was a rel­a­tive­ly mar­gin­al goal in the gen­er­al trend toward Jew­ish empow­er­ment. After all, we need peo­ple who can pass on the core Jew­ish prin­ci­ples of study, wor­ship and acts of lov­ingkind­ness, not a com­peti­tor to the ably skilled peo­ple at Streit’s.

But Ethan’s chal­lenge was an inter­est­ing one. He put it a dif­fer­ent way in a lec­ture series he recent­ly gave on Halakhah (Jew­ish law). Does your own Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty have the skills, knowl­edge and con­fi­dence to tru­ly own the Jew­ish tra­di­tion? Or, to put it anoth­er way, if we all eat matzah on Passover, why is it that none of us know how to make it?

And here I thought I was an empow­ered Jew. After all, I just wrote a book called Empow­ered Judaism. But I have no clue how to make matzah, one of the old­est com­mand­ments of Jew­ish liv­ing. And until this year (see below), I didn’t even know any­one who could do it (and believe me, I have a lot of Jew­ish friends on Facebook).

What’s worse: we free ride on oth­er com­mu­ni­ties that don’t real­ly buy into our approach to Jew­ish life in order to get matzah on Passover. Isn’t it odd that the peo­ple I buy matzah from would nev­er be a 10th per­son in the minyan I dav­en in on Shab­bat? We live in par­al­lel Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties, but only one group is total­ly depen­dent on the oth­er to cel­e­brate Passover (and make tefill­in, and rit­u­al­ly slaugh­ter ani­mals, and write sifrei Torah, with a few excep­tions to the lat­ter two.)

To be clear, this is not a lib­er­al” vs. Ortho­dox” issue. Very few Mod­ern Ortho­dox com­mu­ni­ties (exclud­ing those on reli­gious kib­butz­im in Israel) bake their own mat­zot. What kind of mes­sage does it send when we take school-kids on a tour of the matzah fac­to­ry, and they only see ultra-Ortho­dox Jews in charge?

Now this doesn’t mean we all need to go out and bake our own mat­zot for Passover. But it does mean that some­one we know, some­one in our Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty, broad­ly speak­ing, should be bak­ing matzah.

This all came home for me last week, when a num­ber of fel­lows at Yeshi­v­at Hadar – men and women – baked their own matzah under the super­vi­sion of Rab­bi Tuck­er. The event was so unusu­al that it mer­it­ed cov­er­age in the New York Times. This is the essence of Pesach,” one of our stu­dents, Rachel Druck, was quot­ed as saying.

This under­scored for me the ways in which we have a long way to go to seri­ous­ly live out an empow­ered Jew­ish life. It’s not enough to build engaged com­mu­ni­ties of prayer, learn­ing and lov­ingkind­ness. It also means set­ting our sights on the pos­si­bil­i­ty of being ful­ly Jew­ish­ly self-suf­fi­cient. Even to the point of bak­ing our own matzah.

If all the matzah fac­to­ries closed next year, and you were forced to go it on your own for Passover, what would you do? I, for one, am going to take some time this year to learn how to bake matzah.

Rab­bi Elie Kaun­fer, the author of Empow­ered Judaism: What Inde­pen­dent Minyan­im Can Teach Us about Build­ing Vibrant Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ties, is blog­ging all week for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.