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Richmond rabbi covering every inch of city ahead of Passover

Rabbi Yechiel Baitelman has the task of delivering around 1,300 pieces of matzah unleavened bread before April 5

He has around 1,300 portions of unleavened bread to hand out across the length and breadth of Richmond before next Wednesday.

But Rabbi Yechiel Baitelman is pretty confident he and his merry band of volunteers from Chabad Richmond will manage to distribute every last piece of matzah before Passover on April 5.

Baitelman and his team have been visiting the homes of their congregation for the last two weeks or so, bringing with them the traditional Passover gift of hand-made matzah ahead of the big global Jewish celebration.

It’s a special time of the year for the Jewish community, but one that the rabbi very much looks forward to, as it’s the one, he feels, that people in his faith mark the most.

“We have a list of people and we want to reach as many of them as possible. This is very much an outreach program,” Baitelman told the Richmond News of the matzah distribution.

“The interaction is key. Some people are active in the community, some not as much. So someone showing up at the door with a package is heart-warming and is usually very much appreciated.”

Rabbi will keep going until last piece of matzah is gone

Baitelman said they will keep on visiting homes in the Jewish community until “we have distributed every last box (of matzah).”

“It’s usually right up to a day or two before Passover.

“It’s one of the most important celebrations and likely high up in terms of the number of people celebrating it.

“It’s about the story of where you come from and where you’re going. If you want to know where you’re going to, you need to know where you’re coming from.”

Baitelman said the best way to honour the matzah tradition is to eat the flatbread “that was produced in the same way it was made back then, which was by hand.”

“Matzah made by a machine is square, by hand it is round. The ones we are distributed were produced in Ukraine, the bread basket of Europe.”

Baitelman explained that the thinking behind the consumption of unleavened bread – and the banning of eating or owning any leavened products, such as bread or pasta – connects to the rise of arrogance and self-importance.

“Rising represents an unhealthy self-importance and…ego and leads to the inability to get along with others,” he added.

While the promotion of unleavened products promotes a “healthy sense of humility,” said Baitelman.

In a similar vein, in the morning of the Passover Seder, April 5, members of the Chabad Richmond congregation can attend Firehall No. 1 in Richmond for a ceremonial burning of leavened products they own.

“We have a program with Richmond Fire Rescue, where we burn those products on April 5 morning in a safe and supervised way,” explained Baitelman.

The eight-day festival of Passover is celebrated this year from sundown on Wednesday, April 5 until after nightfall on Thursday, April 14.  

Passover commemorates the exodus of the Jews from Egypt and will be celebrated with festive “Seder” dinners on April 5 and 6.

Additional information about the Passover holiday is available at