Passover-Why is This Night Different

  • 03/21/2013
  • Terelle Jerricks

Column and Photo by
Lori Lynn Hirsch Stokoe

This year, early in the morning of March 25, my cousins and I will be rolling scores of matzoh balls in preparation for the several-course meal at nightfall — the start of the eight day celebration of Passover. The Passover dinner is prepared according to Jewish dietary laws, where chicken soup with matzoh balls is often a favorite course. These cherished “dumplings” are made from ground matzoh, eggs, and oil.

My brother will lead the Passover service, called a Seder. Among many of the Seder rituals, out of innocence the youngest child present will ask “The Four Questions.” The first Question his 8 year-old son will pose, “Why is this night different from all other nights? On all other nights we eat leavened bread or matzoh but tonight we eat only matzoh. Why?”

During the Seder, his son will learn the answer to the Question. Our ancestors were slaves when God chose Moses to lead their liberation. Moses demanded that the Egyptian pharaoh release our people from bondage. But pharaoh refused, thus one-by-one, God sent 10 plagues down upon the Egyptians. Finally, pharaoh relented and agreed to free the Israelites.

There had to be sustenance for the journey out of Egypt, but there was no time to wait for bread dough to rise! In the hurry to escape before pharaoh would change his mind, our ancestors baked unleavened cakes of dough. This bread is called matzoh. When yeast is introduced into a mixture of flour and water then left to ferment, over time it will result in leavened dough. Without this leavening, the bread is flat like a cracker. Like matzoh.

To my nephew and all the children at Seders around the world, the first Question is answered, “This night is different because we eat the unleavened bread called matzoh in remembrance of our ancestors’ haste to leave Egypt.”

Our family’s matzoh balls are flavored with saffron, that orange-hued spice having a bright metallic flavor. Beyond the intense color, these matzoh balls taste exotic and mysterious. Saffron’s sweet power is unique, conjuring up memories of far away places, perhaps the places of our ancestors?

Saffron Matzoh Ball Recipe
The Spanish Saffron from Trader Joe’s is fairly priced at $5.99 for 0.02 ounces. Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. It adds an especially festive note to the holiday meal. The exquisite result worth every cent.


  • 0.02 ounces saffron threads
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 packet matzoh ball mix (2-and-one-half). Available at most large grocery stores in the ethnic section


  1. Grind saffron threads using a mortar and pestle.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk eggs with olive oil. Stir in ground saffron.
  3. Let saffron infuse the egg and oil mixture for about 10 minutes. Stir again.
  4. Add one packet matzoh ball mix. Mix well with a fork.
  5. Place matzoh ball mixture in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
  6. In the meantime bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  7. Wet hands and roll chilled matzoh ball mixture into eight balls.
  8. Drop balls into boiling water. Cover. Lower the heat to medium-low (not simmer).
  9. Cook for 30 minutes, do not lift lid while cooking (no peeking)!
  10. Remove balls from water with a slotted spoon.
  11. Serve cooked saffron matzoh balls in your favorite chicken soup.

Everything you always wanted to know about making
 the tastiest chicken soup and the fluffiest matzoh balls can be found on

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