Fast Food in the Torah

Health experts are constantly reminding us that we should stay away from fast food as it is not good for you. Was there fast food in the days of the Torah? Was it healthier than the fast food that we have today?

While reading Parshat Bo we encounter two types of fast food that were eaten by B’nei Yisrael at the time of the exodus.

In Shmot 12:8-11 we learn about the Korban Pesach (Pascal Lamb) that B’nai Yisrael ate right before they left Egypt: “They shall eat the meat during this night. It shall be roasted over fire. They shall eat it with matzot (quickly baked flat bread) and merorim (bitter herbs). You must not eat it half cooked or boiled in water, but only roasted over fire…This is how you must eat it: with your waist belted, your shoes on your feet and your staff in your hand. You must eat it in haste, it is a Pesach offering to God.”

According to Rashbam, this shows that they were in a rush to get out of Egypt.

We see that on the night of the exodus, dinner was taken care of but they were in such a hurry, there was no time to pack lunch.

What fast food did they eat in the desert?

They carried the dough on their backs when they left Egypt and baked it into oogot matzot (matzah cakes) when they arrived at a place called Sukkot.

Rashbam expains that they were called matzah cakes since they were baked on an open fire. In order to be called bread it would have to be baked in an oven.

Breisheet, Parshat Vayera, also deals with the topic of fast food when the angels come to visit Avraham and he quickly works with his family to throw a meal together.

In Breisheet 18:6 we read: “Avraham hurried to Sarah’s tent and said, ‘Hurry! Take three measures of the finest flour; knead it and make oogot.’ Avraham ran to the cattle and took a tender, choice calf. He gave it to the lad and hurried to prepare it. He took butter, milk and the calf he had prepared and set it before them…”

Chizkuni points out that Sarah did not make bread as she did not have enough time for the dough to rise since the angels were in a rush to get to Sdom. Avraham therefore asked her to make oogot (matzot). He adds that they served the tongue of the calf because it was quicker to prepare. Rashi notes that the tongue was served with mustard.

Can we learn from here that the Torah recommends that we eat fast food?

It depends on what we are eating.

The Talmud, Pesachim 96a explains that the Egyptian Pesach was eaten in haste, but no other Pesach was required to be eaten in haste.

Ibn Ezra states that there are people who think that they should rush through their Passover meal based on the fact that B’nai Yisrael were in a rush. Ibn Ezra bases himself on the Gemara in Psachim to explain that they are misguided and mistaken.

Even though we are no longer in a rush the way that we were during the exodus, we still eat quickly baked matzot to remember how fast we needed to escape.

Photo of Kosher McDonald's  by Claire Ginsburg Goldstaein
Photo of Kosher McDonald’s by Claire Ginsburg Goldstaein

Living in Israel we have access to many kosher fast food chains including McDonalds. While it is convenient to eat fast food, we must remember that the quickly prepared meals in the Torah were the exception and not the rule and that is why their stories stand out. Also, fresh lamb and tongue are much healthier than a processed McDonalds burger even if it is Kosher!

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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