Dan Ornstein

Exodus in the grocery aisle: A personal Passover story

My aunt, Brenda Schuman-Post, is a professional musician who lives in San Francisco.  She told me this story recently:

* * *

“I have been feeling very sad this year, that I wouldn’t have anyone to tell the Passover story to. My husband will be in New York and my son is unavailable until later in the week.

I had gone to three grocery stores and there was no matzoh. Today, I went to the Lucky’s (a west coast supermarket chain) for something else entirely.  I had forgotten about the matzoh, but suddenly remembered and went over to the Kosher aisle where, to my dumbfoundedness, there were rows and rows of matzoh all labeled ‘not Kosher for Passover’.

I remembered that the store manager had previously been a teller at the bank located in the same mall. He and I had always been friendly and when he got the job at Lucky Supermarket, we’d still always say hello.

So, I went over to customer service and asked if Keith was there. They used the loudspeaker, called his name and he was in front of me in a flash. I explained how I was feeling and that whoever stocked the shelves had not known about the “Kosher for Passover’ requirement. Keith looked at me in amazement. “Even the stuff on the display?” He walked a few feet to where there was a huge display of Kosher for Passover food – the other side of the store from where I had previously looked. Boxes and boxes of matzoh – all sorts of flavors, single packages and big packs of five bound together. Different brands, too. “Oh”, he said, “all the Manischewitz is gone. “Is this OK?” and he held up a single package of Yehuda Matzoh.

I almost got teary. I told him how important it had been to me to at least have Matzoh.

Please understand that we are still wearing masks. The look in his eyes though – as he simply asked “Why?”

So… I got to tell the story!

I told him about the slavery and the foods that build into our bodies the memories,

and how we never have a full glass of wine and why,

and about the sting of the whip -the horseradish which I suddenly remembered to get,

(so he escorted me to what he thought was probably ‘the best’.)

And I told him how it was me who was a slave,

and about salt water for tears, and afikomen,

and everything I could remember in the moment,

and about the urgency to tell the story.

I thanked him and he almost cried – he was so moved by the story and by my happiness at having been able to tell it.”

Wherever and whenever we are, we are celebrating freedom, embracing kindness and equality, and taking others with us.

Chag Pesach sameach.

About the Author
Dan Ornstein is rabbi at Congregation Ohav Shalom and a writer living in Albany, NY. He is the author of Cain v. Abel: A Jewish Courtroom Drama (The Jewish Publication Society, 2020. Check out his website at
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