Matzah memories

As Pesach is approaching, prices of kosher l’pesach food products go sky high. I think we should limit ourselves to the foods we ate when we were slaves in Egypt… fish, leeks and onions. All that healthy stuff that dieticians recommend to obese candidates for weight loss.

The one pesach food that I never buy is shmura matzah. First of all, I don’t see the need to pay more for it than for Aviv or Rishon matzot. Another reason is based upon “coincidences”. One year, long ago, we bought shmura matzah for the seder. In that year, my wife’s mother died. The next year, I bought shmura matzah and shortly after pesach my wife’s uncle died. Two deaths in Tel-Aviv became associated in her mind with shmura matzah. She could not accept coincidences. Shmura matzah was the culprit responsible for the deaths in her family !

My memories of matzot during the week of pesach vary. To some, it is the bread of affliction. To me, it is the bread of constipation. When I make a matzah brie, I soak the matzah in beaten egg and sprinkle it with water before putting it into a well-oiled frying pan. It comes out like a giant crispy pancake.

My wife would never eat “gebrochs”, matzah that had been immersed in liquid. When I added broken pieces of matzah to my bowl of beet borscht, she would add only slices of a hard-boiled egg.

“Yaideh Yid macht shabbes far zich alain”…. Every Jew has his/her own customs and they vary by country of origin and stringency or liberty in consuming pesach foods.

My daughter-in-law, born in Casablanca, Morocco, makes her charoset mixture using chopped dates. We make it using chopped apples. On the Hillel “sandwich” I cannot taste the difference. I taste mainly the crumbling piece of matzah weighed down by the topping placed upon it.

The prophet Elijah must be in the Guiness Book of Records for having the world’s biggest hangover. He visits at least 16 million Jewish homes and drinks the wine from the special goblet reserved for him. I always fill two goblets, one with red wine and the other with white wine. I believe the old prophet deserves to make his own choice.

Inibriated, he will be unable to announce the date of the coming of the messiah.

We place a lamb shankbone on the seder plate. My neighbor uses a chicken bone. He says “why should I have to pay for a lamb bone when I get the chicken bone free from the chicken in the soup”.

Our seder usually lasts almost 4 hours. We read (or mainly chant) every word in the Haggadah. And for me, the most enjoyable part of the seder is singing the songs to melodies which have been in my family for more than one hundred years. Woe to the one who changes tunes for Echad Mi Yodaya, Chad Gadya, or Adir Hu. The pain of punishment for digressing from ancient family traditions is difficult to bear.

My late beloved wife and I were (are) sticklers to traditions. It is what has preserved our family through the centuries. From the homes in Warsaw, Bialystok or Grodno gubernia, their melodies resonate at our seder table.

Pesach is the most beautiful of all our festivals. It is also the most difficult and laborious in the cleaning of the house, changing dishes and utensils and replacing them with glassware and cutlery used only for the week of pesach.

Ma nishtana? Why does this night differ from all other nights? On this night we recall the 430 years of servitude to the pharaohs in Egypt. We rejoice in our liberation as we left Egypt to march with Moses en route to the land which God promised to us… the Land of Israel.

We tell the story of four sons, wise and simple, wicked and unable to understand. But I reject the scorn which we bestow upon the rasha…the wicked son. He could be drinking forbidden beer with his pals or playing billiards in a pool-hall.  But no !!  He is at the seder table together with all of his family. He has not deserted them. He may not be observant of the laws, rituals and customs of pesach but nevertheless, he is sitting at the seder table.   Not so wicked after all.

So many beautiful memories of the pesach seder. So much joy in celebrating with family and beloved friends.

I guess I’ll have to skip the fish, leeks and onions and enjoy the dry matzah.

But I promise you…. it will not be shmura !!!

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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