Monday, March 25, 2013
Wishing You a Crummy Pesach
Click here for photos from our Religious School Passover
programs and our Interfaith Seder
Dreaming of a "white" Pesach? With snow in the forecast, we might get that tonight. How about a crummy one? We get that every year. "Crummy," as in crumb-filled, that is.
You can't escape it. The crumbs are everywhere. It demands excessive preparation and obsessive preoccupation. This is a holiday that fills our experience, not just for a week, but for weeks prior and for days in its wake.
The message of Passover is itself very simple: freedom is good, freedom means responsibility, freedom means compassion for those who are less free, and freedom means exploring constantly just how free we really are. Add to this the idea that the Jewish people, gathered in their homes on this night for thousands of years, have adapted this universal message to our unique story, one of heroic triumph over darkness and despair; and how each family has crafted its own particular version of the story for this annual re-enactment. The goal is that all of us, especially the children, consider ourselves to have escaped Egypt in order to teach the message to the next generation, and to the world.
In this multimedia age, where children can't expect to learn a lesson unless it is projected to them in 3-D, the age-old teaching technique of Passover remains impressive. The secret is the crumbs. They are everywhere. Like those frogs in Pharaoh's bed, Matzah crumbs infest our lives. It does no good to sweep them up, because two minutes later, they are there again. Wherever we turn, we are reminded of the message.
Matzah is the bread of poverty, slave food, part of the terrible night when the angel of death hovered so near. It is the food of the past, reminding us of our roots in earliest civilization, a time when farmers didn't know yet how to make bread rise. Matzah is also the bread of curiosity and discovery. It prompts the questions, and in the case of the afikomen, it lies at the end of the search for answers. Sometimes Matzah is hidden or covered, sometimes it is revealed. It is the food of mystery, yet it is as simple as a food can get, completely unadorned and unbloated.
The fact that these crumbs transform our lives for these eight days drives home the message of Passover long after the afikomen has been digested. Speaking of which, even digestion itself changes on Passover (if you haven't noticed this, all power to you), and the usage of toothpicks skyrockets.
As if Matzah crumbs at home weren't obtrusive enough, how about in the office or at school. For fifty one weeks of the year, it is reasonably possible to keep one's Jewishness a relatively private matter, should we want to. But not on Passover, when the company vacuum cleaner finds its way more than once into our offices. The act of bringing a Matzah sandwich to public school on this holiday has been formative experience for American Jews for generations. It's hard to get through any meal including Matzah without it becoming the center of attention. Matzah can be very demanding in that way. But on the other hand, lunchtime conversation about the meaning of freedom, compassion and responsibility sure beats talking about the weather and the latest episode of "Glee."
So, on behalf of the professional and lay leadership of TBE, as well as the Hammerman family, I wish all of you a healthy and crummy Passover!