That’s The Way The Matzah Crumbles…
Passover degenerates. That’s just the way it is. The maztah taste that is so light and crispy on Seder night feels bland and more of a chewing exercise by the time I get to the sixth day.
Look at these matzahs. They are fresh and whole and I am filled with anticipation as we proceed through the telling of the saga of our departure from Egypt – late at night, without even a chance to grab the family photos, sweeping up that bread’s dough before it can rise. The matzah, unbroken, not yet tasted, is exciting as we wait for the first crackle and crunch.
At the second seder (for those of us who have them) there is still a bit of novelty, but by now we are old hands at it – we taste the matzah, we make our Hillel sandwiches, have a little bit of it during the meal just for form’s sake.
In my house, day three of Passover is all about putting things away. We have massive numbers of forks, knives, spoons, plates, dessert plates, wine cups and water tumblers to count and re-box.
And the matzah is out and so is the whipped butter and the kosher for passover strawberry preserves and the salt and we go to town on that for a while, competing with each other to see who can break their matzah most cleanly.
But once you hit day four-five-six you start looking for ways to make sure you hit your daily calorie intake without using so much of the matzah. I mean, how much matzah, butter, salt and preserves can you stomach? And I mean stomach (there is a reason my mother pushed the fruit compote all those years…)
Sometimes, more traditional Jews complain to me, saying, “You’re supposed to keep Pesach for 8 days!” And I respond, “We are doing precisely what it says to do in the Torah – 7 days.” It’s not like I don’t know the rationale for the 8th day, it is just that as a modernist Jewish movement, Reform Jews believe we know when the Torah mandates the extent of the holiday. End of argument. My stomach really likes the reasoning of my brain on this one.
And then, the last day or so, what are you supposed to eat? I mean the matzah taste has worn thin by this time (and PLEASE, no angry comments from people that think matzah is the greatest thing since sliced bread – oops, I mean, broken matzah!).
So, the last day, it is one more time into the breach – Matzah Brei!
We crumble the matzah and pour it into the bowl with eggs to make the Passover equivalent of French Toast Crumbles. And a more perfect conveyor of maple syrup has never been invented! I know what the recommended size of a portion of this tasty dish is, but in celebration of Passover, I usually eat double the amount – I mean, we are commanded to celebrate the holiday, and for us Jews, celebrating almost always involves our taste buds.
At the end of the holiday, as we are cleaning up, we always find a few last crumbs that were not consumed – they are for the birds and I toss them out on our back lawn with a smile on my face. We have prayed, sung, celebrated, eaten and now, the time has come for this year’s Passover to enter the sacred hall of memory. Crumb by crumb, it will remain there as long as I have the strength and capacity to call it to mind.
What a holiday! What a time! What taste! It is worthy of putting away for an entire year so I can revel in it again next Passover.
A final note: It is not that I do not know of the urgent events going on around us that could use a rabbinic point of view in this forum. From Trayvon Martin to the powerful contretemps involving the poet Gunter Grass and Israel, they are all present in our minds and hearts.
But, for better or worse, they will still be there when the holiday is over. So I do not apologize for using this moment to make the sacred accessible, edible, even digestible. After the holidays we let go of the past and look forward to a future that we shape based on the Torah of our living Judaism, the Torah of our lives.
Happy end of Pesach!