Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Matzah Bagel is an Oxymoron!!!

It is that time of year again. Spring has finally made it's long-delayed appearance and the snowbirds have headed north because the thoughts of all Jews naturally turn to those of Pesach. (Passover for the uninitiated!) Ask any member of the tribe, no matter how extraneous their religious connection, and you will hear tales of woe describing seder preparations. (We Jews are just not happy unless we are miserable!) "Oy! I can't believe that we have to do the seder this year at Uncle Moishe's! He is Shomer Shabbas and refuses to begin until long after Shabbas has ended. That means that we won't be eating until midnight!!!! My insides can't take matzah at midnight!" How about this one! "Does anyone have a haggadah that sort of hits the highlights? I figure Four Questions, plagues, horseradish, Dayenu and dinner should suffice!" Or-"Pesach gets more complicated every year. Now we had to add the Macatunim!" (in-laws!!) Here is a personal favorite that seems to make the rounds in Jewville north. "Peasdikah ketchup? Who the hell ever heard of Pesadikah ketchup?" I will not pretend that Pesach is not stressful. The preparations, the cooking, the cleaning, the family, the cooking, the shopping, the cooking, the constipation and, did I mention the cooking? While I am not personally hosting either seder this year (thank you to the wonderful souls that have taken pity on us-you know who you are!) cooking and cleaning began in earnest here last week. Before anyone prejudges, please understand that every family and every person should do what feels right for them and in no way would I ever presume to advise on matters of personal religious observance. In this house, we do not eat the five forbidden grains or any product derived from those grains. (OK! I know that matzah is derived from those grains and if anyone wants to have a discussion on why one can consume said cardboard at Passover, you know where to find me!) This has lead to tremendous anxiety on the part of the husband, as scotch whisky is derived from grain and thus becomes verboten at Passover. We tend to have the same argument every year, but so far he has accepted the ban although not without a considerable amount of angst. We also have adopted the "kitniyot", (the grains such as rice and corn that, while not banned outright in the Torah, have been on the no-no list for Ashkenazi Jews for hundreds of years) thanks to cousin/sister marrying into the Sephardic community. Once there was one Separd, we ALL became Sephard!!! (Our Ashkenazi ancestors from Eastern Europe and Poland didn't eat rice and corn, because they never knew rice and corn existed! They knew from carrots and potatoes so, naturally we got stuck with tzimmes and kugels.) I don't turn over my dishes, although I know and love many that do. I don't walk around the house with a feather searching for crumbs, although I find the idea oddly appealing to my neurotic clean-obsessed mind. I don't look for the "hechsher" (kosher for pesach sticker) that means that some rebbe examined the Coca Cola factory and made it all right for consumption at Passover. I observe the spirit and emotion of the holiday. Which is why I believe that I take such great exception to a "matzah bagel". As a kid growing up in fairly Jewish Toronto, choices of Pesach foods were rather limited to what Mom and Bubby made and the odd sponge cake at the bakery. I believe that matzah bagels damage the intent of the meaning of Passover. While fully legal under the law, they are a bastardization of the intent of the law. There is a reason that for 7 days you are supposed to eat unleavened bread, not bread that looks and tastes (?) like the original, but really isn't. As stated previously, one's belief and practice is very personal. My belief and my Passover does not and never will include matzah bagels., Lots of eggs and some dried fruit perhaps, but never a matzah bagel.
Chag sameach to all who observe and may your seders be lovely and stress free. L'shanah Haba-ah B'Yerushalyim. Next year in Jerusalem!!!

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