Apr. 8th, 2012

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So this was not the most Hallmark of Passovers--fortunately, Hallmark has yet to fully co-opt Passover.  Bobby spent a good part of the seder with gastrointestinal troubles, which made for a lot of interruptions and parents getting up and down with him.  He spent the rest of the seder alternating between misbehavior (trying to blow out the candles) and cuteness (insisting on answering rather than asking the four questions).  But it's meant to be a family ritual, and we had family and friends happy to help out and participate, lots of good food, good discussion, and good questions.  In some sense the seder spread out through the whole day--S and I talked about how "freedom" is used in modern political discourse, and A and I got into a debate over whether Jews are permitted to question G-d's morals, all well before we sat down at the table.

And speaking of ritual prep, S did something wonderful.  For the past few years, she's insisted on getting the fancy round matzah for the seder itself, even though we use the ordinary square box matzah for the rest of the week.  The round matzah make perfect sense to me intellectually: they are hand made, and look like they were baked in a hurry on a hot rock.  But they've never quite had the same emotional resonance as the square crackers I grew up with.  This year, though, we discovered that there's a lot more demand for fancy round matzah in DC, and if you don't buy them a couple of weeks in advance, you don't get them at all.  So S, in cooperation with [livejournal.com profile] page_of_swords, did something she's been talking about for years--they actually made matzah, right in our kitchen. 

The rabbinic rule for matzah is that you can have no more than 18 minutes between water touching flour and putting the bread in the oven.  Ostensibly this is too fast for free-floating yeast to start the rising process; it's also numerologically significant in some fashion.  In fact, it turns out to be just the right length of time to be doable, but still feel genuinely rushed.  This is the bread of haste.  It's the simplest, most primordial flatbread that you can make in a modern kitchen--flour and water dough, thrown onto a baking sheet, cooked briefly in the oven and brushed with olive oil and salt for flavor.  It's perfect.  It's nothing like what I grew up with, but it tastes right anyway--all the ritual's emotions invoked by one of the most basic foods of civilization.

For the record, we used our bread of haste at the table, but we did not use it for the hidden afikomen.  Hiding a prototypical-but-oily pita-chapati-tortilla in your child's bedroom is not effective ritual.

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