THIS PASSOVER comes at such an interesting time. Just days before my new book about bread debuts, I am emptying my cupboards of anything leavened.
This year, as my collaborative book The Flavors of Faith: Holy Breads, is published by ReadTheSpirit Books, I am more in the mindset than ever before about the significance and symbolism of bread to elevate our lives or plunge us into the depths of despair.
I used to feather-dust under and inside my cupboards, ferreting out any last crumbs before the arrival of the Passover holiday. In my more religious days, we spent weeks cleaning, emptying freezers and cupboards and ridding our lives of the arrogance represented by leavened foods for an eight-day holiday that transformed our perspective.
I don’t do that anymore.
While I am no longer rigidly religious, I am intensely spiritual in a more universally accepting and enlightened way than ever before. And after spending the last two years creatingHoly Breads, I am more aware than ever about how we make the simple sustaining presence of bread something magical, mystical or mythical in our spiritual lives every day.
Passover is the Jewish holiday that commemorates the Jews’ Exodus from Egypt millennia ago. Every year, we are commanded to retell the story around our beautiful tables and feel as if we ourselves had fled slavery under the harsh rule of Pharoah. We are to sit on pillows to remind us that we are free. We are to clear out any crumbs from our homes and eat only approved foods for a week.
The night before the holiday, we hide several pieces of bread throughout the house and by candlelight, have the children look for them, so we can finally and poetically burn the last pieces of leaven before commencing the holiday.
Holidays are as much about religious revelation and reverence as they are about family connection. Last week, I pulled out the yellowed, crisp piece of lined paper on which I wrote my grandmother’s chicken soup recipe more than 15 years ago. The blue ink is smeared in places where drops of water tainted the writing.
I’ve made my big pot of Grandma’s chicken soup, flavored with dill so I know it is hers. I can almost hear my grandfather’s voice as he breaks the middle matzah, or Afikoman, to place under his pillow at the head of the table and entice the children to steal it and hide it. Somewhere in my closet, I have squirreled away the silver dollars I received every year when negotiating the return of this precious symbolic “dessert” so we could end the Seder meal.
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And pre-order your copy of The Flavors of Faith: Holy Breads here.