Passover and the Industrial Revolution

01 Apr

From my collection, Yom Kippur as Manifest in an Approaching Dorsal Fin.

Every Passover I bake matzah.
I wait until there is
Nothing left to do,
I wait for the lull
In the torrent of business and busyness
And preparation for the unexpected guest,
The soup is bubbling slowly
Covered, tsimis done,
Chorosth setting
And Passover plate
Covered, in the fridge
Next to the gefilte fish.

When there is nothing left to do
And everything is finished
I bake
I work as quickly as I can
Rushing, like of old
When there was everything to do
And nothing to be done but hurry.

I work to make bread
Matzah shemurah,
‘Watched matzah’
As of old,
Before the machines were invented,
Before 1857 and the mixers and kneaders,
Rollers and perforators of the
Industrial revolution.
In fewer than eighteen minutes
From flour to done,
Nothing can rise
But the realization of the mitzvah,
Purpose for preparation,
And prayers.

At a temperature I can comfortably reach my hand into
They bake.
Like bare feet on desert sand.

When they are done
They have opened in the
Center, crisp and brown,
Heavy and thick,
Empty. Receptive…

This is not like the matzah
From a box.
My matzah is not a gigantic saltine
Stacked like x-ray plates
Or cards
Or slates.

When I was seven
I went on a field trip
Through the Jersey Countryside
To the clogged vessels of
Dense New York streets,
Sitting in the Yeshiva bus,
Staring down
At the faces in the unmoving cars
We slid, heated, halting,
Metal to metal cells, fuming forward.
Finally, stilled, we gratefully
Disembarked, stood and walked along

Delancey Street
The lower east side
Of Manhattan,
With my school class,
We visited a temple during minion
Sat separated
Girls from boys
On an austere balcony of
Dark woods and dark ages
Staring above the vaulted steps
At the dais of black-coated men
Listening to the song to their beloved
Carried with the audible overtone of the holy
And an undertone of confidence
The song was surely heard.

We were there for days or minutes
And fidgeted, fussed, squirmed
In the presence of the Universal King.
After, released of our confinement
Reconfined to sturdy lines to walk
On to the great mystery of the
Matzah factory.

Past the pickle barrels
On the sidewalks
Where for ten cents
We all got to dip our hands
And pull a half-sour
From the briny cask,
Close by,
And brick-built
Red and high-windowed
Was the matzah factory.

We entered though the loading dock
And never wondered if there was
A door, an office, a warehouse but
There were ovens
Vast and hot.

We stood on a balcony
Over the open factory floor,
Vats and vaults
Mixers and all over the smell of flour.
Rolling from the vat,
Poured onto a sheet, rolled into the ovens
Pressed by combs
For perforation
For ease of use

For profit
For Horowitz-Margareten,
Streit’s, Manischewitz
The Matzah Monopoly
For tables during Passover
For people to gingerly, slowly shop for
In Pathmark, Shop-Rite, Foodtown
Kids in cart, mamma picking her box
Of matzah, plums, salami
And, if she was in a hurry
It had nothing to do with
Evacuation, or the Pharaoh
Or Moses except that
We’d read it in the Haggadah
And break the matzah,
Ask the questions, dip the
Parsley, spread the horseradish
And bite.

The factory was hot with baking
And we left, sweating, drenched
Flour-powdered without and
Within, samples of matzah,
In a single-file exodus from the ovens.
Which, every Passover
I recreate in my kitchen.

The bread of affliction
Is my joy, my revolt,
My exodus and cry unto the wilderness
To my own kind –
“Let my people go.”


Posted by on April 1, 2007 in Culture, Family, Food, Poetry, Religion, Social


6 responses to “Passover and the Industrial Revolution

  1. Werewulf

    April 2, 2007 at 12:14 AM

    As always, I’m just awed by you. I’m sending the link to a few friends, hope you don’t mind. (And it’s too late if you do *grin*)Howls and HugsYerTwin!

  2. Every 7th Day

    April 2, 2007 at 8:05 AM

    Yay! I’ve been travelling the blogscape enjoying a variety of rites of Spring. Thanks for this one. Hope you and your beloved are well. The family and I are… SWIM helped us survive the rest of winter. Happy Spring! May you have a wonderful Passover.

  3. Albert

    April 2, 2007 at 9:01 PM

    Just stopping by.Albert

  4. Gordon

    April 3, 2007 at 2:47 AM

    With the delicate nets of a translucent film you have captured emotions, traditions and legends with words that paint a picture we can all relate to and further extend our experience.May your toaster enjoy it’s seven days of solitary in the garage.;-)


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