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D. Luria
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Godot is waiting for me
Godot is waiting for me

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A child’s world: the bread of suffering and freedom

The first shemura matzo I ever knew was baked at home, using special flour made from spelt planted, harvested, milled, and stored for just that purpose. The bag of flour was brought to the house by a gentleman I had never met, and who did not seem to have a ¹personal relationship with anyone present. While I knew such people existed because I sometimes saw them on the street or from afar at the market, I lived in a time and place where everyone knew everyone, or close enough that if you did not know a person, certainly someone you knew did. This was my first experience of someone in my house who counted as a stranger.

My preferred refuge at that age was under the house table. It was where everything happened, and was very large, allowing for a dozen or more adults to be seated, yet still leaving a comfortable space amongst the forest of legs for myself and whatever animals I had in tow. Having uncomfortably concluded that I had no knowledge of what to do about having a stranger, and that no one present seemed inclined to direct me on this, the table was the obvious fall back position. An excellent plan, but one not meant to be. I was swept up and plopped down in the center of a different table, out in the courtyard. ²Marah Magpie was put down next to me, and a heavy poultry basket clapped down over him -- and then we were left alone.

Once the shock of it passed, it sunk into my baby brain that I was 1) without human supervision, and 2) my feathery minder was in jail. I was free! I could hide in the mikveh and watch the light ripples on the ceiling! I could go down the street to look at the mustachioed men play dominos, smoke, and drink tea! I could visit the rug weavers and sniff all the yarns! I could do anything -- if I could get off this table. This extremely tall, very slippery table resting on the unforgiving courtyard tiles, inconveniently far away from anything and anyone.

Memory provides no record of the exploration involved in the pursuit of liberty. Memory does provide the vast disappointment of knowing that return to the floor level of the world would entail a maximum number of scrapes, which at best would interfere with precious liberty, and at worst, involve bleeding, adults, and merthiolate. Defeated by this cost-versus-benefit analysis, I huffily settled in for what was sure to be a long wait, yearning to see something that explained the frantic clatter coming from the house.

The truths of every child under the age of six are that every moment is infinite, and new things are always better than old. Having nothing but eternity ahead of me in an environment of underwhelming familiarity, the only new thing to look at was Marah-In-A-Cage. Looking into his mad, magpie eyes, what looked back was an echo of my own disgruntlement --

“The enormity! How dare they do this to me/us!”

A moment of fellow feeling with the bane of my life, however unprecedented, did not alleviate the aeons of waiting. Civilizations rose, and civilizations fell; entire new orders of life at least as interesting as dinosaurs evolved and became extinct⁴; -- and I was missing all of it. Marah did what magpies do in lieu of fantasizing feeding everyone they know to snakes⁵. The last few centuries of delicious baking odors provided a modicum of data regarding the kitcheny clattering indoors, and added immeasurably to my grievance. I had never been banished from baking chores, and in fact was very important to baking because I was closest to where the bowls lived. Marah, being essentially a bipedal dog with wings, ate anything that landed on the floor, and therefor was also integral to the process. The sheer effrontery of this was cause enough to decide that being the tallest person in the house was not sufficient to save my mother from being snake food.

In a possible proof that the Lord of Hosts forgets nothing and no one, the interior noise muted and transformed into flour-y, chattering people burdened with cloth and paper bundles, some of whom were on a collision course with my bad temper. The other truth of very young children everywhere is, for variously limited duration, they have unlimited decibels and lung capacity -- and I was prepared to make this truth known to world. I was ready to let it rip only to be stopped by... warmth. Golden, toasty, delicious with oven char; scent-taste-feel of sun and earth and sky. It was amazing, and like nothing I remembered.

Plucked up as unceremoniously as we had been set down, both fed on fresh but broken matzos, Marah and I were carried back to the world of walls, and chairs and people -- but missing one notable person. The stranger was gone, and furthermore, no one was talking about him. One thing I knew early in life was that it was impossible to leave without comment trailing behind you. No one was exempt: certainly not me, nor my mother, or the fruitseller; not Learneds, nor Druze with their five-pointed star, or laughing cousin Ari, or Tío Moz of the Armies; not even my father, who half the neighbors called Archangel and the other half named Abaddon. No one. All of which obviously pointed to one thing: if no one is talking about him, the stranger must still be here.

Having learned that I could miraculously live on a table for a thousand years yet not die, and that the end of waiting has sweet rewards, I was keen to seek the answer to this new mystery -- and there it was. The only thing new in house were the matzos, and the only thing missing were the stranger and his little bag. Parcelling out in my mind that bag of flour into the many bundles carried away by our tenants and neighbors, it was obvious: he was matzo now.


Summerlin, NV העתיקה‎‎, הרובע העתיקה‎‎‎
Pesach 2017 5727 פסח

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Image is from the article that set me off down memory lane: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/17/opinion/sunday/why-is-this-matzo-different-from-all-other-matzos.html

#Pesach2017 #memoir #matzo #TurningWheel

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¹I was to learn much later in life that the gentleman in question was the rabbi that represented the co-op which produced Pesach flour for the Old City Sephardi community.

²Some families had canaries or budgerigars; we had a magpie. A magpie trained by my ³father to tail me like an ill-tempered, authoritarian penny dog.

³Yes, my family was a bit odd. Well-spotted, you.

⁴Probably 25 minutes, max.

⁵Preening, mostly.
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Double page spread from a 16th-century pattern book for scribes created by Gregorius Bock. See more here: http://buff.ly/2nSQUIt
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