Whether or not you celebrate Passover, this Story of the Month is fun for kids of all ages – a mix of science, Jewish history and humor. And if you are looking for a good introduction to Passover for kids, The Family Haggadah by Ellen Schecter is a handy step-by-step guide to the rituals of the traditional Seder along with a dictionary of terms.
THE MEGA MATZAH (PDF)
By Mark Binder
Every year the village of Chelm celebrated a communal Pesach feast under the stars. A pot luck affair, each family contributed some portion of the meal.
Rabbi Kibbitz, the head rabbi, supplied the blessings. Mrs. Chaipul would bring her famous lead-ball knaidlach soup. Reb Cantor made gallons of kosher l’Pesach wine.
And Reb Stein, the baker, baked the matzah with the aid of his friend, Rabbi Yohon Abrahms, the schoolmaster.
This particular year, Reb Stein, took the notion to create the world’s largest matzah.
In the past, Czar Fyodor, The Not So Great, had commissioned an unleavened bread the size of a table top. London had once witnessed a hamotzi over a matzah as big as a horse cart. And, of course, in Jerusalem, the holy city, for centuries bakers had been developing a secret recipe that they claimed would permit them to rebuild the Temple completely out of matzah within a week, if the Messiah should ever come and call for it.
“Chelm is a small town,” Rabbi Abrahms warned. “What do we need with something so big?”
“Phooey,” said Reb Stein. “I will be written into the Gibberish Book of World Records.”
For weeks, Reb Stein slaved, “Like our forefathers in Egypt,” he claimed. His eyes took on a burning look, or perhaps it was just the singes on his eyebrows from the intense heat.
There were hundreds of rejects, broken scraps that looked like blackened shingles and tasted like unsalted tree bark.
On the day before Pesach, the whole town gathered in front of the bakery.
From around the corner came Reb Stein, with a team of four horses struggling to pull three wagons lashed together!
Everyone craned their necks for a look, but the Mega-Matzah was hidden by a huge cover made from fourteen sheets borrowed from Mrs. Stein’s linen closet.
“Tomorrow night!” Reb Stein laughed. “Tomorrow night, you will all see, and admire!”
* * * *
All through the Seder, the citizens stared at the Mega-Matzah’s cover.
It was so gigantic! Four whole banquet tables were devoted to supporting it. The men who had moved it from the wagons to the tables said that it weighed more than all of Mrs. Chaipul’s cast-iron knaidels put together! (And that was something!)
After the four questions, and following the hamotzi, Rabbi Kibbitz nodded to Reb Stein.
“I made a special, smaller matzah,” said Reb Stein. “To keep the suspense,” he added nervously. He kept looking over his shoulder for the man from the Gibberish Book of World Records.
Rabbi Yohon Abrahms giggled a little as he peeked under the cover and brought out a matzah that was only the size of a window. Not as gargantuan the other one, but it tasted fine, certainly up to Reb Stein’s usual standards.
After several cups of Reb Cantor’s wine, the townspeople managed to choke down Mrs. Chaipul’s shot putt knaidels, and they thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the huge feast and service.
Then it was time for dessert, the largest Afikomen known to mankind – the MEGA MATZAH!
Reb Stein rose from his seat of honor, and scanned the town square for any sign of the record-keeper from the Gibberish Book. If the man didn’t show up soon, his hopes would be devoured.
Fortunately for Reb Stein’s ulcer, a horse carriage pulled into town, drove past the Yeshiva, and stopped at the edge of the feast. An old man peered out from the carriage’s window at the four covered tables.
Reb Stein smiled, took the matzah cover with a grand flourish, and (tugging several times because Mrs. Stein’s sheets were so heavy) unveiled his masterpiece.
As one person the town of Chelm gasped.
Because, instead of a matzah, instead of a giant cracker, a humungous piece of unleavened bread, what the people saw before them was a large… flat… black… piece of roof. (Yes, a roof, with shingles and all.)
Reb Stein, his ulcer forgotten, clutched at his heart. The man from Gibberish shook his head sadly and ordered his horse carriage to drive off.
You wouldn’t have thought that anyone anywhere would have cause for amusement, but Rabbi Yohon Abrahms and ten of his Yeshiva students fell out of their chairs with laughter!
In the dead of night, Rabbi Abrahms explained between guffaws, he and his students had switched the Mega-Matzah with the roof from the Yeshiva science laboratory. And now, the matzah was on the roof, and the roof was on the matzah tables.
All the citizens of Chelm ran to the school. The horse carriage from Gibberish was just ahead of them, about to leave Chelm forever.
Reb Stein gasped as he saw his masterpiece of white and brown, perfectly baked unleavened bread suspended high on the walls of the place of learning. He jumped up and down and shouted for the man in the carriage to come back, “Wait! Wait! Look at the size of it!”
By then the carriage was long gone, and with it went Reb Stein’s chance at record-making history.
After not so long, some impatient children suggested that it was still time for dessert, so Rabbi Abrahms and his Yeshiva students, with their backs straining, took the Mega-Matzah off the roof and returned it to the Seder.
The Afikomen was broken up into large plate-sized pieces, and eaten with appetites whetted by laughter. It was even more delicious than the first, and everyone said, “What a wonderful thing Reb Stein has done!”
(Not to mention that, when the meal was concluded, there was more than enough unleavened bread left over to donate to charity, where it fed twenty families for the entire week of Pesach.)
Reb Stein, though he still makes the best matzah in the world, has never quite recovered. From that day to this, year-round, every cake and challah that he makes for Rabbi Yohon Abrahms is as flat as a latke.
Rabbi Abrahms doesn’t complain, though. He trusts that some day, with the help of the Almighty, he’ll get another rise out of Reb Stein.
Story of the Month: Contributer Mark Binder is an author, award-winning storyteller, and founder of the American Story Theater. He lives in Providence, RI, and is available for workshops and performances. His novel, The Brothers Schlemiel has just been released and is available at Books on the Square, Barrington Books, and A Novel Idea.
Brothers Schlemiel Book Reading and Signing:
Saturday, April 12 at 1 pm – A Novel Idea, Bristol, RI
Thursday, April 24 at 7pm – Books on the Square, Providence, RI
Sunday, April 27 at 2 pm – Barrington Books, Barrington, RI
Copyright 2007 by Mark Binder. All rights reserved. For more information about Mark’s programs, books and audio recordings, visit your local bookstore, iTunes music store, or www.markbinder.com. Note: This article may be photocopied, so long as it is reproduced in its entirety. with all the biographical information (including this line) included.