“Mommy, could I have a bagel for breakfast?”
“Sorry, sweetheart, it’s not kosher for Passover.”
“How ‘bout cereal, or pancakes or waffles, or stuff I usually eat?”
“Sorry, honey, but those things are not kosher for Passover. This week we need to eat foods that are made without flour or other grains.”
This exchange might sound familiar to many Jewish parents this week: conversations with their preschool-aged children about what to eat during Passover — children old enough to know the story of Passover but not completely understand all the dietary restrictions. During the eight days of Passover Jewish people eat only unleavened bread or matzo. Passover celebrates the departure of Jews from Egyptian slavery when they were forced to flee so quickly that they could not bake their bread properly so it baked flat, like matzo.
The story of Passover is told during the Passover meal, called the seder.
“Why is this night different from all other nights?” chanted Jillian Kirsh a kindergartner at the Bindeman Center in Potomac at her family’s seder last week. This is the first of the “four questions,” asked by the youngest child at the seder table. Asking the four questions helps modern Jews tell the story of Passover.
“Moses sees a burning bush and God tells him to free the Jewish people,” said Sam Kapner, a 4-year-old at B’nai Tzedek pre-school in Potomac. Moses listens to God and asks Pharaoh to “let my people go.” (Singing:) “King Pharaoh, King Pharaoh, what do you say? No, no, no, I will not let them go,” pre-schoolers throughout Potomac sang at school and around the seder table as the story of Passover was told.
“God sends bad things to the Pharaoh, like frogs and blood to get the bad Pharaoh to free the people,” says Jake Fechter a 4-year-old at Temple Beth Ami. God sends 10 plagues to the Pharaoh until he finally agrees to free the Jews. But, he changes his mind and sends his army after the fleeing Jews. God parts the Red Sea for the Jews so they can escape from the army, but then lets the sea close up and swallow the soldiers. The story of Passover ends with the Jews on the other side of the river, singing and dancing for their freedom.
Cooking during the week of Passover (which ends Thursday at sundown) can get tedious with breakfast, lunch and dinner consisting mostly of eggs, potatoes, chicken and matzo. There are, however, many cookbooks with some great recipes, from matzo spaghetti to matzo pancakes. Try Frances R. AvRutick’s The Complete Passover Cookbook — more than 400 pages of kosher for Passover recipes and Joan Nathan’s Jewish Cooking in America which has an entire section dedicated to cooking for the eight days of Passover.