In honor of our Sunday night Bible study finishing our study of Exodus (chapters 1-15), I bring you these scenes from this year’s Passover celebration.
But first, a little Yiddish vocabulary for this post:
Knaidel = dumpling
Nudnik = an annoying person; a pest.
While getting ready for Passover, I read a Passover trivia question from the hagaddah to the family:
“What instrument did Miriam use to lead the women in dance at the Sea of Reeds?”
Husband replied, “French horn!”
Youngest Daughter (correctly) said, “Tambourine!”
YD: Did they have French horns?
Son: They didn’t even have France back then.
* * *
I read a line from the haggadah: “The matzo is a metaphor for our own lives…” and I asked the Common Household Husband to comment. He said, in a rabbinical voice, “The matzo is a metaphor for our lives, which are flat and crumbly.” Youngest Daughter added, “And which taste like cardboard.” (Like they have it so hard.)
* * *
YD was helping me cook. After we got the brisket in the oven, it was time to make the next item. I said, “Which is more important to you, the potato kugel, or the soup?” She said, “Oh, we have to have matzo ball soup! I just love matzo ball soup!”
I put on my sweetest Momma voice, the voice in which you have to tell your kids something disappointing. “I’m sorry, sweetie, but this year we’re not having matzo balls. We’re going to have potato knaidlach!”
She said, “Good! I hate matzo balls! What is knaidlach?”
Ah, all this time, I have been deceived. It is merely the chicken soup that she likes.
Knaidel is a Yiddish word meaning “dumpling”. The plural is knaidlach. The “k” is pronounced. The word can be used for matzo balls as well as potato dumplings. I showed YD the recipe.
I had never made potato knaidlach before, but when you are about to leave Egypt for the Promised Land, it’s time for adventure in the kitchen. The knaidlach were pretty easy to make – sort of glorified mashed potatoes with eggs added, and then plopped into a pot of boiling water for a few minutes. The experience was joyful, partly because nobody was telling me what size to make them, and partly because I was making them ahead of time. Yes!
The guests arrived, we finished the cooking together, and then sat down for our seder meal. Many blessings, dipping parsley in salt water, hiding matzo, asking four questions, ten plagues, crossing the sea, dayenu, symbolic food, more wine, etc, etc, and then SHULCHAN OREYCH – THE MEAL IS SERVED.
We started with the soup. I explained that we had potato dumplings. YD said authoritatively, “They are called k’nuds. I would like a k’nud with my soup.” She rhymed it with “wood.”
Somebody asked, “What? A canoodle?”
I said, “A knaidel. A knaidel is a potato dumpling.”
Pretty much everybody wanted at least one, although everyone called it something different.
* * *
In our Bible study, I suspect everyone learned something different from the Exodus story. Without doubt, it is a rip-roaring good yarn. It has inspired people throughout the centuries to push for freedom from oppression. Here’s what I learned: Moses was a nudnik to Pharaoh, but Pharaoh deserved it because he had no humility. Getting free from slavery wasn’t easy and it involved a lot of suffering, and even then, leaving Egypt was only the start of the difficult times. The story also says, over and over, that God is more powerful than Pharaoh. Despite that power, paradoxically, God works through people, whether they are nudniks or dumplings.