Thursday, 01 Apr 2021

Written by Nicola Feuchtwang

Butter or KLP Margarine  50 – 60g  (preferably at room temperature)

Potato Flour                         120g

Fine (cake) Matza meal    50g

Grated cheese                     75g

Seasoning:  salt, pepper, paprika

Egg (lightly beaten)            1 but use only about half of it at first.

·         Rub flour & meal into fat.

·         Add seasoning, then cheese, then egg.

·         Work into a dough, using a little more egg as necessary.

·         Roll/press out, and cut into biscuits.

·         Bake about 10-15 minutes at 1800C until slightly tinted.


We had burned our hametz.  The kitchen floor was clean, temporarily, and most of the baking and food preparation was done.  We were not due at our friends for Seder until later.  It was that in-between time after hametz and before matzah, we ‘needed’ a snack, and a potato or an apple just wouldn’t hit the spot. Thus, between an old recipe for lemon biscuits from the back of a matza meal pack, and a very secular childhood memory of cheese straws, the family Pesach Cheese Biscuit Experiment was conceived and born (see above – all quantities approximate, but it does work).

‘Let all who are hungry come and eat.’

It is easy to become obsessed with the food aspects of Pesach:  food to be used up, sold or given away, thrown, burnt;  food in excess at large gatherings; food which we are ‘commanded’ to eat at Pesach, and foods which are forbidden; food as symbol of slavery, bitterness, tears, mortar, freedom, Temple;  food as expression of memory and nostalgia, generosity or control;  food which was ‘always’ on the menu at Seder – until illness, aversion, allergy or supply shortage forced us to modify our family traditions and be creative…

The Cheese Biscuit, product of an (admittedly very minor) crisis,  has become a regular feature in my own Pesach endeavours, and those of a number of my friends and colleagues.  The modified menu itself has become part of the tradition and story of the family.

Pesach is also about gathering, talking, asking questions, telling the story, transmitting our heritage to each other and the next generation, each of us making a personal connection with the history of our people.  This time last year, we were all reeling from the dawning understanding that we must not leave our homes or gather, that we could not eat or sing together ‘lest the Destroyer (aka Covid-19) enter and smite our homes’.[1]  Seder as we knew and loved it just could not take place.

Two thousand years ago, our people were reeling from an even greater cataclysm – military defeat, and the loss of Jerusalem, the Temple, and the very focus of their religious lives.  Yet from those ruins, within a couple of generations, there emerged the kernel of what was to become rabbinic Judaism.  Our Haggadah itself is a product of those times, as the rabbis debated the details of how Pesach should be celebrated when it was no longer possible to base the ritual around the sacrifice of a lamb.  Somehow, they found the vision to adapt and transform their religion to be compatible with their new reality.   Inevitably,  some people continued (and continue to this day) to hanker for the restoration of the Temple and the sacrificial cult, the radical innovations of the early centuries of the Common Era became ‘normative’, and the principle was established that Jewish thought and practice can evolve to meeting changing circumstances.

Shared adversity can bind us and even strengthen us.  Even the bad times become part of the shared discourse for the survivors.

‘Do you remember the time….?’

In many respects, the determination and creativity of our own leaders last year was no less inspiring than that of the rabbis of the Mishnah.  Instead of personal visits and shared food, we shared advice and recipes, ordered flowers online, arranged deliveries for those who could not safely leave their homes at all. We mastered Zoom and other technology at a remarkable pace, and we created warmth and companionship at Seder via our screens.   We tried to be brave and cheerful about it.  The circumstances were, after all, exceptional.

A year later many of us are reluctantly resigning ourselves to another Seder online, separate from friends and family. The ‘exceptional’ has become the ‘new normal’. We are yearning for redemption from Covid and all the anxiety and suffering it has entailed.  Like our ancestors even longer ago in the desert, complaining about the monotony of the manna which was keeping them alive, we cannot resist whinging about Zoom-fatigue, even while acknowledging how very much worse the last year would have been without it.

There is already a plethora of studies within the Jewish community and the wider world, looking at responses to the pandemic.  There will undoubtedly be recriminations and lessons to learn.  Let us be sure to learn the positive lessons too – how enforced exclusion from our physical buildings and communities has also taught us more about including those  who could not access our buildings previously; how obligatory distance from our neighbours may have paradoxically brought us closer to friends and family around the world.  May the best of what we have created and learned become an enduring part of our Judaism in the future.

‘Let all who are in need come and celebrate Pesach…’

In the words of the Haggadah, HaShata Hacha:  this year we are still here, older, sadder, perhaps wiser, although we are not all here and there will be too many empty chairs at our tables.

LeShana HaBa’a:  Maybe by next Pesach….. Generations before us managed to sustain their hope through countless setbacks.  May we be granted some of their fortitude, resilience and creativity.

Chag Pesach Sameach.

LBC Student Rabbi

Nicola Feuchtwang

[1] Paraphrase of Exodus 12:23

The views expressed in this D’var Torah do not necessarily reflect the position of Leo Baeck College.