Published May 21, 2004, issue of May 21, 2004.
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Over centuries, Passover has had many meanings for many different people. Benjamin Franklin, for instance, proposed that the seal of the United States should be a design depicting the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. One of the most famous Negro spirituals calls upon Moses to “go down to Egypt land and tell old Pharaoh to let my people go.” For many Jews, especially the more Orthodox, the very ritual of Peysakh itself had a meaning all its own. In midspring, the page in the Forverts devoted to “Pearls of Yiddish Poetry” featured several such poems. One of them, entitled Bedikes Khomets, revolves around the search for the last crumb of khomets, or bread, in order to cleanse the house of such trespassers upon the turf of the unleavened Passover matza. The author is Kh. Rosenblat. The transliteration is by Goldie Gold. The English version is by Gus Tyler.

Bdikes Khomets

Ovnt, peysekhdike shtiber

Groyse yidn, berd un hent

Varfn tunkl-groye shotns

Oyf di oysevayste vent.

Oysgeshpreyt di breklekh khomets

In di vinkelekh arum

Ersht tseleygt, un shoyn fargesn

Un men zukht zey umetum.

In der linker hant a lefl

In der rekhter hant a likht

Ot iz nokh a brekl khomets

Opgezukht zikh umgerikht

In dem hilsternem palonik

Falt dos letste shtikl broyt

Trift der letster tropn dales

Fun der vokhediker noyt.

Shloft der letster lefl khomets

In a vinkele fun hoyz

Alts drimlt—-khuts der zeyger

Un di hungerike moyz

Tseylt der zeyger shtil di reyges

Tsvishn vokh un yontef-freyd—

Un di moyz in vinkl grizhet

S’reshtl dales shtilerheyt.

The Search for Khomets

It’s evening in Passover homes

And Jews with giant beards and hands

Do cast their gray and yellow shadows

On walls where every shadow lands.

Unleavened crumbs of bread are spread

In corners scattered here and there

“Farewell,” they say unto the bread

And now forget the places where.

In the left hand there’s a spoon

In the right hand there’s a light

And, yes, they find a piece of bread

And that’s a most unwelcome sight.

Into the wooden spoon is placed

The final little piece of bread

How hard it is to part with it

’Twas earned with sweat on hands and head.

And now the tiny piece of bread

Does sleep somewhere within the house

And all do dream except the clock

Also an ever hungry mouse.

The clock most quietly does tick

Unto tomorrow’s holiday

Meanwhile the little mouse does chew

The remnant of a day’s poor pay.

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