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 BedikesKhomets, 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.
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.