NEW YORK FOLKLORE
Vol. 4, Nos. 1-4, 1978
KOSHER BROWNIES FOR PASSOVER
by Marc Tull
Passover’s observance is based on a system of dietary restrictions
lasting six days, during which time no legumes or leavening
agents may be eaten. A tradition of specially prepared food has
grown out of these restrictions. It is possible to understand some
of Passover’s food traditions by examining one such recipe in the
context of its preparation. The recipe for kosher brownies was
collected from Mrs. Belle Rosenthal of Utica, New York. This
article is in appreciation of her help with my research and in
admiration of her maintenance of Jewish tradition.
The modern celebration of Passover originates from a prebiblical
festival called pesah, which served to reaffirm friendships
and associations among Hebrews and to celebrate the coming
spring. Sharing a meal has been a common method of forming
close associations since pre-Biblical times, and the shared pesah
meal is the strongest of the symbols of renewed friendship. The
elements of the pesah meal have been transformed into the
symbols of Passover, while retaining their original form. A roast
egg and a lamb shank, which symbolize the rebirth of spring and
ritual sacrifice, are placed on the table although they have no part
in the ritual Passover meal. An extra glass of wine is placed on the
table and the door of the house is briefly opened during the meal,
ostensibly to allow the Prophet Elijah to enter and drink the wine.
However, the wine and the open door also harken to the pesah
invitation to share a meal in friendship. This invitation continues
in modem times as the Passover meal is shared among the extended
family and family friends.
This process of religious and symbolic transformation is an integral
part of Judaism. Such transformations are directly related to
the Jewish tradition of the individual interpretations of religious
law. One example of this is that Mrs. Rosenthal, who is Orthodox
and keeps a kosher home, celebrates the sabbath on Monday
rather than Saturday. As the owner of a kosher delicatessen, Mrs.
Rosenthal could not afford to be closed on Saturday, her busiest
day. She interpreted the law, which says to rest on the seventh
day, but does not stipulate which day is the seventh, to mean that
she could make any day the sabbath. Mrs. Rosenthal made
Monday the seventh day and thus kept the sabbath as well as her
means of support....
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