PESACH AND THE ORIGIN OF THE SANDWICH

Jane Bichmacher de Glasman

Even who doesn't have profound Jewish knowledge knows that Passover is Jewish Easter although, actually, Easter is Christian Passover. But this not the point.

Even traditional Jews associate Pesach to a dinner, referring like this to Seder. But actually Seder, in Hebrew, means order, related to the 14 steps to be followed, and only the 10th, Shulkhan Orekh, corresponds to the meal itself.

I would like to focus in the step that precedes it, the 9th: Korekh, that consists of eating matzah (unleavened bread) with maror (bitter herbs) together. Of the 3 matzot that are placed on the table of Seder, we take the one of top, the same is broken in two parts and with bitter herbs is formed a sandwich. As we read in Haggadah (= narrative, corresponding to the book that is read in Seder): In remembrance of the Temple, we do as Hillel did in Temple times: He put Matzah and bitter herbs together and ate them as a sandwich, in order to fulfill literally the words of the Torah: "They shall eat it (the Passover offering) with Matzah and bitter herbs."

To proceed, everybody eats "Hilelís sandwich".

People usually think that the origin of the sandwich is German, when a man decided to eat a sausage inside a bread.

According the historical-literary registration presented in the Haggadah and represented in the Seder, we realize that the sandwich is Jewish: two matzah pieces with bitter herb stuffing. And more: vegetarian sandwich with touches of Japanese typical food (the wasabi used to make sushi is our bitter herb). For all this, there is nothing more "fashion" than the millenarian Sandwich of Hilel!

Maybe the taste is not of the most appetizing. But we should remind that, although Pessah Seder involves foods, they have a character more symbolic than eatable. So that the main tray that is placed on the table, Kearah, is not to be consumed - its function is pedagogic.

I read from an American Rabbi (and orthodox!) that, in a humorous way, we could summarize the Jewish festivities to the following logic and order: "They tried to destroy us. God saved us. Lets celebrate eating!"

Unfortunately a series of ritualistic aspects and reports associated to Pessah were responsible for the death of thousands of Jews. Marranos, Anusim or Cripto-Jews (new Christians who kept their Judaism secretly) were particularly watched and arrested in Pesach as heretics, by the Inquisition. The accusation of "ritual murder" paradoxically caused the massacre and several European communities' expulsion: the Jews were accused of killing Christian children to make matzah with their blood (?!), what is an absurd for who has any idea of Kashrut (dietary and purity Jewish laws) that forbids absolutely the ingestion of blood. This, without speaking in the millenarian accusation of "God killers Jews" (Jews accused as murderers of Jesus), followed by Judasí pelt (practice very known in Brazil) or the super annual cleaning of Pesach, that linked to other Jewish practices of hygienic character (as the baths, changes of clothes, cares with the dead, sick), saved the Israelis throughout History of dying so much as others in epidemics like the Black Plague - and again because of it, they were accused of causing them, determining their persecution and massacre...

Although in the last decades the Catholic Church, particularly, is trying to recognize errors of the past and to apologize for them, certain prejudices are very difficult to be eradicated of the popular culture, what in Portuguese language even determined negative and pejorative connotations to many words like "judiar", "judiaria", "judiaÁ„o", and the Jew association to usurer, frequent image in jokes.

As historical truth, the Jews, originally shepherds, farmers, artisans and liberal professionals, were forced to work in trade due to restrictions imposed to them in the Medieval Era, as to possess lands, etc..

But, to conclude, the great joke in this case is that, being the sandwich actually a Jewish invention, how could the Jews not have patented it? The Jewish inheritance would not be just spiritually so rich, but reinforced by million of dollars of royalties - paradoxically paid by MacDonalds, Burger Kings, etc. even in Pesach - when the Jews cannot consume bread...