Sunday, March 28, 2010


Pesach is such a wonderful Holiday, filled with our People's history, the emergence of a nation from slavery, Seders in death camps and in captivity in what was the Soviet Union, the emergence of "Next Year in Jerusalem" to "this year in Jerusalem," and so much more. But there is more to Pesach than all of the above.

Neil Steinberg is a political columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. His daily columns often reflect his Jewish roots. For our Chag this year, Neil penned the following: "Passovertime is nearly here!"

"Hungarian is out of pupiks.
'Out of pupiks?' I said to my wife who informed me over the phone.
'Out of pupiks,' she confirmed gravely. 'You can't have chicken soup without pupiks.'

With 52 people rolling up for the Seder next Monday, my wife is busy assembling the traditional spread. Six chickens. Boxes of matzo.

Good journalist that I am, I phoned Hungarian -- the Kosher supermarket on Oakton in Skokie, no to be confused with the Rumanian, the Kosher meat store on Touhy (in Chicago).

Are you out of pupiks?

'It's entirely possible,' said the woman who answered the phone. 'I'll check the freezer case."

Yes, cleaned out.

Pupik is Yiddish for 'belly button.' What, I wondered, is the belly button of a chicken -- they lay eggs, they have no belly buttons.

'I believe it's the gizzards, she said, passing the phone to Hungarian owner Ira Kirsche.

'Giblets,' he said.

'Giblets?' I asked.

'I don't even want to know what part it is,' he said. 'I've been eating it since I'm a kid. My mother used to make it with raisins and cinnamon and sauce. It's very good. I also like it plain, cooked in the soup.'

So this shortage of pupiks, how did it occur?

'Everything is popular now,' Kirsch said. 'Everyone got recipes from their bubbe, their zayde -- the grandparents -- and they're looking to try to duplicate the feeling.'

Tell me about it. The good news, regarding the the pupik shortage, is that Hungarian fully expects to have a new shipment on the shelves today.

'We do our best to have it, and if we don't have it, we do our best to get it in time,' he said. 'We don't want to disappoint anybody.'

Meanwhile, the Lubavitch were out in force Tuesday, driving their decorated vans, handing out their special schmura -- handmade, extra holy -- matzo.

As a guy normally turned off by zealotry in all forms, I find myself admiring the way the Lubavitch pitch their faith. They don't try to rewrite the Constitution so their special religious laws are observed. They aren't interested in converting people who aren't Jews.Nor do they want Jews to grow beards and join them. Their message is: Just do one act, today, one good thing.

Doing this stuff enriches our lives, they say, and if you do it, too, it'll enrich yours.

That strikes me as a very confident approach to faith -- you aren't desperate for everyone to be like you, not demeaning, not demanding. Not screening off the world lest it tempt you, but tramping around the Loop, talking up the Passover holiday. I'm sure their presence embarrasses some Jews, who like to keep their heads down and not be noticed. But this is a season to raise your head up, whoever you are, to cast your chains off, whatever they are, and be free." (copyright, Chicago Sun-Times, March 24, 2010).


May we all find our pupiks, may the afikoman be found by a child, may we all celebrate our freedoms and may we all raise our heads high.

Chag Pesach sameach.


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