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It’s a fact! Both the NYT and the L.A. Daily News have now run breathless stories about the Plight of the Missing Matzahs (insert your own spelling here; a brief search of the NYT website finds three different spellings of the unleavened bread — matzah, matzoh, and matzo).
Here’s the NYT:
From coast to coast, a shortfall of the unleavened flat cracker bread eaten by Jews during the eight days of Passover has sent shoppers scurrying from store to store in search of it. On Monday, Allison Mnookin circled the aisles of her local Whole Foods store in San Mateo, Calif., three times. There was no matzo to be found.“Being out of matzo is like being out of milk,” Ms. Mnookin said. So it was on to Safeway. Nothing. Fearing that the box of stale matzo remaining in her pantry from last year would not cut it, she drove nearly 15 miles to Menlo Park.
Hypothesis: If the shortage had been on gefilte fish, complaints would have been far fewer.
The reasons behind the matzo shortage range from manufacturing problems, decisions by some stores not to carry the product this Passover and vague talk of a possible work stoppage.
“It seemed like the whole region had a problem getting it in,” said Jason Hodges, a supervisor in the grocery department at a Whole Foods in Miami. A person who answered the phone at a ShopRite in Philadelphia said stores there were sold out, as was the Food Emporium in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., in Westchester County.
“We heard there was a strike or something,” said the Food Emporium manager, Frantz Baptiste. “The first shipment we had was a month ago, and we never got another one.”
Did the L.A. Daily News just echo the story; here’s their take a day later:
Each year, Jewish families look forward to playing “hide the matzo” during Passover, when adults hide a piece of the holiday flatbread in the home and give a prize to the child who finds it.
But this year, adults are the ones who are asking: Where’s the matzo?
Partly due to decisions by Costco and Trader Joe’s not to carry matzo – and a bit of stockpiling by shoppers who bought up supplies early at Vons, Ralphs and some other supermarkets – a number of California communities are reporting shortages during Passover week.
Some observant Jews say they have been scrambling around the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles, even hitting up popular Jewish delis such as Canter’s for matzo.
When I scoffed at this story to a friend today — no word of a shortage in Boston, where I was this weekend; and no sign of it in Brooklyn this afternoon; plus, what’s with stories about matzah shortages that focus on Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods??? (Fox News Alert: Elitism in the American media!!) — my friend assured me there was no matzah on the West Side of L.A., one of the most Jewish areas of the country. He then added that his mother-in-law may be one of the culprits as she hordes matzah every year. Hording!
Made me think of this passage from Exodus 16, not long after the Israelites celebrated the first Passover, crossed the Red Sea, and found themselves starving in the desert.
13 That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed.
Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. 16 This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer [a] for each person you have in your tent.’ ”
19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”
20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.
More proof that Passover is still alive and even Jews in L.A. are living up to the admonition of the haggadah: Experience the Exodus as if you yourselves were coming out of Egypt. What’s seem to be happening in the new Promised Land this week is exactly what happened in the wilderness of old. Some people long for food, others stockpile. Now that’s the spirit of Passover!