During Passover, there’s a custom to not even mention the word “bread.” This might just be a Hasidic custom, one of those real-world manifestations of something that’s supposed to be totally mental or spiritual — but Judaism is, after all, a religion that specializes in physical manifestations of spiritual stuff. Cleaning hametz from our lives isn’t just about burning up crumbs of bread. It’s about cleaning the junk and the crumbs and the insubstantial stuff out of our lives.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun doing it, though. Hametz parties are an ancient and time-honored tradition of pre- and post-Passover society in which Jews dispose of their wheat and bread products promptly, efficiently, and tastily — eating pretzels and challah french toast, making ziti-topped pizza, swigging down beer.
Some of the best parties I’ve had in my life have been hametz parties — getting out both our physical and social hametz, preparing to turn the seder into a pure spiritual experience. There are two types of hametz parties — the pre-Passover party, whose explicit purpose is getting rid of hametz, and the post-Passover variety, where we let hametz back in in a careful, moderated, and severely joyous way.
Last night, Schmaltz Brewing, the makers of He’Brew, had their chometz party, which was, reportedly, a smashing (and smash-ed) success. For my own part, the kid had to be in bed by 7, so we had a hametz party of our own: emptying cabinets, toasting paninis and flatbreads (yeah, my wife’s a personal chef) and, for some reason, Mexican food.
Whatever the reason, the food still tasted great. Judaism has always been known as a religion that works hard and plays hard. With its stark impositions of diet, work schedule, all-night seders and the prayer for dew, Passover is our great chance to do both.
Pronounced: KHAH-luh, Origin: Hebrew, ceremonial bread eaten on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.
Pronounced: khah-METZ or KHUH-metz, Origin: Hebrew, bread or any food that has been leavened or contains a leavening agent. Hametz is prohibited on Passover.
Pronounced: khah-SID-ik, Origin: Hebrew, a stream within ultra-Orthodox Judaism that grew out of an 18th-century mystical revival movement.
Pronounced: SAY-der, Origin: Hebrew, literally “order”; usually used to describe the ceremonial meal and telling of the Passover story on the first two nights of Passover. (In Israel, Jews have a seder only on the first night of Passover.)