Some would say that the amount of work that goes into making Pesach is nuts. My friends used to tell that to me when I glowed when describing to them all of the cooking and preparing that I did in order to make the holiday enjoyable for everyone. I was quite sure that there was no chometz under our window coverings or beds. I wasn’t that crazy. I did it all with a smile on my face.
The nuts I am thinking about are the real thing. The ones that come in shells and that have so many different uses. We were fortunate that we were always able to purchase in bulk walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, almonds and filberts. Our children relished cracking open the walnuts—watching the pieces fly across the table and room—and then begin to chop them for charoset. Each one took a turn.
Even more fun was playing nuts on the floor. How great it would be if we could bring back that tradition instead of having to buy expensive games to keep our children busy. Sarah Heller, in her memoirs, also talks about the numerous games that were played with nuts on Pesach. She mentions one similar to bowling. Mordechai also played this as a child. Nuts were placed in a row and, from a distance, he and his cousins would try to hit them with another nut or a small ball. Other times they held nuts in their clenched hand and the opposition would have to figure out if they were holding an odd or even number of nuts. The kids would also make a hole in the ground and then, from a distance, would have to try and get the nut into the hole. The person who got the closest to the hole, if not inside, was the winner. These are easy, inexpensive ways to make Pesach memorable.
For our family, one of the most significant roles of nuts was the inimitable “nut bowl” which was brought out at the end of every meal and placed on the table. The silver bowl never had anything else in it. Whenever the contents were depleted, the nut supply was restocked. On the top of the bowl were at least four to six nutcrackers. Everyone would sit at the table cracking open their nuts and then placing them into a wine goblet which had at least one half of a glass of wine in it. The gist of this activity was to crack as many nuts as possible and then place them into the glass. The nuts were then eaten in the wine with a spoon. The memory alone brings a smile to my face. True, not everyone likes nuts, but it was an activity that all present got a great deal of pleasure taking part in. No, this activity did not make any of our children into shikkurim! Notably, the wine used for this was always sweet and thick. Despite the fact that we are now living in a time of sophisticated dry, semi-dry Israeli, Australian, Californian, Chilean and American wines, nothing can take the place of thick, sweet wine for this activity.
One of the greatest criticisms that I ever received is that I was nuts to put so much effort into Pesach. If that is what it takes to be nutty, I am thrilled to be a nut!
By Nina Glick