I am about to disclose something so shocking, so astonishing that even I am bewildered that I dare proclaim such a personal statement about myself on a public platform. However, I feel the time has come for me to confess all, no matter if it will come back to haunt me in the years to come. The truth I wish to divulge is this.
Sometimes, there are days when I do not eat a single bagel. Weeks can go by without me even considering buying pizza or bread of any description. My indifference is so extreme that if Biden were to decide that bread should be placed in the same category as ghost guns, thereby prohibiting the manufacturing and selling of all varieties, I probably wouldn’t even notice. The only time I tepidly lift my head out of its rice cake sandwich haven is on Shabbos when I am compelled to consume the challah my mother so faithfully prepares. (Which, paradoxically I devour with the utmost of pleasure. It must be a Shabbos miracle or something of that nature).
I proudly wore the badge of one who does not patronize the many breadbaskets of the world. That is, it adorned my being until Pesach arrived.
As we know all too well, Pesach is a time when all leavened food items are burnt, sold, or hidden away in cabinets securely guarded by scotch tape. There is nothing more leavened than bread. In fact, bread is the mother of all cookies, muffins, and other tasty flour-based delicacies. (In this case, the apple fell quite far from the tree, thank goodness!) (Or shall we say the grain from the stalk?)Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that Pesach is the very chance I await all year, a time I can permanently separate from distasteful leavened products. But somehow, it doesn’t work quite that way.
Instead of enjoying a breadless existence, I found myself yearning for a cookie, a bagel, even a sandwich containing plain unexciting white bread. Practically the moment Pesach ended, I frenziedly began putting away the Pesach dishes so I could run out and join the throngs of people in search of chametz.
This gives me some comfort. At least I am not the only crazy one, who can go an entire year without eating a bagel, but has a panic attack if I cannot ingest chametz immediately after being deprived an entire week. I don’t believe that all those people in Brooklyn or Lakewood who stand in line behind hundreds of others are truly pizza connoisseurs. (By the way, the rumor around the block is that after Pesach, you can literally stand on your block waiting to order from a pizza store, because the line can easily wrap all-around your street three or four times).
The moral of the story is, as Mishlei explains so impeccably: מַֽיִם־גְּנוּבִ֥ים יִמְתָּ֑קוּ וְלֶ֖חֶם סְתָרִ֣ים יִנְעָֽם׃ “Stolen waters are sweet, And bread eaten furtively is tasty.” When something is within our reach, we have no use for it. Once it becomes unavailable, our disinterest miraculously fades away, and the item is our most sought after possession. (We can see this happening to the record industry- no cool teenager should be without at least one record player and a limited edition polaroid camera.)
To sum it up, treat your local bagels with respect. Don’t shun them now that Pesach is a distant memory of the past. Flour and yeast products have feelings too. Celebrate their existence with a ‘baked goods awareness month’, or dedicate a building to their memory. I warn you, if you forget about them until erev Pesach, it will be too late. Have another bagel?