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Parsha Mitzvot: Bo: The Marranos & Pesach

The efforts which the Marranos made to maintain their Judaism is revealed in a question which was sent early in their history to Rav Solomon b. Simon Duran in Algiers. The Marranos placed particular emphasis on the celebration of Passover. Perhaps this was due to the fact that Passover came at the same season as Easter and thus


provided sharp contrast. Outwardly they would be celebrating Easter, but in their homes they would observe their own Passover. Besides, Passover, the feast of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, was the constant symbol of their own hopes. Yet Passover was an especially dangerous festival to observe. Any family which refrained from eating ordinary bread for eight days would be betraying itself to the Inquisition. The inquiry which came to Rabbi Solomon Duran was as follows:

I asked concerning the Marranos whose heart is directed to heaven and who desire to fulfill the commandments as far as they can. How shall they conduct themselves on Passover with regards to their food so as not to sin by eating unleavened bread. . . . Even if they eat only rice, the Gentiles will accuse them saying:”Ye are still conducting yourselves according to the laws of your fathers.” Therefore, they fear for their safety. Therefore some of them, sad and sighing seek to find some way to ease the prohibition (of leaven).

Rav Duran thereupon suggested ways in which they might hide the fact that they are confining themselves to unleavened food. He suggested recipes. One of his suggestions is that long before Passover (when no one will suspect them) they should bake matzot, then crush them into meal and, during Passover, bake the meal into ordinary looking bread or boil in a pot (evidently as a sort of dumpling).

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