The banging on the door with accompanying shouts of “FIRE! FIRE!” came at 4:30 in the morning this past October 5. Frantically reaching for bathrobes and slippers, Midge and I– still half asleep– clasped hands and lunged for the front door.
Rose Hollow Drive was jam-packed with police cars and their flashing, rotating lights. There were several fire fighting vehicles, extending ladders with firemen rushing to position their equipment. Streams of water from many fire hoses were directed to the fire. From the roof of our building, billowing clouds of black smoke were being highlighted by the 15-foot flames reaching to the sky. The entire scene was illuminated by batteries of floodlights, car headlights, workers rushing in all directions with powerful flashlights.
The heat from the flames was so intense that streams fo water were being directed to the adjacent building to prevent spreading of the fire even as the occupants were directed to leave their building.
Standing in the curb across from our home with my arm around Midge’s shoulder the bewilderment began turning to comprehension as this terrible event continued to develop. It was then that I realized that my other arm was clasping a picture frame that evidently I had removed from a wall as we rushed out of danger.
This was a specially constructed frame for a long honored possession of the Greenberg family, the traditional Passover matzah cover. The warmth that rose within me, as I became aware of this, was almost as hot as the flames. I could feel my parents’ (of blessed memory) arms on me as I remembered the contents.
Romania is where this object was created. The year, 1903, is included in the beautifully stitched Passover matzah cover my mother created as a part of her wedding dowry. This key accessory is a basic must for every Passover Seder table setting where the holiday is observed and celebrated.
In reds and pinks, flowers highlight the garland design connected with different shades of green for the leaves. Contained in the center, the stitching spells out the traditional closing phrase in Hebrew, Next Year in Jerusalem. The closing prayer in every Passover Seder throughout the world.
This treasured family keepsake is on view throughout the year, and we remove it from its frame for the Passover celebration. It has been used in the Greenberg family each year since its creation. The other colors in the fabric are undoubtedly from accidents and spills from ceremonial wines, red horseradish and even chicken soup that occurred during the 90 years it has been in use.
If one were to plan an emergency escape from a burning building– which wouldn’t be such a bad idea– jewelry, clothing, books, bank records would undoubtedly be included in a priority list. Yet, unplanned, here, I stood, protecting the Greenberg matzah cover. A human interest tale that will become part of the history of the very special object. Surely there is substance for a sermon in this story.