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‘Rumpelnacht’ after Pesach: chaos in reverse


It’s interesting how leading up to Pesach everyone prepares laboriously for the holiday. We’re occupied with weeks of planning for the switch-over, for the cooking, for substantive and original Haggadah insights; but come motzei Pesach and in a flash, by the night’s end, you would never know that a historic Exodus from Egypt had just been reenacted here for eight days.

Growing up, after the intense melodious ne’ilat ha-chag (departure from the holiday) and then Havdalah, things ever so quickly shifted into high gear. Reversing all of the chametz-free zones was underway; with the dishes, spices, cutlery and so much more, Pesach reversal chaos took over. After a week of flatbreads and gluten-free restrictions, the speed of it was motivated by the desire for a yeasty bite.

Back in Denver in those days, it meant getting a dozen fresh bagels at 2 am. It’s all there was. In Israel, it was all about Angel’s Bakery, whose fragrant bread dough was rising again, wafting throughout the town’s streets, engulfing the city right up to our nostrils, making us heady with temptation. Like a companion cheering us on as an incentive, the bread fragrance kept us all motivated to keep on working until the switchover to chametz was complete.

It makes me laugh, though, because, of course, swiftness (be-chipazon) is actually the theme of the Exodus, of leaving Egypt. And here we are at the conclusion of Pesach, swiftly be-chipazon packing up as quickly as possible.

There is another aspect of the night that strikes me as funny: how differently Sephardim and Ashkenazim re-enter post Passover chametz life. Just as the lead up to Pesach is laden with many different customs, so is the departure.

Sephardim shift into high gear for their biggest party of the year yet, the famed Mimouna, rooted in the word emunah (faith) or Maimon (for the great Maimonides, whose father’s yahrzeit is said to be on this night). 

Mimouna celebrates the conclusion of Pesach in homage to the rise of bread again, as well as the return to open doors and hospitality among friends — replete with music blaring, blessings showered, pastel pastries colored, almost floral in their beauty; and, of course, the culinary star of the night, the translucent, paper-thin mofletta crepes piling up, made, remarkably, on the spot, rolled like cigars, dripping in warm butter and honey, as friends bless one another with the traditional “tirbah u’tissad” (may you prosper and succeed).

While Sephardim are socializing and feasting on dripping butter and honey crepes on Mimouna night, what is this night to Ashkenazim? What is motzei Pesach, when we switch the kitchen back to chametz? We call it “tsubrachn nacht” (night of broken-ness).

It sounds emotional, like we are having nervous breakdowns (which indeed we might be), but it’s actually a pragmatic appellation. For on this night, as we traverse the passage of switching over the kitchen, it is inevitable that a glass or two, perhaps a plate, will break and be shattered.

So there you have it, Mimouna vs. Tsubrachn. It just says it all!

Many years ago I came across a term that I simply adore and love using, a word that captures this night of hullaballoo so perfectly, regardless of whether you are Sephardi or Ashkenazi: Rumpelnacht. Of course! It’s practically onomatopoeia.

Rumpelnacht — or, as Israelis translate the word’s meaning and feeling into modern day Hebrew, Leil HaBalagan (Total Chaos Night).

Now, contrast of this term to the royal beginning of Pesach itself, Leil HaSeder (literally, Night of Order, Night of Sequence). Rumpelnacht more than perfectly highlights the pressure and urgency of Pesach’s departure.

I think we can all agree, whether Ashkenazi or Sephardi — whether for you the night marking the end of Pesach is a night of partying at a Mimouna or a Tsubrachn Nacht — it is indeed a Rumpelnacht. One big beautiful balagan!

Copyright Intermountain Jewish News