BS"D
lechem oni/prusa

(detail) Approximately 400 bars of soap, hand made by the artist, each containing one piece of matzah, also made by the artist in a matzoh factory. Dimensions variable. Goatsmilk soap, glycerine soap, laminate paper, matzah.


'lechem oni'--bread over which we discuss, said of matzah. Bread of poverty is also interpreted as 'lechem she'onim alav (bread over which we answer (discuss; recite) things)'. Both meanings combined indicates the haggadah is said over matzah, in particular a piece which is broken. (Pesachim 115b)

prusa-- piece

chametz-- the antithesis of matzah, anything having been in contact with or made from one of the 5 grains (spelt, oat, rye, wheat, barley). Leavened grain material, i.e. bread, and that which matzah becomes if by slim chance there is any unbaked flour in the matzah, which would become chametz if wet.

matzah -- Unleavened bread prepared from the flour of grains that have not been washed or tempered, and have been milled under supervision, completely protected from any contact with water. Matzah may be prepared only with water that has been stored overnight. The dough may not be left idle for a period longer than 18 minutes. It is rolled thin and then baked. All equipment used in the preparation of Matzah must be constantly cleaned of dough crumbs, and the oven in which Matzah is baked must be set at the proper baking temperature. Insufficiently heated ovens cause leavening to occur. (from the OU Guide to Passover)

The bars of soap are individually wrapped, and installed as a large mound or pile. This is meant to invoke the Holocaust iconography of piles of Jews and Jewish items.


From a response-poem by Dr. Mira Zussman, Professor of Comparative Religious Studies Coordinator, Middle East Studies Program San Jose State University:

can we wash our exile away?
if we scrub real hard like Lady Macbeth
can we wash away the looking over our shoulders
the always-have-your-passport-in-hand
the ready to run
diaspora desperation
land desperation
THE land -- ha-aretz --
can we scrub ha-aretz clean?
squeeky clean
like nobody ever lived there

do you remember the motto?
"a land without people
for a people without land"
and they bought it
and i bought it
and we grew up thinking it was true
knowing it was not
scrubbing scrubbing
exile bubbles

do you remember what the experts say
about childhood trauma?
"symbolic reenactment"
it's not that you do the thing that was done to you
oh no
we don't do that
it's that you make 'em feel what you felt when it happened
and you don't know it
you don't know it!
and you can't help it
and you can't stop it
and so you don't know why
you feel so unclean

and so you wash
and do the Lady Macbeth thing
and it doesn't come clean

all i ever get is
soap scum at my feet