There are certain things everyone knows about Jake Gyllenhaal. He’s an actor. His sister is Maggie Gyllenhaal. And he used to be a little kid with glasses in a twin-sized bed. (Some of us know this all too well). Kidding aside, I thought I was pretty up on everything he’s ever done ever, so you can imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon…
THE GREATEST VIDEO OF ALL TIME:
Now, I was already quite aware that Jake was a member of the tribe. He’s basically the Hollywood version of every boy I went to camp with.
Except he’s 6 feet tall.
AND HE’S JAKE GYLLENHAAL.
Jake, who teamed with iconic Jewish appetizing shop Russ and Daughters during the pandemic to design a LOX sweatshirt. Literally a sweatshirt that says LOX. With the proceeds going to the Actors Fund. #TzedakahLox
Jake, who kvelled at Maggie’s side all throughout awards season as she was lauded for her directorial debut, “The Lost Daughter.”
Jake, who accepted Tom Holland’s challenge to do a one-armed handstand while putting on a t-shirt, resulting in a schvitzy Gyllenhaal, on his knees, arms raised to the heavens like a Gen X Tevye in a Russ and Daughters tie dye t-shirt, ready to shimmy his way through the shtetl.
But still, I was not ready for this video. All I know is that, much like the afikomen at every seder around the world, I FOUND IT. And instead of getting a dollar or a pinch of the cheek from my great aunt, I GOT JAKE.
First, the basics. The video is from Jake’s 2011 appearance on “Shalom Sesame,” the kosher cousin to “Sesame Street” that teaches kids all about Jewish words and holidays and life. “Shalom Sesame” is a magical place where you can see Seth Rogen teach Elmo the Hebrew word “todah,” Natalie Portman dress as an elephant for Purim and Amar’e Stoudemire wax prophetic on the many uses of the word “tov.” And lest we forget Cedric The Entertainer’s challah riddle! Challah!
Fittingly enough, the episode that Jake was on is titled “It’s Passover, Grover!” And in the blessed video, Jake teaches us all about hiding the afikomen. For those of you who didn’t wander the desert for 40 years, the afikomen is a piece of matzah that you eat for dessert during the Passover seder. It’s tradition to hide the afikomen for all the kids to find. And Jake has hidden the afikomen. He’s just not sure where.
Now, I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fashionista, but I do know that matzah pocket squares were not the rage in 2011. So, it’s a safe bet that the piece of matzah glaringly peeking out of his shirt pocket is, in fact, the afikomen. It makes sense that he forgot where he put it, though, since he’s “super at hiding things.”
This is the point in the video where Jake asks for my help. And who am I to say no? I have decades of afikomen locating experience. I basically have a built-in JPS (Jewish Positioning System). I am ready! I can do this!
Also, the thing is still sticking out of his fucking pocket.
Growing up, my father did the afikomen his way. He was a very fair man, never wanting anyone to feel lesser than. He would wear the kippah from my bat mitzvah for one seder and the kippah from my sister’s bat mitzvah for the other. He would trade off matzah covers that we made in nursery school, using one each night. So, it tracks that when it came to the afikomen, he hid a piece for every kid present. Didn’t matter if there were two or 20. Every kid got their own piece of matzah, perfectly wrapped in a paper napkin, along with their very own clue as to where to find it.
This is one of my favorite things about my father. I also love that, as a result, I can say that I found the afikomen EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. Thanks, Dad.
It wasn’t always easy, though. My dad would hide it everywhere. On top of a filing cabinet. Peeking out of an encyclopedia (probably “P” for “Pesach”). Shoved in the drop-down ceiling in our basement, a mere corner sticking out. But one place my dad never hid the matzah was in Jake Gyllenhaal’s pocket.
Back on “Shalom Sesame,” the search is still going on and I start to worry about my sweet, pretty mensch who can’t find something that he left about eight inches from his own face. So, I tell him it’s in his pocket, he finds it and we are both relieved.
I love how Jewish this video is. And not just the Pesach of it all. The way Jake leans slightly back and dons what can only be described as a Borscht Belt comic’s intonation when he says, “I hid it in such a good hiding spot!” The hand gestures that coincide with his blink-and-you-miss-it Groucho Marx raised eyebrow. The hands, raised to his forehead in the vein of every mother Neil Simon ever wrote.
It’s a small thing, but the fact that he says “seder” and “afikomen” and “matzah” correctly is very comforting. After a lifetime of hearing people on TV say “mazel TAH-v” instead of “tov,” we have earned this. The secondhand nature with which he talks about the afikomen also makes me wonder about the seders he grew up with. Like, was he stuck doing the Four Questions or did he have younger cousins?
You know what? Let’s just make this official.
My Four Questions (for Jake Gyllenhaal):
- Where do you fall on gefilte fish?
- Do you eat the parsley or just suck the salt water off it?
- Who’s in charge of your haroset?
- Did you, too, grow up using several editions of the Maxwell House Haggadah, so the page numbers were different for everyone and the whole thing was fucking chaos?
I don’t have answers to these questions. Maybe someday I will. But for now, I relish in the fact that Jake Gyllenhaal went on “Shalom Sesame” to teach us about afikomen.
Happy Passover, Jake! In my haggadah, you’re the afiko-MAN.