Is matzah just one big mistake? Would a little foresight have saved us all the heart ache (and stomach ache) of recreating what our ancestors got just because they rushed out of Egypt so hurriedly they didn’t have time for the bread to rise? A whole nation and no one packed for the big trip? What family goes to the park without pretzels, peanuts, and 17 water bottles?
Historically matzah was not invented at the exodus – in fact the first mention of matzah relative to the Passover story is when we ate it IN Egypt on the night G-d passed over our homes, sparing the Jewish first born.
So what is the meaning of this centerpiece of Passover?
A close analysis reveals three “different” matzahs:
- the matzah eaten during the night time while still in Egypt
- the matzah that accidentally came into being during the daytime when the Jews rushed out
- the matzah we eat in perpetuity because G-d so instructed at Sinai
Each of these “matzahs” represents another form of our ever-continuing effort to free ourselves from what enslaves us.
A little background; Passover “is,” not just “was.”
It is about each of us identifying our own Egypt i.e., what imprisons us where we don’t want to be, and then having the courage and faith to leave that behind. Passover is about aligning ourselves with G-d’s gift of liberty and the matzah is our ticket out.
So let’s take a look:
We eat matzah while Hashem destroys our enemies – we are passive, allowing G-d to rescue us. We eat matzah as we leave Egypt – we are active, we get up and get out. We eat matzah because it is a mitzvah – we follow the rules.
The Haggadah emphasizes that we “eat” the “exodus/active” matzah; the “mistake matzah,” the “day time matzah”. That is the matzah we ingest and take with us.
This Matzah that we eat for what reason? Because the dough of our fathers did not have time to become leavened before the King of the kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, revealed Himself to them and redeemed them. (From the text of the Haggadah – just before we finally get to eat)
It is specifically this matzah we want to integrate into our identity. This matzah combines “walking the walk” with trust in Hashem – we put in our effort and Hashem turns that “flat dough” into a symbol of faith and freedom.
A message of Pesach is the chance to be truly liberated from our personal confinements – those of our own making and those we can’t control. Each day of the year we recall the exodus and are inspired to not be a victim and forge our own paths to freedom. The night of Pesach is different than all others as Hashem offers to drive us out of the inescapable Egypts of our lives, yet we must make the effort to follow Him. And then – and here’s the hard part – after we do all that we can – we let go and let G-d, we prepare the dough and allow Hashem to do the rest.
So next time there’s a mistake – remember it’s not a mistake – it was meant to happen – it is part of Hashem’s way of liberating us from ourselves.
Rabbi Baruch Epstein is the Rabbi of Congregation Bais Menachem and is Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois Director of Community Outreach.