“Sometimes we stare so long at a door that is closing that we see too late the one that is open”-Alexander Graham Bell
After years of eating Matzah on Pesach, I am starting to have second thoughts. No, not second thoughts about fulfilling this mitzvah of eating matzah- but second thoughts about the commonly known reason for eating matzah.
We are told in the Haggadah, that the reason we eat matzah is because the Jewish people did not have time to wait for the bread to rise[i]. If indeed this is really the reason, why is it that the Jewish people ate matzah on the first Passover night ever? After all, the Jewish people had been commanded to eat matzah on the fifteenth of Nisan-the night before the Exodus- even before the reason of “leaving in haste” has ever become applicable.
Furthermore, if indeed the reason for eating matzah on the first night of Pesach is to remember the haste in which the Jewish people left Egypt, one can only wonder why we are commanded to eat matzah Pesach night. Why not eat matzah when haste was in place, on the fifteenth of Nisan-the morning of Pesach?
Rabbi Yosef Kimchi-father of famed Tanach commentator, the Radak- articulates a commonly suggested answer to this conundrum: the reason the Jews were commanded to eat the Korban Pesach the with matzah, before the rush even took place, was because God knew they will leave Egypt in haste, so He gave them the mitzvah of matzah in anticipation of the future.
This answer, though, has its difficulties too. Although it is still reasonable to assume that God gave the Jews the mitzvah of eating matzah, because He knew that the Jews will be leaving Egypt in haste, the question still begs for an answer-why did the Jews need to leave in haste altogether? God knew the exact schedule of when the Jews can, should, and need to leave Egypt- could He not leave some time for the bread to rise? Could He not spare a few moments for them to make so advanced preparations? Why are all the rushing and the haste such an integral part of the Exudes process?
Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Charlop- 20th century Kabbalist and famed student of Rabbi A.Y. Kook- explains[ii]: although the Exudes from Egypt from Egypt seems like the exudes of the physical body, in reality it was more of an exudes of the soul than an exudes of the body.
The Jewish people were ready for a liberation of the soul, they were not fully ready for a liberation of their body. The lack of preparedness for the liberation of their body is evident from various sources, however, it is most clearly evident from the way they feared the return to the land of Israel and the way they faltered to sin in the desert so fast. A redemption that relates so strongly to the soul-explains the Maharal of Prague-is one that most transcend physicality- it must be metaphysical and transcend time.
This is why the Jewish people needed to eat matzah on the first Passover- even before the rush-to-the-Exudes had occurred. The rush out of Egypt symbolized going beyond the limits of time and ascending to a world in which time did not matter-a world of the soul. The great 16th century Kabbalist, Rabbi Yehuda Lowy-Maharal of Prague- points out, time and again, that the matzah is made of the most basic ingredients-in the most basic time frame- in order to express its spiritual message; matzah symbolizes sticking to the basics and being detached from physicality.
The same holds true for the way the Jews left Egypt. The process of leaving Egypt was a process of introduction to spirituality. The Jewish people were rushed out of Egypt so that they can be detached from time and physicality. The same reason the Jews needed to eat matzah the night of the fifteenth of Nisan- ever before the redemption took place, is the same reason God orchestrated the Jewish rush out of Egypt; the Jews needed to be detached from time.
God knew that the more the Jewish people were delayed and slower the Exudes was, the less spiritual the Jews would be. God gave the Jews a list of commandments that shook their physical and materialistic attachments and commanded them to haste, to be on the go.
The antithesis to this would be eating chametz, symbolizing delay, lateness, and being bound to physicality. It would attach the Jews to physicality and complacency. God did not want the Jewish people to be late again, He wanted the Jewish people to be great again. Chag Sameach!
[i] As it says in the Haggadah “Why do we eat this matza? The dough of our ancestors did not have time to rise when God, the King of Kings, appeared and redeemed them. As it states, “And they baked the dough that they took out of Egypt as cakes of matza, but not chametz, for they were expelled from Egypt and they could not delay. And they had also not prepared food for themselves” (Shemot 12:39).”
Published in the YU Lamdan April, 19th 2016