What is the reason we eat matzah? Because when the King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, revealed Himself to them and redeemed them, there was insufficient time for our ancestors' dough to become leavened. As it says: "The dough, which they brought out of Egypt, they baked into unleavened bread, because they were driven out from Egypt and they were not able to delay, and they had not prepared any provisions." (Exodus 12:39)
Matzah represents the bare essentials – without the yeast or the puffing up. Matzah is pulling back and seeing what real freedom really is. What do you really need? What is most essential in life? We're chasing a lot of luxuries that aren't essential. When you know what the essentials are, you pull back from the ego. Not totally – because we can eat regular bread the rest of the year. You can enjoy the extras if you know what your bottom line is. Real freedom is knowing your bottom line.
But there's more. The Haggadah says: What is the reason for Matzah? "There was insufficient time for our ancestors' dough to become leavened." It takes approximately 18 minutes for dough to rise. They were in such a rush they didn't have 18 minutes.
Matzah is a symbol of getting out of the ego. Once you appreciate this, you have to act on it immediately. Otherwise the body will snatch you up again. God knew He had to push the Jews out quickly, or they would sink right back into the body.
Are there changes you need to make in your life? Act on them immediately. Because if you wait any longer, you're at risk. 18 minutes is already too long. Think about it.
Nine Holy Words
Rabbi Shraga Simmons
What is the reason we eat this matzah? Because when the King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, revealed Himself to them and redeemed them, there was insufficient time for our ancestors' dough to become leavened. As it says: "The dough, which they brought out of Egypt, they baked into unleavened bread, because they were driven out from Egypt and they were not able to delay, and they had not prepared any provisions." (Exodus 12:39)
There is a beautiful story told about Rabbi Levi Yitzhak, an 18th century tzaddik who lived in the Russian village of Berditchev.
It was the day before Passover and Rabbi Levi Yitzhak called his students together. He instructed them as follows: "Go around to each Jewish home in Berditchev and bring me all Turkish tobacco, Austrian silk and chametz (bread or crumbs) that you can find."
"But rabbi," they protested. "Everyone knows that Russia is at war with Turkey and Austria – and possession of tobacco and silk is strictly forbidden!"
Still, the rabbi insisted and the students went looking for tobacco, silk and chametz.
Later that evening, the students returned to Rabbi Levi Yitzhak, carrying various containers of Turkish tobacco and rolls of Austrian silk. "But," they reported, "we could find no chametz."
Rabbi Levi Yitzhak looked heavenward and said, "Almighty God! The Russian Czar has his army stationed at the borders and in the towns – a million armed soldiers ready to arrest anyone who violates the decree of possessing this contraband. While You, God, have nine holy words in the Torah stating to remove bread from the house on Passover. How righteous are Your people Israel, who are faithfully observe Your mitzvot!"
Think about it: Why would anyone spend hours and hours cleaning every nook and cranny looking for chametz? Just because our ancestors did it is surely not reason enough. (I can hear it now, "But Mom, just because Grandpa wouldn't eat pickles or cheese on Thursdays, why shouldn't we?") Jews eat matzah on Passover for one reason only: Because we possess a confidence and belief in the truth of Torah.
Asks the Talmud: A Jew's Tefillin contains the verse of "Shema Yisrael," in which the Jew proclaims every day the Oneness of God. But what is written (so to speak) in God's Tefillin?
Answers the Talmud: "Who is like Your people Israel, a unique nation in the world" (2-Samuel 7:23). God treasures our loyalty and belief – which is most evident on Passover.
Cleaning Out the Chametz
Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf
Though homespun historians point to the practicality of this ritualized version of spring-cleaning, the fact is that cleaning one's home is an integral part of the spiritual side of Passover.
The Torah teaches that no Jew may eat, own – or even have in his or her possession – any type of baked or leavened grain products during the week of Passover. In response to this commandment, Jews throughout the millennia have worked to ensure that their homes are 100 percent leaven-free for Passover.
To achieve this, families embark upon a thorough house cleaning which culminates in bedikat chametz, the search for leaven on the night before Passover. Meticulous extirpation of every last crumb from otherwise innocent-looking nooks and crannies inevitably involves considerable work – and results in a degree of cleanliness which is second to none.
What's the meaning behind it all?
The prototypical form of forbidden leaven is bread. Matzah, the alter-ego of bread, is simply dough that was never allowed to ferment and rise. The most obvious difference between bread and matzah is also the most striking: one is flat while the other is all puffed up.
As a rule, Judaism encourages all attempts at personal growth and meaningful accomplishment. However, the Torah is leery of our becoming carried away by pride in our achievements. On Passover, bread comes to represent the big-headed swagger of arrogance. For one week a year, we rid ourselves of all traces of bread-like products in an effort to detach our consciousness from the grips of an over-inflated ego. This enables us to reestablish a balanced picture of who we are, who we aren't, and who we truly want to be.
(from the "Passover Survival Kit Haggadah" – www.leviathanpress.com)