Chametz – Deeper Meaning

Is there a deeper meaning behind the law that we may not have chametz on Passover – beyond that this is what the Jews ate when they left?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Yes, there are many lessons we may derive from the laws against eating and owning chametz on Passover. And as we’ll see, they get to the heart of what Passover is all about.

Matzah and bread are really almost identical – they are both basically flour and water combined and baked, yet one we are obligated to eat on Passover and the other is strictly forbidden. What is the difference?

As we know, the difference is that in bread the dough has been let to ferment and rise – making the same food appear larger and more imposing simply because of empty pockets of air (carbon dioxide) inside of it. The process of fermentation is thus one of taking man’s basic sustenance – flour and water – and making it appear greater than it actually is. Matzah, by contrast, “poor man’s bread,” is the basic unembellished sustenance of man – precisely the same food content, but in its natural, unglorified state.

Why are matzah and chametz so central to Passover? Because they define whom we are as a people. Passover is the holiday which celebrates our becoming a nation – and the foods of the holiday define just what type of people we are. And on a very fundamental level, we are an entirely spiritual people.

How did we come into existence as an independent nation? Only through the hand of God. We were an enslaved nation, an oppressed people with no homeland, no rights, and no independence. At best, we were destined to disappear in our host nation, at most leaving a few cultural traces of our past existence.

Yet God willed it otherwise. He had us multiply under the worst conditions. And just when the slavery was at its worst, He defied all the Laws of Nature and set us free.

Our existence as a people thus defies logic – both originally and throughout our history. We would not exist if not for God. We are thus an entirely spiritual people, whose very existence stems from God and not natural law.

We are thus obligated to eat matzah on Passover. Matzah teaches us that we are an entirely spiritual people. We do not draw undue attention to the physical side of our existence by “puffing up” our food and making it appear more significant than it actually is. Of course we all must eat, but that is not whom we are as a people. Our existence, on its most fundamental level, is entirely from God. And just as the Manna we ate in the desert, our existence truly stems from our spiritual connection to God and not the physical food we eat.

By contrast, chametz, which represents the drawing of inordinate attention to the physical side of the world, has no place on Passover. Certainly we may eat it the rest of the year and enjoy the wonderful gifts and pleasures God has given us. But this one week of the year, when celebrating our birth as a people, we separate from it. Because at our roots, we are a people of God.

See also this article regarding the miraculous nature of Israel as a people.

Basic thought heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits.

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