A Healthy Appetite for Mitzvos! AHHHH!
By Rabbi Label Lam
What are these testimonies and judgments and statues that HASHEM our G-d has
commanded you? (Question of the wise son in the Haggada) We do not eat
after the dessert of the final portion of Matzah? (Part of the answer in
response to the question of the wise son)
For those who haven’t heard yet, Pesach is coming soon. Our house will be
clean and our tables will be finely decorated no doubt. One of the important
centerpieces will be that flat unadorned ancient looking Matzah. My mouth is
already watering as I’m sure many others are too. We can hardly wait to
unveil and bite into the Matzah on Pesach night. “Why is this night
different than all other nights? Have you ever seen a restaurant displaying
Matzah as the main attraction during the rest of the year? Maybe a display
of fluffy loaves of French bread or fancy pastries or some sizzling steak is
a worthy lure. Did you ever see “Dunkin “MATZOS”? NO! Yet we crave it on
Pesach night. Maybe it’s the absence or abstinence that makes the heart
grow-so fond or maybe there’s another explanation why.
The Sefas Emes points out that the wise son is asking about not only
testimonies and judgments, which can be comprehended by the human mind but
also about statutes, namely “Chukim” which by definition are beyond human
ken. How can he seek a reason for a “Chok”? There is no reason to be
explained or spelled out to satisfy the human intellect.
The Sefas Emes’ explanation needs an explanation. He says that Matzos are
representative of “Chukim”. They are simple and bland. What benefit do we
gain form eating them? On a testimony or judgment level we can explain all
Pesach night but how that translates into medicine for the soul we are
stricken silent. The answer is not a quiet one though. Just listen to the
sound of crunching in the room when we get the Matzah portion of the Seder.
It sounds like a swarm of locust munching their way through fields of grain.
That’s the answer! Before eating there is no discussion about a
“taam”-reason or literally taste for eating Matzos, but afterwards even a
“Chok” can be understood experientially!
It’s no mistake that the word “Matzos” is comprised of the same letters as
“Mitzvos” in Hebrew. Matzos represent and are actually an orientation to
Mitzvos! Just as we guard Matzos we are to guard Mitzvos as our sages tell
us. In a certain way they are interchangeable. It’s important to know
because just as Matzos are an acquired taste so too Mitzvos are an acquired
HASHEM plays a cute trick on all of us and it’s the same trick every parent
plays on their children too. When a child is sick and he needs antibiotics
the parent doesn’t pry open with force the child’s mouth to take his
medicine. No! “Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down in the
most delightful way!”
We conspire with the pharmacist to lace the stuff with cherry smell and
taste. The child can’t wait for the next gulp. He thinks the main ingredient
is the flavor and color but the real value is in the complicated
bio-chemical world of antibiotics and is only manifest after having
swallowed the spoonful of whatever. So HASHEM does with food and many other
The story is told about an elder Rebbe and his son who were breaking through
a thick layer of ice to immerse themselves in a river to gain extra purity.
The young man was the first to enter the icy waters and as he edged in
slowly at first then then all of a sudden all the while he exclaimed, “Ouch
ouch ouch!” When he emerged with icicles in his beard he let go a sigh,
The wise father realizing that this was the teachable moment told him, “My
son, I want you to remember that this is the way of Mitzvos. They start out,
ouch ouch ouch and up oooooooh-ahhhhhhhhhh! With aveiros-sins it’s
oooooooh-ahhhhhhhh at first and then ouch ouch ouch!”
While worldly attractions often start out with an enticing induction they
end up as Chukim,- “must do” addictions of sorts! A Mitzvah like Matzah may
start out as a flavorless Chok and only later catalyze a healthy appetite
for Mitzvos! AHHHH!
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.