The Way of G-d
Part 4: "Divine Service"
Ch. 8: "Seasonal Mitzvot"
Matzah is a fairly flavorless flat-bread, yet it draws the attention of
millions during Passover and also helps to explain the human condition.
But we'd have to explicate its spiritual core to understand how that's so,
so let's start off by delving back into antiquity with Ramchal's insights.
The world was a spiritually dark and opaque place in the days before the
Jewish Nation were enslaved, freed, and granted the Torah. And we
ourselves were just another more or less nondescript brew of families and
tribes among many others, with some words and ideas of our own yet hardly
distinct. But that all changed with the Exodus.
For that's when our people were honed into a nation with a particular
responsibility -- to rectify the world's opacity. And we were to begin by
eliminating all forms of leavening ("chametz") from our diet and replacing
it with matzah during Passover.
Why of all things were we warned against chametz, though? It's based on
the fact that bread is mankind's most basic foodstuff and the substance
from which we draw the resources to do what we need to, and that leavening
is a necessary element of it.
After all, leavening is what gives bread its heft, tang, and touch. Since
it's such a fundamental element of our most basic food, it stands to
reason that it also contributes in large measure to what we're made of,
including our yetzer harah (our pull toward more doughy earthiness over
Divinity). So when we do without leavened bread on Passover and are
nourished by matzah instead (with all its own mystical overtones and
suggestions), we help diminish the yetzer harah's pull upon us.
But it's important to realize that despite the problems it presents to us
in our worship and spiritual growth, the yetzer harah also plays a vital
and fundamental role in the workings of the universe.
Now, this touches upon some very complex concepts in Jewish Thought that
would take us far afield from our discussion. But it comes to this, in
short: without a pull toward earthiness we'd be subsumed in G-dliness and
be utterly unable to elect to do right over wrong on our own (after all,
how could one ever opt for wrong when he's in the clear presence of G-d?).
While it would seem to be in our own best interests to be "coerced" that
way to choose right, that's actually not true. For we were created to
freely and purposefully choose to do what's right of our own volition.
So it would run counter to G-d's plans for the universe if we were to
always be without a yetzer harah, as we are when we ingest matzah (in the
right spirit, that is -- in one of full faith and utter surrender to the
Divine Will). And that's why we're only charged to subsist on matzah for
the week of Passover.
Knowing what we do about it now, we see why eating matzah is the primary
accomplishment of Passover (which is also known as the Festival of
Matzahs), and how all the other rituals of the seder night are necessarily
connected to it.
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org.