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Thought for the Day: Matza -- Bread of Affliction, Symbol for Humility

I know "schar mitzvah b'hai alma leika" -- one does not experience the true reward of performing a mitzvah in this world, but hearing my granddaughter's excitement our seder this year -- warming up with the four questions, then lots of "Please Zeidy, I want to read more!", and topped off with singing "Who knows One?" -- well, it just doesn't get any better than that.

Matzah, of course, is the star of the show all Pesach.  At the seder it is uncovered to fulfil Chazal's play on words -- lechem ani (bread of affliction)/lechem oni (bread over which a lot of words are said) -- and we eat it reclining.  Why do we eat it?  Because it is the bread of affliction and slavery, of course.  How do we eat it?  Reclining, to show our freedom, of course.  And a man forgets to recline (there have been, after all, two cups of wine already), then he has to eat it again.  Because he didn't eat it like a free man.  So he has to eat it again.  He is not free to eat as he likes; he is forced to eat it in a certain manner (it happens to be the the way a free person eats, but it is still forced).  Does anyone else see the irony here?

Then there is the Zohar that says that chemetz represents arrogance, while matza represents humility.  Who ordered that?  Nothing about that in my chumash.  My chumash says we eat matzah because that's what are ancestors ate as they left Mitzrayim.  My chumash also says they ate the seder meal girded and holding their staff.  I am pretty sure they used clay dishes (nope... no plastic).  If the holiday is built around what they did while eating dinner, why don't we mimic more of those hanhagos (sounds better than "stuff", no?)?  If we are eating matzah to commemorate a historical happenstance, why just this one?  And don't forget to be humble about it.

One more thing... we didn't have time to bake bread? Umm, we only knew for two weeks that we would be leaving on the 15 of Nissan.  Wait... we knew for two weeks that we were leaving?  Why didn't anyone plan out some snacks for the road?  We eat matzah because of poor planning?

Says the hagada Matnas Chaim: after that first seder, it seems logical to assume that they started preparing to leave; including bread for the trip.  After all, they were now a free people and acted like one.  What happened?  "Paroh in pajamas in the middle of the night."  The Mitzrim couldn't be rid of us soon enough.  They forced us out... they forced our freedom on us.  Not exactly "they forced", but HaShem used them to force us to leave when He wanted us to leave, not when we wanted to leave.  Eating the matzah while reclining -- while forced to recline, in fact -- does not celebrate a historical happenstance at all,  Eating matzah while reclining -- while forced to recline, in fact -- celebrates that even our freedom does not belong to us.  Our lives, our environment, every detail of our situation is not up to us, it is up to HaShem.

That's humbling and that's worth celebrating.


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