Skip to main content

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.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…