Sunday, March 25, 2007

broken matza

Pesah - Haggada

Seder - Yahatz

We finally get to the matza we have spent so much energy baking properly or so much money buying.

It is striking that at the time of the exodus they ate matza because they did not have time to wait for the dough to rise. it was haphazard and a result of haste and possibly even lack of planning (after all they knew they would be leaving soon and they could have baked their bread earlier in advance of the actual departure). Yet we put so much energyinto it that it is really more time and energy consuming than if we would make regular bread.

We plant the wheat and have someone watch it (for matza shmurah at least) to make sure it grows under careful guidance and protection from unwanted water. We draw special water to knead it with. We guard the storehouses of wheat to ensure no unauthorized contact with water. We grind and bake and do the whole process under special precautions so as to ensure that no hametz is involved. And the original matza was really the result of haste, with no real planning.

And after all that energy, and after avoiding matza for two weeks prior to pesah (as is the common custom), at the first encounter we have with the matza you would think we would make a powerful bracha and eat it with great gusto, commemorating l'mehadrin the memory of the exodus.

But no. That is not what we do. At the first encounter we have with the matza, we break it in half. That matza we worked so hard to get whole. We worked so hard to find the perfect uncracked circle in the box among all the cracked ones, and the first thing we do is crack it in half and save some for later.

Matza, in general, is a conundrum of sorts. the matza is called "לחם עוני" - poor man's bread - yet it is also called the bread of freedom - לחם חירות. They ate it at the exodus from Egypt and we recline when eating it to symbolize our freedom, yet it is considered poor man's bread.

I think the matza is the symbol of Pesah. Matza is the reminder of the exodus, in a (non-kitniyot) nutshell.

We were poor and had to eat poor man's bread. We were slaves after all with nothing of our own. The matza was the transition point of change from slavery to freedom, from being a poor man to a free, rich man. The matza is representative of both sides of the exodus, pre and post. Eating the matza, as the central part of Pesah, reminds us of what we were and where we went. Who we were and who we became. And it should make us think of where we are going and who we will become.

That is why we break the matza the first time we see it. yes, we are free now and we should attack the matza like a good steak. But we have to remember our roots. We have to remember where we came from first, so we can better appreciate where we went and where we are going.

So we break it in half like a poor person, saving some for later, as he does not know where his next meal will come from. We put it away for later and then begin reading and retelling the story of the exodus, and via the reminder of the matza, we imagine ourselves as being in and leaving Egypt. The matza helps us make that transition ourselves, and directs us to the future.

1 comment:

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Great point, all of your dvar torahs are wonderful.