Tuesday, March 27, 2007

why is our matza different from the original matza?

Pesach - Haggada


The matza presents an interesting question. We eat the matza because when the Jews left Egypt they quickly threw dough into the oven and took it out without leaving it enough time to rise properly and ended up with matza. It was the resut of haste and no planning. It was done at the last possible moment.

We eat our matza to commemorate that. But how do we prepare our matza? Do we just take some dough and under-prepare it?

No we do not. We worry for months to grow and guard the wheat. We require special water for the kneading. We clean all the machinery between every run of matza. We are very specific in how it is baked.

You would think "poor man's bread" would be much simpler and cheaper to make that it actually is. There is a funny joke that matza is called "poor man's bread" because it is so expensive to buy that it makes you poor.. How could that be and why is it so?

I would like to suggest that the matza is extremely symbolic in nature. We eat the matza to commemorate what they ate when leaving Egypt. In essence the whole seder night is really commemorative in nature. We are told that we must see ourselves as having left Egypt.

When we left Egypt we were poor slaves. Now we are [relatively] wealthy free people. It is not easy for someone who grew up in [relative] wealth to really honestly imagine himself as being poor. He cannot even picture it in his head. And don't fool yourself, our society is a wealthy one. Even our poor are better off than the poor of previous times.

Via the matza we are able to come to some sort of understanding. We have to work very hard to jolt our imagination. It is not enough to just throw the dough in and pull it out like a poor person. We have to work hard to achieve the same results.

If we just sit at our table and say that we are leaving Egypt and are poor and eating poor man's bread, we are fooling nobody but ourselves. We do not really understand what they went through. What they felt. What they experienced.

By toiling hard to make the matza properly (and other aspects of the seder) we can then achieve some sort of understanding. That is why making our matza is much more difficult than the original matza.

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