Congregation Ohave Shalom - Young Israel of Pawtucket

Haggadah: The Nature of Matzah

by: Caren Torczyner

The first of the four questions, the question asking why we eat Matzah, is a strange question. This question has just been answered in the previous paragraph - Matzah is the bread of affliction, or the "poor man's bread," that our ancestors ate in Egypt!

A closer look reveals that the question is not, "Why do we eat Matzah." Rather, the question is "Why do we only eat Matzah." After all, Pesach not only commemorates the bitterness of slavery, it also focuses on the luxury of freedom. For example, on this night we recline in our chairs, and we are served as if we are royalty. Logically, it would seem, the seder should include not only Matzah, but Chametz as well.

Rav Zalman Sorotzkin answers this question, noting that Matzah is a symbol with dual meaning. It is the bread of a poor, oppressed nation, but it is also the bread that baked on the backs of the people as Gd brought them out of Egypt. As such, the symbolism of Matzah encompasses both the subjugation to Egypt, and the redemption from bondage.

It is fitting that both states be concentrated in one symbol. Pesach night is the point of transition, and we celebrate that transition. Pesach is referred to in our prayers as the "time of our freedom," yet freedom has meaning only in relation to some state of restriction. We speak of freedom not in the abstract, but rather as freedom "from" something. It is essential to recognize the alternatives, in order to appreciate what we gained in becoming Gd's nation.

Similarly, we begin the story of the Seder with the statement that our ancestors originally were idol worshippers. Only when we recognize the choices available to us, and we see the multiple potentials within the Matzah, do we value the opportunity to serve Gd with the freedom we gained on Pesach. It is this understanding that we celebrate at the seder, the night that is "kulo Matzah."

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