Many of our childhood memories relating to Judaism are in some way connected to Passover: the warmth of the Seder, the hiccups from the four cups, or chewing on a macaroon. Of all the various mitzvot and customs of Passover, however, crunching on the Matzah is not only central in our memories but contains relevant lessons as well. One such lesson can be derived from a novel approach to the Mitzvah of Matzah during the six (Biblical) days of Passover that remain after the Seder night. On the Seder night itself, the Torah commands that we eat Matzah, along with the Marror and the Pascal lamb (in the time of the Temple). For centuries, the world of rabbinic scholarship had assumed that, strictly speaking, you only needed to purchase one package of Matzah for use on that night in fulfillment of the commandment to eat it at the Seder. Once that had been performed, however, you would not need to buy anymore. As long as one had other Passover food to eat – plenty of macaroons, raspberry-gel rings, and those sugary candy orange slices – and as long as no leavened bread (chametz) is on the menu, as far as the Torah is concerned there is no need to eat any more Matzah until next year’s Seder. R. Elijah Kremer (1720 – 1797), the erudite and innovative Torah scholar known as the Vilna Gaon (genius), introduced an entirely new perspective towards this mitzvah based on the mention of Matzah in this week’s Parasha. He argued that there was actually a mitzvah to eat Matzah for the entire duration of Passover. Although Talmudic sources refer to eating Matzah after the Seder night as optional, that’s only relative to the commandment to eat it at the Seder. He agreed that the night of the Seder has a unique requirement to eat Matzah in the sense that if one doesn’t, their Mitzvah fulfillment is deficient, they have “gone into the red” and it is counted as a sin. If one doesn’t eat Matzah during the rest of the holiday, though, no sin has been committed. He has not gone into the red; he merely did not go into the black. Nevertheless, an opportunity to do something good has been forfeited and lost. According to the traditional approach, however, not only is no potential lost by not eating Matzah after the Seder night, but also even if it is consumed during that time nothing has been gained. There’s simply no way to go into the black via eating Matzah during that time.
This approach to Matzah and chametz during the vast majority of the Passover holiday represents an important lesson about life, growth, and relationships. The first step is to steer clear of the chametz. It is definitely important to stay out of trouble in life – to avoid doing anything that could hurt ourselves or others. Our own mental, spiritual, and physical health can be fragile and their equilibrium cannot be neglected. We also want to avoid straining or ruining our relationships with our friends and family members. The message of Matzah on the remaining days of Passover is that avoiding chametz is not enough. Merely not creating any negative energy in our lives and staying out of the red is great but not sufficient. We have to take our lives into the black by actively creating positive energy. Obviously, we must take time to refresh ourselves and relax. Matzah reminds us that we cannot complacently pass the time with entertainment and distraction but must rather constantly propel ourselves into new opportunities for growth, enrichment, and kindness.