Matzah: Why

matzahThe basis for the Mitzvah of eating Matzah at the Passover Seder seems to be treated inconsistently by Maimonides (1135 – 1204) in his epic legal code.  In one place, he quotes Rabban Gamliel’s explanation that is found in the Haggadah – that it commemorates the fact that our ancestors’ dough did not have time to rise before they were redeemed, while in elsewhere he simply writes that we eat it “because we were redeemed.”

crisisR. Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1903 – 1993) explained that the suddenness of the Exodus defines true redemption.  These two rationales for eating Matzah are apparently identical:  “Because they were redeemed” means “Because our ancestors’ dough did not have time to rise.”  Genuine redemption comes suddenly and is completely unexpected.  A true feeling of freedom is only felt, sensed, and appreciated when it comes after all hope seems to be lost.  In Egypt, our ancestors were on the verge of assimilating into the surrounding people, being crushed by the persecution, and completely disappearing – then, suddenly, they were out.  When a crisis reaches its maximum and threatens the very existence of the community, redemption suddenly appears and takes them out of the land of affliction (Soloveitchik, R. Joseph B.: Festival of Freedom, pp. 58-59).

perseverePassover is not only a time to discuss, retell, and re-live our national redemption and freedom but also our personal Exodus-moments in our lives.  Life invariably brings difficult, turbulent, and dark times upon us – but we are still here to tell about it.  We have been beneficiaries of the Almighty’s benevolence after we have thought that all hope was lost and that only more night loomed ahead at the end of the deep dark tunnel.  On Passover, we celebrate the great fortune of our sometimes sudden freedom from past crises and renew our hope for those new ones that are already here or sure to come.


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