Parshat Vayikra & Parshat Tzav/Shabbat HaGadol & Pesach

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Would you Rather Eat Challah or Matzah?

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

“This matzah that we are eating, for what sake is it? For the sake that our ancestors’ dough was not yet able to rise, before the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, revealed Himself to them and redeemed them, as it is stated” (Exodus 12:39); “And they baked the dough which they brought out of Egypt into matzah cakes, since it did not rise; because they were expelled from Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they made for themselves provisions.” (Teaching of Raban Gamliel from Haggadah)

We are commanded to eat matzah on Passover night as a symbol of our redemption, and we are forbidden to eat leavened bread throughout the seven days of Passover.

Why is leaving Egypt in a hurry and the fact that the dough was, therefore, not able to rise so significant? Personally, I don’t like to be rushed and would have much preferred a casual stroll out of Egypt. Additionally, most people I know would prefer to eat leavened bread (such as challah) rather than matzah at a festive meal. Passover is the festival of freedom, designated to celebrate the liberation from the enslavement in Egypt. Surely, the symbol of our freedom should be gourmet bread and not matzah?

The difference between chametz and matzah lies not in the basic ingredients (as both are made from flour and water). The only difference between chametz and matzah is time. Time is an attribute of the physical universe, which was created by God along with the entirety of the physical universe. The concept of time is associated with natural processes and events. Whereas, supernatural events are associated with the concept of being above/beyond the time dimension.

Egyptian culture was steeped in the narrowed belief that only the natural, physical world exists. The Hebrew slaves were also influenced by this world view. The purpose of the entire process of the miraculous exodus from Egypt was to liberate us from this limited world view. The liberation was accomplished by demonstrating the existence of a single God, a God above nature, unbound by material or time constraints. This is the entire meaning and purpose of Passover. For this reason, on Passover, we are commanded to eat matzah (which represents transcending nature) and are forbidden to eat leavened bread, chametz (which represents the natural world).

One final question needs to be addressed: Why is chametz permitted during the rest of the year? Rabbi Natan (the foremost student of Rebbi Nachman) suggests that once we spend Passover internalizing the existence of an unlimited God, above time and nature, we realize that the natural world is simply God constantly creating and choosing to keep the laws of nature in place. Once we realize this, we are then able to appropriately interact with the laws of nature represented by chametz. We now have the new-found understanding that the difference between miracles and nature lies only in the frequency of the events.

Our goal on Passover is to break out of our constricted views of the natural world. We expand our consciousness and rediscover God, the Divine hand behind the natural and supernatural world and begin to realize that, in truth, everything is possible!