The Sandwich of Life
By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
After we fulfill the Mitzvoth of eating matzah and bitter herbs on Seder night we eat the Hillel sandwich, consisting of matzah and bitter herbs together, and proclaim:
Thus did Hillel during the time when the Temple was standing: He would combine [in a sandwich] the Passover offering, the matzah and the bitter herbs and eat them together to fulfill what was stated “Upon matzot and bitter herbs they shall eat it.”
The great 16th century scholar, the Maharal of Prague, explains the spiritual meaning of binding the Passover offering, matzah and bitter herbs into one indivisible sandwich. The spiritual meaning of matzah and bitter herbs is quite clear. Matzah represents freedom because we were hurried out of Egypt and were forced to bake unleavened bread. Bitter herbs represent pain, slavery and persecution. Clearly, matzah and bitter herbs represent opposing concepts that are somehow connected through the Passover offering.
Maharal explains that the laws of the Passover offering make its spiritual meaning apparent. The Passover offering was to be roasted and could not be cooked. The cooking process softens and separates whereas the roasting process solidifies. The offering could not be cut up and then roasted, it had to roasted whole. In fact there is a negative commandment to break a bone of the Passover offering. All these laws suggest that the Passover offering represents the concept of unity. In this first offering, the Jewish people testify to the fact that God is absolutely one. This unity means that there exists only one true God, he cannot be compartmentalized, and that everything in existence emanates from God.
We experience both pleasure and pain, redemption and slavery, happiness and sadness throughout our lives. Some tend to turn to God and recognize his existence in bad times but tend to forget about him in good times. Others tend to turn to God in thanks and appreciation in good times but reject his involvement and hand when things are tough. Pagans simply could not grasp the concept of one God from whom freedom, slavery, pleasure, pain, happiness and sadness originate. They therefore had multiple gods — the god of pleasure, the god of pain, the kind god and the god of wrath.
The Hillel sandwich teaches us that everything stems from one united and compassionate God. We testify that the bitter times in life and the sweet times in life all emanate from this one united and compassionate God. Therefore, one united and compassionate God. We testify that the bitter times in life and the sweet times in life all emanate from this one united and compassionate God. Therefore, nce of living as a Jew. Let us aspire to this noble existence.