From the Sages
Every person should be filled with awe to fulfill the commandment of
our Sages to conduct the Seder and read the Haggadah and he should not
take it lightly. And even if it seems to him that certain things might
not be so important, he should do them all, for there is nothing this
night without meaning.
From the Rebbes
The "Festival of Matzot" / the "Festival of Pesach"
On Passover the Jewish people praise G-d, and G-d praises the Jewish
people. In the Torah the holiday is referred to as the "festival
of matzot," in commemoration of the Jews' willingness to go off
into the desert without waiting for their dough to rise. We, however,
refer to it as "Pesach," literally "He passed over,"
in remembrance of His having passed over our homes during the slaying
of the firstborn.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev
From the Masters of Kabbalah
The Maharal's Magic Matzah
By Jonathan Udren (written for our Kabbalah site: www.kabbalaonline.org
What Seder table would be complete without the thin, crispy, cracker-like
unleavened bread known as matzah? Strange that the Torah would choose
such a lackluster food item as the symbol for a miraculous deliverance
from slavery. It could have chosen a symbol that illustrates power, or
even a food with greater character. Yet this simple unleavened bread somehow
expresses the nature of the Jewish people as they became a free nation.
Additionally, we call matzah lechem ani, usually translated as
bread of affliction. What does celebrating redemption have to do with
eating something called "affliction"?!
With these questions in mind, the Maharal of Prague in one of
his seminal works, Gevurat Hashem offers us a deeper look into
that hard bread on the Seder table, and how it contains the essential
message of Jewish identity.
First, the Maharal opens with a passage from the book of Deuteronomy,
and then begins his analysis (bolded):
"For seven days you shall not eat leaven, eat matzah - lechem
ani - because b'chipazon (usually translated as "in a
hurry") you left Egypt."
Matzah is called lechem ani because it is the opposite of enriched
matzah (what we know as egg matzah) with its added oils or honey
the ani [a poor person in Hebrew] has no money; he only has himself.
First, the Maharal provides us with a new, creative definition of lechem
ani. Instead of bread of affliction, he understands it as simple bread.
Matzah has no additives, no preservatives, no added sweeteners; it is
just flour and water. The word ani, literally a poor person, is
likened to this kind of bread since the poor person also has nothing except
for absolute basics.
From this perspective, the poor person's lack of possessions allows him
a type of freedom from the burden of the physical world. True, his independence
comes at a price that none of us would be willing to pay; still, conceptually
he represents autonomy, and stands in stark contrast to the slave, who
is completely tied to the will of his master.
Therefore, G-d commanded us to eat lechem ani, what we call matzah,
on the night we left Egypt, and every subsequent year after. Just as matzah
only contains essential items, and is not weighed down by extra ingredients,
so too with the Nation of Israel; on the night of redemption, Israel was
released from the chains of bondage and entered a level of existence free
from the will of Egypt.
Beyond lacking extra ingredients, an important element of matzah is that
it also lacks time. The entire process of making a piece of matzah cannot
go beyond eighteen minutes. For the Maharal, time is also an essential
factor in understanding the Exodus.
And from this you can understand why the redemption had to occur in
the first month (Nisan) specially, because redemption can only come from
that which is separate, and that which stands by itself
month has no connection in time (to any other month) since it is the first.
Above we spoke about the relationship to other in the realm of space;
here the Maharal is illustrating the same point in the realm of time.
In the realm of time, that which is first is the paradigm for all that
follows it. The second and third months are always in relation to the
first month. Their whole identity is completely based on where they exist
in relation to the first month. But the first month has no relation to
what is before or after; it is simply first.
Therefore, redemption had to occur during the month of Nisan, in the
first month. Just as simple bread expressed independence within space,
Nisan, the first month, represents independence in time. Amazingly, our
redemption was a moment of freedom expressed throughout existence.
The Maharal then leaves us with a cryptic sentence that expresses a truly
Therefore it is fitting that the redemption should occur without any
passage of time
In order to understand this statement, we have to look again at the passage
that began our journey: "For seven days you shall not eat leaven,
eat matzah - lechem ani - because b'chipazon (usually translated
as "in a hurry") you left Egypt."
The passage tells us clearly that there is an essential relationship
between the eating of matzah and coming out "in a hurry." But,
according to the Maharal, it doesn't mean that we left in a hurry, like
someone late for work, running out the door with his bag still flopping
open. We left Egypt in a moment outside of time, a non-moment moment.
In our miraculous redemption we were lifted out of the constraints of
time and space. We were carried out of Egypt with complete independence
in all facets of reality, and miraculously entered the world stage as
God's chosen nation.
That magical moment of redemption made an indelible mark that is intrinsically
ingrained in our identity. Simply look through the pages of history and
see how we defy all the rules. No nation maintains its identity in the
Diaspora as we have. No nation had the gall after two thousand years of
exile to return home, pick up the pieces and build a modern state on the
ashes of the Holocaust. In our very nature we are a people of miracles;
we defy the laws of history and nature. And come Nisan, sitting at the
middle of our Seder plate on the first night of Passover, we have matzah,
the simple bread that illustrates the concept of freedom, and points us
towards our true identity as the People of Miracles.
Some Laws and Customs
(The annual blessing upon fruit-trees
GETTING RID OF CHAMETZ AND THE ORDER OF EVENTS LEADING
UP TO THE SEDER:
The search for chometz is Tuesday evening, April 4, immediately
after the evening prayers. It is not only a physical search but a spiritual
one also. We must check ourselves for pride-spiritual leaven-the great
separator between man and G-d. If you have not yet done so, Wednesday
morning is the last available time to sell your chometz to your local
rabbi. We stop eating chometz by midmorning on Wednesday (check with your
local rabbi or Jewish newspaper for the correct times). We burn the chometz
by late morning on Wednesday, spiritually destroying any remaining barriers
between ourselves and the Divine. On Wednesday afternoon, after the Mincha
Prayer, we read about the bringing of the Pascal lamb. On Wednesday night
we say the evening holiday prayers with much joy and add reciting the
entire Hallel. Then we proceed to the Passover Seder table.
Matzah is eaten three times during the Seder:
1. After telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt - motzi matzah - two
ounces of matzah are eaten
2. For the sandwich - korech - one ounce of matzah is eaten;
3. For the afikoman at the end of the meal - tzafun - 1½ ounces
of matzah are eaten.
In each instance, the matzah should be eaten within 4 minutes.
How much is one ounce of matzah?
Half a piece of hand-baked shmurah matzah is generally one ounce or a
If square, boxed matzot are used, one matzah is usually just over an ounce.
To fulfill the commandment of eating matzah, it is strongly recommended
to use shmurah matzah. What is shmurah? Ask your rabbi or go to www.passover.net.
last year's Pesach
for more Kabbalah
insights on Pesach