BREAD AND THEN MATZAH
by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
One of the important parts of Pesach is the Mitzvah to eat Shmura Matzah at the Seder. Matzah is a symbol of selflessness and humility. On Pesach we celebrate and experience internal freedom and the first step in that process of personal liberation is not to be wrapped in ourselves and trapped in our own arrogance. Bread that rises is like an inflated ego and is prohibited on this festival of liberation. Matzah which does not rise represents the dismantling of our ego and the path towards selflessness.
There is a detail of this Mitzvah that highlights its depth. By Jewish law the Shmura Matzah that we eat on the first night of Pesach must be made from one of the five grains that have the potential to ferment and become Chametz (leaven, which is prohibited on Pesach). So although Matzah by definition is bread that has not risen, it needs to have the potential to rise.
The lesson in this stipulation is clear. If G-d would have created us perfect and selfless, we would have nothing to achieve. The depth of the human experience is to demonstrate that every challenge can be turned into opportunity, that shortcomings can be overcome and that the way we were created is not how we need to remain. We were given the gift to go beyond our own natural limitations and dispositions and grow into better and deeper human beings.
There is a custom in some communities to make sure to eat a little bit of bread or cake (Chametz) on the morning before Pesach, to emphasise what we are leaving behind when we enter into this special festival. Selflessness without any challenge of ego has little value. To achieve humility by working hard to get rid of our own arrogance is the real testimony to the power of our human soul. To eat Matzah when there was no Chametz there before, simply misses the point. It is the Matzah that worked hard to leave the Chametz behind that is a symbol of true freedom.
Experiencing exodus on Pesach is difficult - but well worth it.