What is the meaning of the Matzah?

Raise the Matzah and ask:

What is the meaning of the Matzah?

Matzah is the symbol of the "bread of poverty," that is, the bread that poor people eat, which our ancestors ate as slaves in Egypt. It reminds us of the great haste in which our Israelite ancestors fled from Egypt. So little time did our ancestors have to prepare food for their escape, that they baked unleavened cakes of the dough they had brought out of Egypt.

Judith came in from the fields where it appeared as though the whole community was out harvesting the new grain crop. The rains had ceased and the ground had dried enough to enable them to walk through the plants and collect the ripened sheaves. The stone house still felt damp from the winter and she helped her mother empty the storage urns of the remainder of the previous year's grains.

The moisture had gotten into everything. They recognized the aroma of slowly fermenting wheat and barley and they did not want the old to contaminate the new. Judith's mother even took the little wad of dough she always removed after kneading to put in a cool covered pot to help the next batch rise and added that also to the pile to take out and burn. They were so careful that after sweeping the stone floor with the palm fronds they took feathers and swept out the corners.

Judith thought about how the Chametz puffed up the bread she liked so much, yet considered how a similar spoilage often puffed her up with pride. She always felt cleansed as she warmed her hands with the heat of the burning Chametz. Both because it reminded her of the escape from slavery to freedom, the beauty of purity and simplicity and because she knew it would only take a week for her mother to create a new starter, Judith didn't mind eating the Matzah her mother would make with the brand new dough.

The Matzah we eat reminds us that though we have enough, many people go hungry. We who were slaves in Egypt and now have plenty, have a responsibility to those who do hunger.

In this elaborate and plentiful feast the Matzah is a slender reminder of poverty. In our busy lives the Seder itself is a slender reminder that we are descended from a mixed multitude of slaves.

As we break the bonds of slavery may this meal that we share help us form bonds among each other so that we can eliminate all varieties of enslavement on the earth.

Haggadah and Liberation

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Last modified on 20, March, 1997