to Ponder Number 108
To Be a Matza *
The Talmud in tractate Berachoth ( 17a) poses the question why it is forbidden to eat or posses chametz, leaven, such as bread, on Pesach. What is there in the nature of leaven that it should be forbidden on Pesach? And why is matza the most desirable food for Pesach?
providing us with a straight answer, the Talmud responds by asking
still another question. Why do people sin altogether? Understanding
that people will continue to transgress, the Talmud tries to analyze
the paradoxical situation in which many people find themselves: Man's
desire to do good and his constant encounter with his/her evil inclination.
Realizing that this inclination is difficult to overcome, it suggests
that human beings and especially Jews should make the following declaration
whenever they try to obey the laws of the Torah but fail to do so:
of the Universe
This however begs the question. Why is the evil inclination symbolized by leaven? What does leaven do wrong that it should be used as the symbol for the evil urge in man?
A closer look however reveals a most fascinating idea.
Bread, chametz, is blown up matza. It is matza which went overboard and got wild.
What after all, is the essential difference between both? They are made from exactly the same ingredients. It is only the speed which makes the difference between the two. If the dough is baked quickly you get matza. However if the dough is left for a while, it will rise and after being baked turns into bread.
The only real difference
between the two is therefore hot air. An ingredient
of no real substance!
Bread then is an
arrogant matza. And it is for this reason that it symbolizes
the evil inclination since it is the attitude of haughtiness, blowing
oneself up beyond one's real self which leads to undesirable acts
which causes man to go astray. It is the source of all transgressions.
Would a human being be humble, he or she would not contemplate doing
anything wrong. Only arrogance leads man to undesirable deeds.
Consequently the art achieving real life is to be like a matza in a world of chametz.**
This is the reason, as understood by the Talmud, why one is prohibited to possess or eat chametz on Pesach. Only the matza is food of moral quality.
May God allow us to serve Him in this spirit and grant us and the world the final redemption.
Chag Kasher VeSameach,
Nathan Lopes Cardozo
*This essay is
part of last year's lengthy lecture on Pesach.
Reproduction of this essay is permitted when printed in full.
Go to the top of the page.