Passover Pages of Sinai Temple

Two Sides of Life

(This comment would fit right before you break the middle matza towards the beginning of the Seder.)

There are many traditional reasons for the Yachatz ceremony when we "break up" the middle matza of the three ceremonial matzas on the table. Some say the two halves of this matza represent this world and the world-to-come or the revealed and the hidden. Some say the splitting represents the splitting of the Sea of Reeds; some say the broken matzah is a reminder of the broken Ten Commandments at the feet of the Golden Calf.

There are others, however, for whom the broken matza represents the two sides of life - the inevitable balancing of joy and sorrow.

This year may we break the matza in acknowledgment of life's complexities - our hope for freedom and our despair at the price paid for it, ourt identification with those yearning for freedom and repulsion at those suppressing it - both sides of every story.
There can be great blessing in understanding this fracture, this brokenness and hiddenness that can open the door to new prayers, new possibilities, and new responsibilities for a better world.

Adapted from Amichai Lau Lavie


Of Time and Freedom: Thoughts on Matza

(To be read before the blessings over matza...just before the meal begins.)

How improbable that the central symbol of the great event in Jewish history is a cracker! Why matza? When told to "hurry up," Mary Moody Emerson (aunt of Ralph Waldo Emerson) once responded, "Hurry up is for slaves."
Time is the most precious human commodity. If we cannot control our own time, we are not free. We all have obligations, but only a slave has no control over his own time. Matzah represents the forced hurrying of the slave.
Our tradition took this symbol of hurry, of slavery, and made the bread of affliction the symbol of Passover freedom. Israeli scholar Israel Yuval writes: "In the ancient world, the rising and leavening of dough, represented the power of civilization, of human activity, and interference in nature, while the matzah was a symbol of simplicity and primitivism, the bread of the unsettled nomad, and the bread of affliction that lasts a long time."
Pesach is a bracing meditation on time and freedom. In leaving Egypt, there was no time to bake bread. The fleeing Israelites transformed the "hurry up, slave" message of matzah into a declaration of freedom for all humanity.
Time is the most precious human commodity. Let the message of the matzah not go unnoticed - let us not rush through our own lives, lest we become enslaved to our own Pharaoh.

Adapted from Rabbi David Wolpe


Matza in Bergen-Belsen

(To be read before the blessings over matza...just before the meal begins.)

In 1944, right before Pesach, the Jews of Rotterdam, Netherlands, were deported to Bergen-Belsen. Although they had wanted to refrain from eating chametz, there was no alternative source of nourishment in the concentration camp. When their rabbi, Aharon Davids, conducted the Seder and they arrived at the blessing for eating matzah, he reached over, picked up a slice of bread and prayed:
O God, You know that it is our desire to do Your will, and that we wish to celebrate Passover, to eat matzah and to observe the prohibition of leavened produce. Yet that is what causes our hearts to ache, for the enslavement prevents us and our lives are in danger. So we prepare ourselves to perform the mitzvah of "You shall live by them" (Leviticus 18:5) - "to live by the laws, not to die by them." We will listen to the Biblical warning: "Beware and guard your lives very much" (Deuteronomy 4:9). So we pray to You to keep us alive and to redeem us swiftly - so that some day we may observe Your laws and do Your will and serve You with complete integrity of the heart. To Rabbi Davids' words, the congregation answered, "Amen."
And then they fulfilled the mitzvah of eating matzah - with a piece of bread.
(Rabbi Davids died in the camps. But his wife and daughters survived, made aliyah, and their family recites this prayer annually in Israel.)


Grain, Water, Zeal, and Spirit

Buff Maniscalco

April 16, 2014 - This week our family went to the Feifer's house for our Passover Seder. Rich and his men's group actually made their own matzah this year. He said it was very simple to do.

It reminded me of a course I audited in Boston many years back called "History of Mesopotamian Civilization." In the class we learned that unleavened bread was quite common throughout the ancient world. Many civilizations consider unleavened bread a holy or spiritual food, including the Egyptians, Akkadians and Sumerians.

It started me thinking. What is so spiritual about unleavened bread? Based on what I have read on and noticed around me, I wrote the following poem.

Bread - "The staff of life." Matzah is the most basic bread, the simplest food made by man. Matzah is a combination of the basic elements: earth, water, air and fire. The ingredients of matzah are flour and fresh water -- nothing more.

Flour from grains. Grains grow from the clay of the earth. Nourished by the sun and the soil. They are cut down and ground into dust.

Fresh water from the sky, appears like manna, a gift from Adonai. When fresh water is breathed into the dusty flour, the sweet sugars hidden in the dough are released.

Yeast, a bacteria found naturally in the air, enters the dough to eat its sweet sugars. Their life span is limited to 18 minutes -- no more, preventing over-population and fermentation of the dough's sweet sugars. The dough is poked and prodded, preventing it from becoming gaseous or puffed up.

Quickly, to overcome the influences and limitations of time, the matzah is baked. Acting with zeal and speed, the matzah is flat, even and humble; the foundation of spiritual growth.

The words "mitzvah" and "matzah" are analogous. As it is said, "When a mitzvah comes your way, do not allow it to ferment." Or simply put, "When the opportunity to do a mitzvah arises, seize it."

As we perform the mitzvah of eating matzah, may we be inspired with; a heightened connection to Adonai, to our world and to each other, steeped with a deep awareness of time, and a greater zeal in all that we do.