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Geshmack Dvar Torah of the Week: Chametz and Matza

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Chametz and Matza

שבכל הלילות, אנו אוכלין חמץ ומצה, הלילה הזה כולו מצה – Who on other nights do we eat chametz and matza, whereas tonight we only eat matza?

The Abarbanel (biography here)explains that this is question is deeper than it appears. With a normal קרבן תודה, a thanksgiving offering, the sacrifice is brought with chametz and matza as part of the offering. The Korban Pesach is also a thanksgiving offering, that our houses were “passed over” in Egypt. This being the case, why are we differentiating what we bring with the Korban, we should bring chametz with the Pesach, just as we do by a regular thanksgiving offering!

The Chasam Sofer (biography here) explains the answer, that chametz is compared to the bad, and matza to the good. When we give a regular thanksgiving offering, we are thanking Hashem for the G-d He has done to us, but also the bad from which we learn and appreciate the good. But by Pesach there is no such thing as bad; even being enslaved served a “good” purpose – and it would have to – as it wasn’t a punishment for anything the slaves had done! The purpose was so that when they were offered the Torah the Jews would be able to understand and accept the concept of service. Pesach is a night where כולו מצה – there is no such thing as bad, so there can only be good.

The Chafetz Chaim (biography here) in Tetzaveh asks why Moshe was unable to build the Menorah, a problem he had not had when building everything else he had been asked to. The Menorah is compared to to the Torah – and this where the phrase “the light of Torah” originates – and it’s eternity. Moshe’s problem was that he did not understand how he could create something that was meant to reflect the Torah , as he could not understand it’s eternity. How could the Jews keep the Torah forever? Won’t there be exiles, Holocausts, Inquisition, expulsions and pogroms?

Hashem’s  answer is a perfect piece of mussar about Jewish identity. “Put it in the fire, and look what comes out”. We always perform better as a nation when facing adversity – it is from the fire that something pure comes out.

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