Raban Gamliel would say, “Anyone who does not mention these three things has not fulfilled his obligation and these are they: Pesach, Matzah, and Marror!” (Pesachim 116A) (Haggadah)
One of the three keys to freedom is Matzah! How does Matzah inform us about freedom? Is it just an historical icon that awakens ancient memories and reminds us of meaningful episodes from our past or is there something inherent in the construct of Matzah that makes it an object lesson?
While I am bravely writing these words now, my wife and thousands of Jewish mothers and daughters worldwide are heroically doing what their mothers and sisters have done for thousands of years, they are applying heavy elbow grease and actively eliminating any trace of the noxious poison of Chometz from their holy homes in preparation for the Seder. Chometz is that stuff on Pesach that spells Kores- being cut off from the people of Israel. Many Jews consciously and unconsciously know Pesach is not a time to eat pizza. Every Jew, deep down wants to be part of the mission of his people. We dare not flirt with this ultra-dangerous substance, Chometz. Skull crossbones would fairly symbolize this hazardous material. Excellent! With lots of teamwork and grit the home is sanitized and the Seder table is being readied.
Suddenly alarm bells should be ringing. The hazmat people should be called in quickly. That stuff on the table! What is it? Get the blow torch! Call in the militia! This is a real emergency! What happened? Nothing unusual at all! In fact it’s ubiquitous in every Jewish home, for the past 3329 years. Matzah! What’s the problem? What’s the big deal?!
Authentic Chometz can only be made the stuff of five grains mentioned in the Torah, wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye. When they come into contact with water after 18 minutes, Chometz is born. Amazingly, the Mitzvah of the evening is Matzah which is made of the same five grains.
When they come into contact with water and are then baked and cured by fire within 18 minutes, the result is Matzah. In a bizarre way Matzah and Chometz are really the same stuff! What’s the difference! One second! If it is baked before 18 minutes, mazel tov, it’s Matzah. If it is baked one second afterwards it is Chometz.
Even the word Chometz and the word Matzah in Hebrew are hauntingly similar. They share two common letters, the MEM and the TZADI. The only differing letters are HEY (in Matzah) and CHES (in Chometz). The HEY and the CHES like an upside down U are almost identical. The HEY has a little side window and is pronounced with breathiness – HEY. The CHES is closed and is pronounced with a guttural throaty sound. Like the difference between nearly choking and breathing easy, so is the slight difference between Chometz and Matzah.
So if Chometz is so ruinous why should we risk bringing Matzah onto our table on Seder night? That is the question! It could be that that’s exactly the reason we do it! If Chometz equals the power of negativity, Matzah must be the cure. Matzah is disciplined Chometz and Chometz is undisciplined Matzah. Things left to chance go to chaos! Organized chaos is symphonic. To gain lasting freedom we cannot afford to avoid all negative forces but to rather engage them with discipline and with boundaries.
Fire and desire are, neither, entirely good or bad. How are they being employed and by whom and when and where? Great things can be created with either and great destruction can be generated too depending upon whether the proper discipline is exercised. It is also no mistake that the same letters that spell out Matzos spell Mitzvos! Matzos are the primary example of Mitvos.
Ingesting this concept on Pesach makes available the master key to door after door.