For seven days, leavening shall not be found in your houses, for whoever eats (Chometz) leavening that soul shall be cut off from the community of Israel, both among the strangers and the native born of the land. You shall not eat any (Chmoetz) leavening; throughout all your dwellings you shall eat Matzos.” (Shemos 12:19-20)
Welcome to the introduction to the world of Mitzvos! HASHEM is giving his commandments to the Jewish People who are about to emerge from Egypt and be birthed onto the stage of history. This is one of the introductory Mitzvos. Don’t eat Chometz on Pesach and eat Matzos. Anyone who eats Chometz, his soul shall be cut off! Now that sounds awfully strict. I know that some people who read these words shrink from the apparent harshness. How can we explain this in a way that doesn’t leave them with an impression that the Creator of the Universe is somehow cruel and petty?! We know that can’t be the case! Just the opposite is true. Here are a few approaches.
Later on the Torah proclaims, “And He said, If you hearken to the voice of HASHEM, your G-d, and you do what is proper in His eyes, and you listen closely to His commandments and observe all His statutes, all the sicknesses that I have visited upon Egypt I will not visit upon you, for I, HASHEM, am your heal you. (I am your Doctor)”. (Shemos 15:26) Now a good Doctor tells over to his “clients” the best preventative measures. Eating Chometz on Pesach is not a crime that gets a punishment. Rather it creates a consequence.
A diabetic is told by his doctor that if he does not cut back on sweets then it may create a circulation problem that could lead to an amputation. The kindly doctor cautions his dear patient by spelling out the severity of the natural consequences. Chometz is so poisonous to the Jewish Soul on Pesach that everyone is strongly cautioned to stay away from it.
The punishment for eating Chometz is clearly spelled out, but where is the reward for refraining from eating Chometz listed and what about the compensation for eating Matzah!?
Where is that explained? The answer is that there can be no clear description. The Talmud says, “Schar Mitzvah b’hai alma leicha” – there is no reward for Mitzvos in this world. That does not mean that there cannot be a good result in this world for doing a Mitzvah. The full price of a Mitzvah is too enormous and too spiritual to be translated into this finite frame. There is no language to describe spiritual pleasures that are beyond the delights of this world. Our vocabulary is too small and our experiences are too limited.
Some dimension of the negative consequence we can relate to. Being cut off from being a part of the entirely of the Jewish People is serious. Now the fun begins. The Chidushei HaRim gives us a beautiful key to flip this whole discussion around. We know from the Ten Commandments and other places that HASHEM visits the iniquity of the parents upon the children for 3 or 4 generations if they follow in the bad ways of their ancestors and He rewards for 2000 generation to those who follow in His ways.
Rashi is quick to point out that there are no 2000 generations. What is the Torah talking about? He explains that the Torah is teaching us a mathematical proportion. HASHEM is generous at least 500 times more than He is disciplinary. That’s the formula.
If the terrible consequence for eating Chometz on Pesach is Kores, being cut off from the Jewish People, history and destiny, and not being a part of our entire accomplishment over time, then what would be the opposite of being cut off? It would mean being 500 times more connected, attached, joined, fixed, united, linked, bound, you name to the history and destiny of the Jewish Nation and being a candidate worthy of reveling in entire national accomplishment over time. WOW!
So too with eating Matzah and the Korbon Pesach, one gets that much more attached and cemented to “the chosen people”. From the negative we can begin to infer the extent of the positive but it is still very much beyond our ken. Yes HASHEM wants us to choose to be chosen.