Kabbalah/Chassidut

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MATZAH AND MIDNIGHT

In the story of the Exodus, we find two separate references to matzah.

First, there was the matzah which had to be eaten together with the Passover offering on Passover night [Ex. 12:8], before midnight.  After, there was the matzah that was made of the dough the Jews carried with them out of Egypt, after the slaying of the first born at midnight, when there was an intense revelation of G-d. They left hurriedly, and had to carry their dough away before it had a chance to leaven.  Subsequently, they baked of it unleavened bread [ibid. 12:39].

Spiritually, these two matzahs were of different essence.  The first matzah was still "bread of affliction," as it is referred to in the beginning of the Haggadah.  The eating of it before midnight together with the Passover offering constituted what is called in Kaballistic terminology an "arousal from below"a movement from the Jewish people towards G-d.  This in turn elicited an "arousal from above,"G-d's response: the after-midnight divine revelation when "the King, king of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, was revealed onto them and redeemed them" [Haggadah].

The second matzah, baked only after the Jews left Egypt, after the effect of the great revelation, is "bread of freedom."  The Hagaddah phrase, "Matzah zu: al shum mah?" refers to this latter matzah.

Leavened bread, which rises and is puffed up, symbolizes haughtiness and arrogance.  Matzah, in contrast represents egolessness.  The pre-revelation matzah and the post-revelation matzah stand for two levels of egolessness of the Jew in relation to his Creator.

The before-midnight matzah, from the period when the Jews were still sunk in the 49 gates of impurity of the Egyptian exile, represents the level of self-nullification that is achieved through self denial.  In order to achieve this state it is necessary to tightly discipline oneself.  This matzah is eaten with bitter herbs, symbolizing the bitterness one feels at one's distance from G-d.  This bitterness in turn leads to a certain level of nullification; it is the "arousal from below" which evokes an "arousal from above": the divine mercies which help him to attain his goal.  Of this matzah it is said "And you shall guard the matzot" [ibid. 12:17], for at this level watchfulness is still required to protect against "leavening," the intrusion of ego.

The matzah that the Jews ate after midnight hints at a higher, total state of egolessness.  There is no need of struggle, because each individual's complete existence became nullified to G-d as a result of experiencing divine revelation.  This matzah required no guarding to prevent leavening; it was permanently flattened by the divine revelation!  This matzah is not eaten with bitter herbs, because no bitterness is felt; at this stage the person already experiences a closeness to G-d.

In our time, both the matzah that we eat at the beginning of the Passover night meal (for the mitzvah) and that which we use for afikomen at the end (corresponding to the matzah eaten together with the Passover sacrifice) are eaten before midnight. In the generations after Sinai, when the power of mitzvah observance permeates physical objects with holiness, this matzah merits for us also the revelation of G-dliness which our ancestors at the Exodus had only after midnight.

Based on Likutei Torah and other chassidic sources, as cited in V'hagadatah L'bincha by Rabbi Yekutiel Green, pp 120-121.

 


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