Kabbalah/Chassidut

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Bread of Revelation

by Yehoshua Metzinger

 

The commandment to eat matzot for seven days on Pesach is stated several times in the Torah, each reference with a different emphasis. The Jewish People are commanded to eat unleavened "bread" with their Paschal lamb the night before they are to leave Egypt, and for six days after they are enjoined to continue to eat matzot. Why do we eat unleavened "bread" for six days? We are told that the Jewish people had to leave Egypt so quickly that there was no time to allow the dough to rise and become leavened. In the Haggada, we are also told that the dough did not become chametz before G-d revealed Himself, after midnight on the night the Jewish People left Egypt.

But what about the earlier commandment that the Jewish People must eat matzot with the Paschal lamb before midnight? The reason for eating matzot in this instance cannot be attributed to the fact that there was no time for the dough to rise as the people were leaving, or to the revelation of G-d after midnight, since these matzot were obviously made before midnight. So the reasons given for eating matza on Pesach do not seem to apply to the matzot eaten before midnight. The matzot eaten before midnight and after midnight must be different in nature, since there are different reasons for why the matzot were eaten. What is the significance of this difference and what is the essential reason why these matzot were eaten?

The Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Chabad points out that when the Torah refers to the matzot eaten before midnight, the word "matzot" is written without the letter vav. After midnight, when the Jewish People were hastening to leave Egypt and were experiencing the revelation of G-d, the word "matzot" is written with the letter vav. What is the connection?

The letter vav in Kabbala represents the aspect of drawing down spiritual energy and of the connection between upper and lower spiritual levels. Therefore, the matzot written with the vav and eaten after midnight had within them the aspect of the G-dliness that was being drawn down and revealed at that time. The matzot eaten earlier and written without the vav represent the service of G-d from below, i.e. before the revelation, which is the reason these matzot need to be watched to prevent them from rising.

Of course, there was a G-dly spark in the matzot eaten before midnight, just as there is a G-dly spark in all of the kosher food that we eat. Actually, the G-dly spark in food is higher than the G-dly spark in human beings. This may seem surprising when we consider that human beings think and the objects he uses are inanimate. Man, however, is from the aspect of mah which represents the chochma of Atzilut, which is the world of tikun, or repair. Atzilut is a very high level, but it is still lower than the source for permitted objects, which are from the broken vessels of Tohu. So although permitted things, such as certain food, come from a higher source than Man, they fall to a lower place in this world; it is the task of a Jew to return the sparks in food to a higher level by making blessings and using the energy from the food to feed the intellectual soul so that it can learn Torah and nourish the animal soul so it can perform mitzvot.

So how is matza different from ordinary foods, such as bread? During the year, we draw vitality to the intellectual and animal soul by eating bread, but during Pesach we bring energy mainly to the G-dly soul - when we eat matza. Also, the chametz in many foods represents pride, and the yetzer hara can be compared to a kind of yeast which puffs us up with inflated notions of self. Chametz also represents the spiritual coarseness of kelipa which prevents G-dliness from penetrating the surface of our souls. Matza represents the Jew who is bitul and humbly obedient to the will of G-d. The Jewish People needed to eat matza instead of bread during the redemption from Egypt because they were still very connected to the boundaries and coarse physicality of Egypt. And just as every Jew should see himself as being redeemed form Egypt, we need to eat matza on Pesach to overcome our own spiritual boundaries. The revelation of G-d that occurred then was beyond these boundaries, and, after receiving the revelation, the Jewish people were able to nullify themselves and to serve G-d.
This is why it is emphasized that the dough did not rise during the redemption from Egypt and the revelation of G-d; the dough reflected the spiritual humility of the Jewish People and their capacity to nullify themselves and receive G-dly light. The matza baked and eaten before midnight was a preparation to allow the Jewish People to create a vessel that would receive the revelation. This is why matza is called "the food of faith"; it allows a person to prepare, with a humble attitude, his Neshama to receive Divine Will.

It is said that before a baby tastes wheat, he is unable to say the word "father". The baby begins life with a lower aspect of knowledge, then, when he tastes wheat, he gains a higher aspect of knowledge and is able to recognize his father. Similarly, there is a lower aspect of matza. This matza is baked before midnight and guarded from external forces that threaten to feed from its vitality and cause it to rise, inflating itself. These are the matzot spelled without the letter vav, the ones that need to be watched as we prepare ourselves for revelation. The matzot spelled with the vav are the matzot made after midnight, during the revelation of G-d. These do not need to be guarded, because they are benefiting from the presence of G-dliness and are immune to external forces.

Before the giving of the Torah, we ate the first matza before midnight as a preparation for the redemption and the second matza after midnight. However, in our generation, every Pesach we enjoy both kinds of matza at once, as we both prepare ourselves for and receive the Divine Presence of G-d.

(From Likkutei Torah, parasha Tzav, "Sheshet Yomim Tochal Matzot, V'Yom Hashvii Atzeret…", page 13)

Yehoshua Metzinger of Nahariya, a former counselor at Ascent, is now married and living in Jerusalem.

 


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