The salient substance and symbol of Passover is Matzah,unleavened bread. One of the several names of the Passover celebration is the Festival of Unleavened Bread-"Hag Ha 'matzot. Of all the multitudes of legal minutae surrounding the observance of Passover, no item other than Matzah and its counterpart -Hametz-occupies so much attention and "halachik" consideration.
Matzah is moored to life's ambivalences . Its two ingredients , water and flour, simple and unadulterated by spices or seasonings, harken back to the two primordial opposites of dry land and water. Mingled in chaotic formlessness, dry land and water are separated, pulled apart by divine words. On Passover, mixed together once more, they are forged into a unity through the energy of fire and heat.
On the one hand, Matzah represents the bread of affliction, the food of slavery, simple, primitive, prepared and eaten quickly, without the luxury of leisure and comfort. It is the food of flitting impatience, eaten on the run while hurried and harassed. Conversely, matzah is eaten on the night of redemption, while reclining, bearing the taste of Mannah, of the bread from Heaven.
As we chew on its hardened crust we become aware of life's polarities and contradictions, darkness and light, sadness and joy, good and evil, love and hate, affection and anger, life and death. As "lechem oni"-the food of response and story -telling, we begin to gain an insight into the unity of all things, recognizing that at the core of all reality is a harmony and interconnected integration enfolding everything in an embrace of compassion and love. Matzah makes for the unfolding of spiritual maturity,enabling us to hold these contradictions of life in our heart, and understand life's ambiguities and crosscurrents, its many levels of inherent conflict. The heart's graciousness endows us with the gift of grasping the whole, the outrageousness and the beauty, under a canopy of grateful compassion.
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