Eat Your Matzah (Except When you Can't) (Shabbat before Passover)

How is a good sermon like a piece of matzah?

They both should take less than 18 minutes!


Matzah. It's the bread of affliction, the afikomen, the basis of the Hillel sandwich. It represents the ferver of excitement as the Israelites were on the cusp of freedom. There was so much to do, so much to prepare, that the bread did not have time to rise.

In fact, matzah is so important that it is specfiically mentioned in the Torah several times. Both Exodus and Deuteronomy make it very clear that for seven days, we are supposed to eat matzah. Added to this mandate is the prohibition on eating chametz.

I think that one of Passover's greatest teachings has to do with matzah.

During Pesach, matzah is more than a substitute for bread. It is a food with reliogious meaning and depth. In addition to refraining from bread, we also must eat matzah. During the seder, we recite a blessing for it, Baruch ata Adonai eloheinu melech ha'olam, asher kidishanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al achilat matzah.

Some of us like to eat matzah apart from Passover. I like to eat matzah with butter. Some like to eat it with turkey, or jelly or with nutella. All good choices.

Except, there are times when we are forbidden to eat matzah. Yes yes, on Yom Kippur, you can't eat matzah. But in addition to the Jewish fast days, there is also one other day when you may not eat matzah. Would anyone like to guess?

(wait for answer)

That's right. During the day before Passover, you cannot have matzah.

This is an interesting tidbit of Passover trivia, perhaps to be shared at your seders in the coming days ... but for me, this little nuggest gets to the core of Passover.

The reason you can't eat matzah the day before Passover is that on the day of Passover, matzah must remind you of slavery and freedom, miracles and redemption, community and responsbility. It needs to be special.

This is what Passover is all about. The main question we ask during Passover is, Why is this night different than all other nights? Well, we can't ask that question unless the night is in fact different! This is why we lean and dip vegetables and sing silly songs and ask questions. Sure, they all symbolize something, or hearken back to a historical moment, but more importantly, they force us to notice what is going on. The Talmud goes through a huge list of Peach customs and activities, and then asks, Why do we do all of these things on Passover? The answer given: So the children shall ask.

We eat matzah specfiically on Passover so that we can ask. Passover ignites our curiousity about our history and our peoplehood and our Torah and all sorts of other things. So go ahead and ask questions, sing loudly, don't look at your watch if the seder is going long, and lastly, of course, eat matzah. Shabbat Shalom, and Happy Passover.

What has God Done for Me Lately? (Shabbat, Passover Chol HaMoed)

The Limitations of our Sight (Ki Tissa)