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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Bo

Parashat Bo

No Time??

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The Torah tells us that that the Jews ate matza on the fifteenth of Nissan because they had been expelled from Egypt and had no time to bake bread. They baked the dough that they had taken with them without waiting for it to rise. This implies that had they had time, they would have prepared proper, leavened bread. Why is this fact considered so significant that it is mentioned in the Hagada as the reason for eating matza on Pesach?

There is another remarkable point regarding the matza eaten at the Pesach seder. When we begin the seder, we introduce the matzah as "bread of affliction." But by the time we finish the story, the matza has turned into a symbol of freedom. How does matza serve as such a contradictory symbol?

The answer to these questions lies in the very nature of matza. Matza symbolizes lack of time and the priorities that must be set as a result. The Jewish slaves were given flour in a short lunch break and they had to bake the flour without waiting for it to rise. They had to go back to work. When they left Egypt, they apparently had planned to eat proper bread, but when they realized that they did not have the time to wait, instead of preparing fresh rolls for the first time in 400 years, they gathered up their belongings and left. This time, they had a choice - whether to be free or to eat fresh rolls. The Jews took the proper decision, recognizing that their choice of freedom was not choosing anarchy but choosing to be the servants of God. The fact that their bread did not rise in the heat of the journey was a miracle performed by God, one that perpetually reminds us that, when the chips were down, we chose to eat matza as servants of God rather than to enjoy the fleshpots of Egypt. What is the choice of those who still live outside the land of God?

(For a more detailed explanation of the significance of matza see my book Pesach Dorot).

Joseph Tabory , Jerusalem

Rabbi Tabory came to Eretz Israel at the age of sixteen, after graduating from high school. He studied in various Yeshivot and in a kollel, drove a tractor in a kibbutz, taught in a Yeshiva high school, and is now a professor in the Talmud department of Bar Ilan University. Rabbi Tabory has published two major works in Hebrew, Jewish Festivals in the Time of the Mishna and Talmud (Magnes Press, Jerusalem) and Pesach Dorot (Hakibbutz Hameuchad).

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