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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays The Spiritual Meaning

Lean on Me

Pesach, for all its myriad symbols – the Exodus, the Splitting of the Sea, the Hagada – has one primary icon: the Matza.
Rabbi Stewart WeissNissan 3 5781
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Pesach, for all its myriad symbols – the Exodus, the Splitting of the Sea, the Hagada – has one primary icon: the Matza. This may be because we Jews focus primarily on food, & Matza is the essential food of this Chag!

I have another theory, but let’s first start with a classic question: What, exactly, does Matza represent? Is it a symbol of slavery, or of freedom?

Now, you might insist that Matza is all about slavery. After all, it is called "poor bread" & is meant to remind us of the meager fare which the downtrodden slaves ate during their servitude. It lacks substance & pretty much lacks taste, being only slightly tastier than the box it comes in.

At the same time, we could make a strong case for Matza being all about freedom. The fact that we loyally observed Hashem’s dictate to bake matzot to take with us on our journey testifies that we were now under G-d’s command, & not Paro’s. And our haste in preparing this half-baked food signifies our zeal, our excitement at joining Hashem & following Him wherever He leads us.

So which is it?

There is one clear way to settle this question. The rabbis directed us to lean when eating "freedom foods," but refrain from leaning while eating "slave foods." And so we lean when drinking the 4 Cups (no, that’s not a singing group!) but do not lean when eating the Maror. What do we do when eating Matza – we lean! There you have it!

I want to suggest that the unique dual nature of matza provides us with a very vital lesson in life. There are always two ways of looking at anything – the positive & the negative. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is our attitude towards life & our reaction to the trials & tribulations which life throws our way. It’s our choice to make; it’s our reaction to be placed on every situation.

B’ezrat Hashem, we are coming out of the Corona pandemic this Pesach; society is opening & life is slowly coming back to "normal." Many have suffered & died, many lives have been hard-hit. Yet at the same time, we are IY"H winning one of history’s most comprehensive, most challenging battles! Creating a vaccine, providing it to millions around the globe & saving society is nothing short of a miracle – if we choose to see it that way.

In a sense, we were all "enslaved" for the past year; now we are getting our freedom back. It’s a good time to wave the Matza as a flag of liberation & remember Hashem’s promise to us: "Lean on me, and I shall save you."
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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