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MWU Pesach Message

Matzah, Chametz, and the building of a better world

מצה, חמץ – ועשיית הטוב

Dear Friends,

Said the Apter Rabbi:

"There is a Talmudic rule that one may fulfill the duty to eat matzah[1] only with grain that can be leavened and become chametz[2]. [3] We may learn from this fact ethical principles of value. A man can perform his duties of full service to God only if he serves Him also in his daily works – in his work, his eating and drinking, and in the conduct of his possessions. All of these may be performed in a profane manner; a man may cheat, he may eat unlawful food, he may purchase forbidden pleasures. Therefore if he engages in these activities in the spirit of obeying God's commandments, he has performed a high duty indeed. But one who merely serves the Lord by studying Torah and by prayer has not performed his complete duty – since these cannot be turned to unlawful purposes."

Judaism is, and should be, about ethics – the building of a better world – what it includes, today, the building of the best possible State of Israel day after day. The relationship between matzah and chametz in this story is used as an analogy to illustrate an ethical principle. Matzah – unleavened bread – represents a pure and simple form of food that is free from any excess or corruption. Chametz, on the other hand, refers to any grain product that has been allowed to rise, become leavened, and thus, be susceptible to corruption and decay. Both matzah and chametz originate from the same grain – wheat. The Apter Rabbi argues that the Talmudic rule that one can fulfill the duty of eating matzah only with grain that can be leavened and becomes chametz reflects an important ethical principle. He suggests that just as one cannot fulfill the obligation to eat matzah without using grain that is capable of becoming chametz, one cannot fully serve God without engaging in the regular activities of everyday life that are capable of being corrupted or turned into errors and even sins. Even though these activities may be performed in "a profane manner" – meaning that they are susceptible to corruption, they can also be transformed into virtuous acts, bringing holiness into our lives by following the ethical messages of our traditions and sources.

In contrast, a person who serves God only through studying Torah and prayer – while these are important aspects of religious devotion – has not fully performed their duty, since these activities cannot be turned to unlawful purposes. The Apter Rabbi suggests that living a virtuous life in all aspects of daily life is the way one can achieve a deeper level of service to God – truly becoming what God expects of us, making “matzah”, the symbol of what is true and pure, out of the same raw material, wheat, that can become “chametz”, acts of evil and corruption.

The dichotomy "chametz versus matzah" points out the importance of integrating one's spiritual and material life, using our own "raw material" – our souls, hearts and bodies – to humbly “complete” God's work, with our tiny but meaningful contributions. Serving God means the high duty of conducting our everyday activities with love, compassion, truth, rectitude, devotion, commitment and consideration. Pesach teaches us that our lives can and should provide meaning in each and every step and decision we take, in all the fields we develop and grow.

May God grant that this Seder and its preparations inspire us to develop Jewish-Zionist acts of goodness, generosity and love for ourselves and our beloved, imbued with challenging and relevant content to ensure the continuity of the eternal messages of our people.

May God grant that this Pesach celebration inspire us to recover the outstanding significance of the national freedom and the redemption it brought to our people.

And may God bless this gathering of our cherished ones around the

Passover table in loving embrace and meaningful dialogue.

Chag Pesach Sameach!

Chazak ve'ematz!

[1] Matzah (also spelled matzo or matzoh) is a flat, unleavened bread that is traditionally eaten during the Jewish holiday of Passover. It is made from flour and water that has been mixed and baked quickly, without allowing it to rise. According to Jewish law, during the week of Passover, leavened bread is forbidden, so matzah serves as a substitute for bread during this time. The process of making matzah must be completed within 18 minutes to ensure that the dough does not rise. Matzah has a long history, dating back to the biblical exodus from Egypt when the Israelites were said to have fled so quickly that they did not have time to allow their bread to rise (Exodus 12:8, 12:18).

[2] Any food product that is made from grains that have been allowed to ferment and rise, such as bread, pasta, and certain types of beer. During the holiday of Pessach, it is forbidden to eat or possess any chametz or any food that contains chametz. This is because, during Pessach, Jews commemorate the Exodus from Egypt and their hurried departure, without enough time to wait for their bread dough to rise. Instead, they baked unleavened bread, or matzah, which is the only type of bread that is permitted during Pessachr. To ensure that no chametz is consumed during Passover, Jews often engage in a thorough cleaning of their homes and may also sell or donate their chametz products before the holiday begins.

[3] Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 35.

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