How the Matzah Bread Reminds Us to Help the Folks which Lost Their Job.
Bread is much more than just basic food. Each culture and civilization defines itself through its own type of bread: the crunchy baguette symbolizes the elegant French culture, the focaccia represents the colorful Italian lifestyle, and the pita bread signifies Middle-Eastern hospitality. (Please don’t ask me about the bagel). That’s why the Talmud associates wheat with knowledge, stating that the forbidden fruit, which Adam ate from, wasn’t the famous apple but wheat!
Bread is indeed the expression of knowledge and culture.
The matzah, in sharp contrast, is a poor, unleavened flatbread made solely from flour and water. The matzah is the bread of the Hebrew slaves who didn’t control their own time. They didn’t have time to leaven their flour and properly bake their bread. The matzah reminds us that we are a people of slaves.
When the Seder comes, we must not just remember that we went out of Egypt but actually experience going out of Egypt. During the Seder, multiple generations of a family retell the story of liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt. How can we duplicate such a tremendous experience from our cozy homes so far away from ancient Egypt through mere storytelling?
That’s what the matzah is here for. While it is certainly not the highest culinary experience, the matzah takes us back to our original slave status. By eating the bread of the slaves and the bitter herbs, by telling the story of slavery, we build awareness that we could have still been subjects in a society of oppression and injustice.
The Seder is meant to help us rediscover our sensitivity for acute pain and suffering and help us embrace a life dedicated to genuinely caring for the poor and for strangers. Leviticus 19–34 makes that clear: “The stranger that sojourn with you shall be considered like the home-born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; as you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
In 2020, 8.8 per cent of global working hours were lost relative to the fourth quarter of 2019, equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs. We all know folks which are still looking for a permanent job. There is a lot, we can do: give a call, provide advise on how to enrich the LinkedIn profile, reach out to our network. Caring for the folks which lost their job is not done merely out of generosity. It should be done out of self-identification. As former slaves, we must still feel outsiders. There is no fundamental difference between “us” and “them”, just an incidental one.
This slave self-awareness also empowers us to better appreciate our freedom, a freedom defined in the Torah (Leviticus 25:55) as becoming slaves of God: “The People of Israel are mine. They are my slaves as I took them out of Egypt.”
However, some would question what type of freedom is it to have to follow His Commandments. After all, isn’t freedom our ability to simply do what we want to do?
Freedom is not one random choice or action; it is finding our true self: the spark of God within us, our other-centric self. When we eat the matzah and refrain from eating our culture-rich leavened bread, we go back to our true self. We realize that our self-centric self is just about surviving, while our other-centric self, the one caring for the other, is about thriving. Overcoming our self-centric self and following our other-centric self is our spring journey out of Egypt to true Freedom — to our true self.