Matza & Humility
Ariel Tal, Marketing Director at Livnot, explains the spiriutal meaning behind eating Matza
What is the reason we eat this matzah? Because when the King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, revealed Himself to them and redeemed them, there was insufficient time for our ancestors’ dough to become leavened. As it says: “The dough, which they brought out of Egypt, they baked into unleavened bread, because they were driven out from Egypt and they were not able to delay, and they had not prepared any provisions.” (Exodus 12:39)
Stop for a moment and think about the following scenario – You are a slave, born to a family of slaves for generations upon generations. One day, after a cascade of events that afflicted your oppressors, you are told that you have 6 hours to leave. What do you take? What do you eat? Do you panic?
The story of Exodus is well known and well documented, from the original text in the Torah to even the most recent Hollywood version of Prince of Egypt by Spielberg – the Jews left with Matza in hand, because “…They were not able to delay, and they had not prepared any provisions”. Wait a minute….is that really true?
The 10 plagues afflicted Egypt for close to an entire year!! According to our Sages, each plague (except for the last plague of Death to the Firstborn) came down on Egypt for an entire week, and there was at least one week between each plague until the next one afflicted the Egyptians. According to some Sages, each plague with its aftermath lasted an entire month. So, at least 9 months of plagues! In essence, the Nation of Israel had 9 months to prepare for the moment of Exodus, and they managed to pack their animals and clothes, but couldn’t prepare in enough time for baking their food?
Lastly, before the tenth plague, Death to the Firstborn, the Jewish people needed to prepare 5 days in advance in order to avoid the Angel of Death by taking a lamb, tying it to their bedpost, slaughter the lamb and use the blood on their doorpost (Mezuzah). So, how is it that when it came to their food they suddenly didn’t have time to prepare?
One answer is in the inherent spiritual quality of Matza – humility. Matza is unleavened bread and essentially the only difference betwen bread and Matza is the amount the dough is allowed to rise. Bread uses yeast and is allowed to rise, whereas Matza is not allowed to rise, but the ingredients are identical, aside from yeast. So the difference is air. Air in Kaballah refers to one’s arrogance. Matza lacks arrogance, lacks air, and therefore reflects humility.
The definition of humility, based on Rabbi Avraham Cook is as follows: Know Your Place! Humility doesn’t mean to be lowly and lacking self esteem, rather knowing what your specific role is at that specific moment. Humility is taking initiative at the right time, and knowing when to back down and wait. Arrogance is overstepping boundaries and inflating your ego when the situation doesn’t call for it, just for the sake of self promotion.
The People of Israel had to know when to take a stance and when to wait until the last minute. Despite the fact that there was much preparation and build up to the moment of Exodus. They were humble enough not to leave until it was the actual moment to leave – and then they baked their bread quickly in order to have sustenance for their journey in the desert, but not a moment sooner than God allocated to them. True humility, knowing the precise moment to take initiative, and how long to wait.
According to this explanation, the baking of the Matza was deliberately last minute and in haste, not out of surprise of lack of planning. The People of Israel expressed their true humility and connection to God by following God’s very precise instructions how to leave Egypt, and not taking initiative until the opportune moment, after the tenth plague and not a moment sooner.
In our lives, do we take initiative at the right moment? Do we overstep our boundaries? Do we project arrogance or humility to our colleagues, family and friends? Are we able to have the patience to wait until the right moment to “Carpe Diam” and seize the day, or are we too impulsive because we want to do things ‘our way’?
My blessing to everyone, is that we learn true humility from Matza and know the difference between when to step up and when to take a step back. It’s a fine balance indeed, but once achieved it will help guide us to a more balanced living experience.
Ariel Tal is Livnot’s Marketing Director since August 2014. Ariel lives in Tzfat with his wife, Rachel, and his three lovely daughters.