For the past couple of weekends I've been preparing my house for Passover. This will be my first celebration of Pesach and I'm looking forward to it. Our congregation is having a community sedar on April 12.
Preparing your home, especially the kitchen is very labor intensive. My cabinets have been given a good thorough cleaning. The one thing that took the most time was the junk drawers. You wouldn't think that cleaning out the drawers would take the most time. Or at least I didn't.
It's surprising how much junk can accumulate over the years. I'm a packrat and tend to keep everything that I think maybe useful. I did organize the cabinets and the drawers as well.
The thing is, all this cleaning is helping me to focus my attention on the meaning of Passover. Why do we eat matza and get rid of hamatz? Why do we eat the bread of slavery and get rid of the bread of freedom?
One of the books that my guiding rabbi recommended is The Jewish Holidays by Michael Strassfield. In it, Passover is described as Feasting for Freedom. That is essentially what Passover is about.
Thousands of years after the first Passover, it still calls Jews to freedom. While preparing by cleaning our homes, we are asked to get rid of the non-essentials and wash up. This is the physical act of preparation but it also calls for a mental cleaning up. It begs us to ask the questions of ourselves, what things or actions in our lives are keeping us slaves? What things do we keep in the corners that are holding us back?
You would think that spending hours cleaning up would be a joyless task. But it's not for me, at least right now. Because while doing all this cleaning, I was reflecting on the question of matza and hamatz. Matza is the bread of slavery but when Moses lead our ancestors out of Egypt, it became the bread of freedom. It calls us to freedom to this day. Three pieces of matzah are eaten during the course of the feast, but the middle one is broken in two. The larger piece is wrapped in a napkin and set aside as afikomen(symbolizes the Passover lamb). Matzah is symbolic of the poverty of our lives while slaves in Egypt but also symbolizes the poverty in our lives to the things that make us slaves today.
Every effort is made to rid our homes of hamatz. No leavened bread should remain in our homes for Passover. Why rid our lives of the bread that usually denotes freedom? Why exchange the bread of freedom for the one of slavery? It's another reminder that Passover is the Feast of Freedom. We are to rid ourselves of the things that hold us back from G-d. Hamatz symbolizes the things that make us slaves today.
The two breads both become symbols of freedom and slavery. Giving up hamatz for 8 days calls us to enjoy the freedom that G-d has given us and to not let the things of freedom make us into slaves. Matza becomes the bread of freedom. It also reminds us of the pain and poverty that slavery causes.
I'm looking forward to my first Passover. The matza and the hamatz are the things that struck me the most in learning about this glorious feast. I'm still learning, please share your experiences.