During the entire Pesach holiday, the Jewish people are commanded to refrain from eating leavened bread. Instead, they partake of matzah. What does this special festival food symbolize?
Matzah serves to remind us of the conditions of our Exodus from Egypt, from servitude to freedom. We left the country of our bondage in great haste. There was not even time to allow the dough prepared for the Exodus to rise. Carried on the shoulders and backs of the former slaves, it was baked by the heat of the sun before it had time to ferment and rise.
The haste which characterized our Exodus from Egypt was chosen by the Torah as a symbol of our redemption, which we mark each year on Pesach. Above all, it serves to recall the amazing events of the time. The redemption did not develop as the natural result of efforts by an oppressed nation to attain political freedom. It was not preceded by an international conference, council of nations, or any other such governmental intervention which finally culminating in an agreement to endow former slaves with independence. To the contrary, Pharaoh determinedly refused, again and again, to consider such a contingency.
Rather, Pharaoh's sudden agreement to send forth the Hebrews was a sudden, unforeseen reversal of all his former statements. It obviously resulted from the supernatural intervention of Heaven. The Jewish People received their freedom not from national leaders, but from the Creator Himself.
Matzah ̵ which reminds of the hasty departure from Egypt ̵ comes to remind us of this fact each year anew.
What is more, matzah is a reminder that not only our beginnings were above and beyond the realm of Nature. So, too, is our continued existence, even now, over three thousand years later. No other nation has survived 3300 years, over 2000 of which were spent in exile. To this very day, historians discuss and argue the secret of our survival. To us, there is no secret: the Creator brought the Jewish People into existence, and it is He who protected it throughout the storms and tribulations of the ages, and it is He, alone, who guards it yet today. There is nothing "Natural" about the continued survival of our people.
Consider the beginnings of our nation. Let us picture, for a moment, what happened when former slaves from the United States decided to establish their own country, Liberia. Quite predictably, the language of the new country was English, that of the former homeland. The constitution and laws were patterned after that of the United States. So, too, the culture and social patterns. A new nation does not develop its own "personality" and culture overnight.
Not so, the new Jewish nation established at Sinai. At the time of the Exodus, the world was witness to a unique cultural revolution the likes of which it had never seen. Nor did any such phenomenon occur again in the history of the nations. Fifty days after leaving Egypt, the Jewish People received a new set of laws, a divine "constitution" called the Torah, which was the antithesis of all they had known under Pharaoh.
The contrast was overwhelming! All that Egypt considered sacred, suddenly became the object of revulsion and rejection. The norms of Egyptian society were now suddenly not only forbidden, but also reviled.
Overnight, the nation was called upon to accept new values: faith, mitzvah observance, a cultivation of moral refinement and mutual responsibility. Nonetheless, at the foot of Mount Sinai, they declared as one man, with one heart: "We shall do, and we shall hearken." Today, over three thousand years later, we continue the tradition established by this nation of liberated slaves who took upon themselves an entirely new identity at Sinai.
Surely this is no "natural" event.
This is one of the messages of the matzah. It has an impact on us still today. Just as the Jewish nation came into being through miracles, so does it continue to exist, to our very times, only through miracles, because this is the will of its Creator, the Master of all nations, and of all miracles.