Chametz in God's Hand by Eli Feldblum


              As Pesach time draws near, one aspect of the holiday stands out most of all.  From the 14th day of Nissan until the end of the holiday, no Jew is permitted to partake of, to derive use of in any way, or to have in his possession any chametz, leavened products.  As elementary school children we were taught that this is because, as our forefathers left Egypt, the haste with which they left did not let the dough, being baked for the journey, rise.  From this reasoning, we can easily understand the symbolism behind the requirement to eat Matzah, but not the strenuous and seemingly frivolous task of ridding our houses of every last crumb of Chametz.  Rav Hirsch answers this question by saying that this very reason is the reason for the exorbitant prohibitions of Chametz once it is understood on a much deeper level.

              The story of the redemption of the Jews from Egypt can easily be understood in two different ways.  The first, and the more effective, approach is to accept the Exodus from Egypt as a Divine revelation which laid the foundation for the nation of Israel.  That is, to understand the story of our redemption as an act revealing the work of God, similar to a "Let there be..." of the story of creation.  The second approach is that the redemption was an episode in which the human being is the primary focus and driving force, and the presence of a "Guiding Hand" is only hinted at.  In order to accept the first premise, one must attest to God's existence and His involvement in the affairs of this world.  This acceptance allows the nation of Israel, though it is a relatively small one, to stand firmly as the one nation chosen by God and to inspire the world with its spiritual energy.  Through acceptance of the presence of God and through the fulfillment of this Divine mission, this small nation becomes Yisrael.

              Accepting the first premise is a task we must do daily, as if it were for the first time, and we must recognize that it is eternally true.  We must realize that it was the workings of God alone that shattered the chains of Egyptian bondage.  We must be careful not to deceive ourselves into thinking that after many oppressive years of servitude, a new courageous spirit awoke in our forefathers and they decided to heroically wrest their freedom from their enslavers.  Yisrael left Egypt as slaves, as powerless captives; their freedom was won solely through the word of God, and to God they remain servants.

              In Shemot 13:3, it states, "And Moshe said unto the people:  Remember this day when you came out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, for with a strong hand did Hashem bring you out of here and [therefore] leavened shall not be eaten."  The juxtaposition of the prohibition of Chametz to the commandment to remember that God took us out of Egypt implies that by refraining from eating Chametz we are, in fact, attesting to the fact that we were only brought out of Egypt by the strength of God's hand.  Each part of the prohibition shows that God is responsible for everything that goes on in His world.  We do not eat the Chametz to show that our bodily needs are dedicated and sufficed by Hashem.  We do not use the Chametz to show that our capabilities are dedicated and sufficed by Hashem.  We do not own any Chametz to show that all of our possessions are given to us by Hashem and ultimately all belong to Him.

              At noon on the 14th of Nissan, with the time of their exodus growing closer, Yisrael was forbidden to take their freedom by force.  They had to wait until Hashem decided it was time, because their freedom was not won through any sort of human struggle, it was earned.  Yisrael earned it when they fulfilled their commandment of the Korban Pesach.  At this hour of redemption, Yisrael had to eat during periods of slavery and eating it during their time of redemption reminded them of their subjugation and dependance.  This taught them that they were still slaves until Hashem alone restored their freedom.  This is why they were driven out of Egypt (Shemot 12:33-39) instead of marching out.  They were hastened out so quickly, that their own dough did not have time to rise into bread and remained the bread of affliction, showing Yisrael that they had not contributed at all to their freedom.

              Matzah then became the everlasting symbol of the pure and complete Divine character of the Exodus and a symbol of Yisrael helplessness during that time.  Accordingly, during the time when we remember the redemption, we are forbidden to eat, enjoy, or even have in our possession any Chametz.  This abstention from and removal of Chametz serves as a lesson to us that all of our freedom and our removal of Chametz services as a lesson to us that all of our freedom and our entire mission as Yisrael is only a gift from Hashem and we played no part in it.  This is why Karet is the punishment for transgressing the prohibition of Chametz, for to violate this prohibition is equivalent to one deny that Yisrael is a people of Hashem's creation, and denying that he must be subservient to Hashem.  If one denies this basic premise of Judaism, the Torah declares that he "shall be cut off the congregation of Yisrael."

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