The holiday of Passover begins this Monday evening, and Jews across the world will gather around their dining room tables for the Seder.
Right after we dip the vegetable in the salt water, we will proceed to break the middle matzah in two. We will then place the smaller piece back between the two whole matzahs, and put away the larger piece to be used for dessert AKA Afikoman.
This breaking of the middle matzah is called Yachatz. When it is performed, two very different ideas appear from this broken matzah:
1. The smaller half becomes “poor man’s bread,” and remains on the table. We proceed to tell the story of the Exodus;
2. The larger half (Afikoman) is symbolic of the Paschal lamb which was eaten in a manner of freedom, and is hidden away for later.
In other words, the smaller piece is a “slavery” matzah, while the larger piece is a “freedom” matzah.
How can it be that one matzah contains such diametrically opposed ideas?
Despite slavery and freedom being opposites, it is this very dynamic that the broken matzah represents. Both poverty and redemption come from the same piece of matzah.
The duality of this matzah is an example of the duality throughout the Seder: On the one hand we celebrate freedom (drinking wine, reclining etc.), yet at the same time we relive the bitter enslavement (dipping a vegetable in salt water, eating the bitter herbs).
The “small piece” of life (i.e., the challenges and the struggles) brings the “larger piece,” the joy of life, to the front.
When we look around, we may see a broken world. It may be hard to imagine that there is a “larger piece” to our fractured existence.
Yet, indeed, the “larger piece” is hidden, waiting to emerge. The middle matzah tells us to be optimistic and not to despair, for from the worst slavery and the greatest struggles comes freedom!
We’ve had the smaller piece for long enough; it’s time for the Afikoman to appear!
Shabbat Shalom and warm wishes for a kosher & happy Passover,
P.S. To see pictures of the progress on our kitchen renovation project, click here. We are looking forward to hosting family, friends, alumni and students for the Passover Seders!