Pesach: Chametz and Matza

Chametz and matza:
fraternal twins
of scant semblance,
the offspring
of the same parents:
flour and water.
Matza is humble,
by sacred intention,
chametz is sanctimonious,
swollen up
by self-importance.
by eighteen minutes,
matza precedes chametz,
only by the fire
of our vigilance.

In a blogpost on Pesach 2012 Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser comments that it is impossible to make matza without also making chametz. He reminds us that matza is made by combining flour and water, mixing them quickly, and placing the flattened dough into a very hot oven within eighteen minutes, before it has time to rise. He says that although we think of chametz as the opposite of matza, they are not really opposites. They are only separated by the fact that flour and water turn into chametz in eighteen minutes.
He brings a teaching about this narrow distinction between matza and chametz based on the similar spellings of the two words in Hebrew: matza is spelled mem, tzadi, hey; chametz is chet, mem, tzadi. So the only difference is between the chet and the hey, the latter having a gap which Reb Jeff describes as being the narrow space through which we let God in. He says, “The fact that we cannot make matzah without making chameitz reminds us during Passover that we cannot create any holiness in our lives without also introducing the possibility of its shadow. We cannot make ourselves more holy without also introducing arrogance and self-aggrandizement into our egos. We cannot purify ourselves spiritually without also risking the possibility that we will thereby separate ourselves from others. Like matzah and chameitz, sacred holiness and gross arrogance are not really opposites. They are separated only by the small gap of how we invite God into our consciousness.”


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