Marie Antoinette once said, "Let them eat cake." But as Passover arrives not even that is an option. I cannot deny that every year, as I sip away at my morning latte, I lament the loss of my breakfast bagel and my spirit sadly flattens like a whole wheat matzah.
But Passover is not just about cutting bread from the menu or getting rid of the last possible crumbs from our fridge. It is also a divinely sanctified time for us to take an introspective look at ourselves, to clean up our spiritual crumbs, and to commit ourselves to doing things differently and better today than we did yesterday. A thorough and honest search often reveals that we are much more crumby than we realize or care to admit.
The yeast that makes bread rise is compared to a man’s swollen pride and self-puffery. Yet matzahs are hardly attention seekers. Everything about them bespeaks humility. And indeed they are a needed reminder to a people who often bloated by their own success, forget that at any moment history can take the air right out of them. The destiny of a Jew can pivot in a second.
Repeatedly in Jewish history we have seen that Jews can be up one day and under the heel of its enemies the next. One day Joseph was the viceroy and savior of Egypt until his people were rendered slaves of Egypt. German Jews were also respected citizens of their beloved Vaterland, Deutschland until they were cremated and gassed to death.
And though today American Jews, once again have it good so to speak and America has been a great friend to Israel and a wonderful home to millions of Jews, we must remain forever aware that we are Jews. Antisemitism has now reached concerning levels and a cushy life is not a couch Jews should get too comfortable on. The Passover Haggadah reminds us that each generation must consider that it was they themselves who came out of Egypt and not their ancestors. We are free and safe at anytime only by G-d’s will. We must earn our redemption daily.
So what is the reason that G-d’s chosen people historically has had to go to sleep at night with their running shoes on? Well, you can find the answer by interviewing every person and nation who ever persecuted Jews. But that can be a challenging task. Or you can open up Deutronomy 6:3 where it says: “And you shall, hearken, O Israel, and be sure to perform, so that it will be good for you.” And then jump down a few sentences where it says: “13. You shall fear the Lord, your God, worship Him, and swear by His name. Or What? “Lest the wrath of the Lord, your God, be kindled against you, and destroy you off the face of the earth.”
My friends, Jewish destiny is as brittle as a matzah. And even as we succeed, let's not forget who is puffing the air into our well being. So let’s try to make every effort to remember we are Jews and show it in ways that are important to God, i.e., by observing His Torah. Yes, these days are different than all other days. For one, I will miss my bagels. Secondly, it's an apt time time to acknowledge that at the center of that sesame-seeded symbol of pride is a big fat zero--an accurate evaluation of what we are without God as the core. And so, as we munch on our matzahs, it’s the perfect time for us to reflect upon our more savory days and take note of Who really is buttering our bread. Happy Passover!