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Why the Sandwich?

Why the Sandwich?

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Question:

I enjoy the matzah sandwich on Passover night. But I don't understand why we first eat matzah on its own, followed by plain maror (bitter herbs) and only then the matzah-maror sandwich? Isn't that a bit like sampling bread and peanut butter separately and only then putting them together?

Answer:

Besides a number of halachic explanations for this practice, there is an important lesson in this sandwich. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses—the good part of our personality and the dark side. Matzah is a symbol of those strengths and maror represents the weaknesses.

Our positive side comes from the soul. Just like matzah does not rise, so too the essence of the soul has no ego. It has a Divine imprint and is the foundation of our personality strengths. That spark of purity gives us the ability to rise above egocentricity and become selfless and moral human beings.

Eventually these two parts of our personality must come together as a sandwichBut there is another self-centered force that resides within us known as the animal drive. This force is the source of selfish conduct, inappropriate emotional responses and destructive behavior. The challenges and inner struggle caused by this part of our personality is represented by the bitterness of the maror. At the Seder it is a mitzvah to eat these herbs because true freedom can only be achieved if we are ready to acknowledge our weak and dark side and work on improving it.

Initially we eat them separately because they are different and come from two distinct forces within our identity. But eventually these two parts of our personality must come together as a sandwich. The bitter part of our character doesn't have to disappear—it can be transformed. Every negative emotion has a purpose and can be powerful and positive if channeled and used correctly. Controlling others can be transformed into self control, anger can become passion and jealousy can be channeled into healthy ambition. Even our dark side is not intrinsically bad. If the animal drive learns to take guidance and direction from the soul it can be harnessed into a powerful force.

The maror on its own is bitter, but when protected and controlled by the matzah it becomes a delicious sandwich.

Rabbi Michoel Gourarie lectures on a wide range of topics with a special emphasis on Personal Growth and Self Development, including self esteem, communication and relationship building. He is the director of "Bina" in Sydney, Australia.
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