The way they tell it in Sunday school, the Jews left Egypt in such a rush, the dough didn’t have time enough to rise. “Honey, we gotta go in ten minutes,” the men would have been saying to their wives. “Just grab some food and let’s go!”

So, they happened to eat matzah. Who cares? It doesn’t seem at all significant. Why is matzah elevated to be main focus of the whole Passover experience? I thought that Passover is about freedom, not food!


Think about what you just wrote. The Israelites had to rush out of Egypt so fast, they didn’t have time for their bread to rise. Why? Does that make sense? What was the rush, exactly? The Egyptians had just been blasted with ten plagues as divine punishment for holding the Israelites captive; they were more than ready to let them go. So, why rush things? Couldn’t they have spent the few extra minutes it takes to let the bread rise and make proper sandwiches for the trip?

The answer is: they weren’t running from the Egyptians, they were running from themselves. Two centuries of slavery had taken their toll on the Jewish people’s spirit. They had forgotten their illustrious past as children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, pioneers of a path of ethics and higher morals. The corruption and depravity of Egyptian society had slowly crept into the Israelite mentality, and they assimilated many of its pagan ideals into their own. They were slaves to Egypt, not just in body, but in mind as well.

It came to a point where their unique identity was all but lost. Suddenly they realized that the legacy of Abraham could be lost forever, and the message of hope that the Israelites were to bring the world would not be delivered. Only then did they cry out for help. On the brink of point of no return, they called out to G‑d.

Think of an alcoholic. For a while, the alcoholic fools himself into thinking that things are in control, he is just drinking socially, it relaxes him, there’s nothing wrong. Gradually, the habit overtakes him, and one by one he loses everything he has: his family, his job, his money, his dignity. But it’s only when he hits rock bottom, when he has been stripped of everything, that it suddenly dawns on him that he has a real problem.

Now he has to act fast. Once he has recognized the problem, he has to deal with it immediately, before that moment of clarity passes by and he slips back into self-justification. He can’t do it alone. He’s too drunk to help himself. He has to call for help. Someone from the outside, someone sober, will have to reach out to drag him out of his addiction. But they can help him only if he is willing to go cold turkey, not to touch alcohol until he is cured. He has to run away from the addict that he has been until now. Otherwise, he cannot begin to heal.

That’s why matzah is the crux of what the Exodus is all about. The children of Israel had to make a hasty retreat from Egypt. Egypt and its lowliness had a hold on them as powerful as an addiction. They had to first get out of Egypt in order to get Egypt out of themselves. To delay would be deadly. Once they had realized the problem, if they would then have hesitated, it could have spelled the end for them—they might have sunk to the point of no return.

We all have our addictions, whether to harmful substances, poisonous relationships, toxic habits or negative ideologies. Pesach is a detox retreat, where the spirit of liberty calls upon us to free ourselves from our personal Egypt. The matzah reminds us that the first step towards freedom is to go cold turkey. No hesitations: make a sudden and complete exodus from the you that was, and march through the desert towards the you that you can be.