The Rabbis divide the mitzvos into three categories: eidus, chukim, and mishpatim. Chukim refer to the mitzvos that transcend human intellect and are fulfilled with kabbalas ol, the acceptance of G‑d’s yoke. Mishpatim are those mitzvos whose value can be appreciated by mortal intellect and are fulfilled out of an awareness of how their observance benefits our lives. Eidus are testimonials, commemorations of our nation’s past history, intended to enable us to relive those events and evoke anew the spiritual feelings experienced by our ancestors at those times.

Sefer HaChinuch develops the latter point, explaining that the purpose of the mitzvah of eating matzah on Pesach is to recall the miracles of the Exodus and, as a consequence, strengthen one’s faith in G‑d. Why does the mitzvah involve a physical act? Because “our hearts are drawn after our actions.” When a person performs a deed, his thoughts and his feelings will be intensified.

According to this approach, the ultimate goal is the awareness the mitzvah generates. The deed is merely a catalyst, enabling that purpose to be fulfilled.

In the maamar that follows, the Alter Rebbe offers a different perspective. Eating matzah is not merely a medium that sparks our thoughts and feelings. The deed itself is mystical, drawing down spiritual energies that far surpass those which we can generate through our own efforts.

He develops this concept by explaining the mystic nature of eating in general; how the food we eat contains sparks of G‑dliness whose spiritual power we can tap and reveal. When partaking of matzah, this motif is enhanced, because matzah is a mitzvah, drawing down infinite G‑dliness. As the Rebbe would say in the name of the Rebbe Maharash, Based on the series of his mamaarim entitled VeKachah, 5637, sec. 60. “When one eats matzah, he partakes of G‑dliness.” As a result, eating matzah brings a person to a state of bittul —self-transcendence — empowering him to make an unbounded commitment to G‑d.

Two Steps Beyond Self

In particular, the maamar focuses on two levels of bittul:a) one in which man’s self-concern is subjugated, but not erased entirely; and b) a level where the essence of G‑dliness is revealed, causing a person to step beyond his self-concern entirely.

The Alter Rebbe connects these themes with two historical references to matzah: a) the matzah the Jews were commanded to eat together with the Paschal sacrifice before they were redeemed; and b) the matzah eaten after the redemption.

The matzah eaten before the redemption refers to the first level of bittul where a person still retains his self-concern. On this level, matzah relates to the term matzusa,meaning “strife,” referring to a person’s contention with his own natural inclination. The matzah eaten after the redemption, by contrast, is associated with the revelation of G‑dliness that transcends the Spiritual Cosmos. This revelation causes a person to lose his self-concern entirely.

This is the meaning of the phrase: “The dough of our ancestors did not have the opportunity to rise before the King of kings… was revealed to them.” The awesomeness of the revelation of the King of kings left no possibility for leavening at all; the spiritual revelations actually stopped the leavening process.

When Waters Dry

The concept that Pesach is associated with a revelation from Above is also the key to the second half of the maamar which focuses on the Seventh Day of Pesach and the Splitting of the Sea, concerning which it is written: “He turned the sea into dry land.”

The terms “sea” and “dry land” serve as analogies, referring to different levels of the Spiritual Cosmos. The sea refers to the “hidden realms,” worlds that are suffused with G‑dly light to such an extent that they are not aware of their own existence. The dry land refers to “revealed realms,” where G‑d’s encompassing light is not felt that powerfully. Hence, the individual existence of the created beings becomes conspicuous.

On the Seventh Day of Pesach, essential G‑dliness, a level that transcends both “the sea” and “the dry land” — and, indeed, all defined levels of G‑dly light — was revealed. As a result, “the sea,” the higher, concealed levels, became “dry land,” manifest revelation.

This revelation came as a result of G‑d’s kindness and not as a result of the Jews’ own attainments, for the Jews’ spiritual level was underdeveloped at the time of the Exodus. Their lack of spiritual sophistication, however, did not present a barrier to G‑d’s expression of His love. On the contrary, as indicated by the verse: Hoshea 11:1. “When Israel was a youth, I loved him” — as a parent showers love on a young child — G‑d cascaded His love upon the Jewish people even though their capacity for internalizing it was limited.