Bo: Leaven Me Alone

“And you shall guard the matzos (unleavened bread)…” (Exodus 12:17). On the surface, this commandment warns not to allow the unleavened bread to become leavened through remaining unbaked for a period of time that would allow the dough to rise. However, a famous adage of our Sages instructs us: “Read not: ‘Guard the matzos (unleavened bread);’ rather read: Guard the mitzvos (commandments).'” In Hebrew, the word “matzos,” meaning unleavened bread, and the word “mitzvos,” meaning commandments, are spelled identically, so our Sages enjoin us to see in the one word a hint to the other. Just as one must bake the dough immediately so that it not rise and thereby become unfit, one must seize the opportunity to perform a commandment immediately and not let it pass by, or push it off as though it is undesired, or perform it at the last moment in a substandard fashion. But matzos and mitzvos connect on a deeper level than mere spelling. Man is compared to a lump of dough, as God form him from a clod of earth. The evil inclination (yetzer hara) acts as a leavening agent, to puff us up with arrogance so we pursue our own selfish desires rather than loftier spiritual goals. The matzah, on the other hand, is flat, unrisen dough, representing humility. With humility, man bows his will to that of his Creator, and fulfills his mission to bring God’s loving, divine light into the world. Hence to guard the matzos — that is, the spiritual quality that matzah represents — and to guard the mitzvos (the commandments), equate to the exact same concept. May we guard ourselves to keep our spirit unleavened, and with the quality of humility before our Creator, fulfill our potential as agents of the Most High.

Based on Shla”h, Parshas Bo

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