Early in the Passover Seder, we point at the matzah and say “this is the bread of our affliction.” It is the poor man’s bread that we ate when we were slaves in Egypt. We then tell the story of the Exodus.
However, later in the Seder, right before dinner is about to be served, we pause to highlight the three foods that anchor the Seder: the Passover sacrifice (which we only ate in the time of the Temple), the matzah, and the maror (the bitter herb). We then formally recite why each one is present. In the case of the matzah, the answer should have been obvious. We’ve already said we eat the matzah because it is the bread of affliction that our forefathers ate in Egypt. Except that’s not what we say. Instead, we say that we eat it because our dough didn’t have time to rise before God rushed us out of Egypt. The matzah transforms before our eyes from the bread of affliction to the bread of salvation. The symbol of our oppression and sadness comes to represent our jubilation of being freed from Egyptian slavery!
How do we manage that transmutation trick?
Jewish Time Travel
The answer, I believe, lies in the other sci-fi trick of the night, time travel. On Passover, Jews are told to see ourselves as having left Egypt. We’re not just required to remember that our ancestors left Egypt; we are supposed to see ourselves as having left Egypt. At the beginning of the Seder we are supposed to feel like slaves, and by the time dinner is served, we are supposed to feel like free men and women.
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