Matzah is a paradox. On the one hand, matzah symbolizes freedom. We recline while eating it, unlike the bitter herbs which symbolize slavery. Yet, matzah is the simplest product – just flour and water. How can that express freedom?
To understand what freedom is, let us describe the opposite of freedom, which is dependence. A person who cannot survive the day without a cigarette is not a fully free man. He is restricted by the need for cigarettes.
In order to attain our full measure of freedom, we first simplify our base “needs.” Therefore, the matzah symbolizes freedom as it is the simplest of all, consisting of nothing more than flour and water. The less our needs, the greater our freedom to do that which is right.
My father, Samuel Werbin, of blessed memory, recently passed away. He exemplified the meaning of freedom by not being dependent on materialism as his primary source of happiness. He was known as a man of integrity and principle, and he loved giving to others, which he did generously.
One of the last times we went out together, my dad, feeling very weak, asked me to drive him home. Earlier, I had mentioned that I wanted to buy a new watch. Just before arriving at his house, he requested that I continue driving past the house, which was odd since he wasn’t feeling well. After arriving at the shopping center that he directed me to, I realized that my dad had led me to a watch store. Despite his suffering, my dad used his limited energy and strength to give to another.
As we eat the matzah on seder night, let us reflect that we are ‘resetting’ our base level of needs. In so doing, we become truly free, with the ability to act upon principles and do that which is right – the way Dad lived his life.
Rabbi Ian Werbin is the outreach coordinator and part of the rabbinic staff at Congregation Beth Jacob.