Parshas Tzav / Shabbos HaGadol - We Want Hashem Now!

By Rabbi Zvi Teichman

Posted on 03/22/18

On all other nights we eat chametz and matzah. On this night - only matzah?

Do we really eat matzah on all other nights of the year? Although we certainly may partake of it, but the vast majority of people don’t eat matzah regularly. So what is this child referring to?

The Abarbanel, among other commentators suggest that the child in this very first of the four questions is asking a much more pointed question.

On Pesach we celebrate the exodus from Egypt and thank Hashem for saving us from destruction and choosing us as His nation. In the days when the Mikdash stood one who was released from bondage, where life was in jeopardy, would bring a Korban Todah, a Thanksgiving offering. This sacrifice not only entailed the bringing of an animal but one also brought four sets of bread, each set consisting of ten breads. Three of the four sets were מצה - unleavened bread, with the other set composed of חמץ - leaven bread. The child is wondering why is this ‘thanksgiving’-offering of the Pesach accompanied solely by the unleavened bread while all other times when we offer a thanksgiving-offering we eat chametz together with the matzah?

Great question, but how do we answer him? Where in the Haggadah do we address this issue?

אם על תודה יקריבנו... (ויקרא ז יב), If he shall offer it for a  thanksgiving-offering.

The word יקריבנו, which translates here as ‘he shall offer it’ can also be rendered to mean ‘bring him close’ implying a directive to bring nigh the offerer of this sacrifice.

The Midrash says this alludes to Hashem’s delight in this offering more than those who present sin-offerings and guilt-offerings. This is comparable, Rabbi Pinchas teaches, to a subject of the kingdom who serves as the king’s devoted sharecropper or palace employee who brings a gift to the king, who although is received  positively by the king, is nevertheless motivated by the servant’s self-interest in maintaining his good standing with the king in order to preserve his role. However when a simple devoted member of his kingdom, who has no interactions with the king, brings a tribute solely to honor him, the king happily offers him to sit beside him on a royal chair.

Those who have erred and seek to rectify their poor performance and restore their positions are to be admired but don’t necessarily capture Hashem’s special attention. One however who simply seeks to express His honor and devotion to Hashem, without any ulterior motive, the ‘King’ will direct His heavenly retinue to ‘bring him close’. (ויק"ר ט ד)

Is it really that simple? Isn’t a thanksgiving-offering brought by one the four people whose lives were endangered, one who was: imprisoned; traveled the desolate desert; sailed the seas; was gravely ill; who attained salvation through the hand of G-d? Weren’t these people obviously guilty of some offense that providentially contributed to their finding themselves in such dire circumstances in the first place and in need of rescue? When their ‘lives’ were returned weren’t they equally seeking to restore a relationship that was evidently flawed and in need of rectification by offering a sacrifice as well? In what way is this individual differentiated from those who bring a sin or guilt offerings seeking to appease Hashem for their lapses in His service, and deserving of a seat next to the throne?

The Maharam Shick in fact avers it is precisely because of this reality that the thanksgiving-offering is comprised of leaven as well. חמץ - leaven, symbolizes the evil inclination in that it offers physical taste but lacks substance, falsely inflating the bread’s appearance but merely creating pockets of air. This little reminder brings into the thanksgiver’s consciousness the fact that there was ample reason for his ‘falling off the cliff’, despite Hashem’s graciousness in saving him.

When one’s life is saved it often radically transforms one’s attitude towards life. If someone lived in poverty, faced emotional difficulties, or any of the myriad of  life’s challenges and suddenly found oneself possibly having one’s life extinguished and then restored, that person will put the former problems into a proper and healthier perspective and accept them more readily rather than wallow in despair. But very often with the erosion of time that inspiration dissipates and one lapses back into their former state of despondence, because the problems are still there. But for a true believer there is a more profound effect that lasts.

Most often what defeats us in life is the sense that we have been abandoned or even worse ignored by Hashem. We feel unworthy. One, however, who has found oneself in a life threatening situation only to be saved, immediately senses a feeling of worthiness and that Hashem is tending to ‘me’, and that ‘I’ am obviously important to Him. Don’t we instinctively call those closest to us and share our feeling of not only of being rescued but having been enveloped in His embrace?

It is exactly because we feel rightfully undeserving that Hashem’s intervention is so meaningful. We realize that His chesed, is unconditional, and I am valued and treasured despite my personal failings. It is that newly discovered relationship with Hashem that transcends any of the difficulties I may be facing.

We refer to Hashem as the רב חסד, Abundant in Kindness. חסד doesn’t refer to the kindness we receive but to the  ‘devotion’ of Hashem to us that is not contingent on our worth. Rav S.R. Hirsch teaches that the word חסד is related to the word אשד, which means to ‘pour oneself out’, to devote oneself entirely.

Hashem doesn’t need us,  He wants us.

Dovid HaMelech sums it up most succinctly, when he states, כי טוב חסדך מחיים... (תהלים סג ד), For better is Your kindness, than life.

The knowledge that He wants us, values us, believes in us, and is totally devoted to us, is a joy greater than anything life can offer. With that awareness and encouragement we can face any obstacle, any travail.

Hashem waxes nostalgically over our חסד as well.

זכרתי לך חסד נעוריך (ירמיהו ב ב), I remember for your sake the kindness of your youth.

What kindness does He recall? Is it possible to do kindness to the One who has no needs?

The kindness here refers to that moment when we suddenly left Egypt in haste and we devoted ourselves so utterly to His embrace relinquishing our needs and leaving without preparing any provision for our unknown destination.(רש"י שמות יב לט בשם המכילתא)

We displayed on that fateful night how our connection to Hashem is not one based on our needs but solely on our wanting to be with Him, to be devoted to Him.

For better is Your kindness, than life!

When a relationship is based on mutual needs there lays a danger that when one’s needs are met one may fall into complacency and not be attentive to whom we are dependent on. However, a bond that is founded on ‘want’ not ‘need’, a respect and admiration for the essence of whom I am connecting to, not because that one provides for me, but rather out of pure adoration of their character and being, there is less chance that one will lapse in devotion.

On the night of Pesach we experienced an absolute love for Hashem. In that space there is no room for the evil inclination to put his foot in the door. Perhaps in this unique thanksgiving-offering we offer, the Pesach, there is no need to represent the evil inclination with leaven, since in this realm he can’t exist.

We answer the brilliant query of this child when we discuss the reason we eat Matzah, quoting the verse that retells how we left in haste unable to leaven our bread, not lingering, וגם צדה לא עשו להם, nor having ‘prepared any provisions’ for ourselves. We showed our ‘want’ to be with Hashem detached from any need, just as He rescued us not merely to give us life, but to give us something much greater, His ‘want’ for us, His exquisite bond.

As we relive the exodus once again this year may we rediscover how much Hashem truly wants us and is devoted to us and be inspired in turn to want Him and devote ourselves unconditionally to Him as well!


צבי יהודה טייכמאן