Matzah is lechem oni – bread of affliction, bread of austerity. The Zohar, however, calls it the food of faith.
The affliction or austerity we can understand, but faith?
One answer is that when the Israelites hurriedly left Egypt and went into the wilderness, no-one asked, “How will we survive?” Matzah symbolised their faith that God would look after them wherever they went.
Our generation, though, is rather different. We would probably have made things so difficult that Moses would have given up on us and left us behind.
When Moses said, “Get ready for departure,” we would have replied, “We hope you’re only talking to the orthodox Jews (or the ultra-orthodox, the Zionists, the liberals, the secularists)” and Moses would have needed to smooth out so many feathers that Pharaoh would have clamped down and stopped the lot of us going.
When Moses said, “God has given me a message for you,” we would have objected, “But who are you that God should choose you? You weren’t elected democratically, you aren’t even a speaker… why should anyone listen to what you say?”
When Moses said, “Your food will be matzah,” we would have said, “How kosher is it? If it’s not glatt kosher we don’t want any.” If Moses had said, “It’s under God’s supervision,” we would have objected, “And who gave HIM s’michah?”
When Moses said, “We’re going to Israel,” we would have said, “Why not America (or Australia)? The houses are bigger there, the salaries are higher.”
When Moses said, “You’ll be living in thatched huts,” we would have said, “What – without plumbing, electricity and airconditioning? And what happens if the roof leaks?”
When Moses said, “We’re stopping at Sinai for the Ten Commandments,” we would have said, “Slow down! We need a committee to inspect the site and report back, a second committee to check that the Commandments are politically correct, a referendum to decide on the preamble!”
Poor Moses. Such a vision, a destiny, an exhilarating cause to offer us, and all we can do is nitpick.
Our ancestors were right. We need faith, rising above the material and mundane: faith in God, in our task, in ourselves. God said, “Speak unto the Children of Israel and tell them to go forward.” Without faith we will never go forward.