A rabbi who officiates at many Bar-Mitzvahs relates that when he asked a boy’s father for information about the family he was told, “My father died all of a sudden”, “My mother died all of a sudden”, “My in-laws died all of a sudden”.
“I’m so sorry”, said the rabbi, “Such sudden deaths must have been terrible!” Then it dawned on him. The boy’s father was trying to say, Alav HaShalom, “peace be upon him”…
The story comes to mind when I think of Pesach when there is a real “all of a sudden”. Bread and other leavened foods that are perfectly all-right throughout the year become chametz all of a sudden and are not permitted. What changed things so drastically? The problem cannot be with the food, since it is acceptable at other times, but with the confluence of chametz and Pesach. The issue is the timing.
Pesach is the time of freedom. We cannot have freedom with chametz. The nature of chametz is that its ingredients rise and swell. It represents the puffed-up pride that comes with human egotism. The egotist has only one master – him- or herself. He is unable to accept a higher Power. To be free one must acknowledge God. True, the person who lives without chains is free to move, but their movement is haphazard. As an Indian writer says, the violin string that is not fixed to a violin can move, but unless it is attached to the violin it cannot make music.
Similarly, Pesach and chametz cannot live together. Remove the puffed-up pride which chametz symbolises and you can have freedom.