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    Wow!! It’s hard to believe: Purim has come and gone, and now we are facing a job that doesn’t pass so quickly: the purifying of the home for the Pesach season from all vestiges of the forbidden chometz. That this is an important pursuit is emphasized by the famous Ariza”l, who teaches us that any home completely freed of even a minuscule amount of leaven will be free from sin during the coming year.

    So, it behooves us however to understand why there is such a grave necessity in this seasonal purging. After all, in bentching bread is referred to as ‘tuvo,’ the goodness of our life. Further, whenever we have a festival, we make sure to celebrate it by washing for, and blessing, bread. So how come, all of a sudden, bread becomes Public Enemy Number One, threatening us with kareis, spiritual death, if we pop merely an olive-size bit into our mouths. Moreover, how did it become so dangerous an element that we are not only banned from eating it during Pesach for, as we know, we can’t even possess it!

    One of the important lessons of the chometz/matzah phenomena stems from the immediacy and urgency of our exit from Egypt. We are taught that, after being in Egypt for two hundred and ten years, we sank to the forty-ninth level of depravity and contamination. We were but seconds away from being lost in the spiritual quicksand of Egyptian society. Indeed, the posuk testifies, “B’chatzos halaila,” meaning exactly at midnight, we had to be freed. If even a moment more had passed, we would have been trapped in Egypt forever. Right after the Ma Nishtana, we testify to this in the Hagadah: that if Hashem wouldn’t have taken us out, we – and our children – and our children’s children, would have been subjugated to an Arabic, slave-like existence.

    Thus, the matzah on our backs which did not have time to leaven during our exit in less than eighteen minutes signifies our escape, all 3,000,000 of us, in the nick of time. It follows consequently, that leaven represents missing the deadline and being lost to spiritual oblivion. This is one reason why, on Pesach, chometz represents the negation of everything Torahdig and spiritual in our lives.

    There are other lessons to learn from our temporary diet of matzah, such as the stature placed on modesty amongst our people. The lowly matzah sees the bloated challah and says figuratively, ‘What are you so puffed-up about? We both have the same ingredients?’ So too, on our national birthday, we remember our greatest leader, Moshe Rabbeinu, who was the most humble of all men, and we try to teach our children – with the vehicle of the matzah – to emulate his ways of humility and tolerance of all men.

    We know that on Pesach we are judged concerning the t’vuah, produce of the field. Thus, we fulfill a unique mitzvah with produce so that, through it, Hashem should bless our produce with prosperity.

    Yet another aspect of matzah is its important lesson of doing the mitzvahs with alacrity. When the Torah teaches us, “Ush’martem es hamatzos – To guard the matzos,” the Gemora teaches us, “Al tikrei es hamatzos, ela es hamitzvos.” In other words, the same alacrity we reserve for the matzahs, handling them rapidly to assure that they don’t ferment, so too we should apply this same attitude to all our mitzvahs, and attend to them with the urgency reserved for something of tremendous importance, not procrastinating or relegating them to the ‘when-I’ll-have-time-later-on’ pile.

    In this vein, Torah study itself should not be saved for our retirement days. Let’s run to learn while we still have all our faculties. So too, exploring and unraveling the meanings of the more difficult parts of our prayers should not be relegated until when we have time lounging on a beach chair. That’s the last thing we’ll want to do then! Likewise, spending time with our children should be seized before they cease being children, and the thrill of spousal attention should recaptured before intense dullness sets into the relationship.

    So pay attention! Our temporary diet of matzah reminds us not to fall prey to the wiles of the yeitzer hara, our evil influence, which tries to erode our religiosity with its mighty spirit of procrastination.

    Happy hunting for the chometz, and in the merit of our embracing all the lessons of matzah, may we see the geulah shleima, the complete redemption, speedily in our days.