Don’t get caught off guard: God can change our fortune in a split second.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Bo” (Exodus 10:1–13:16) and in it we read about the last three of the ten plagues that God cast upon Egypt. Regarding the Jewish people’s preparations for leaving Egypt, the verse says: “They baked the dough that they took out of Egypt into unleavened cakes. This is because they could not be made into leavened cakes for they were speedily driven from Egypt. They could not delay nor had they any other provisions for themselves.” (Ex 12:39)
This verse is an important part of the Haggada that is recited at the Passover Seder. We are told that one who does not mention this verse, and by extension does not discuss the matter of matza and the Jews not having time to bake proper bread, has not fulfilled the mitzva of having a Passover Seder!
Several questions are asked about this.
One question is why is it that mentioning that the Jewish people made matzot due to not having the time to bake proper bread SO important? This is but a minor point-–a single verse–in the entire story of the Exodus! There is no need to even mention the ten plagues at the Passover Seder.
There is also no true need to sing “Dayeinu,” “Chad Gadya,” or any of the other beloved songs and sections of the Passover Haggada. In fact, one, who for whatever reason, did not sing or recite these latter passages would still fulfill the mitzva of having a Seder.
Why is this one little detail, one verse long, about matzot and not having time to bake proper bread, SO important?
Another question that is asked is why didn’t the Jews have bread? They knew several days in advance that they would be leaving Egypt – and boy, is there ever a lot of packing and preparation necessary for a 40-year trip! Why did they wait until the very last minute to prepare food, not even leaving themselves enough time to let their dough rise and give themselves proper bread?
It is explained that the Jews thought they were leaving Egypt after the very first plague, the plague of blood. At that time, they had indeed packed up and properly prepared everything they would need for their journey. But after the plague of blood? Nothing. No Exodus. No escape. The slavery continued.
Then there was the plague of frogs. And so the Jews thought they were leaving Egypt after this second plague. And again, they packed up and properly prepared everything that they would need for their journey. But after the plague of frog? Nothing. No Exodus. No escape. The slavery continued.
And so it was with all 10 plagues. Each time they thought they were leaving, and each time there was another let down. Even with the arrival of the tenth and most devastating plague, the Jews were simply not convinced that they would be leaving after that plague. Proper preparations were not made. They gave up hope of ever being redeemed.
While the Jewish people can’t be blamed for not having been well prepared by the time the tenth plague came along, there is something we can learn from their “mistake.”
God’s redemption and salvation can come within the blink of an eye. Things can change in a split second. One second Joseph was a prisoner in an Egyptian jail, then a moment later he was running the country. One moment Naama Issachar is a prisoner in a Russian jail, the next moment she is flying home to Israeli on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s private airplane.
Who would have believed such things?
We have to always be ready for salvation and good fortune to hit us without notice. The instant, unprepared, no-notice, freedom of the Exodus is meant to teach mankind that we can’t always prepare for God’s blessings…they can come without notice.
This is why reciting the passage about the matza is vital for the Passover Seder experience. Reciting this passage reminds us that the Jewish people essentially gave up hope of being redeemed. We have to remind ourselves this was wrong on their part. We should always be ready for redemption and blessing.
We have to remember that when things aren’t going the way we like, when we are feeling low, lost, or “enslaved,” we have to remember the message of the Exodus. We have to be ready for God’s blessing to come at any moment. Otherwise, we just might not have a good piece of bread to eat that day!
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah reading, click on the links below.
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