What might seem like a simple story often has a profound message, especially when it’s told in the Torah.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
In the Torah portion of Parshat Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16), we come across the verse, “They baked the dough that they took out of Egypt into unleavened cakes [matzah], for they could not be made leavened because they were driven quickly from Egypt. They could not delay. Nor had they made provisions for themselves.” [Ex 12:39].
Although seemingly only narrative in nature, this verse is obviously very special, as it is one of the few verses that makes an appearance at the Passover Seder. Indeed, very few verses from the Torah relating to the Exodus are recited as part of the Seder. But nevertheless, this one made the cut, even though it is certainly not one of the more action-packed verses.
In fact, it is simply telling us a fact, something necessarily for the comfort, if not survival, of the Jewish people as they fled Egypt. The fact that they were driven out quickly and had no time to bake bread that night is not too miraculous or supernatural, in contrast to most of the story of the Exodus. So why is this verse recited at the Passover Seder?
Well, for starters, it is the source for why we eat matzah on Passover, so it is appropriate to recite that verse as part of the matzah-eating ceremony of the evening. That being said, there must be a deeper message that merits this verse being a part of our Seder.
It is explained that the Jews were under the impression that they would be leaving Egypt right after the plague of blood was over. They figured that the Egyptians would release them after suffering with a week of blood in their water supply. The Jews even packed their bags and were ready to go.
But after the plague of blood was gone…nothing. No moving trucks. No kisses goodbye. They were still slaves in Egypt. And so it was, plague after plague. With each plague, the Jews thought they were on the next bus out of Egypt…but nothing.
Never Give Up Hope
As such, when the plague of the Death of the Firstborn came around, they had essentially given up hope of leaving. If they didn’t leave at the conclusion of any of the other nine plagues, well, then, why is this plague different from all other plagues? (Pun intended…get it?) This time they hadn’t even packed their bags nor made any preparations for departure. They were simply burned out and emotionally exhausted.
But this time they were wrong. As we see, they were rushed out so fast, that they didn’t even have time to bake bread. Can’t blame them for not being ready, but boy, were they wrong this time.
This last point might very well be the primary message of the Exodus from Egypt, that God’s salvation can come at any time. It is a message that must accompany each and every person every single day. God does not work on our schedule. He works on His. We must always be prepared. We must never give up hope. Be ready for God’s salvation at any time…it’ll come at you out of nowhere!