The two names for this upcoming holiday, “Passover” and the “Festival of Matzah,” represent the different aspects of the loving relationship between the Jewish people and God.
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, United with Israel
The Jewish people are about to begin observing one of the most important holidays of the year. The problem is, however, that we just don’t know what that holidays is! Well, to be precise, we know all about the holiday and what to do, we just don’t know what its name is! We don’t know how this holiday should truly be called.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the holidays of “Passover,” or “Pesach” in Hebrew, but that might not be the holiday’s true name. The name that the Torah uses for this seven-day holiday (eight days for those who do not yet live in Israel) is “the festival of matzah” or, in Hebrew, “Chag Hamatzot.”
So if the Torah calls the holiday Chag Hamatzot, why do we call it Passover? In fact, the term “Passover” really refers to the Passover sacrifice that was offered on the afternoon before Passover even began, which was actually an independent holiday. So what’s going on over here?
It is explained that the terms, “Passover” and “Chag Hamatzot” represent God’s love for the Jewish people as well as the Jewish people’s love for Him. The term “Passover” represents God’s faith in us. It reminds us how he “passed over” the Jewish homes and killed the first born in the Egyptian homes. This was a drastic and public display of His love for the Jewish people and His decision to choose us from among all other nations. Hence, the term Passover refers to our relationship with God.
The reason the Torah calls the holiday the “holiday of matzot” is because of the central food of the holiday, which is of course, matzah. Why do we eat matzah on Passover? It’s because, as the Torah says, the Jewish people left Egypt so fast that they didn’t even have time to allow their dough to rise.
Think about this for a second. It takes dough 18 minutes to rise. Are we supposed to believe that the Jewish people didn’t have even 18 minutes of free time between the announcement that they were leaving Egypt and their actual departure?
That’s exactly right! The Jewish people had such strong faith in God and Moses that they did not hesitate for even a minute to follow Moses and God into the desert. This demonstration of faith and devotion to God impressed God so much, the He decided to name the holiday after the bread we eat on the holiday because it reminds Him of our devotion! Hence, the term Chag Hamatzot, the holiday of matzot, refers to God’s relationship with us!
So there you have it! The two names for this upcoming holiday, Passover and Chag Hamatzot, represent the different aspects of the loving relationship between the Jewish people and God. Be sure to keep that in mind when you bite into your “shmura matza” at the Passover Seder!
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