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Written by Sender Rozesz. Sender Rozesz is a practicing attorney with a background in Jewish pluralistic education for adults. The views reflected in his columns represent his own personal views, and are not intended to reflect the views of any organizations, institutes or associations with whom he may be affiliated. For more Double Mitzvahs by Sender Rozesz, check out A Woman’s Vow, Sexual Motive, Choose Your Own Spouse, The Post-Honeymoon Journey, A Wise and Understanding People, The Blessing of Fertility, Abominations, Coitus Interruptus, Sexual Struggles,The Unspeakable Language of Passion, Cut vs. Uncut, The Silence of Bitterness, Sex and the Holiest Day of the Year, Shifting Beds and Sex in the Sukkah,Sex…In the Beginning, A Sexual Reboot, She’s My Beautiful Sister,Kosher Incest?, How They Met, Male-Female Intercourse, The First Kiss, The Power to Transform, Onanism, Daughters-in-Law and Moshiach, Issues with the In-Laws?, The Undoing of Captivity, Shift Beds – Part II, Pharaoh’s Assimilation Policy, Passion vs. Pleasure, Loving in Reverse, Music is Female, Fecund Fluids and Revelation, Sexism in the Commandments, Divine Lust, Name Calling, Mismatched Lovers, Sex and Mirrors, The Challenge of Real Loving,Getting Undressed, and The Strangers Among Us.
Throughout the holiday of Passover, eating “Chametz” is forbidden.
What is Chametz? Ah, this involves the complex relationship between flour and water.
Chametz is any food product made from wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt, or their derivatives, which has leavened, or risen. Usually, we deliberately put yeast in our dough to make it rise. For Passover, however, not only may we not use yeast, but flour from any of the above five grains that just comes in contact with water will leaven, unless it is fully baked within eighteen minutes. This requires an extremely hot oven, and a vigilant monitoring of the baking process. The result?
Matzah: the only kind of bread that is Chametz-free, and therefore the only kind of bread permitted on Passover.
Flour and water.
Men and women.
Flour is the male. He started off fresh-faced, pliant and green, but was then hardened by outside world, and run through the mill of life. He is now stationary, a concentrated collection of all of his fragmented experiences, waiting for the substance that will touch him, fill him, surround him, cause all of the fragments to coalesce into something more, something with far greater meaning, something to fulfill his purpose. He needs his water.
Water is the female. Lifegiving. Nurturing. Flowing. She refuses to remain stagnant, instead flowing and swirling around the stationary pile of flour, seeking to incorporate him into her dynamic existence. She is wet, moistening all that she touches, unifying his isolated and distinct parts into a greater whole, pouring herself into him, sacrificing her flowing existence to fuse and to merge with this new entity.
They’re so good for each other; yet they can get in so much trouble together.
Left unguided, unchecked, flour and water will begin to rise, higher and higher, becoming more and more inflated, fluffy and decadent. Their unrestrained wanton existence will only want more, demand more, their collective bloated arrogance rebelling against notions of higher purpose; they will soon begin so spill out of the bowl that contained them, spreading further, inflating further, with no end to their voracious appetite.
And let’s face it: fluffy, airy bread is delicious. Throughout the year, it is definitely the preferred kind of bread. So too is everything made better and tastier by a healthy sense of self, and by a healthy appreciation of the pleasures that G-d has bestowed upon our world. Yet, left unchecked, this ego, this bloat, can grow far beyond any healthy proportions, and corrupt the thread of humility that helps us keep ourselves and our pleasures in perspective.
So, once a year, the Torah banishes all leaven. For a full week, we are permitted to partake only of a union of flour and water that has been carefully supervised, and that in no way exceeds its most humble state. Not even a bit of bloat or fluff is permitted; it is a week free of ego, that festering ground for a disproportionately inflated state of existence.
And we rediscover that at the core of our relationship, we don’t need the fluff in order to coalesce around each other, in order to transform disparate parts into a new unified existence, in order to provide a full meal to a hungry world. Later, after Passover, we can go back to adding yeast, leaven, fluff, and the other complexities of our relationship. But for a week, we celebrate the fundamentals of what we do for each other in our most humble state.
Now, many Jews are so careful to avoid even the possibility of any leavened bread on Passover that they even avoid what is known as “Gebruchts.” Gebruchts is essentially wet Matzah. The concern here is that, throughout the baking process, there may have remained an isolated unbaked clump of flour in the Matzah dough. Now, however, if that clump of flour is moistened by water, it may rise and become Chametz. So people who avoid Gebruchts are very careful to keep their Matzah from getting wet.
Many of these folks, however, despite being careful to avoid wetting the Matzah throughout Passover, will nonetheless make a point of making the Matzah wet on the final eighth day of Passover (in the Diaspora). This fascinating custom is based upon the following idea.
The eighth day of Passover – and indeed, the number eight generally – is associated with the Moshiach, and the ultimate and permanent redemption of the Jewish people. The number seven is associated with nature (e.g., the seven-day weekly cycle); the number eight, however, represents a step outside of our natural universe into the supernatural universe that G-d has always intended for us. This is the era to be heralded by the Moshiach.
Our constant inner struggles with the darker side of our natures, always wrestling, always fighting to be as good as we can be – these are features of our current world; these belong to a universe that obeys the natural order. It is only in this world that we need to take such extreme care not to let our “fluff” run away with us; to constantly struggle to maintain our perspective, and not lose our humility to an overflowing ego. Having a week like Passover helps, but it remains an exhausting struggle.
When Moshiach comes, however, as symbolized on the eighth day of Passover, we will be able to fully indulge in the pleasure of our relationships without the constant vigilance, and without worrying about losing ourselves to a disproportionate sense of self. Then, we may indulge in moist, wet, delicious Matzah, without guilt or concern, simply enjoying the unadulterated pleasure that we give one another.