Torah Thoughts on Bedikat Chametz 5781
By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky
Traditionally, the formal search for chametz (leaven), bedikat chametz, is conducted on the night before Pesach. This year, since Pesach starts on Saturday night, we search for chametz on Thursday evening, the day you are probably reading these lines. That is why I would like to say (or write!) a word about the symbolism of the chametz.
First things first: What is chametz? Chametz is a product that is made from one of five types of grain (wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt) and has been combined with water and left to stand for longer than eighteen minutes. When that happens, the leavened product is known as chametz, and one may not eat, derive benefit from or own it on Pesach.
This is the raw definition of chametz, but rabbis of all times have found fascinating symbolic explanations about the nature of the chametz. Some of the main symbolisms of the chametz are related to its characteristics. For example, leavened dough rises, symbolizing pride or arrogance. Matzah, on the contrary, is thin and flat, symbolizing humility or humbleness.
There are many ways in which arrogance can harm a person. One of them is when the arrogant person thinks he/she deserves everything he/she has, and in fact should have more. Therefore, it is extremely hard for the arrogant person to give and to share with others.
Another way arrogance can harm a person is because it can make one not able to see the worthiness of his/her neighbor, because the arrogant person believes he/she is superior to those around him/her.
Not being able to share what we have and not being able to see the value of other people is a source of unhappiness and bitterness in life. The Torah teaches us that happiness is found by sharing with others and by being able to value and admire others without being dominated by envy or jealousy.
On Pesach we are encouraged to remove all the physical chametz from our houses and all the “spiritual chametz” from our souls. Before we celebrate our freedom, we must get rid of our arrogance and pride, so we can see our own flaws, share what we have and value the character or the achievements of those around us. Our souls need a little bit of flat Matzah!
Shabbat Shalom! Pesach Kasher Vesameach!