The Celebrate Israel Festival on May 31 at Pier 94, slated to be the largest gathering to date of Israeli-Americans in New York.
For days and weeks before Pesach, we meticulously clean our homes, making sure that not a crumb of bread might, God forbid, be found when we begin the festival of matzahs.
Some women even go to the extent of “kashering” their doorknobs, as was said about the wife of Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin, zt”l, rav of Jerusalem and founder of Kollel America.
After burning our last bits of chametz on Erev Pesach, we sit down at a Seder table adorned with the three matzahs, a Seder plate, wine and guests. The silver goblets and candelabra are shining brightly. After the first two cups of wine and the reading and singing of the Haggadah, the time has come: the big moment. We wash and direct our eyes and thoughts to the leader of the Seder. He lifts the matzahs and recites the blessing with emphasis on the word lechem (bread): “Hamotzi lechem – He brings forth bread from the land.”
But now that we have cleaned our homes for Pesach and are free of all bread, can’t the blessing be “He brings forth matzah from the land”?
Many years ago I did a radio show on the sixth day of Passover and told my audience that the 16th Avenue Pizza Shop would be open on the night after the chag with delicious fresh pizza. Did I get complaints! “Dov, how dare you mention chametz on Pesach?”
I answered with a question: “Don’t we mention bread when we make a blessing on our matzah brei?”
I left the listeners scratching their heads. I’ll bet many readers are also thinking, “Yeah, really, why? Why not mention matzah in the blessing and not bread? There may even be a few activists reading this who are thinking of organizing a large protest in front of Heaven’s Gates!
But let me put you at ease with a Dov Shurin original dvar Torah. In the Haggadah, before the eating of the matzah there is a discourse that concludes with the admonition that we are obligated to remember our exodus from ancient Egypt day and night, all the days of our life.
I will show you the hint to “leaving Egypt” in the blessing for bread, which is the most essential food in our three daily meals.
Let’s analyze the blessing. “He brings forth bread is not really true – Hashem brings forth wheat; we turn it into flour and bake it into bread.
So bread proves our world was not created perfectly.
The holy Rabbi Akiva had a debate with a non-Jew who claimed that “if man was created uncircumcised, then that is the way God wanted him to be. Therefore, circumcision is wrong.”
Rabbi Akiva wisely answered, “Look at bread. God created wheat, and wanted humans to bring it to perfection in the form of bread. So, too, God created man uncircumcised and only through a bris milah does man reach perfection!!”
And so in the blessing we make, the word bread is a hint to the Jew: We are, so to speak, the bread of all nations.
In the Torah God tells Moshe to announce, “I am God that brings you forth from the burdens of Egypt.” The word “hamotzi” is used.
The Jews are the hamotzi lechem (bread) while the min ha’aretz symbolizes ancient Egypt. How?
Ancient Egypt was the epitome of earthiness (artziut), lust, and vulgar desires. When our forefather Abraham went down to Egypt, he carried Sarah in a case so that the Egyptians would not see her and lust for her.
Then Abraham told her, “Please say you are my sister, so that they will not kill me and take you.” Hebrew grammar tells us that ha’aretz has a hei hayidiah, which is a hint concerning ancient Egypt and its extreme earthiness.
So it is this blessing that helps us remember our exodus from Egypt all year long, both day and night. Certainly we should make this blessing at the Seder table, on the night of the anniversary of the Jews leaving Egypt. The blessing “Hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz” is equivalent to saying “Hamotzi Am Yisrael miMitzrayim.
I am reminded of the two large challahs I held up high this past Friday night as I blessed Hashem when making the motzi.
The first challah symbolized my holy father, HaRav Yisroel Shurin, zt”l, who taught in Yeshiva Chaim Berlin and Bais Yaakov for twenty years, was the rav of Congregation Mogen Avraham in Efrat, Israel for twenty-four years, and wrote the Hebrew page in Olomeinu magazine for sixty years. His yahrzeit was on Shabbos, the 27th day of Adar.
The second challah symbolized his father-in-law, my zaidy, HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt”l, whose yahrzeit was two days later, on the 29th day of Adar. I remember that my grandfather would not make major decisions for the Torah world without first consulting with my father. The two were truly Lechem Mishna, two great loaves of bread, as were the Lechem HaPanim in our holy Temples. I miss them both so deeply.
May their merit protect us in these turbulent times.
Chag kasher v’sameach to all.
About the Author: Dov Shurin is a popular radio personality and the composer and producer of several albums. He lives with his family in Israel and can be contacted at email@example.com. His Jewish Press column appears the third issue of each month.
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