Mel Alexenberg
Author of "Through a Bible Lens"

Breaking Round Matzah of Idolatry and Rectangular Matzah of Slavery

Passover is called the Holiday of Matzah, the Holiday of Springtime, and the Season of Our Freedom. The shape of round matzah and rectangular matzah teach us about freedom and creative rebirth in springtime. These matzah shapes give us clues to understanding the structure of Jewish consciousness.

I write the following sentences as Twitter tweets based upon the “Torah Tweets” blogart project the I created with my wife Miriam  I created the photographs of hand-made round matzah and machine make rectangular matzah during a Passover that we celebrated on the island of Crete. My forthcoming book Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media (HarperCollins) explores the conceptual background for Bible blogging.

Round matzah symbolizes idolatry.  Since words in the Torah scroll are written without vowels, calf (EGeL) can also be read as circle (EGuL).

The idolatrous transgression of the Israelites was their worship of Ra, the sun God represented in Egyptian art as a golden circle.

Rectangular matzah symbolizes slavery.  The Egyptians enslaved the Israelites in the malben, meaning both brickyard and rectangle.

Mitzrayim, the biblical name of Egypt, means narrowness.  The exodus into the wide expanses of the Sinai desert expanded consciousness.

Jews recite these words from Psalm 118 in their prayers: From narrow straits I called out to God. God answered me with expansiveness.”

As we break matzah to eat them, we break out of the box and circle, both closed forms, breaking away from narrowness of thought.

We eat pieces of matzah with bitter herbs and mud-like haroset to remember the bitterness of our slavery of forced labor making bricks.

However, we transform the tactile feeling of mud in our mouth into the sweet taste of freedom by making haroset from a mixture of dates, apples and nuts.

Jewish consciousness is shaped by spiral forms, from Torah scroll to tzitzit fringes to ram’s horn shofar to spiral hallah bread.

The spiral form is the shape of DNA molecules in our cells and in cells of all plants and animals.  It is the growth pattern of life, of palm fronds and nautilus shells.

Jews are called Am HaSePheR, usually translated as “People of the Book.” However, SePheR means scroll predating books by millennia.

Jews are “People of the Torah Scroll”. The ancient SPR root of SePheR found its way into the words SPiRal, SPiRitual and inSPiRation.

About the Author
Mel Alexenberg is an artist, educator, writer, and blogger working at the interface between art, technology, Jewish thought, and living the Zionist miracle in Israel. He is the author of "Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media," "The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness," and "Dialogic Art in a Digital World: Judaism and Contemporary Art" in Hebrew. He was professor at Columbia, Bar-Ilan and Ariel universities and research fellow at MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies. His artworks are in the collections of more than forty museums worldwide. He lives in Ra’anana, Israel, with his wife artist Miriam Benjamin.
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