Shlomo Ezagui

Matzah is the caffeine of Passover

Round hand-made matza  eaten on the Jewish holdiay of Passover.
Round hand-made matza eaten on the Jewish holdiay of Passover.

In the Jewish tradition, every holiday has its theme; we draw upon that specific energy in our service to God for the entire year. For example, Purim grants us the spiritual power of joy for the whole year. How do we receive this energy and its blessings? By actually following the commandments of the holiday. For Purim, the Book of Esther tells us that by commemorating and reliving the original incident, the reason for the holiday, we can experience those same miracles again in the present tense.

For Passover, it is written that “In every generation, and every day, a person must see himself going out of Egypt.” This exodus brought freedom from slavery, and freedom is the opportunity in our lives today for us to observe the holiday and serve God properly. We all have personal limitations that restrain us and keep us from progressing onward. Passover and its observances give each of us the strength to realize personal freedom from current taskmasters that are often internal and self-imposed.

Sitting at the table and retelling the story refreshes our memory that there is a God and He does miracles. “Their cries went to heaven…and God heard their moans.” There isn’t just the rule of nature. A God who controls nature always hears us when we turn to Him, He responds to our cries.

The theme of the holiday is captured in the main staple of the holiday and the commandment to fulfill on the two first nights of Passover — the eating of the matzah, at least one ounce each night.

The Passover matzah is called the “poor man’s bread,” and no other ingredients can be added beyond the bare minimum. The Passover matzah is made with simple ingredients, flour, and water. The matzah must be flat and not become leavened and bloated like bread. Matzah is flat, simple, and unassuming; therefore, matzah is a “humble food.”

Bread, on the other hand, which is forbidden on Passover, has all kinds of tasty and rich ingredients. It rises and is bloated — conceited. Bread on Passover represents haughtiness, arrogance, and ego, which stands in the way of true freedom and growth.

A person must develop humility to free himself from his current situation and grow beyond his boundaries. A humble person understands that no one person is an island unto himself. Therefore, in the interest of connecting with others, he learns that, at times he must put himself aside for the sake of others. He knows to be receptive to other people and their perspectives and sensitivities. As a result, he will be connected with the greater whole and become a larger and stronger person.

Moses, the most outstanding leader, was praised in the Bible with humility. “And the man Moses was the humblest person from any other person on the face of the Earth.”

An arrogant and haughty person thinks it is all about himself. He has difficulty seeing things from another person’s perspective, so this person is very limited and small. Even if he gives to others, it is only because that serves his own selfish desires, so he never truly connects and unites with the other person, and as big as he is, he always remains one person.

Humility is one of the essential ingredients for faith. When someone is arrogant, God says, “He and I cannot dwell together.” His arrogance chases God away. Someone humble invites God into his life, acknowledging that it is impossible for a human being to go through life only by the merit of his own effort.

Matzah on Passover is like the caffeine of faith. When you eat matzah and internalize humility, you acquire the strength for faith, and faith is the most potent strength we can have to move through life happily and successfully.

Chapter 91

About the Author
Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is an author and lecturer. "A Spiritual Soul Book" ( & "Maimonides Advice for the 21st Century" ( In 1987, Rabbi Ezagui opened the first Chabad Center in Palm Beach County, Florida, and the first Orthodox Synagogue on the island of Palm Beach, Florida.
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