William Hamilton
William Hamilton

Time is your friend

Why is matzah, matzah? As a young child I was taught it was due to an eagerness to taste freedom. The bread didn’t have time to rise, because the Children of Israel couldn’t wait to become former slaves.

This week’s portion of Torah tells a different story. The bread doesn’t have time to leaven because the panic-gripped Egyptians fear that the tenth plague’s death-toll will continue to rise. They don’t know the plague is to be limited. All they know is that danger intensifies as long as the Hebrew slaves remain in captivity. “The Egyptians urged the people, hastening to thrust them forth from the land, as they dreaded ‘We are all dying’” (Ex. 12:33).

Unleavened bread derives its texture from time. And it is to time that I suggest we now turn, a week into 2022.

A friend described this week, how, for her and many like her, chunks of time feel syrupy, meandering listlessly. “Full days feel somehow empty” she said. “Like they’re stalking us while we wait for sunnier ones.”

How then might we reboot our rapport with time this January?

When I was in 7th Grade, my Algebra teacher would take the final minutes of every class to pronounce “do over” if a student had more than a few incorrect answers on the daily in-class quiz. I heard “do-over” every single day that year. At first, it felt lousy. As time went on, it hardened into routine. But looking back now, perhaps getting in the habit of do-overs wasn’t all bad.

If you’re like me, you have some resolutions that you made last January in the hope that you’d look back on something you achieved during the Pandemic. A new skill you acquired, hobby you tried, or language you began to learn. Now is your chance for a do-over. You can revisit that unrealized resolution and still get it done, having learned from what held you back last time.

Another association with matzah relates to the freedom to learn (Ex 12).

Today’s moments are on-hold for some new feelings to carry. Different feelings. Feelings within us that are patiently waiting to be met, like the sensation of a second smile that hums inside you, clean and delicious.

May you revisit your chosen resolution this month. And may you find a moment or two that hold-still long enough for their leavening to enable you to rise.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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