When the Israelites left Egypt they did so in a hurry and had no time to wait for the bread they were baking to rise. The bread they baked was flat – matzah. Matzah is more than a commemorative food. It is called the ‘bread of affliction’ or a ‘poor man’s bread’. It remains flat symbolizing humility. Regular bread that rises symbolizes arrogance. On Passover we remove all leavened bread (and grain products) from our homes, eating only the matzah. We symbolize the removal of all arrogance and egotism turning instead to humility.
There are three pieces of matzah stacked on the table. We now break the middle matzah into two pieces. The Passover story begins in a broken world, amidst slavery, oppression, and separation. The broken middle matzah therefore represents all those separated from their families or communities, from the Jews expelled from Jerusalem by the Romans to the Native Americans sent to reservations and enslaved, to the millions living in refugee camps around the world and the Palestinians removed from their homes.
The host will wrap up the larger pieces and, at some point between now and the end of dinner, hide it. This piece is called the afikoman, literally “dessert” in Greek. After dinner, our younger guests will hunt for the afikoman in order to wrap up the meal. Tradition states that we cannot conclude the seder without the broken piece being found, as the broken piece is necessary for us to become whole again.
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