SOME THOUGHTS ON CHAMETZ
The Weekly Parashah
The Center for Latino-Jewish Relations
This weekend marks the end of the Passover holiday and the return to eating chametz. During the last week, we were to think about the meaning of freedom and when we lacked both national freedom and also personal freedom. One of this holiday’s aspects that makes Passover so unique is that it is a time when we are “chametz-free”.
The term chametz is not easy to translate. We often translate it as “leavening”, or something that makes food rise. Thus, Jews around the world refrain from eating most bread products and beers throughout the holiday. Can we see Passover as the first “gluten-free holiday”?
In reality, as almost every Jewish person knows, translating the word chametz for someone outside of Jewish culture is not easy. The word conveys a sense of “puffed-up” and of “self-importance”. Thus, it has both a food-science meaning and a spiritual and national meaning. Chametz reminds us that we are free but only within the confines of society. The term also reminds us that each of us is just one small dot in the scheme of history, that to rid oneself of self-importance is another way to rid oneself of perpetual slavery.
The word “chametz” is not only used, however, with the holiday of Passover. Thus, in chapter 2 of Leviticus we read: “No meal offering that you offer to the Lord shall be with leaven (chametz), for you shall burn no leaven (se’or) or honey in any fire offering to the Lord.” (2:11)
And again in chapter 6 of Leviticus we read: “… its remainder (of the meal offering) shall be eaten by Aaron and his sons; it shall be eaten as unleavened cake (matzot) in the sacred precinct … It shall not be baked with leaven …” (6:9-10). Does being chametz-free here symbolize the unfinished, the work that has yet to be done to complete a task?
As we finish the holiday of Passover we remember that the search for freedom and human dignity is also an unfinished business. To be chametz free then represents the beginning of a yet-unfulfilled process. Now that we are about to end the Passover holidays and enter the comforts of the chametz world, it is our responsibility to remember that our journey to collective and personal freedom is not yet complete, that all too many of us have become spoiled and at times selfish. How do each of us remember the lessons of Passover and the meaning of freedom throughout the rest of the year? What do you think?
From Rabbi Peter Tarlow
Submitted by Jerry Weissman