While preserving our traditional songs and prayers, The Historical Haggadah invites participants to become voices of the ancient past. As they do, remarkable insights are shared with all. An abbreviated example helps illustrate.
Matzah — unleavened bread — is one of the foods eaten the evening of the escape (Exodus 12), a meal planned four days in advance! With four days of planning, wasn’t there time to bake bread and let it rise? The haste of our escape cannot have created a problem with baking normal bread. And certainly it wasn’t eaten to commemorate a hasty escape which had not yet occurred! Then why the commandment to eat matzah the night of the departure? Based on analysis of varied Torah passages, Epstein offers this explanation: Matzah had long been a special bread–pure enough to offer to Adonay at an annual festival preceding the era of slavery — an offering consecrating the firstborn males as Adonay’s ritual leaders.
In fact, the firstborn acted as priests before there was a formal priesthood. When many of them were taken away as slaves, the family members remaining behind moved the festival indoors, and matzah was eaten to consecrate all the People as a Firstborn Nation — a nation of priests.
After the Exodus, matzah continued to be used as the bread of consecration of the Levite priests — a ceremony making no reference to Egypt. Perhaps ritually more important than we have ever understood in our time, matzah is the bread consecrating us as members of a Priestly Nation. It did not rise in Egypt because we would not let it. Epstein explains: “It could not be allowed to rise. If it did it would not be suitable as an offering or serve its ritual purpose of consecration.”
Today we may also ascribe to matzah a symbolism of our haste to escape oppression and follow Adonay’s commandments.
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