From tonight and for the next eight days, Jews around the world will not eat bread nor other leavened products, in remembrance of the freedom from slavery in Egypt, a liberation that the Pharaoh granted around eight thousand years ago, after the ten plagues god inflicted on the Egyptians. The last one, the death of the firstborn children, convinced the Egyptian dictator to free the population, enslaved for 400 years mixing clay and straw. A population that had lost all hope of freedom and of ever becoming an independent community.
A precipitous escape, the necessity to prepare bread for the long journey ahead was a bread that didn’t have time to rise. This unleavened bread has become the symbol of this celebration, and its origins are pastoral. It glorifies the conquest of freedom and self-determination as individuals.
But unleavened bread, which has not been “inflated” is also the symbol of humble simplicity: a suggestion against the human temptations of smug arrogance. The law states that the bread must be kneaded and put in the oven within 18 minutes because beyond this time, a natural leavening process automatically starts.
It may be a coincidence, but the number 18 in the interpretation based on the numeric value of the alphabet known as “ghematrià”, corresponds to “chai-life”, as if to say, “Watch out because after 18 minutes the dough is alive”. The Seder is a dinner that follows a precise ritual, a narration and consuming specific symbolic foods that tell the story of the passage from slavery to freedom, and, naturally, matzah unleavened breads, are at the center of this ritual.