For the week of February 4, 2006 / 6 Shevat 5766
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 10:1 - 13:16
Haftarah: Jeremiah 46:13-28
A Matzah Lifestyle
With the dough they had brought from Egypt, they baked cakes of matzah (unleavened bread). The dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have time to prepare food for themselves. (Shemot / Exodus 12:39).
If you are familiar with the Passover celebration, you know that the reason we eat matzah (unleavened bread) at that time is to remember that our ancestors ate matzah when God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. The reason they ate matzah was because they didn't have sufficient time to let the dough rise before making bread. After many years of oppression, it was time to go.
About 400 years prior to this time, God told Abraham about these days. (Bereshit / Genesis 15:13-16). Under the leadership of Abraham's great-grandson Joseph, the people of Israel moved to Egypt because of a great famine. God used Egypt as a place of blessing and preservation for the people of Israel, until a king arose who didn't trust them. He forced them into slavery in order to subdue them. Through it all the people waited for their promised deliverance. Perhaps those who were aware of the promise to Abraham thought that when the deliverer would come, freedom would instantly be theirs, but it did not work out that way. Due to Pharaoh's stubborn refusal to allow the people to leave, God struck him and his people with destructive plagues. More than once Pharaoh seemed to give way, only to change his mind. Then the moment arrived when Pharaoh finally allowed them to leave. As it turned out, he changed his mind yet again, but to no avail. The people of Israel were on their way.
What would have happened had they hesitated? Of course God had determined to free his people. Yet clearly it would have been disastrous had they not left at the chosen time. It seems as if up until that precise moment the people were not completely clear as to their exact moment of departure. Which might explain why they would have had unbaked dough with them. As it turned out they carried with them a reminder that their deliverance came at a precise and somewhat unexpected moment, and that they needed to take advantage of their God-given opportunity without hesitation. It also turned out that they carried a reminder of this not just for themselves, but for all generations since.
The call to pick up and go as they did so long ago is an example of a very important aspect of following God. We may not always realize that his timing is essential. Just like the people of Israel would have missed their moment of deliverance had they hesitated, so we too may miss our God-given opportunities when we hesitate to obey him.
It is not only at Passover that we need to be reminded of this lesson. We never know when God might decide to call us out from whatever our current situation is into whatever his next steps for us might be. May we be alert and quick to obey him.
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