In the portions of Vayikra and Tzav we encounter two mitzvot which prohibit chametz in relation to the korban minchah (meal offering). The first forbids offering the minchah with chametz, se’or (a leavening agent), or honey (Leviticus 2:11). The second bans turning the part of the minchah which the kohen eats (sheyarei menachot) into chametz” (Ibid. 6:10). However, there are two exceptions, two menachot which may contain chametz: the korban todah (thanksgiving offering) and the korban reishit (also known as the shtei halechem, the two loaves of bread offered on Shavuot).
We need to understand: what is at the root of this prohibition? Is there a connection between the prohibition of including chametz in a minchah and the prohibition of eating chametz on Pesach? More generally, what is the relationship between chametz and matzah? Why are the korban todah and the korban reishit exceptions to the rule?
The Sefer HaChinukh (#5) explains the reason for the prohibition of eating chametz on Pesach: “In order that we remember forever the miracles which were done for us at the time of the Exodus, as well as what happened to us. Due to the rushed departure, we baked the dough into matzah because we could not wait for it to rise.”
It would seem from his words that the very essence of the prohibition of eating chametz on Pesach is linked solely to the issue of the Exodus and the remembrance of the miracles which were done for us then. There would seem to be no connection, then, between the prohibition of chametz on Pesach, and the prohibition of offering a minchah of chametz on the mizbe’ach (altar).
When it comes to the reason for the prohibition of offering a leavening agent, the Chinukh writes (#117), “The purpose of all the offerings is so that the one who offers will think, and will internalize the lessons of those actions.” That is, every detail of our involvement with the offering leaves an imprint on our souls. We learn about our service of God in this way.
Then the Chinukh offers two reasons why we avoid chametz in a minchah. First, when bread is baked it takes a long time to rise, but when matzot are baked they are finished quickly. If a person thinks about this when he offers the minchah (which is specifically made of matzah and not chametz), he will internalize the traits of drive and diligence in Divine worship.
Second, when one bakes bread, it rises and elevates itself, which hints at the trait of ga’avah (conceit). This trait is disgraceful and abominable, as it says, “Every haughty person is an abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 16:5). In contrast, matzah is flat, which hints at humility. That trait is very desirable, as it says, “Be exceedingly humble of spirit” (Pirkei Avot 4:4).
The Maharal of Prague, in his sermon for Shabbat HaGadol, explains in depth this last idea, and with it he connects the prohibition of eating chametz on Pesach with the prohibition of offering chametz in the minchah on the mizbe’ach. Matzah is “the bread of poverty” (Deuteronomy 16:3), the bread of humility. It is made up solely of the flour and water which the baker used. Chametz too is made up of flour and water. What is added to it? Its independent action. The dough, which is made of the very same flour and water, swells, as if developing a swollen ego of its own. So too, man is like dough. He contains what God has instilled in him, as well as his own private, swollen ego, which he creates with his own efforts.
If this is the case, it would seem proper to forbid chametz all year round, and thereby distance man from conceit and egotism, while inculcating in him diligence and humility. Why is this not the halakhah?
The state of human “chametz” is natural, and the Torah does not want to withhold it from man in general. Nevertheless, there is one place where a demand is made of man to return to his source and to the “matzah” within him. In one place, he must stand humbly and with head bowed before the Lord his God. That place is the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple). It is there that the verse says, “When a person from among you shall offer a sacrifice to God” (Leviticus 1:2) – he should bring himself, his ego, as an offering before God.
Similarly, once a year on Pesach, a person must return to the “matzah” within him. He may return there via the remembrance of the miracles of the Exodus, in accordance with the Chinukh. Or he may return there via the consciousness that we went from the slavery of Egypt to slavery of God – a consciousness which automatically shrinks our ego and our selfimportance – in accordance with the Maharal.
It follows that only a person who has truly internalized the message of chametz and matzah and the relationship between them is allowed to offer chametz on the mizbe’ach. Therefore, the only offerings which can include chametz are those which express man’s recognition of the limits of his power, and his realization that his life is in God’s hands. The korban todah, which a person brings after being saved from danger, and the korban reishit, which a farmer brings in hopes that his crops will be plentiful, are brought of chametz. “This offering, with loaves of chametz added, he shall offer” (Leviticus 7:13). Only those who have gotten rid of the chametz in their hearts are permitted to bring an offering with chametz.
“On this night we eat only matzah” – our very humble understanding of our true status, the perspective of “matzah” – with the help of God will bring us to the stage where “on all other nights we eat both chametz and matzah” – with the ability to realize all the talents that God has instilled in us, unhampered by a swollen ego.
Have a happy and kosher Pesach.