Why do we eat matzah? Because during the Exodus, our ancestors had no time to wait for dough to rise. So they improvised flat cakes without yeast, which could be baked and consumed in haste. The matzah reminds us that when the chance for liberation comes, we must seize it even if we do not feel ready—indeed, if we wait until we feel fully ready, we may never act at all.
That's in The Velveteen Rabbi's Haggadah for Pesach (version 7.1, 2011). The same sentiment appears in The VR Haggadah for Pesach (Abridged & Expanded) (version 7.2, 2012) in the poem "Ready" -- "But if you wait until you feel fully ready / you may never take the leap at all." (That's one of the three poems I shared during my smicha ceremony a few years ago.)
It's one of my favorite ideas in the seder and in the Exodus story. It's a deep spiritual truth. Sometimes we have to leap before we feel entirely ready to do so. Reaching freedom means stretching ourselves beyond our comfort zone. I always get a little shiver when we reach this line in the haggadah, because it feels so real and so true to me.
Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav has a beautiful teaching on this theme (sometimes jointly attributed to his amanuensis, Reb Nosson.) I posted it here some years ago: On leaping, without delay. The gist is this: Mitzrayim, the Narrow Place, exists in every era and in every human experience. And each of us is called to take the leap of leaving Mitzrayim in our own lives.
When the Israelites left Egypt, they did so in haste, without waiting for their bread to rise. We too must take leaps into the unknown, and in the moment of so doing, we need to resist the impulse to slow ourselves down by worrying about what's coming next. Reb Nachman frames it in terms of: when you realize that you're mired in Mitzrayim, take the leap to free yourself without worrying about how you're going to support yourself in your new life.
I hadn't yet studied that text when I first wrote "if we wait until we feel fully ready, we may never act at all" -- but I think we're on the same wavelength there, Reb Nachman and I. Worrying about parnassah (in his framing) can be a way of waiting until one feels fully ready: until one has a complete plan in place, a new job and new apartment, a new situation all mapped-out. And believe me, I'm one of those people who likes to have a plan in place. Maybe that's why I find this teaching so valuable. My temperament inclines me to take my time and wait until I have things all-planned-out, but the Pesach story reminds me that sometimes I have to take the leap and trust that God will provide.
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