Of course, my brain is Pesach-oriented. Kitchen, cleaning, cooking, Seder, shopping, did I mention cleaning? So as I was looking at this week’s parasha, Tzav, I noticed something in the recipe section for the Priestly offerings.
Lev 6:9 “What is left of it shall be eaten by Aaron and his sons; it shall be eaten as unleavened cakes, in the sacred precinct; they shall eat it in the enclosure of the Tent of Meeting.” This is the ritual of the meal offering for the Priests. Some of the offerings the Priests aren’t allowed to eat, but this one is a meal offering. “A handful of the choice flour and oil of the meal offering shall be taken..with all the frankincense that is on the meal offering, and this token portion shall be turned into smoke on the altar as a pleasing odor to Adonai” (Lev 6:8)
We think of matza as both the bread of affliction and the bread of hospitality. They seem to contradict each other; please come to my house and let me feed you poor slave bread? And this Leviticus matza isn’t being eaten in a home. It’s in the Holy of Holies, in the Tent of Meeting, by the most elite of the Israelites, the Priests, not at my regular old dining room table.
There’s no mention of speed in Leviticus, either. The Priests have to wait until the seasoned meal offering’s token portion has burned up for God, and then they get the rest. It’s a really different setting from Passover – no speed baking or eating, no eating with girded loins, sandals on, ready to split, everyone in the community take some on their backs and GO!
The Priestly matza course happens after the Exodus, and we’re already in the wilderness. We’ve begun distinguishing our world. We’ve already begun separating out the classes among the Israelites, delineating the Priestly class. We’re establishing holy places and spaces, holier people, holy time, holy behavior (when to leave the camp, do your laundry, purify, etc)
This is the genius of matza, I think. When we were slaves, it was poor slave food. When we had the promise of freedom, it was hopeful food. When we were wandering, it reminded the Priests that anyone had access to them, to the holiest of places, that even the poorest offering of slave-bread would get God’s attention, and is also good enough for the Priests to eat. To us, today, matza is the hospitality food, reminding us that all who are hungry should come in and eat, that our table is laden with the best we have to offer, and the simplest. In fact, we “lead” with the simple food, the one staple that took us from slavery to freedom, and beyond.