I'm Jon Spira-Savett, rabbi at Temple Beth Abraham in Nashua, New Hampshire. This website and blog is a resource for Jewish learning and Jewish action. It is a way to share my thoughts beyond my classes and weekly Divrei Torah. You'll find blog posts, standing resource pages with links and things to read, and podcasts as well.
Three takes on chametz as we clean and prepare our homes for Pesach:
1. Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Chasidism, taught that chametz represents haughtiness. Yeast comes into the mixture of simple flour and water, and it starts eating. The byproducts are gases that become trapped in the dough and expand it. So too, our egos can cause us to be puffed up, gas bags! Matzah represents humility, keeping ourselves in the proper place.
2. Rabbi Yehuda Leib of Ger noticed that the letters of the words chametz and matzah differ only in one way. One has a chet ח at the beginning and the other a hay ה at the end; the other sounds are the same. There is a leg at the left of the hay in matzah, a small leg that represents the inner point, the soul connected to directly to God and separated from the dominant world by a space. In chametz, the larger body of the letter chet fills the space and overpowers the inner point. In the same way, the rising bread represents the material forces in our lives that attempt to dominate the soul. By banishing chametz and eating matzah, we restore our focus on the inner point.
3. For the biblical farmer, Pesach was a time of clearing out the old grain remaining from last year's harvest. Old grain lies around, damp from the winter rain. Fermenting occurs naturally -- chametz -- a sour taste, a sign of spoiling. On Pesach, we eat new bread without any taste of sour fermentation. This is the Torah's new year, a time to burn off anything sour from the past year, a time of freshness for our souls and our lives.
A zissen and kosher Pesach -- Wishing you a sweet and kosher Pesach!