Matzah = מַצָּה
Chametz = חָמֵץ
These “breads” contain the same Hebrew letters, save one. Both have a mem and a tzade. But matzah ends with a heh, and chametz begins with a chet. These two letters look so much alike that they are often confused. Heh has a small opening on the upper left, and is expressed as a breathy “h.” Chet has no such window, and is expressed as a hard, guttural “kh.” The difference between these letters could be said to be a soft or hard expulsion of air. Chametz is hard, and matzah is soft. But like their differing letters, are often confused.
On the flip side, the difference between the actual breads of matzah and chametz, have the opposite connotations. Chametz is associated more with soft, airy puffed up bread; whereas matzah is associated with dry, dense, hard bread.
And, so it is to the soul. Chametz (soft) is more desired by the nephesh, while matzah is more loathed (hard). That is the illusion we must break free from at this season.
The letters and sounds of these Hebrew words teach the nephesh the truth: matzah is truly the more delightful, soft “bread.” In the plural, matzot is spelled the same as mitzvot, the commandments, which also are a delight. “Help me walk in the path of Your mitzvot—for I delight in it.” (Psa 119:35 TLV) Whereas, chametz is the figure of what makes one hard, callus, and puffed up. Sweep the house clean.
In this season, we remove chametz, and its beginnings or root, which is se’or (bread starters), from our homes and hearts. Every crumb must go and be burned before Pesach arrives. It’s searching diligently for and then releasing all the things that attaches us to the seeming luxuries of Mitzrayim (Egypt).
Yet, we struggle with discerning between matzah and chametz. Every year at this season, debates about what is actually chametz abound, confusing, especially, those new to this process. Varying traditions can make this even more difficult. If this occurs with natural chametz, how much more so does it occur when it comes to spiritual chametz?
In the past, I’ve thrown out things that I later discovered weren’t actually chametz, and in other times I kept things that I later discovered was chametz. Stop and think about that from a spiritual perspective. Haven’t we done the same when it comes to doctrines and traditions?
The above doesn’t include the things that I accidentally overlooked. For example, one year, in the middle of the feast of Unleavened Bread, I found a full, unopened package of Oreo cookies on top of my refrigerator. (When you are vertically challenged and live with those that are not, don’t forget to check all the high places!)
All these natural things have taught me a lot about spiritual chametz. I doubt there has been a time when my house was truly free of (physical and spiritual) chametz. That doesn’t prevent me from trying to remove it; instead, it brings me humility as I approach Adonai with my efforts, and grace toward my brothers and sisters. This is what is needed before Passover arrives. The physical process is designed to teach and train one’s heart, and reveal what lurks in its depths.
The difference between chametz and matzah is subtle. They are very close, yet very different. May the Father of Lights grant us wisdom to know the difference in the natural, and especially, in the spiritual realms this year!
“He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:3, NASB)