RACHTZA – 15 Steps of the Seder (Part 7)


Before we partake of the Matzah, we wash our hands a second time.

If washing the first time was about removing the impurities that we accumulated in Mitzraim (the spiritual state of confinement), the second washing is about realizing a higher level of purity.  At this point, we are ready to enter into a new phase in the process of liberation. And, whenever we enter a higher order of spiritual awareness, we must go through a cleansing process so that we are not distracted by a lower and less sophisticated mindset.


When we review the words of the Haggadah about Matzah, we discover that two very different reasons are given for this commandment.

In the first introductory paragraph, the Matzah is referred to as, “the bread of affliction our ancestors ate in the Land of Egypt.” Much later, in the Haggadah, we read that it was the revelation of G-d that compelled us to leave Egypt and the haste of our departure did not allow the dough to rise.

Upon reflection, it appears that the first reason relates to our initial impoverished spiritual state, whereas the second reason relates to a more advanced stage in our development.

At this point, we are ready to eat the Matzah now that we have reached the more advanced understanding of its significance. We have now climbed the spiritual ladder, having recited the bulk of the Haggadah, part of Hallel (Psalms of praise), and having consumed the first two cups of wine that signify liberation.

Now we are ready to experience the higher form of Matzah; the Matzah that elevates us to a higher level of consciousness.

We, therefore. wash our hands again, not only because we are eating a kind of bread, but to indicate that we are now ready to reach a higher level of consciousness, one that necessitates cleansing ourselves of the perceptions that we had when we were at the lower level.


There is a Talmudic precedent for this. When the Babylonian sage, Rabbi Zeira made aliya to Israel so he could study under the Israeli Sages, he fasted for forty days so that he would forget the Babylonian Talmud.

Chassidic masters explain that he did not want, G-d forbid, to forget parts of Torah. Rather he wanted to block out the methodology of learning characterized by the Babylonian Talmud. He did not want the inferior Babylonian methodology of study to distract him while he attempted to adopt the superior and more abstract approach of the Jerusalem Talmud.

Similarly, as we graduate into a higher phase of spiritual liberation, we wash away the perceptions we had when we were still on the lower, impoverished, rung of the spiritual ladder.

Just as we have no right to remain slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, a Jew must not remain ensconced in a lower level of consciousness when he or she is ready to climb to the next level.


In addition, it was explained that the reason the first washing is needed, before dipping the vegetable, is to ensure that our reversal of the usual order will not merely be an expression of our ego, which wants no part of an organized system. It is necessary then, as we are spiritual novices and the potential for ego-caused problems is at its height.

But now, we’ve gone through these preliminary steps. We have experienced the initial taste of freedom.  We no longer need to obsess over our inflated ego. Now we are ready to ingest the Matzah that will elevate us to a higher level of spiritual consciousness. And, as stated, before we do that, we must go through another purification/elevation process.

Rabbi Heschel Greenberg

Published in Holidays Pesach

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