This Parsha this week is Parshas Bo. In the Parsha the Torah tells us of the actual Exodus when the Jewish people finally left Egypt. Many of the laws of what we can and can’t eat on Passover are therefore in this Parsha. Not only is the commandment to eat matzah on Passover in this Parsha. The instruction for how to make matzah is also here. “And you shall watch (guard) the matzohs”…( Exodus 12:17) These words are the requirement that the matzah used Passover night has to be more than just free from chametz (leavening). It has to be watched and made “lishmah” - with actual intent - for the express purpose of being used for the mitzvah of eating matzah at the Passover seder. In our terms this is called Shmurah Matzah – (Matzah that was watched). This is usually made in the round, hand made form that is sold for the Passover Seder.
When looking at the Hebrew spelling of the word matzohs without the vowels, (mem tzadi vav saf), one sees that it is the same exact spelling as the word mitzvohs (commandments). In the Torah, in fact, there are no vowels. Thus, the Sages tell us, one should also read this word as mitzvohs. “And you shall watch (guard) the mitzvohs”…One clear lesson they say is that all mitzvohs should be treated like matzah. Matzah has to be attended to – one can’t let the dough sit alone even for just a few minutes, for by leaving it alone it turns onto chametz. Even just letting the dough sit for 18 minutes makes it chametz!! Mitzvohs also can’t be allowed to become “chametz”. If we have an opportunity to do a mitzvah, we can’t let it wait. It has to be attended to right away. As the commentaries explain, this is like a person who is given the opportunity to make a million dollar deal. Will he or she let it just sit? Certainly not!! The fact that such a precious opportunity presents itself and must be grabbed is self evident and self explanatory for anyone who has “saichel” (common sense). This same feeling of excitement and urgency must surround us whenever we have the opportunity to do a mitzvah.
Rav Moshe Feinstien, zt”l, explains another idea contained in this same verse. When one does a mitzvah, the power of the mitzvah is affected by how much thought and attention we put into it. When we make matzah, the very dough that we prepare is changed by the fact that it is watched with the intention to use it for a mitzvah; the very same mixture of flour and water can be acceptable for the mitzvah or not merely based on the intent of the person watching it. So too in every mitzvah, the intent and focus that we have when we do it changes the mitzvah. A mitzvah done with joy and happiness is a different act than one done just because one has to do it. If we do a favor for someone with care and concern for that person, it is a totally different act than if we just help him or her because we have to. If we give just a few seconds or a minute to think about the mitzvah we are doing, we totally change the act from a mundane one to a special, powerful, and holy mitzvah. A moment of thought, and our acts of “chametz” become “matzah”!!