By: Batya Hefter
At the crux of Pesach is ‘haste’, as the children of Israel flee Egypt in haste. Strikingly, Lot and his family flee the doomed Sdom in similar haste. The story of Lot includes the intriguing detail that “he [Lot] baked for them [the angels] unleavened bread” (Bereshit 19:3). Rashi’s comment, “It was Pesach,” hints that the story of Lot parallels the Exodus story in its theme of Divine extraction from impending destruction. A more subtle literary parallel is the use of the word “ויתמהמה” [tarry, linger] in both narratives. Lot “tarries” despite the angels’ hastening him (19:15-16), and in the Exodus story, the Jews eat unleavened bread because they could not “tarry” (Shmot 12:39).
Rav Tzaddok haCohen writes that in order for us to enter into avodat Hashem, we must not tarry when awakened by those fleeting moments of Divine inspiration; we must seize the rare opportunity to detach ourselves from old habits and patterns. When faced with these opportunities, we may, like Lot, sense an inner desire to procrastinate; after all, change is threatening and, like the Jews leaving Egypt, we often prefer what is familiar, no matter how negative and self-destructive it may be.
In spite of Lot’s tarrying, however, he is aware of the significance of the moment, and something in his soul is stirred by the need to act. In contrast, though Lot’s wife merits extraction from Sodom at the hands of the angels, she is too firmly attached to Sodom to recognize what is at stake, and her end is to become static, an inseparable part of Sodom.
Chametz—unleavened bread—is associated with our regular habits of thought, speech, and behavior. Most of the year, bread is a ubiquitous part of our diet, “the staff of life.” Far from being evil, bread is something we depend on, like the routines and structures we require in order to function in our daily lives. The danger of these structures is that we become dulled, in danger of becoming static and unable to move, change, and grow. Disrupting, even eradicating, the basic structures of our lives primes us to sense the moments of divine impulse so necessary for effecting change.
May the disruption of our Pesach activities serve to heighten our awareness of the heavenly voice within each of us and help us to seize these opportunities for spiritual growth.
Chag Matzot Sameach.