By HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshivah, Machon Meir
“Thus did Hillel when the Temple stood: He would combine matzah and marror [bitter
herbs] and eat them together to fulfill what it says, ‘They shall eat it with matzah and marror’
(Numbers 9:11).” (Haggadah)
As is known, matzah recalls freedom while marror recalls slavery. Seemingly, the two
are opposites. Even so, Hillel, whose identifying trait was that he “loved peace and would
pursue peace, he loved his fellow men and would bring them close to the Torah” (Avot),
would combine matzah and marror and eat them. Why?
Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook (Olat Re’iyah 289) explains that we have to view
slavery and freedom not as two distinct forces that do not influence each other, but as two
forces which are linked together and which complete each other.
Matzah, symbolizing freedom, alludes to Israel’s instinctive love of G-d, His Torah,
His mitzvot and His creations. By contrast, marror, symbolizing slavery, teaches us that we
have to bring that love from a potential to a reality through our being slaves to the will of Gd.
This is exalted enslavement, enslavement to the King of Glory, which is total freedom.
Thus, the perfect form of freedom emerges when it is linked to slavery.
Today, we must learn from Hillel the Elder as we approach reclining on the seder
night as free men. As we celebrate the holiday of freedom, we must tell our children, and
ourselves, the remarkable story of our people when they were first born in the darkness of
Egypt. We must tell of the miracles and wonders which G-d performed by dint of His love
for His firstborn son Israel. We must tell of Israel’s good soul, which serves to bring light to
the entire world despite the forces of darkness which rise up against us in every generation
with the intent of snuffing out the light of the world -- it will never be!
We must remember
that freedom truly demands enslavement, and we must combine the two together, as in the
words of Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi (Kuzari 5:205):
“I seek only freedom from enslavement to man. I seek enslavement to One -- to G-d,
because enslavement to Him is freedom, and surrender to Him is the true glory.”
With blessings for a joyous festival of freedom,
Looking forward to complete salvation.