Why the rush?
Do you know that the Jews left Egypt in haste?
Don’t you remember? That’s why we eat matzah on Pesach.
“They baked the dough that they took out of Egypt into unleavened cakes … for they were driven out of Egypt and they couldn’t delay.”
But why couldn’t they wait for the dough to rise?
Do you know how long it takes for dough to rise? My dear wife, Rochel, has taught thousands of women to bake challah. Her home-baked challah is legendary in our community. So I asked her, “How long does it take for the dough to rise?” “About three or four hours,” she said.
I don’t get it. Our ancestors had spent 210 years in Egypt. They couldn’t wait a few more hours to enjoy eating normal bread? Why the mad rush?
Conventional thinking suggests that they needed to hurry before the Egyptians changed their minds and reneged on their offer of freedom. But the rebbe offers a novel approach to this difficulty, arguing that it wasn’t the Egyptians who were the problem, it was us!
“Better the devil you know …” goes the old proverb. It must have been quite a leap of faith for the longtime slaves to leave the infrastructure of Egypt and head out into an unknown wilderness.
Imagine their thinking: “Here, we have a roof over our heads. True, there are no luxuries, but we do get fed every day. What will we have in the wilderness? No food, no shelter, not even water. Are we not better off just staying here in Egypt?”
So, when the moment of the exodus arrived, it was a dramatic window of opportunity. Had they not grasped it with both hands at that very moment, it’s possible that these and other doubts might have crept in and delayed the whole experience.
As the Midrash states, “When the time of redemption arrived, G-d did not delay the exodus even for as much as the blink of an eye.”
Frankly, it can happen to all of us. We all get comfortable in our little slaveries and daily drudgeries. There’s an old Yiddish proverb for this: “May we never get used to what we can get used to.” With the passage of time, we become tired, worn down, and what was previously intolerable becomes all too acceptable.
We’ve all experienced missed opportunities in life. The house we could have bought, the stocks we should have sold, even the man or woman we could have married. But we hesitated, and as another old proverb goes, “He who hesitates is lost.”
In our Jewish lives, too, we should take advantage of the many opportunities now available to us that we may not have had when we were younger. Regular Torah study, more time in the synagogue, a new mitzvah. There’s so much on offer today that we can easily make up for any lost opportunities.
It takes courage to grasp the moment and embrace new visions and horizons. When opportunity knocks, let’s not miss our chance.