Politics, Religion, Torah

Why Do We Destroy Our Hametz?

Why do we get rid of hametz (leavened products) for Passover?

Joseph seems to be the first person in the Bible to accumulate grain and preserve it from year to year. Predicting famine in Egypt, he stores grain on Pharaoh’s behalf (Genesis 41). Through doing so, he also then creates the institution of slavery in Egypt. For when Joseph sells grain back to the Egyptians, he does so at a steep markup, taking their money, animals, lands, and eventually freedom (Genesis 47). This episode is the ultimate source of the phrase “we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt,” which we recite at the seder (Genesis 47:25).

Thus, the point of destroying hametz is rejecting such accumulation; once a year, we rid ourselves of our surplus. We know on some level, there’s a relationship between a few stockpiling wealth and others being enslaved. We know that we ourselves, like Joseph, are liable to hoard, and we know the danger of such accumulation to create inequality. We know that slavery may start with someone else, but it will come back to haunt us; an injury to one is an injury to all. And we reject a world in which a few have much, and many have little. When we burn our hametz, we commit ourselves to bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old.

A zissen Pesah to everyone!

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