To explore the connection between mitzvah and matzah, we need to go back in time for a bit.
It was the third day following Avraham’s circumcision. Most people would be resting in bed, recuperating. Not so Avraham. He sits outside his tent anxiously anticipating that a passerby may come his way. Finally he sees three men, or angels, though he was unaware of that at the time. The Torah vividly describes the great enthusiasm with which Avraham prepares the guest’s meals. “Avraham ran to the cattle.” “Avraham hurried into the tent.” This story serves as a catalyst for all positive commandments. So too, they should be done with a full heart and with much excitement.
There is a seemingly strong statement from our Rabbi’s. “Do not allow your positive commandments (mitzvos) to become like a Non-Kosher Matza (chametz) on Passover”. What is the connection between chametz and mitzvos?
When making Matzah, unleavened bread, we are extremely careful to not procrastinate for even a moment. If we do delay, the dough can be transformed from dough fit for the mitzvah of matzah to chametz, which is off limits on Passover. So too, our Rabbis teach us that all commandments should be done in a quick, even excited, fashion.
The Question about Matzah
However, there is something a bit incongruous about this that needs to be addressed. If Matza is created too slowly (in more than 18 minutes), it is disqualified. On the other hand, if one performs a Mitzvah without the proper zeal, he still fulfilled his obligation. If so, why would we equate the mitzvah of matzah to the rest of mitzvos?
To understand this, we need a short introduction. Why were Mitzvos necessary in the first place?
God was concerned that mankind would get totally involved in our natural physical tendencies and distance ourselves from Him. To prevent this, G-d gave us various reminders; for example, while gathering your wheat, give some to the poor, after eating a meal, thank God for what you ate and enjoyed. By involving ourselves in performing the various commandments, we reconnect with our Maker.
If so, we now understand the Rabbi’s statement. If one performs the Mitzvah without any desire and by rote, he has missed the entire purpose of the deed! He fell short in extricating himself from the physical world and connecting with the spiritual. A lack-luster performance is indeed off the mark, much like a disqualified Matza!
From the story of Avraham, we learn to truly appreciate the opportunity afforded to us of connecting with God through His mitzvos and elevating ourselves above the mundane.