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מצה embodies two ideas: poor man’s bread (slavery) and free man’s bread (the bread that was made in haste when they left Egypt). These ideas seem to contradict one another; how can they both exist in one חפצא של מצוה, object of the commandment?

Furthermore, if you look at Rabban Gamliel’s statement that one has to speak of three things to be יצא (fulfill one's obligation), he only lists the one explanation of “free man’s bread”. Why is the other idea of Lechem Oni (poor man's bread) not included?

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Perhaps Rabban Gamliel maintains that the primary meaning of lechem oni is לחם שעונין עליו דברים הרבה (P'sachim 115b)? Anyway, this article makes the point that the slavery/freedom dichotomy extends to many elements of the seder, so the question may be generalized. – Fred Apr 10 '14 at 5:06
Hes not talking about what its called, hes telling us why we eat it. Also where does he say its free mans bread, all he basically says is that they didn't have time for the dough to rise, nothing about what its called. – sharshi Apr 10 '14 at 15:03
This question has now been published in Hagada - Mi Yodeya Second Edition. Thanks! – Isaac Moses Apr 18 at 16:02
@IsaacMoses Wonderful! Thanks for letting me know! – RCW Apr 20 at 0:04

Given the proliferation of published commentaries on the Haggada these days, I'm sure there are an abundance of answers to this question. The two most famous answers, though, come from earlier commentaries.

The first from Abarbanel, who asks this in connection to what "לחם עוני" means. What is "poor bread"? Answering that "poor" refers to the composition of the dough as well as its quality of being filling in small amounts, Abarbanel writes that in "Ha Lachma Anya", we refer to matza by its inherent qualities of paucity, while only later in the Haggada do we discuss what the matza represents, which is freedom and redemption.

The second answer comes from the Maharal, whose writings on a Haggada (although not initially composed as a commentary to the Haggada necessarily) were clearly meant as a response to Abarbanel's Haggada. His answer is basically that given by Chabad.org and quoted by @sharshi in his answer. Matza is called lechem oni because it is the poor man's bread. But poverty and freedom are not contraditory ideas; on the contrary. Poverty is essentially freedom in that one who is anchored by his wealth and possessions is not as free as one who is not. Thus matza's designation as לחם עוני is itself a representation of freedom and redemption.

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Here's an interesting perspective from Chabad.org:

... the poor person’s lack of possessions allows him a type of freedom from the burden of the physical world. True, his independence comes at a price that few of us would be willing to pay; still, conceptually he represents autonomy, and stands in stark contrast to the slave, who is completely tied to the will of his master.

There is no contradiction, one can be poor but still be free.

Rabban Gamliel is only saying why we eat Matza "When the Jews left Egypt they didn't have time for the dough to rise", not talking about what we call it.

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I heard from Rabbi Yosef Fox the following:

Perhaps the idea is to contrast the ideas of slavery and freedom, they are relatives. Through the side by side contrast emerges a greater understanding of what slavery is (under the whims and emotions of man) and what freedom is (under the system of mitzvoth that guide a person to a life of חכמה which is true freedom from the enslavement of the emotions). You need both in מצה to compare and contrast.

Or perhaps the contrast shows the praise of Hashem as to the degree he saved us from the situation of slavery to that of freedom. It shows the terrible situation we were in (eating like a poor person) to the freedom we were brought to. This highlights Hashem’s providential assistance. The contrast highlights the degree of Hashem’s assistance.

According to both of the above answers, the essential idea of מצה is the “freedom” element, the Slavery element is merely there to contrast and accentuate the ideas of the “Freedom”. This is why Rabbi Gamliel only mentioned the idea of “freedom”, because this is the essential one.

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Along the lines of something the Maharal explains in Ch. 36 of Gevuros Hashem -

The Maharal explains at length how many aspects of halachos of Pesach are meant to demonstrate the oneness and unity of Hashem. He discusses the idea of disparate elements coming together to form one unit:

וצוה לאכול הפםח על מצות ומרורים להורות כי מאתו שהוא אחד יבאו פעולות מחולקוח ולא נאמר כי אחר שהוא אחד פעולותיו ...אחדים שלא ימשך מדבר שהוא אחד רבוי פעולות אבל האמת אינו כך אבל הוא ית׳ אחד ומיוחד כמו שהורה לנו בהוציא אתנו ממצרים ונודע אחדותו בעולם, מ"מ הוא פועל פעולות הפכיות שהוא הגואל ומביא השעבוד כמו שגאלנו ממצרים והוא הביא השעבוד על ישראל

(Rough translation) One should not say that since Hashem is one, His actions are all uni-faceted, and multiplicity cannot result from unity... but the reality is that Hashem is one and unique, and even so He does actions that are opposites - He is the redeemer and He brought the servitude...

The dichotomy of matzah could express a similar message, that the same item represents the exile and the redemption, as they are in reality both part of one Divine plan and from one Source.

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Matzah represents alacrity combined with diligence . Both are required in Servitude or Freedom Acquiring these as enduring characters are one of the tools we can instill in ourselves & our families on Seder nights

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