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The "shloshim" for my father falls out today, the seventh of Nisan. The following shiur relates to his life, and is dedicated in his memory.
Pesach and Chag Ha'Matzot
What difference does it make? Are not Pesach and Chag Ha'Matzot two names for the same holiday? Surprisingly enough, they are not! Even though these two holidays happen to 'overlap' on the night of the 15th of Nisan ("leil ha'Seder"), each "chag" is distinct.
The following shiur explores the Biblical roots of these two holidays, not only to show how each is distinct, but also to show the deeper meaning of their relationship.
Pesach - An Offering of Thanksgiving
Chag Ha'Matzot - A Holiday in Commemoration of Yetziat Mitzrayim
In other words, on Pesach we thank God for saving us from "makkat bchorot" (the tenth plague), while on Chag Ha'matzot we remember Yetziat Mitzrayim, our journey from Egypt into the desert.
Considering that "makkat bchorot" actually led to Yetziat Mitzrayim, why doesn't the Torah simply combine these two holidays together? Why can't the yearly offering of the korban Pesach be in thanksgiving for the entire process of Yetziat Mitzraim; not just for that one specific event? Likewise, why can't eating matza remind us of our salvation from the tenth plague, as well as our journey out of Egypt?
What is Chag Ha'Matzot?
1) Why is this holiday celebrated for seven days? Why not one day or two days, etc., why specifically seven? [Recall that Chumash does not provide a reason for seven days, nor does it mention that Kriyat Yam Suf took place on the seventh day after the Exodus.]
2) Why is the primary mitzva on Chag Ha'matzot not to eat chametz? Should it not be to eat matza? (See 13:3,6) [Undoubtedly, not eating chametz encourages one to eat matza, but that does not explain why chametz is the primary mitzva?]
3. Why is the prohibition against chametz so stringent? e.g.: One can not own it or see it! Any leftover must be burnt. The punishment for eating chametz is "karet", i.e. being cut off from the nation of Israel!
[Before continuing, you should read Shmot 12:1-20, noting its two sections: Korban Pesach (3-14) and Chag Ha'Matzot (15-20).]
When one examines these sources in Chumash more carefully, an even greater question arises: Why are the laws of Chag Ha'Matzot given before Bnei Yisrael leave Egypt? Let's explain: The mitzva to eat matza for seven days (12:15-20) is given to Moshe Rabeinu on the first of Nisan (12:1- 2), together with the laws of the Korban Pesach (12:3-14). Obviously, the laws of Korban Pesach must be given before "makkat bchorot", because the blood is to be sprinkled on the doorposts in anticipation of the plague. Eating matza, however, is to remind us of the matza which Bnei Yisrael baked on their journey, after they left Egypt. Why should God command us to commemorate an event which has not yet taken place? [Recall that Bnei Yisrael baked matza for what appears to be a purely incidental reason. Because they were rushed out of Egypt, and had not made any other provisions, they took their dough (which they had planned to bake in Egypt) with them and baked it as matza during their journey (read 12:39 carefully!).]
Some commentators even suggest that the mitzva of Chag Ha'Matzot may have been given later, and thus, psukim 15-20 are placed out of chronological order (see Ibn Ezra 12:17). According to this approach, we simply have to restate our question: Why does the Torah take the laws concerning Chag HaMatzot, given later, and purposely attach them to the laws of Korban Pesach?
Matza - Al Shum Mah?
True, this pasuk explains why we eat matza on the Seder night, but it does not explain why we can't eat or own chametz for seven days!
These questions compel us to search for an independent reason for the celebration of Chag HaMatzot, not related to the matza which Bnei Yisrael baked on their journey; a reason that will explain: a) Why "isur chametz" is the primary mitzva; b) Why it is celebrated for seven days; and c) Why its commandment was given together with korban Pesach, before Bnei Yisrael actually left Egypt.
Chametz - A Symbol
The connection between "avoda zara" and chametz on Chag HaMatzot is especially interesting - the laws of both are almost identical! Both carry an "isur karet" and "isur ha'naah" (one can not have benefit from it). Similarly, if found, both must be burned, i.e. totally destroyed. [The Zohar deals with this in detail- "v'akmal".]
The special prohibition on Chag HaMatzot of "bal yay'raeh u'bal y'matzei" - not owning or seeing chametz - definitely supports this comparison. Let's suppose that chametz on Chag HaMatzot does indeed represent "avodah zara". Consequently, let's assume that getting rid of our chametz symbolizes getting rid of our "avoda zara". If so, why is chametz prohibited only for the week of Chag HaMatzot, why not all year long?
Back to Sefer Shmot
Despite God's demand that Bnei Yisrael repent prior to the Exodus, to be worthy of redemption, they did not 'listen.' They deserved to be destroyed! [God saved them, Yechezkel explains, for the sake of His Name: "va'a'as l'maan shmi, l'vilti ha'chel l'einei hagoyim" (20:9).]
Before "makkat bchorot", God gave Bnei Yisrael one last chance to prove their loyalty - to offer the Korban Pesach - a declaration of their readiness to listen to Him. The word - "pesach" - the name of this korban, reflects this very purpose. God must 'pass over' the houses of Bnei Yisrael because they deserve to be punished (see Shmot 12:27)! [One 'passes over' something which he is supposed to 'step on;' had Bnei Yisrael been righteous, there would not have been a punishment that required 'passing over.']
Nostalgia or Destiny
This interpretation also explains the special halacha regarding korban Pesach mentioned in Parshat Mishpatim and repeated in Parshat Ki-tisa: "lo tishchat al chametz dam zivchi" - You may not offer the Pesach while owning chametz - (23:18, 34:25). It is meaningless to offer a korban pesach if one did not first rid himself of his chametz, i.e. his "avoda zara". [For a similar reason, one must perform brit Milah, before offering the korban Pesach - see 12:43-49.]
The reason for Chag HaMatzot now becomes clear. Our declaration of thanksgiving when offering the korban Pesach is meaningless if not accompanied with the proper spiritual preparation. Just as Bnei Yisrael were commanded to rid themselves of their "avoda zara" in anticipation of their redemption, so too future generations. By getting rid of our chametz in preparation for Korban Pesach, we remind ourselves of the need to cleanse ourselves from any "avoda zara" which we may have adopted. The 'spring cleaning' of our homes must be accompanied by a 'spring cleaning' of our souls.
Sheva Mi Yoday'ah?
Thus, Chag HaMatzot commemorates not only the events of Yetziat Mitzrayim, but also their purpose. As we remember that journey into the desert, we must remember that process of breaking our dependance on Mitzryaim, and developing a dependance upon God (see Dvarim 8:1-6!). Unlike the one time act of a korban, this 'teshuva' requires a routine. This process of 'soul searching,' represented by the total ban on chametz, can not be completed in one evening. Rather an entire week, the seven days of Chag Hamatzot, is required to internalize that commitment which we re-affirm every Pesach on 'leil haSeder.'
Seven days, throughout Chumash, is the basic unit of routine. Be it the routine of a week (six days followed by shabbat), or seven days to cleanse oneself from "tumah" (see Tazria Metzora and tumat meyt), or seven days of the Miluim, etc. These seven days not only remind us to get rid of "avoda zara", they also set us into a new routine, a routine of dependance upon God.
The 7th of Nisan marks a time of transition from one generation to the next, from "dor ha'midbar" - the generation of the desert - that received the Torah, to "dor knisa l'aretz" - the generation that inherited the Land of Israel - whose responsibility it was to fulfill the goals of Matan Torah. My father served as the Rabbi of Akron, Ohio for some forty years. Like Moshe Rabeinu, he was leader of a Jewish community, in the spiritual 'desert' of Akron, Ohio. His life-long dream was to live in Eretz Yisrael, yet he dedicated his entire life to his community in Akron.
"Shloshim" for one's father is also a time of transition - a transition from one generation to the next. God has given me the "zchut" to fulfill my father's dream - like the generation of Yehoshua - to live in the Land of Israel; to raise a family, to learn, and to teach Torah. I must be thankful to my father, for it is he who instilled in me the love of Torah and the love for the Land of Israel.
Like the connection between Pesach and Chag HaMatzot, on "Shloshim", one must be thankful to a parent not only for the life that he gave him, but also for its purpose: Thank you, Abba, not only for the life which you have given me, but also for its purpose that you have taught me. Thank you, Hashem, for you have blessed me with a wonderful teacher and father.
Pesach & Chag HaMatzot kasher v'samayach
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