Parshat Bo -
Pesach and Chag Ha'Matzot

Parshat Ha'Chodesh

(To prepare for this shiur,
see the questions for self study.)

Part I

Why do we eat matzah? Is it simply to remember how God saved us during the events of Yetziat Mitzrayim?

As Parshat Bo presents the mitzvah of matzah from several different angles, this week's shiur analyzes this 'multiple presentation' in an attempt to better understand what matzah and Pesach are all about.

In chapter 12, before God unleashes His final plague against Egypt, He commands Bnei Yisrael to offer a special korban, better known as Korban Pesach. In the psukim dealing with this commandment (see 12:1-20), "matzah" appears in two very different contexts:

Later in chapter 12, after the tenth plague and Bnei Yisrael's actual departure from Egypt, we encounter "matzah" once again - To help us appreciate each of these three contexts, this week's shiur takes a closer look at chapter 12.

Two Topics in One Parshia!
Before we start, it is essential that you first review 12:1-20, noting how it contains two distinct topics:

(See Board #1.) [With regard to 12:14, see the Further Iyun section.]

In fact, not only do these two sections discuss different topics, but each mitzvah seems to have been given at a different time!

Clearly, the mitzvah to offer Korban Pesach was given before the Exodus. God orders Moshe (on Rosh Chodesh) to tell Bnei Yisrael to take a lamb on the 10th of Nisan, offer it on the 14th, and eat its meat together with matzah and maror later that evening (see 12:1-13). Obviously, Bnei Yisrael learned of all this before they left Egypt.

However, the mitzvah to celebrate Chag Ha'Matzot for seven days (see 12:15-20) appears to have been given after the Exodus - for two very simple reasons:

To support this conclusion, we simply need to read the next 'parshia' (i.e. 12:21-28 - B in Board #2), Moshe conveys God's commandment (of 12:1-20) to Bnei Yisrael. Notice that Moshe speaks only of the laws of Korban Pesach, but makes no mention of Chag Ha'Matzot! After all, how could he mention Chag Ha'Matzot before Bnei Yisrael left Egypt?!

In fact, Moshe later on (see 13:3-8 - G in Board #3) does tell Bnei Yisrael the laws regarding Chag Ha'Matzot. Expectedly, he does so on the day after they left Egypt:

"And Moshe told the people: Remember this day that you have left Egypt ... you shall not eat chametz ... So, when you come to the Land which I have promised your forefathers ... seven days you shall eat matzot, and the seventh day shall be a holiday..." (see 13:3-8)
Therefore, we conclude that Parshat Ha'Chodesh (12:1-20) contains two distinct mitzvot given at two different times: For some reason (to be discussed later), the Torah merges these two mitzvot into one 'parshia.'

Two Holidays, Not One
This 'chronological' problem in Parshat Ha'Chodesh usually goes unnoticed for the simple reason that most everyone identifies Chag Ha'Pesach with Chag Ha'Matzot. However, although both holidays relate to Yetziat Mitzrayim, each serves an entirely different purpose than the other:

Pesach, as the Torah explains, is a thanksgiving offering, brought on the 14th of Nisan and eaten on the evening of the 15th. Through our consumption of this korban, we thank God for sparing us from Maakkat Bchorot:

"And tell your son [when he asks why you are offering korban Pesach] - this is an offering of Pesach for God, Who passed over the houses of Israel when He smote Egypt..." (12:25-27)
In contrast, Chag Ha'Matzot is a seven-day holiday, celebrated from the 15th to the 21st of Nisan, during which we eat matzah and may not eat chametz (see 12:15-20; 13:3-8) so that we remember that God took us out of Egypt. [See 12:17; 13:8 and 12:33-39.]

[Recall that Bnei Yisrael baked matzah for what appears to be a purely incidental reason. Having been frantically rushed out of Egypt without having arranged any other provisions, they took their dough (which they had planned to bake in Egypt) with them and baked it as matzah during their journey (read 12:39 carefully).]

Proof from Pesach Sheni
The simplest proof of this distinction may be drawn from the laws of "Pesach sheni." According to Bamidbar 9:9-14, should one be unable to offer the korban Pesach on the 14th of Nisan, he is given a 'second chance' to offer the korban on the 14th of Iyar. Although he must eat the Korban Pesach with matzah and marror (see 9:11), as one must when offering the korban in its regular time, the laws of Chag Ha'Matzot do not apply - he may own chametz, etc. In other words, regarding Pesach sheni we find a complete distinction between Pesach and Chag Ha'Matzot, further proof that we are dealing here with two independent holidays.

In summary, 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.

[See also Vayikra 23:5-6 and Bamidbar 28:16-17 for conclusive proof that these two constitute separate and distinct chagim.]

With this distinction in mind, we can return to and rephrase our original question: Why does the Torah 'prematurely' present the laws of Chag Ha'Matzot by 'tacking' them onto the laws of Korban Pesach in Parshat Ha'Chodesh?

Some More Questions...
Before we suggest an answer, we must consider several additional issues concerning the laws of Chag Ha'Matzot which require some explanation:

Matzah - Al Shum Mah?
Up until this point, our questions have all rested upon one basic premise - that the primary reason for eating matzah (and not eating chametz) is to remember the matzah that we ate when leaving Egypt. This assumption reflects the explanation we recite in the Hagada:

"Matzah zu - al shum mah? [For what reason do we eat matzah?]:
Because the dough of our ancestors had not the time to become leaven by the time God appeared unto them and redeemed them, as it said: 'And they baked the dough which they had brought out of Egypt "matzot" and not "chametz," because they were rushed out of Egypt and could not tarry, nor had they made any other provisions.'" (Shmot 12:39)
True, this pasuk explains why we must eat matzah on the Seder night, but it does not explain why we cannot eat or own chametz for a full seven days! It seems that there must be a deeper reason.

Chametz - A Symbol
In the Torah, the prohibition of "chametz" is not limited to Chag Ha'Matzot. In the Mikdash, for example, chametz is not permitted on the "mizbayach" all year long! [See Vayikra 2:11, 6:9-10.] Although the precise reason is unclear, chametz appears to serve as a negative symbol.

In Chazal we find numerous suggestions as to what chametz symbolizes: "ga'ava" (haughtiness); "yetzer ha'ra" (evil inclinations); "avodah zara" (idol worship), etc. As a symbol, its various properties can represent various concepts.

[For example, one aspect of chametz may relate to its property of causing bread to appear far more appetizing than a mere mixture of flour and water. Another could be its property of causing dough to rise, possibly symbolizing the complexity of a process, etc.]

The connection between "avoda zara" and chametz on Chag Ha'Matzot is especially interesting - the laws of both are almost identical! Both carry an "isur karet" and "isur ha'naah" (one may not derive any benefit from it). Similarly, both must be burned, i.e. totally destroyed, when discovered. [See Rambam Hilchot Avoda Zara chapter seven.] (The Zohar deals with this comparison between chametz and "avoda zara" in detail - "v'akmal".)]

The special prohibition on Chag Ha'Matzot of "bal yay'raeh u'bal yimatzei" - not owning or seeing chametz - definitely supports this comparison.

Let's suppose that chametz on Chag Ha'Matzot does indeed represent "avodah zara." Consequently, the requirement of ridding our homes of chametz symbolizes the elimination of our "avoda zara." If so, why is chametz prohibited only for the week of Chag Ha'Matzot - why not all year long?

Back to Yechezkel
Based on our conclusions from last week's shiur, a fundamental relationship between chametz and Yetziat Mitzrayim emerges. As we saw, God called upon Bnei Yisrael to rid themselves of their "avoda zara" - their Egyptian culture - before the redemption process began. Although this point was only alluded to in Sefer Shmot (6:6-9), in Sefer Yechezkel it was stated explicitly:

"On the day that I chose Israel ... that same day I swore to take them out of Egypt into a land flowing with milk and honey ... And I said to them [at that time]: Each man must rid himself of his detestable ways, and not defile ('tumah') himself with the fetishes of Egypt - [for] Ani Hashem Elokeichem. But they rebelled against Me and did not obey me. No one rid himself of his detestable ways ... and I resolved to pour out My fury upon them..." (Yechezkel 20:5-8)
Despite God's demand that Bnei Yisrael repent prior to the Exodus to be worthy of redemption, they did not 'listen.' Hence, the navi claims, they deserved to be destroyed! [God saved Bnei Yisrael, Yechezkel explains, only for the sake of His Name: "va'a'as l'maan shmi, l'vilti ha'chel l'einei hagoyim" (see Yechezkel 20:9).]

As we explained, prior to "makkat bchorot" God gives Bnei Yisrael one last chance to prove their loyalty by offering the Korban Pesach - a declaration of their readiness to listen and obey. 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 that he is supposed to 'step on.' Had Bnei Yisrael been righteous, there would not have been a punishment that required 'passing over.' Note also Shmot 15:26!]

Herein lies the connection between Korban Pesach and Chag Ha'matzot. As we offer the korban Pesach and thank God for His salvation by remembering what happened, we also remember the purpose for which we were saved and why we almost deserved to be destroyed!

Nostalgia or Destiny?
With this background, we can suggest that "chametz" serves as a symbol to help man concretize these sentiments of "teshuva." The process of ridding oneself of his "chametz" is symbolic of one's need to rid himself from those influences that corrode his spiritual existence.

The korban Pesach [the "korban Hashem" - see Bamidbar 9:7 and context!] is not just an expression of thanksgiving, but also a declaration of our loyalty, willingness to obey and readiness to fulfill our Divine destiny. Therefore, to complement the commandment to offer the korban Pesach (in 12:3-14), the Torah immediately introduces the commandment of Chag Ha'Matzot (12:15-20). Every year, we must not only thank God for our redemption, but also demonstrate our worthiness of redemption by eliminating our "chametz" - the symbol of our "avoda zara." (See Board #4.)

To support this explanation, let's take another look at the opening pasuk of "Chag Ha'Matzot." Notice the Torah's emphasis on the "isur" of chametz:

"Seven days you should eat matzah, but even on the first day you must remove all chametz from your houses; for whoever eats chametz on these seven days, that person shall be cut off from the nation of Israel." (12:15)
[Chazal's understanding that "yom ha'rishon" refers to the afternoon of 14th of Nisan (not the 15th), the time when the Korban Pesach is offered, now takes on additional significance.]

This interpretation also explains the special halacha relating "chametz" to offering the Korban Pesach - "Lo tishchat al chametz dam zivchi" (see 23:18, 34:25) - the prohibition of slaughtering the Pesach while still owning chametz. It is meaningless to offer a korban pesach if one did not first rid himself of his "chametz" - "avoda zara."

Chag Ha'Matzot thus adds meaning to our declaration of thanksgiving (when offering the korban Pesach), as it highlights the need for spiritual preparation. Just as Bnei Yisrael were commanded to rid themselves of their "avoda zara" in anticipation of redemption, so must future generations. The 'spring cleaning' of our homes should reflect the 'spring cleaning' of our souls.

So why must we refrain from "chametz" for a full seven days?

Unlike the one time act of a korban, a complete "teshuva" process requires the establishment of a routine. One evening is not enough. Rather, an entire week - the seven days of Chag Ha'Matzot - are required to internalize that commitment that we reaffirm every Pesach on 'leil haSeder.'

Throughout Chumash, "seven days" constitutes the basic unit of a routine - be it the routine of a week (six days followed by Shabbat), seven days to cleanse oneself from "tumah" (see Tazria-Metzora and tumat meyt), or seven days of the Miluim, etc. Hence, these seven days serve as more than simply a reminder to eliminate "avoda zara"; they set our lives into a new routine - a routine of dependence upon God. In this manner, Chag Ha'Matzot commemorates not only the events of Yetziat Mitzrayim, but also the purpose of Yetziat Mitzrayim.

Matzah with the Korban Pesach
Now that we have explained the "chametz and matzah" of Chag Ha'Matzot, we must explain why we must eat matzah together with the Korban Pesach. Recall from Shmot 12:8 (and from the laws of Pesach Sheni discussed above) that the matzah eaten with the Korban Pesach has nothing to do with Chag Ha'Matzot. Furthermore, it cannot commemorate the events of Yetziat Mitzrayim, for the commandment to eat the korban with matzah and marror was given before Bnei Yisrael ever left Egypt. So why do we eat matzah with the Korban Pesach?

The most basic reason is because of "lechem oni" [the bread of affliction - see Devarim 16:1-3. Note as well the opening paragraph of the Haggadah - "ha lachma anya..."]. In other words, as we offer the korban Pesach and thank God for our salvation from Makkat Bechorot (and from our bondage in Egypt), we combine the korban Pesach with a type of bread that reminds us of that affliction. It is for this same reason that we include marror [bitter herbs], yet another reminder of our affliction.

However, one could suggest an additional reason for Pesach and matzah, based once again on our conclusions from Yechezkel 20:5-9. As discussed, Bnei Yisrael disobeyed God's demand that they rid themselves of their Egyptian way of life in preparation for the Exodus. Now, immediately prior to their redemption, Bnei Yisrael are given another chance to do "teshuva" (Shmot 12:1-20), specifically through two prominent symbols of Egyptian culture. As we know from outside sources as well as Shmot 8:21-22, offering a lamb would be considered awfully offensive to an Egyptian. Similarly, in ancient culture, Egyptians were renown for their expertise in baking all sorts of leavened bread. Therefore, offering a lamb and eating it with unleavened bread may have been meant to reflect the people's rejection of Egyptian culture.

Continue to the next page for Part II.

TSC Home Next