Shiurim by Menachem Leibtag
In Memory of Rabbi Abraham Leibtag



Ask anyone - why do we eat Matza on Pesach? Invariably you will hear one of the two following answers:

* To remind us of the 'poor man's bread' that we ate when we were slaves in Egypt ["lechem oni"];

[In the Haggadah - "hah lachma anya..."]

* Because we left Egypt in haste and our dough didn't have time to rise ["chipazon"].

[In the Haggadah - "Matzah - a shum ma? al shum sh'lo hispik betzeikam l'hachmitz..."]

Are these two different reasons for the same mitzvah?

It surely sounds like they are. So, which reason is correct?

In the following shiur, we examine the Biblical roots for these two reasons in an attempt to better understand and appreciate why we eat matzah on Pesach.


As you may have already guessed, these two popular explanations for why we eat matzah may reflect two different Biblical commands concerning "matzah":

1) In relation to the Korban Pesach:

We are instructed to eat its meat together with matzah and marror. [See Shmot 12:8 (and its context). See also Bamidbar 9:11 in its context.]

2) In relation to the seven day holiday -"chag ha'Matzot":

To remember the day that we left Egypt, we are instructed to eat matzah (and not eat chametz) for seven days (see Shmot 12:15-20 and 13:2-8).

However, it would be an amazing coincidence if each of these two mitzvot, both relating to the Exodus, would include a commandment to eat matzah, and yet each for a totally different reason!

In Part One of our shiur, we will show how this indeed appears to be so - that there may be two totally unrelated reasons for eating matzah. In Part Two we will entertain some thematic considerations to show how both reasons may stem from a common underlying reason.



We must begin our shiur with a quick review of the basic points of our shiur on Parshat ha'Chodesh that explained the difference between Korban Pesach and Chag ha'Matzot.

In Chumash, we find the following definitions (and reasons) for two distinct celebrations:

* The KORBAN PESACH - An Offering of Thanksgiving


Each year we are commanded to offer a special korban on the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan, and eat the korban on that evening, together with Matzah & Maror; while thanking God for our deliverance from "makkat bchorot".

(See 12:24-27, based on 12:8-14)


Because God saved (passed over) the houses of Bnei Yisrael on that evening when he smote the Egyptians (see 12:26-27). As we eat the korban, we are supposed to explain this reason to our children.

* CHAG HA'MATZOT- A Holiday to commemorate the Exodus


To eat matzah for seven days, starting from the 15th of Nisan, & NOT to eat chametz, own it, or even see it. (See Shmot 13:2-8, based on 12:15-20.)


To remember the miraculous nature (and the events) by which God TOOK US OUT OF EGYPT. (See Shmot 12:17 and 13:8)

Even though these holidays 'overlap' on the night of the fifteenth of Nisan and both holidays include eating matzah; each holiday serves a different purpose. By offering the korban Pesach we thank God for saving us from the Tenth Plague. In contrast, on Chag Ha'matzot we remember leaving Egypt into the desert, and hence our freedom from slavery.

[Note that each holiday has ample reason to stand alone.]


With this background, let's examine the function of eating matzah on each holiday. Clearly, on chag ha'Matzot - eating matzah for seven days is presented as the primary mitzvah:

"Seven days you shall eat MATZAH, even on the first day you shall rid yourselves from any unleaven in your houses... (Shmot 12:15, see also 13:2-8)

By eating matza (and not eating "chametz"), we remind ourselves of how we left Egypt.

In contrast, eating matzah with the korban Pesach is presented in a secondary manner, while the primary mitzvah is to eat the meat of the korban:

"And you shall eat the meat on this night, roasted on fire with MATZOT, together with bitter herbs..."(Shmot 12:8)

[Review from 12:3-13, noting how most of these psukim deal with HOW the korban is to be eaten, while matzah is presented in a very secondary manner.]

Unfortunately, the Torah is not very specific in regard to WHY the Korban Pesach should be eaten with matzah. It simply states in 12:8 to eat the meat roasted, together with matzah & marror, without explaining why.

On the other hand, in regard to eating matzah for the seven days of chag ha'Matzot, the Torah is much more explicit:

"And you shall keep the (laws regarding) MATZOT, for on this very day I have taken your hosts out of the land of Egypt..." (see Shmot 12:17, see also 13:3!).

This pasuk suggests that eating matzah for seven days will cause us to remember that God took us out of Egypt. But why should eating matzah cause us to remember those events?

To understand why, we must return to the story of the Exodus in Chumash, and follow the narrative very carefully.

First of, it is of utmost importance to remember that on the evening of the 15th of Nisan, Bnei Yisrael were under the assumption that they would remain in their homes the entire evening. Hence, it would only logical for them to assume that they would not be leaving Egypt until the next morning. This assumption is based on Moshe's commandment to Bnei Yisrael regarding how to offer the korban Pesach:

"And Moshe told the leaders of Israel: Everyone should take a lamb... and none of you shall leave the entrance of your houses UNTIL THE MORNING." (See Shmot 12:21-22)

Therefore, because they were planning a long journey into the desert on the next day (see 11:1-3, read carefully), the people prepared a large amount of dough (on the 14th of Nisan), with the intention of baking it early on the morning of the 15th of Nisan before their departure. [The fresher the bread, the better, especially when planning a long journey!]

However, due to the events that unfolded that evening, these original plans had to be changed. Recall that as soon as MAKKAT BECHOROT hit the Egyptians at midnight, Pharaoh went to Moshe and demanded that he and his nation leave immediately (see 12:29-32). Then, all the Egyptians began rushing out their Hebrew neighbors (in hope that the sooner they leave, the sooner the Plague would stop, see 12:33). Because of this 'rush', Bnei Yisrael didn't have time to bake their 'fresh bread' as planned. Instead, they quickly packed their bags and took their dough before baking it:

"[So] Bnei Yisrael carried their DOUGH before it had time to rise ["terrem yechmatz"], as they wrapped with their garments and carried it over their shoulders.

[See Shmot 12:34.]

Later on, the Torah informs us concerning what happened to this dough, after it tells the story of how Bnei Yisrael (followed by a mass multitude) left Egypt that evening and set up camp the next morning in Succot, on their way towards the desert (see 12:37-38). As you read the next pasuk, pay careful attention to why Bnei Yisrael ate matzah on this journey:

"And Bnei Yisrael baked their DOUGH that they took out of Egypt as MATZOT, for it had not risen ["ki lo CHAMETZ"], for they were EXPELLED from Egypt, and they could not wait [in the their home to bake the dough properly], nor had they prepared any other provisions [and hence the only bread they had to eat was from this dough]" (see 12:39)

[This seems to be the simplest translation of this pasuk (see JPS). Note however that Ramban explains this pasuk in a different manner. The reason for this is discussed in the further iyun section.]

In this manner, everyone who left Egypt shared a common experience. As they set up camp on their way to the desert (the first time as a free nation) everyone shared the same problem of: no bread; 'lots of dough'; and only makeshift methods for baking it. Therefore everyone improvised by baking their dough as thin mitzvot, utilizing either the heat of the sun or makeshift hot-plates on coals.

With this background, we can better understand Moshe Rabeinu's first commandment to Bnei Yisrael on that momentous day, after they left Egypt, and after they had baked MATZOT 'for breakfast':

"And Moshe said to the people: REMEMBER THIS DAY that you have LEFT EGYPT from slavery, for God has taken you out with an outstretched hand - you shall not eat CHAMETZ. You are leaving in the month of the spring [therefore] when you come in the Promised Land... on this month EAT MATZAH FOR SEVEN DAYS... you shall not see or own CHAMETZ in all your borders. And you shall tell you children on that day, it was for the sake of this [MATZAH] that God took us out of Egypt..." (see Shmot 13:2-8, read carefully!)

In other words, the next year, by eating matzah (and not owning any chametz) this generation would remember these events, and hence this matzah will remind them that it was God who took them out of Egypt and gave them their freedom. To keep this tradition (and message) for all generations, the Torah commands that we tell over these events to our children, as we eat these matzot (see again Shmot 13:8).

More or less, this is the reason that we cite in the Haggadah when we explain why we eat matzah:

"MATZAH... AL SHUM MAH? This matzah that we eat, for what reason (do we eat it)? - For the dough of our forefathers did not have time to become leaven when God the King of all kings revealed Himself and redeemed us, as it is stated (followed by the quote of Shmot 12:39)."

If this indeed is the primary reason for eating matzah (and hence for celebrating the seven days of chag ha'matzot), then this reasoning would only make sense to Bnei Yisrael once they left Egypt, i.e. after this sequence of events had transpired. Certainly, it would not make any sense to tell Bnei Yisrael about the laws of chag ha'Matzot BEFORE they left Egypt. After all, how can you speak of commemorating an event for a reason that had not taken place yet?

[In our shiur on Parshat ha'Chodesh, we used this reasoning to explain Ibn Ezra's approach that Shmot 12:15-20 (God's command to Moshe re: chag ha'matzot") may have actually been given to Moshe at a later time, even though Chumash records it earlier (together with the laws of Korban Pesach) most probably for thematic considerations. This explained why 12:17 is stated in 'past tense', and why Moshe only tells this mitzvah to Bnei Yisrael AFTER they leave Egypt in 13:2-8!]

Even though this explains the reason for eating matzah on chag ha'matzot, it certainly cannot explain why Bnei Yisrael were commanded to eat the Korban Pesach together with matzah - BEFORE they left Egypt (see again 12:1-8). Therefore, there must be an independent reason for eating matzah with the korban Pesach. To find that reason, we must consider this mitzvah in the context of the other mitzvot that accompany the Korban Pesach.


Even though the primary purpose of offering the Korban Pesach in Egypt was to sprinkle its blood on the doorposts to save Bnei Yisrael from the Tenth Plague (see 12:12-13), this commandment also included a special law that this offering was to be eaten by its owners.

This in itself is noteworthy, for one would expect that a korban (an offering) set aside for God would be forbidden for human consumption. [This is the case in an OLAH offering.] Yet, in regard to the Korban Pesach, eating this korban seems to be no less important than the sprinkling of its blood.

Let's take a closer look at the special laws (see 12:7-11) that accompanied eating the Korban Pesach in Egypt:

"They shall take the blood and sprinkle it on the doorposts and the lintel of the HOUSE in which they are TO EAT IT. And they shall eat its meat on that night:

* roasted over the fire

* with MATZA

* with MARROR (bitter herbs)

* Do not eat it raw (uncooked)

* [nor can you eat it] cooked in water

* eat it only roasted,

its head, legs, and entrails, (together)

* No 'leftovers', anything left over must be burnt.

And this is how you should it eat it:

* your loins girded

* your shoes on your feet

* your staff in your hand

* and you shall eat it in haste [CHIPAZON]

it is a PESACH [offering] for God." (Shmot 12:7-11)

Review these psukim, noting how eating matzah is only one of many other instructions that go along with eating the korban. Therefore, to appreciate why the korban must be eaten with matzah, we must consider these other instructions as well.

When reviewing this list of instructions, we must also keep in mind an earlier commandment concerning this 'special meal'. Recall from 12:3-4 that it was necessary to carefully plan this dinner in advance. First of all, it was supposed to be a 'family meal' (see 12:3), and if the family was not large enough, it was necessary to organize a few families together so that the entire lamb would be consumed (see 12:4).

In other words, the special restriction that the korban Pesach can be eaten 'by invitation only' was not in order to limit those who would eat it, but rather to assure that each and every member of Am Yisrael took part in this feast! [Note how beautifully Am Yisrael has kept this tradition to this very day, even without offering the actual korban.]


The law that no meat can be left over relates once again to the special atmosphere of this evening. When someone knows that any leftovers 'go to the garbage', it is more likely that he will eat to his heart's content and enjoy the meal (ask any Yeshiva bachur). If it was permitted to save the meat to eat on another day, then people would refrain from eating, preferring to save some of the meat for another meal (ask any poor man).

Coming to the meal fully dressed, and eating with eagerness and readiness, certainly would make this evening more memorable. [Remember as well that in ancient time a staff ("makelchem b'yedchem") is not necessarily a walking stick for the aged, but rather a sign of importance.]

It also goes without saying that lamb is most tasty when barbecued, as opposed to being boiled in water.

With this background, let's consider the wider picture:

A family meal - planned well in advance,

by invitation only,

fresh lamb - well done, roasted on an open spit

(roasting is much most tasty than cooking)

with fresh pita ("aish tanur" style), i.e. matzah

with a spicy salad (bitter herbs), i.e. marror

no leftovers allowed

everyone coming well dressed (best attire)

eating it with readiness, zest, excitement ("chipazon")

Any of us who have attended a formal dinner should not be surprised by these laws, for this seems to be their primary intention - to create a full fledged 'shabbos table' atmosphere.

Consider the circumstances. A nation of slaves, now about to become free, and ready to embark on a momentous journey to Har Sinai and then to the Promised Land. Certainly, 'an evening to remember', and hence 'only the fanciest restaurant' will do!

[Recall as well that it would not be often that slaves could afford to eat 'fleishigs' for dinner.]

Our main point is that PRIMARY reason for all of these special laws was to assure that every family would participate in a formal family meal, in order to make this evening memorable. Therefore, only the best meat, cooked in the best manner, with bread and salad, and everyone well dressed and eager.

If so, then why should they eat "matzah" bread? Would it not have been better to enjoy the meat with fresh "chametz" bun?

To answer this question, we need only return to our "mashal". Certainly, 'going out to eat' is a wonderful way to celebrate an important evening. However, the next question is: based on the occasion, what restaurant would be most appropriate?

Will it be Chinese? Italian? French?

In the case of korban Pesach, I think the best way to describe the menu would be - 'anti-Egyptian'!

Let's explain.

Not only does God want Bnei Yisrael to enjoy a family meal on this important evening, He also wants this meal to carry a theme. The menu should not only be 'formal', but it should also carry a 'spiritual message'. [For those American's on the list, just ask your neighbors why turkey is traditionally served for Thanksgiving dinner.]

Let's consider the menu.


First of all, eating meat in itself is special. But why specifically lamb? [i.e. an animal from sheep /"tzon"]

Recall when Yaakov and his sons first went down to Egypt, Yosef was embarrassed by their profession, that they were shepherds, for it was a "toeyva" [an "abomination] to Egyptians anyone who raised sheep". (See Breishit 43:32.)

Furthermore, when the Plagues began, Pharaoh first agreed that Bnei Yisrael could offer their korbanot in Egypt, but not in the desert. To this offer Moshe replied, should Am Yisrael offer "toavat Mitzraim" [an abomination to the Egyptians] in Egypt, would they not be stoned? (See Shmot 8:22)

From that interchange, it becomes quite clear that offering a 'lamb' would be antithetical to Egyptian culture. Rashi's commentary on this pasuk seems to imply that a 'lamb' was considered a type of a god to the Egyptians, and hence offering a 'lamb' in Egypt would be a desecration in their eyes. [Sort of like burning someone's national flag.]

[Note Ibn Ezra (on Shmot 8:22) quotes a Kaarite who explained that a 'lamb' was the symbol of the god who controls their land. He himself argues that it was not just a lamb, but any type of animal, for he claims that the Egyptians were vegetarians.]

A possible astrological explanation why the 'lamb' would be an Egyptian god may relate to the fact that the Nile (Egypt's source of water) reaches its highest level in the spring during the zodiac of "taleh" [a lamb, see Nile mosaic in Tzipori!] See also a similar explanation in Sefer Ha'todaah by Eliyahu Ki-tov, re: Nisan (page 14).]

Therefore, burning a lamb, complete with its head, and legs and entrails, etc. on an open spit (see Shmot 12:9), and then eating it, would serve as a sign to Bnei Yisrael that they are now free from Egyptian culture, and its gods.


As we explained, the primary reason for eating matzah would be no different than having rolls at a cook-out. But eating specifically matzah could be considered once again symbolic. The simplest reason would be simply to remind Bnei Yisrael that on this evening God is taking them out of slavery. As "matzah" is the typical bread of a poor-man, or a slave, it would be most fitting to eat the meat together with this style of bread.

[This would reflect our statement of "hah lachma anya" that we say at the beginning of the Haggadah.]

This doesn't mean that poor-man's bread tastes bad. It is merely a simple style of bread that can actually taste good! [Ask anyone who ever tasted shwarma with AISH TANUR pita!]

Furthermore, "chametz" itself may have been a symbol of Egyptian culture. It is well know among archeologists that the art of making leaven was first developed in Egypt, and it was the Egyptians who perfected the process of 'bread-making'.

[See 'On Food and Cooking -'The Science and Lore of the Kitchen' - by Harold McGee / Page 275 - based on archeological evidence, raised bread began in Egypt around 4000 BCE. On page 280 - then beer froth was eventually used`as first yeast. And page 615 - breadmaking became refined with invention of ovens around 3000 BCE in Eygpt.]

Similarly, the primary reason for eating bitter herbs with the korban would be to make it more tasty. But why specifically bitter herbs rather than sweet ones? Like matzah, one could suggest that the reason would be to remind us on this evening of the bitterness of the slavery that we are now leaving. In fact, this is exactly what we explain in the Haggadah in the section, MARROR - AL SHUM MAH".

In a similar manner one could explain the reason for eating the korban 'well dressed' and in hurriedness. Even though Bnei Yisrael would not be leaving until the next morning, since this was the last meal before their departure, it was important to emphasize the aspect of readiness to leave Egypt.

In this manner, all of the mitzvot relating to Pesach Mitzraim can relate to both the need to make this a memorable family evening, with formal dinner etc.; but at the same time, every action also carried a symbolic function as well. This evening was to leave a lasting impression on its participants, in order that they would pass on this memory to their children and grandchildren. It had to be special!

In summary, we have shown how there may be two totally independent reasons for eating matzah on the night of the fifteenth of Nisan. One matzah - "lechem oni", poor man's bread - is to be eaten with the korban Pesach, in order to make this korban tasty, but at the same time to remind us to thank God for being saved from Makkaat Bechorot & slavery. The second matzah - "bread that was made in haste", "chipazon" - is an integral part of the mitzvah of chag ha'matzot (eating matzah for seven days) which we eat in order that we remember the events of how God took us out of Egypt.

In Part Two we will return once again to Yechezkel 20:1-11 to help us find a deeper connection between eating matzah for both both korban Pesach and for chag ha'matzot.