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.



In Memory of Rabbi Abraham Leibtag

Shiurim in Chumash & Navi by Menachem Leibtag





In Part One we explained the two different reasons for eating matzah:

1) The matzah that we eat with the Korban Pesach

-'poor man's bread' to remind us of our slavery

2) The matzah that we eat for seven days of chag ha'matzot

- to remind us of the events of our redemption

In Part Two, we attempt to show how these reasons may be connected.


Recall from our discussion in Part One, that the Torah does not provide an explicit reason for why we must eat specifically matzah with the Korban Pesach. Our assumption was that its purpose was to remind us of our slavery, based on its similarity to "marror" (that is mentioned in the same pasuk). Most likely, both of these 'add-ons' are for the same reason - i.e. to remind us of the affliction of our slavery.

Nonetheless, this explanation was only an assumption. However, it was definitely not for the same explicit reason that the Torah provides for why we eat matzah for seven days. Recall how that matzah commemorates the events that took place afterward, and hence events that took place only after we offered the Korban Pesach.

In the following shiur, we will re-examine the reason for eating matzah, in search of a deeper symbolism.


Recall our explanation of the special laws relating to how we are to eat the Korban Pesach. We found symbolism in the lamb itself, how we roast it, how we dress to eat it, and what we eat it with. Sacrificing a lamb, we posited, served as a symbol of the rejection of Egyptian culture.

One could suggest that eating matzah with this korban, and hence NOT eating "chametz" with it, may serve a similar purpose. As we explained in Part One, from various historical sources it is known that the Egyptians were well known for their expertise in bread making. If this is indeed true, then eating matzah (and not chametz) may have served not only as reminder of 'poor man's bread', but more so as another symbol of the rejection of Egyptian culture!

In other words, to give extra meaning to this special 'family dinner' prior to their departure from Egypt, God commanded Bnei Yisrael to offer a specifically a lamb, and to eat it specifically with matzah as powerful symbols to remind Bnei Yisrael of their need to totally reject Egypt culture.

If so, then one could suggest that this may also be the deeper reason for our obligation to eat matzah for seven days, and even more so for the prohibition to own CHAMETZ during these seven days! [Even though Bnei Yisrael ate matzah during their journey for what appeared to be a totally incidental reason, God's original plan was for those events to take place in that manner.]

In regard to our shiur on Parshat ha'Chodesh, this would provide an excellent explanation for why the mitzvah of chag ha'matzot was given to Moshe even before Bnei Yisrael left Egypt.]

But why would it be so important for Bnei Yisrael to observe so many symbols of the rejection of Egyptian society?

As we have discussed numerous times in our shiurim on Sefer Shmot, the answer lies in Yechezkel 20:1-10. In that chapter Yechezkel explains how God had called upon Bnei Yisrael to rid themselves of their "avoda zara", i.e. their Egyptian culture, BEFORE the redemption process began. [See TSC shiur on Va'eyra.] Although this point was only alluded to in Sefer Shmot (see 6:6-9), in Sefer Yechezkel it was stated explicitly:

Yechezkel, while rebuking the elders of Yehuda in Bavel, reminds them of the behavior of their forefathers - PRIOR to Yetziat Mitzraim:

"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 they did not OBEY me, no one rid himself from 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', and hence deserved to be destroyed!

Ultimately, God saved Bnei Yisrael, Yechezkel explains, for the sake of His Name: "va'a'as l'maan shmi, l'vilti ha'chel l'einei hagoyim" (see 20:9). However, before "makkat bchorot", God gave Bnei Yisrael one last chance to prove their loyalty - by offering 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'.]

If indeed "chametz" and the 'lamb' are symbolic of Egyptian culture, then the specifics of how Bnei Yisrael must offer the korban Pesach (a lamb) and eat it (with matzah instead of chametz) are thematically very significant.

With this background it is quite understandable why "chametz" becomes such a central theme when these events are commemorated in future generations. Surely the korban Pesach must be eaten with matzah, but in regard to keeping Pesach on the next year we also find a special command of:

"lo tishchat al CHAMETZ dam zivchi" - "You shall not offer the Korban Pesach with chametz still in your possession" (see Shmot 23:18 and its context from 23:13-20).

Furthermore, in Parshat Re'ah, when Moshe Rabeinu explains the laws of the Pesach to the generation that is about to enter the Land, he reminds them:

"Keep the month of the spring, and offer a korban Pesach... You shall not eat any CHAMETZ with it, instead for the seven days [afterward] you shall eat MATZA - "lechem oni", because you left Egypt in a hurried manner - IN ORDER that you remember the day that you left Egypt for every day of your life." (see Devarim 16:1-3).

From this source, it becomes quite apparent that the matzah that we eat for seven days relates directly to the korban Pesach. Therefore, it would make sense that the reason for eating matzah in each mitzvah would be thematically related.

When we offer the korban Pesach, we must remember not only WHAT HAPPENED, but also WHY God saved us, i.e. for what purpose!

To help man concretize these sentiments of teshuva, a symbol is required. Hence, the korban Pesach - the "korban Hashem" (see Bamidbar 9:7 and context) - is not just an expression of thanksgiving but also a DECLARATION of loyalty; - a willingness to obey; - a readiness to fulfill our Divine destiny.

This can explain why the commandment to keep Chag HaMatzot (in 12:15-20) follows immediately after the commandment to offer the korban Pesach (12:3-14). Every year, we must not only thank God for our redemption, we must show Him that we are truly worthy of redemption by getting rid of our chametz, the symbol of our rejection of the "avoda zara" and symbolic of Egyptian culture.

Thus, getting rid of one's chametz even before one offers the korban Pesach becomes thematically even more significant. This can explain yet another difficult pasuk that connects these two mitzvot together:

"Seven days you should eat matza, 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" (See Shmot 12:15).

[Chazal's understanding that "yom ha'rishon" refers to the 14th of Nisan (not the 15th), at the time when the Korban Pesach is offered, now takes on additional significance.]

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. ["shivat yamim tochal alav matzot..." (see again Devarim 16:3).]

Just as Bnei Yisrael were commanded to rid themselves of their "avoda zara" in anticipation of their redemption, future generations must do exactly the same when they commemorate those events. By getting rid of our chametz in preparation for Korban Pesach, we remind ourselves of the need to cleanse ourselves from any "avoda zara" or corrupt culture (that we may have adopted) prior to our declaration of loyalty (as we offer the korban Pesach).


An important phrase that the Torah uses in its presentation of the laws of chag ha'Matzot provides further support for this approach. Recall the original pasuk in which the Torah provides the reason for chag ha'Matzot:

"And you shall keep [the laws] of the matzot, for ON THIS VERY DAY [B'ETZEM HA'YOM HA'ZEH] God has taken your hosts out of the land of Egypt..." (see Shmot 12:17).

It is not often that the Torah employs this phrase "b'etzem ha'yom ha'zeh", and when it does, it always marks a very important event.

In relation to Yetziat Mitzraim we find this very same phrase mentioned two more times at the conclusion of chapter 12, as the Torah recaps the events of Yetziat Mitzraim - in the context of God's fulfillment of His promise to Avraham Avinu at Brit bein Ha'btarim:

"And the time of Bnei Yisrael's stay in Egypt was 400 years and 30 years, and it came to pass after 430 years - ON THIS VERY DAY [b'etzem ha'yom ha'zeh] all of God's hosts were taken out of Egypt..." (see 12:40-41, see also 12:51!)

It is not by chance that we find specifically this phrase "b'etzem ha'yom ha'zeh" in relation to God's fulfillment of brit bein ha'btarim. In Sefer Breishit, we find this same phrase in two instances, and each relating to the fulfillment of a "brit" between God and man. The first instance was God's "brit" with Noach:

"And I shall keep My covenant with you, and you will enter the ark, you and your sons and wife..." (see Breishit 6:18)

Then, when Noach actually enters the ark, the Torah uses this phrase when informing us how God kept His covenant:

"B'etzem ha'yom ha'zeh - on that very day, Noach and his sons and wife... entered the ark..." (see 7:13)

Similarly, when God enters into a covenant with Avraham Avinu concerning his future, better known as BRIT MILAH; God promises:

And I shall keep My covenant between Me and you and your offspring an everlasting COVENANT to be Your God... this is [the sign] of My covenant that you shall keep, circumcise every male child..." (See Breishit 17:7-10 and its context)

Then, when Avraham performs this mitzvah, the Torah once again uses this phrase when informing us how Avraham kept His part of the covenant:

"b'etzem ha'yom ha'zeh - on this very day - Avraham was circumcised and his son Yishmael..." (see 17:26, & 17:23)

Considering that these are the only times that we find this phrase in Sefer Breishit, and both relate to the fulfillment of a major covenant between God and man; when we find that the Torah uses this phrase in Sefer Shmot, we should expect that it too relates to the fulfillment of a covenant. Clearly, this phrase in both Shmot 12:17 and 12:41 must relate to God's fulfillment of Brit bein ha'btarim. Hence, one can suggest that its use in 12:17 in relation to the mitzvah to eat matza for seven days relates to Bnei Yisrael's need remain faithful to its side of the covenant with God. Based on the psukim quoted above from Yechezkel, the thematic connection is rather obvious. If Am Yisrael is truly thankful for their redemption from slavery, they must show their dedication by totally removing themselves from the "avoda zara" of Egypt.

From this perspective, the matzah that we eat for seven days, and the matza that must be eaten with the korban Pesach serve a similar purpose. Both serve as powerful reminders that Bnei Yisrael must become active and faithful partners in any redemption process.

Therefore, it should not surprise us that we invite Eliyahu ha'navi to our seder, immediately after we finish our final "kzayit" of matzah, to remind us of our need to perform teshuva in order to be ready for our final redemption (see Malachi 3:23-24). It's also not by chance that we read these psukim for the Haftara of shabbat ha'gadol; in preparation for Pesach, and it is not by chance that these psukim form the final message of the Neviim in Tanach.

chag samayach



1. Note that the phrase of b'etzem ha'yom ha'zeh also appears in Sefer Vayikra, once in relation to Shavuot (see 23:21) and twice times in relation to Yom Kippur (see 23:28-30). [Note that it does not appear in relation to any of the other holidays in Emor!]

On could suggest that here again this relates to "britot"; Shavuot relating to "brit sinai" - the first Luchot, and Yom Kippur relating to "brit sinai" - the second Luchot. See TSC shiur on Parshat Ki-tisa on the 13 midot of rachamim.

One last mention of this phrase is found at the end of Parshat Ha'azinu in relation to "brit Arvot Moav".

Finally, we find this phrase in Yehoshua 5:11, mentioned as Bnei Yisrael performed both BRIT MILAH & KORBAN PESACH when they crossed the Jordan River and began conquest of Eretz Canaan! Again the fulfillment of yet another stage of both brit milah and brit bein ha'btarim.

2. See Ramban on Shmot 12:39, how he explains that Bnei Yisrael's original intention was to bake matzah, the rushing only caused them to bake the dough matza on the road instead of in their homes in Egypt. Even though this does not appear to be the simple pshat of the pasuk, it stems from the Ramban's approach of yeish mukdam u'muchar, and hence God's commandment to Moshe in 12:15-20 was indeed given before Bnei Yisrael left Egypt, and hence applied to the first generation as they left Egypt as well!

3. It should be noted that since we don't offer a Korban Pesach now of days, we obviously cannot fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzah with it. Therefore, the matzah that we make the "bracha" of "achilat matzah" on at the Seder night is for the second reason, based on the pasuk "ba'erev tochlu matzot" (see Shmot 12:17-18, and its context). On the other hand, to remember this matzah, we eat an extra piece of matzah together with marror - "zecher l'Mikdash k'Hillel" - to remember how this mitzvah was fulfilled during the time when the Temple stood.