Shiurim by Menachem Leibtag
In Memory of Rabbi Abraham 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.