Sunday, April 1, 2012

Why Do We Eat Matzah? Plus, more on the bear

Why do we eat matzah on Pesach? It's a very basic, simple and obvious question, so it should have a very basic, simple and obvious answer, right?

The usual answer is that the Torah commands us to eat matzah on Pesach in commemoration of the Bnei Yisrael rushing out of Egypt so quickly that their dough did not have time to rise. But why would this make it so very important? And is that really the straightforward understanding of what the Torah says? It might come from combining two pesukim which are not necessarily to be combined.

In Devarim 16:3, we have the following passuk:
You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat matzos, the bread of affliction; for in haste (chipazon) did you come forth out of the land of Egypt; that you may remember the day when you came forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life.
The usual assumption is that the mention of "haste" is a reference to the pessukim in Shemos 12:33-34 talking about how the Bnei Yisrael rushed out of Egypt without time for their dough to rise:
"And the Egyptians were urging upon the people, to send them out of the land in haste; for they said: 'We are all dead men.' And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading-troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders."
But the word chipazon, which appears later with regard to matzos, does not appear in these pessukim. Instead, it appears earlier, in Shemos 12:11, before the end of the plagues, with regard to the korban Pesach:
"And thus shall you eat it: with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste--it is a Passover to God."
A few verses later, we have the commandment that on Pesach we must eat matzah and there may be no chametz in our houses. But the tenth plague, and the Bnei Yisrael rushing out, hasn't happened yet!

Of course, one could say that God commanded it knowing what would happen. But then why is there no mention of that? Furthermore, way back in Bereishis 19:3, Lot serves matzos to the angels. Rashi says it was Pesach, and a very non-rationalist person in a book entitled Seasons of Life claims that "the observance of Pesach is based on the spiritual powers in force at that time of year," and "matzah is representative of certain metaphysical forces in effect at that time." But the idea of Lot observing Pesach and serving matzah to his guests is reminiscent of a certain video involving bear-dogs. Is there a more rationalist explanation?

The answer to all these questions is quite simple. And it provides an example of academic scholarship enhancing the Torah rather than challenging it.

Put very simple, the answer is this: Bread, of the chametz variety, is an Egyptian invention.

In Canaan, the lifestyle was a nomadic society of shepherds. The bread that they ate was matzah - of course, not the hard Ashkenazi crackers, but the original, somewhat softer, pita-like matzah. (Which is why Lot served it to his guests.)

Egypt, on the other hand, was a land of farming, which despised the nomadic lifestyle. As Yosef advises his brothers to tell Pharaoh: "You should answer, 'Your servants have tended livestock from our boyhood on, just as our fathers did.' Then you will be allowed to settle in the region of Goshen, for all shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians." The Egyptians had mastered the art of leavening bread, which was unknown to those from Canaan (which may be why Potiphar entrusted everything to Yosef except baking bread - see Bereishis 43:32). Baking leavened bread was of tremendous importance in Egypt - that is why there was a sar ha-ofim, a royal baker. There is a list presented by Rameses III which has an amazing variety of breads. But shepherds didn't and don't eat such things - they roam around free, without the burden of heavy ovens and without waiting around for bread to rise.

And so the prohibition against eating leavened bread on Pesach is so very important because it is a way of demonstrating that we left Egypt, the land known for its leavened bread, and we became free, like nomads, to travel to the Promised Land.

For more on all this, see this article from Neot Kedumim, and also this article and this one.

* * *

And now for something completely different. Following my post on Crowdsourcing the Bear, which proved very effective, I have one final bear-related question which has so far stumped everyone that I've asked. The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 2b) speaks about the future judgment of the nations, which takes place in order of their importance. First is Rome; second is Persia:
"The kingdom of Rome leaves, and then the kingdom of Persia enters. Why? Because it follows Rome in prestige. How do we know this? As it is written, “And behold another beast, a second, like a bear” (Daniel 7), and Rav Yosef taught that this refers to the Persians…"
Tosafos raises the question that if we are judging the prominence of nations via their symbolism with animals, then surely the lion, as king of beasts, is more important than the bear. Since the lion represents Babylon, then surely Babylon should be judged after Rome, before Persia! Tosafos answers that even though the lion is king of beasts, the bear is more powerful and more devious.

But surely the whole proof for the bear being number two is that it appears after the lion in Daniel’s vision. If the lion is not more important than the bear, how does the Gemara's proof work? And if the Gemara is indeed proving that Persia is second from it being second to the lion in Daniel, then why isn't Babylon before Persia?

Many thanks for any light that people can shed on this!

64 comments:

  1. But surely the whole proof for the bear being number two is that it appears after the lion in Daniel’s vision.

    Why? The proof is because of the four beings in Daniel, representing Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome respectively, the bear is the second fiercest (however you define it as per Tosafos).

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  2. But it's second to the lion/ Babylon!

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  3. Because it was second chronologically.

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  4. Another prohibition on Pesah is on the drinking of beer, which is made of grain fermented with yeast, like bread. Beer, too, was invented in Egypt. Hag kasher v'sameah!

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  5. Sorry, Dov, I just don't get what you're saying.

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  6. Sorry for not being clearer. The reason the bear (Persia) comes after the lion (Babylon) in Daniel is because, historically, the Persian Empire succeeded the Babylonian one. It has nothing to so with relative fierceness of each, nor the order in which they are judged.

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  7. Fine. But then what is the Gemara's proof from there for Persia being second to Rome?

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  8. The Gemara is proving that it is second to Rome because it is the second fiercest being in the bunch. That's what דהא חשיבא בתרה means.

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  9. rome is first because it is the most prestigious [as the gemara says there]. persia is second because it is the bear and the bear is the fiercest. the proof from daniel is from the fact that persia is the bear, not from the fact that it is second in his vision.

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  10. Dov - if it is second fiercest, then we are still back to the question that the lion-Bavel - should come first.

    Yehuda - you might be right. But isn't it ikkar chassar min hasefer? The Gemara doesn't say anything about the bear being the fiercest.

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  11. It is second fiercest to the fourth being there which represents Rome.

    דניאל פרק ז

    בָּאתַר דְּנָה חָזֵה הֲוֵית בְּחֶזְוֵי לֵילְיָא וַאֲרוּ חֵיוָה רְבִיעָאָה דְּחִילָה וְאֵימְתָנִי וְתַקִּיפָא יַתִּירָא

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  12. But the Gemara doesn't say anything about it being the second fiercest. Nor does the passuk.

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  13. R Yoel Bin Nun has a good piece on Rashi and it being Pesach for Lot:
    http://vbm-torah.org/pesach/pes69-ybn.htm

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  14. "Beer, too, was invented in Egypt. Hag kasher v'sameah!"

    Is there an older Egyptian source than this one from Mesopotamia?

    http://beeradvocate.com/articles/304

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  15. For the egyptian explanation to make sense to me, you would have to explain all the usages of Matzah and Chametz in the various Sacrifices in Varyikra, and why both types of breads are used in the mincha offerings and other offerings.

    However, there are many midrashim/meforshim etc which state that Matzah was a specific bread of the Jewish people.

    Also, as I'm sure most people know, they had plenty of time to make Matzot, I believe they were given at least 3 days to do so. (I haven't read the pasukim closely in a while.)

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  16. "And it provides an example of academic scholarship enhancing the Torah rather than challenging it."

    That's at the very least disingenuous. Yours is not the answer provided by academic scholarship regarding chag hamtzot (v"y), and frankly their answer is far more compelling with a lot more evidence. I fail to see how academic scholarship enhanced Orthodoxy (not "Torah" [sic]) rather than challenging it.

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  17. Also, I want to point out that even though Matzah of the soft persuasion is better than ashkenazi cardboard, it still goes hard very quickly, and is not very tastey, and has all of digestive problems that ashekenazi carboard matzah has.

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  18. I fail to see how it explains the haste mentioned in Devorim and its significance.

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  19. RNS,

    I'm not sure I understand the question.

    "But surely the whole proof for the bear being number two is that it appears after the lion in Daniel’s vision."

    No, sefer Daniel does not tell us who is the bear. Rav Yosef does. The number two is not to prove the position in the judgment - prestige is. Persia was much bigger then Babylon, second to Rome only (unless you count the brief rule of Alexander).
    Also, the Gemara is explicit that there is no number 3 and 4 - it is
    only Rome and Persia. Bavel is gone and won't be judged.

    BTW How is a lion more powerful than a bear (or a ten-horned creature)?

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  20. How do you explain the verse?

    You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat matzos, the bread of affliction; for in haste (chipazon) did you come forth out of the land of Egypt

    It says that you don't eat leavened bread because in haste we left Egypt. According to your explanation, what is the connection between leaving Egypt in haste and eating matza?

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  21. This also clears up why chametz isn't allowed in the Temple either. Not sure about the exception of the Todah though...

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  22. MB - I don't know. But your question is equally applicable to the korban Pesach. Why must it be eaten in haste?

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  23. Shimon S - so if it's a simple matter of Persian being more prestigious than anyone else, what is the passuk from Daniel doing?

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  24. Devarim 16:3 is preceded by a passuk commanding about the korban pesach. The Torah continues, "Do not eat ON IT chametz, for seven days eat ON IT matzos, for in haste you left..."

    It would then be possible to explain that the chipazon is going on the korban pesach.

    PS Kudos to the baal hablog for giving positive expression to the Rationalist Judasim enterprise with a beautiful, meaningful rational Torah thought. For too many, Rationalist Judaism has descended into only being about bashing Irrationalist Judasim. Kol hakavod!

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  25. I fail to see why the gemoroh would need to explain the reason why the bear is the most powerful; that is a fact, at least according to tosephot. The proof from daniel is that persia is represented by the bear. Further, Tosephot wasn't asking that the lion is more powerful (physically and in cunning) than the lion -- he thought in his question -- that importance should be designated by position, and the lion is king.

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  26. I dunno... I still think it's very strange. The lion is the king of beasts. The lion is always mentioned before the bear. If there's an attribute of the bear which supersedes the lion, it should be mentioned in the Gemara.

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  27. Lifsa Schachter (Prof. Emerita at Siegel College) wrote in Conservative Judaism (XLIV:2) about the miracle of matza. Unfortunately the article isn't (to the best of my knowledge) online. She claims that matza is commanded before the Exodus because it is a cleaner, fresher, more honorable form of bread than sourdough, which is why it is offered on the altar.
    Usually Exodus 12:39 is understood as meaning that because the Israelites were in a hurry and hadn't prepared any provisions (even though they were indeed given fair notice), they had no choice but to bake matza from their under-risen dough. However, the amount of time it took to get from Rameses to Succoth would indeed have been enough for the dough to rise. Furthermore, the commandment to eat unleavened bread for seven days was already given. Therefore, why were they even trying to make leavened bread?
    The text is quite clear that they left with "dough," (v. 34) not just flour and water separately. That's why they had a problem. How could they bake matza in accordance with the commandment if all their dough had risen? That's the miracle, because their dough did not rise as expected they were able to bake matza, observe the commandment and have something to eat.

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  28. Where did the sages learn that it takes 18 minutes for dough to begin fermentation?

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  29. In the time of the Gemara, there were two major empires in the area, Rome and Persia. Babylon and "Greece" (really Macedonia) had long disappeared. Hence, Rome is judged first (because they destroyed the Mikdash, etc.), and Persia second- because they were there!

    Also, remember that the definition of the four "beasts" may well be anachronistic. Daniel may not have had Rome in mind at all- he was writing before they became so major in the Near East. (According to the traditional view, he was writing before the Greeks as well, but modern scholarship says different.) He may have been splitting Media and Persia, or his fourth "beast" may represent some unknown kingdom- who, of course, turned out to be Rome.

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  30. Great explanation on Massa.
    And- "and a very non-rationalist person in a book entitled Seasons of Life claims that "the observance of Pesach is based on the spiritual powers in force at that time of year," and "matzah is representative of certain metaphysical forces in effect at that time." "

    Are you being sarcastic? That's you book. I guess I'm the only one who noticed it. Anyway are you invalidating that book then? Just kidding, I hope to have that book as well once I see at at a reasonable price somewhere.

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  31. RNS,

    The lion represents Bavel. Bavel won't be judged. Therefore there is no place in this Gemara for the lion. The order in sefer Daniel is for succession of power in the course of history. The order in this Gemara is for the judgement day. Two different things. The Gemara is using the pasuk not in it's original context and (hidden) meaning.

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  32. At first blush, I find it hard to accept the claim that Canaan was fundamentally nomadic and therefore lacking the societal stability to invent bread (which seems to me to be no great innovation once you have matzah - just bake it a little longer). The Torah is abound with examples of city-based societies in Canaan, including S'dom in which matzah-serving-Lot lived. Is there any reason why city-dwellers couldn't bake bread? And if you have cities, I think that safely implies you have stable agrarian communities growing food for the cities. They're not nomads either.
    The Avos and their families were shepherds, sure, but I think it is clear that this was not the dominant society in Canaan.
    I don't see how the argument makes any sense.
    Would somebody like to explain it further?

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  33. > "a very non-rationalist person in a book entitled Seasons of Life claims..."

    Care to quantify the difference between non-rationalist and very non-rationalist?
    (Nice post, by the way.)

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  34. Forgive my thick-headedness, but isn't part of the answer right there in the verse? Matzah is described as "lechem oni", the bread of poverty, of simple people. As you and others mention, it is not necessarily about preparing the food in haste, or about what the Egyptians ate, but rather the simple and universal nature of matzah.

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  35. Ameteur said... “For the egyptian explanation to make sense to me, you would have to explain all the usages of Matzah and Chametz in the various Sacrifices in Varyikra, and why both types of breads are used in the mincha offerings and other offerings.”

    reject says… not sure if this qualifies as rationalist: the exodus is central to Judaism and reminders of it are spread throughout halachah [as we know from kidush etc.] even as far as the sacrifices; Chametz in Todah & shtei halechem are a question acc. to everyone.


    Mir murex said... “PS Kudos to the baal hablog for giving positive expression to the Rationalist Judasim enterprise with a beautiful, meaningful rational Torah thought.”

    reject says… and hopefully it will soften some of the antagonism to the RJ enterprise.


    Shoshana Zeesa said... “Furthermore, the commandment to eat unleavened bread for seven days was already given.”

    reject says… the verse prohibiting Chametz for 7 days is introduced in the previous verse by the command to observe the holiday in future generations. It is therefore far from explicit that this would apply to the year of the exodus itself. The Mishnah in Pesachim 96a indicates that at the exodus Chametz was prohibited for only one day and certainly does not understand the verse about a 7-day prohibition applies to the exodus year. The source for the 1-day prohibition of that year is explained by the gemarah on 96b to be an exegesis based on verses in ch. 13, but is not explicit in the sense of תורה שבכתב.

    There is an interesting אבן עזרא on 12:39 who says that the Matzah which they took out of Egypt contained שאור, which seems to imply that the jews did not originally intend to abstain from Chametz on that day. He does not seem to reckon with the gemarah in Pesachim.

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  36. Yasher koach, R' Natan, for the post on the symbolism of matzah and avoidance of chametz. It goes a long way towards addressing the question of what makes this symbolism of sufficient importance to justify the punishment of karet for its non-observance. Yasher koach also to Dr. Dickstein whose linked article on the subject was cited.

    As to the question about kingdoms, symbols, and priorities based on the aggadah in beginning of T.B. Avodah Zara, I don't believe that one needs to be so medayek on such matters. The essential message of that aggadah was that the nations will have no excuse at judgement day as to how they conducted themselves. The focus in the gemara is on Rome and Persia since those were the empires in power at the time of writing, and it was believed that they would remain so until just before the messianic age (Tosafot). The Babylonian and Greek (Helenistic) empires had come and gone by then even though they were the more obvious subjects of Daniel's vision of the 4 beasts that is referenced by the gemara. If one were to accept the gemara's identification of then current empires with the Daniel's beasts, then Persia, the bear, should have preceded, Rome, the presumed last beast of the vision. Babylonia, the lion and first beast, should not have been first in judgement day since its rule had long since ended and was now a lowly nation - as the Tosafot explain.

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  37. " But shepherds didn't and don't eat such things"
    This is quite an interesting observation but a few questions:

    1. It makes sense but do you have any proof for this assertion that makes this pirush academic scholarship?

    If Rabbi Shafran had written this would you not challenge him for some evidence?

    - they roam around free, without the burden of heavy ovens and without waiting around for bread to rise."

    2. Does leavened bread require heavier ovens (I'm really asking - I don't know)?

    Shepherds do move around a lot - but do they really travel so very frequently that they can't wait for their bread to rise? Putting up the tents also takes time.

    3. As to your question: You could have asked a better question. In the Haggadah we explicitly say matzah zu she'anu ochlim al shum shelo hispik etc. But the Torah commanded that they eat matzah- in the evening! So how is it 'al shum' that there was no time?

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  38. I like explanation (especially if it has the advantage of being true), but I still don't understand the passuk that we should eat matzah because we left Egypt in haste.

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  39. Hershel said… “In the Haggadah we explicitly say matzah zu she'anu ochlim al shum shelo hispik etc. But the Torah commanded that they eat matzah- in the evening! So how is it 'al shum' that there was no time?”

    Reject says… Hershel, your question is one of a string of similar questions. At the seder we are to see ourselves as if we are leaving Egypt, [perhaps only in the context of saying hallel, ואכמ"ל]. We must do so in the evening, yet we left during the day! The very seder itself ought to be by day when we left, not the previous evening! We see a pattern that at night we commemorate happenings of the day. [Explanations for this are welcome.] By the same token, we eat Matzah at night to commemorate the quick exodus by day.

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  40. I don't know why your rationalist friends would find it hard to believe a midrash which says that Lot ate matza; I suspect they would have more trouble with the actual text of the Chumash which says that Lot was visited by angels who came to warn him of the impending miraculous destruction of the city. Your rationalist friends don't need to actually believe that these events occurred, but I hope that after reading this analysis they will agree that the intended meaning of the text is very likely in accordance with the midrash.

    This midrash is based on the assumption that details in the Bible's narrative are not superfluous. When an angel visiting Abraham predicts (Genesis 18:14) that a son will be born "at the time when the season ("moed") comes around" we are meant to ask which "moed" this is. Having been alerted to this, we pay extra attention to the fact that Abraham serves the angels "cakes" and that Lot prepares "matza cakes". It's impliedly the "moed" for which matza is prepared, i.e., Pesach.

    The reason we are meant to find this significant is that in Genesis 15:13 Abraham is told "your seed will be strangers in a foreign land ... for four hundred years." The earliest possible time for the start of this prophecy is the birth of Isaac, the one who would later be uniquely identified as the acknowledged seed of Abraham. Later on, in the Book of Exodus (12:41) it says that after four hundred and thirty years, "on that exact day" (which was Passover, obviously) the Jews left Egypt. So there's an apparent contradiction here between the two figures, despite the fact that the Bible places an unusual amount of stress on the fact that they left "on that exact day". How was that day identified?

    Well, if you add up the age of Moses at the time of the Exodus plus the ages of his father and grandfather (his grandfather entered Egypt together with Jacob when he migrated there) you necessarily arrive at a figure much less than four hundred. The only way to have this make sense is to count the four hundred years from an earlier date - ie., the birth of Isaac. Now we have a rationale for the seemingly-superfluous details that led us to say that the birth of Isaac was on Pesach - the text was subtly implying that the events are related, and that the birth of Isaac was exactly four hundred years before the exodus. So where does the four hundred and thirty come in? This was the date of the first prophecy, about the the enslavement of Abraham's descendents, and it took place "on that exact day" (Pesach) thirty years earlier.

    So now we have three linked events with an astonishing series of parallels: in Genesis 15 Abraham makes a sacrifice, receives a prophecy about his descendents being slaves, and is given a vision of a burning furnace moving between the pieces of slaughtered flesh, very reminiscent of the Jews leaving Egypt after the Slaying of the Firstborn and the Paschal Sacrifice, led by a pillar of flame; in Genesis 18-19 Abraham is told about the birth of a son at a "moed" that is implicitly Pesach; and in Exodus 12-13 Abraham's descendants make a sacrifice and leave Egypt "on that exact day", led by a moving column of fire.

    This is a superb example of the midrashic method. Furthermore, it's the sort of textual analysis that people do all the time with secular works. Why would you not presume that the Bible has depth and literary qualities? Of course it does! This semi-educated sneering at midrashim is the sort of thing which makes people suspect that so-called rationalists have neither affection nor patience for the Biblical text.

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  41. I too enjoy the academic approach and it explains many times the original idea of the Mitzvah. However, why should we still keep it 3000 years later? what is its relevance to a contemporary Jew? We needed an academical study to point out the difference between leavened and unleavened bread and its symbolism. How then does it affect us? The Rabbis struggled with this way back and tried to teach us that Mitzvot are relevant eternally because human nature is to lose sight of the existential issues and that there is more than just material pursuits. Each Mitzvah is kept and its importance is recreated to address an issue that has evolved from the original concept. In our instance the concept of freedom which Matzah symbolizes. Nowadays it is rather spiritual freedom than material though in some places it is still unfortunately valid. The original specific symbolism has lost its significance by now and has to be replaced with a more generalized and broader idea.

    Academic approaches are great adjuncts to Torah and understanding it and sometimes are relevant but most of the time are irrelevant to the kiyum Hamitzvah which includes the desired effect of that Kiyum.

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  42. Just a couple notes on comments I've seen:

    Yaacovb - re "bake it longer": Not sure what you meant by this, I think we all know that baking matza longer just gets you burned matza. However, I think many don't realize what an innovation packaged yeast is. In the absence of yeast, you don't have leavened bread. Learning how to effectively use "sour dough" for bread production was non-obvious discovery back then.

    Hershel - re "heavy ovens": Early matza, was likely closer to what we commonly call laffa. It can be baked on a hot dome shaped piece of metal with a fire underneath. Very portable compared to an oven which would be required to maintain a constant temperature required for bread rising. Further, an oven then was probably stone or brick, and more of a permanent fixture.

    And, while not a primary source for academia, this Wikipeida article confirms that the Egyptians were the first to bake leavened bread. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baker's_yeast

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  43. I wonder if the cited articles are overplaying the agricultural/nomadic divide. It would be more simple to say that yeasted/risen bread baking and eating was, at the time, a defining feature of Egyptian culture, and by rejecting yeasted bread in favor of non-Egyptian flatbread, the Israelites were enacting a psychic break with their Egyptian surroundings.

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  44. "It says that you don't eat leavened bread because in haste we left Egypt. According to your explanation, what is the connection between leaving Egypt in haste and eating matza?"

    Possibly the word chipazon is not meant as statement of explanation, but simply a descriptive statement of fact. Thus: "Eat matzah - [for the reasons given in this post] - to remind you of when you hurried out of Egypt."

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  45. When Laura Ingalls Wilder, as an adult, migrated from South Dakota to Missouri, she baked hardtack for the trip. She recorded the details of the trip in a diary. There's no way you can read about hardtack and not think of matza.

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  46. It also helps to understand what is required to create sourdough bread. It takes several days of feeding the starter before you can use it to make bread (http://www.sourdoughhome.com/desemstarter.html). Being that they were commanded to remove all Se'Or (starter) from their houses for the Korban Pesach, even if they started a new one in the morning, it would not have had time to ferment. They took it with them (there are stories of starter being transported across continents), but meanwhile, they baked their bread as matzot.

    I find it inspiring to consider that we make our homes Chametz-free to emulate the original location of the Korban Pesach - the home - which turned the home into a Mizbeach, which also is Chametz-free (with very few exceptions).

    Pesach Kasher ve'Sameach.

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  47. I like explanation (especially if it has the advantage of being true), but I still don't understand the passuk that we should eat matzah because we left Egypt in haste.

    Hershel said… “In the Haggadah we explicitly say matzah zu she'anu ochlim al shum shelo hispik etc. But the Torah commanded that they eat matzah- in the evening! So how is it 'al shum' that there was no time?”

    See the Ramban who explains the Pasuk differently than the Haggadah:

    Amateur translation: And the meaning of "they baked the dough" is that they baked the dough into Matzos because of the Mitzvah that they were commanded "sourdough shall not be found in your house because all that eat leavened will be cut off". And the pasuk says "because they were forced out of Mitzraim" to teach you that they baked the Matzos on the way because they were forced out of Mitzriam, and did not have time to wait to bake them in the city and to carry them out as baked Matzos. [IOW, it is not telling you why they baked them into Matzos vs. bread -- DO]. Therefore they carried them as dough with the their kneading troughs tied to their clothing on their shoulders, and then they quickly baked them before the dough leavened on the way or in Sukkot (the place) when the arrived there in a short time as the Midrash explains.


    וטעם ויאפו את הבצק - שאפו אותו מצות מפני המצוה שנצטוו שאור לא ימצא בבתיכם כי כל אוכל מחמצת ונכרתה. ואמר כי גורשו ממצרים, לומר שאפו אותו בדרך בעבור כי גורשו ממצרים ולא יכלו להתמהמה לאפות אותו בעיר ולשאת אותו אפוי מצות, ועל כן נשאו אותו בצק ומשארותם צרורות בשמלותם על שכמם, ומהרו ואפו אותו טרם יחמץ בדרך או בסכות, כשבאו שם לשעה קלה כדברי רבותינו (מכילתא כאן)

    http://kodesh.mikranet.org.il/comment/t0212_39.htm

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  48. I feel this explanation distorts the literal meaning of the verse,which is ironically something that you always embrace.
    The literal understanding is as the verse states "because it was in haste you left eygypt"
    We see now what forsight the charedi rabbis had when banning your books.
    You started off 6 years ago innocently quoting Pachad Yitzchak on mudlice, but they saw to what dangers this could lead; like what you wrote today which is not only distorting the plain meaning of the Torah but you are also playing around with what jews of all stripes have transmitted to their children for 2 millenia.

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  49. I see that you did not actually read the post. Well, you have something in common with the rabbonim who banned my books!

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  50. Michael A. SingerApril 2, 2012 at 8:12 PM

    Hi Rabbi Slifkin -

    Rav Yosef, living in Pumbedita (Mesopotamia) in the late third and early fourth centuries CE, may have been interpreting "Persia" as the Sassanid Empire (followers of Zoroastrianism), which was then in control of Persia and southern Mesopotamia. Does that sound plausible - this then would make sense that "Persia" follows Rome, since by the early fourth century, Rome's influence in the far east was declining significantly.

    Best,
    Michael A. Singer

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  51. To continue my previous post...in other words, Rav Yosef is adapting Daniel's vision to the geopolitical situation of his own day (Rome had essentially been routed from Mesop. by the third century CD), and so he is not interpreting the four "kingdoms" to be the four great kingdoms that were active in biblical times. There is evidence that some of the Amoraim who lived around Rav Yosef's era had great relationships with some Sassanid rulers.

    Thanks,
    Michael Singer

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  52. Yasher koach, Michael Singer, for raising some geopolitical history on the subject. The situation is a bit unclear, however, as to the time period of the gemara's discussion. The subject is introduced by the later Amora'im but refer to statements by earlier Amora'im such as R' Yochanan and Rav Yosef. The latter may have flourished when Rome was still powerful and the seat of empire, while the later Amora'im flourished at the time when Rome's power had waned and the heart of the Roman empire had shifted eastward to Byzantium (Constantinople). In any case, the Byzantine empire could rightly be regarded as the successor to Rome.

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  53. Can Rabbi Slifkin's explanation be extended to explain why 1) with the Pesach Sheni, the prohibition of chametz is relaxed (you can have chametz in your possession, just don't eat it with the korban pesach) and 2) why the שתי הלחם on Shavuous had to be chametz?

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  54. The correct explanation for "chippazon" is a matter of dispute in the midrash--who is hurrying?

    See the Mechilta on parashat Hachodesh, or the Bavli Brachot 9a.

    Mechilta:

    ואכלתם אותו בחפזון, זהו חפזון מצרים, אתה אומר כן או אינו אלא חפזון ישראל, כשהוא אומר (יא:ז) 'ולכל בני ישראל לא יחרץ כלב לשֹנו', הרי חפזון ישראל אמור [1] הא מה אני מקיים ואכלתם אותו בחפזון, זהו חפזון דמצרים. רבי יהושע אומר... זהו חפזון דישראל... או אינו אלא חפזון דמצרים, כשהוא אומר (יב:לט) 'כי גֹרשו ממצרים', הרי חפזון מצרים אמור, מה תלמוד לומר בחפזון, חפזון ישראל. אבא חנן משום רבי אליעזר אומר, זה חפזון שכינה. אע"פ שאין ראיה לדבר, זכר לדבר, 'קול דודי הנה זה בא' (שה"ש ב:ח)... יכול אף לעתיד לבוא יהיה בחפזון, ת"ל (יש' נב:יב) 'כי לא בחפזון תצאו ובמנוסה לא תלכון כי הֹלך לפניכם ה''.

    Bavli:

    א"ר אבא הכל מודים כשנגאלו ישראל ממצרים לא נגאלו אלא בערב שנאמר (דברים טז, א) הוציאך ה' אלהיך ממצרים לילה וכשיצאו לא יצאו אלא ביום שנא' (במדבר לג, ג) ממחרת הפסח יצאו בני ישראל ביד רמה על מה נחלקו על שעת חפזון ר' אלעזר בן עזריה סבר מאי חפזון חפזון דמצרים ורבי עקיבא סבר מאי חפזון חפזון דישראל תנ"ה הוציאך ה' אלהיך ממצרים לילה וכי בלילה יצאו והלא לא יצאו אלא ביום שנא' ממחרת הפסח יצאו בני ישראל ביד רמה אלא מלמד שהתחילה להם גאולה מבערב:

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  55. The Matzah Problem
    Doesn't this create an obvious problem for the traditional Jew, i.e., why isn't this pshat mentioned in chazal or the meforshei chumash?

    So what do you say? either they were not aware of the pshat (but you don't want to go there with chazal) or they knew it and it
    was so pashut thay didn't bother with it and just gave us the pshetlach.? Really? is that a rational approach?
    Hence, the problem.

    PG

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  56. Davd Benaim said...

    I feel this explanation distorts the literal meaning of the verse,which is ironically something that you always embrace.
    ...
    We see now what forsight the charedi rabbis had when banning your books.
    ...
    like what you wrote today which is not only distorting the plain meaning of the Torah but you are also playing around with what jews of all stripes have transmitted to their children for 2 millenia.


    I guess the Ramban could say it but R. Slifkin cannot?

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  57. R' Slifkin:

    I do like the "leaving the land of bread" thought, but it does have the difficulty of explaining the "Ki b'chipazon" verse, which expressly ties the reason for Matza to the haste in leaving Egypt.

    My own thoughts on the meaning of Matza, inspired mainly by the same question, a secondary question (how could they have left in such haste that they had no bread given that they were instructed to eat the Korban Pesach prepared to leave any minute), and some of the Rav's thoughts on slavery and freedom as contained in Festival of Freedom, can be found here: http://torahexchange.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=display&thread=2

    There's some good seder torah on there and I try to add to it every year (though this year has been tough). I would very much appreciate any feedback - or other contributors!

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  58. Doesn't this create an obvious problem for the traditional Jew, i.e., why isn't this pshat mentioned in chazal or the meforshei chumash?

    As cited above,the Ramban does also interpret the Pasuk differently than the Hagaddah on the reason for Matzah, if that is what is bothering you.

    But in general, all commentaries on the Chumash itself are trying to add something possibly not fully understood, at least at the time of the commentary. This includes Rishonim who had interpretations at odds with the Midrash. I don't see how it could be any other way, unless you restrict your commentary to prior commentary.

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  59. I posted the following a few years ago on my blog link:
    I came across some very nice insights on Matzah in Joan Nathan's, The Foods of Israel Today. On pages 90 and 91 she quotes Clinton Bailey - she says he is the foremost authority on Bedouin culture -

    The unleavened desert bread, which is essentially matzoh, is the staple of the Bedouin diet, which they bake three times a day ... It was not until the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt that they ate leavened bread. Still today, to the Bedouin, yeast is the sign of a settled people, of contamination in the city. Pure bread for them includes no yeast because there is no leaven in the desert.

    If this is true, I think it adds a lot to how we should understand the ta'amei haMitzvot of Chametz u'Matzah. I never knew that there is no leaven in the desert (it must be that it is too dry for yeast to survive). I had heard previously that Egypt is where bread was invented but this adds a whole new dimension. The bread B'nei Yisrael are commanded to eat when they are abandoning Egypt and her ways is not just non-Egyptian bread it is the bread of their forefathers - Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. I still want to do some more fact checking on this.

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  60. The issue of "time for the bread to rise", is only a question to modern readers, who have bread that lasts for weeks or even months.

    If you look at fresh bread that is made, at say a falafel stand, you will realize that the bread does not last more than a day. In that case, you have to make your bread the day you eat it, and when rushing out of Egypt, they had to make it quickly on a taboon, giving it no time to get fluffy and tastey.

    Maybe bread will last 3 days or so, but it won't be as good, and will be rather tough and stale.

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  61. It should also be noted, and perhaps someone already pointed this out, a slave probably doesn't have the time or luxury to feed/take care of a sour dough every day. While the Egyptians luxuriated with their fluffy, puffy bread the Jews slaved away and at lechem oni.

    Here's a theory:
    In anticipation of imminent redemption bnei yisrael might have thought they should make fancy free-man's bread to celebrate. Along comes the mitzvah and completely overturns that thought. Either to return them/connect them to their nomadic, anti-idolatrous culture or, perhaps, to emphasize their new status as avadim to Hashem, their redeemer--or maybe both. Of course, mitzvot can bear (couldn't resist the pun) multiple meaning.

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  62. Actually, it was a widespread canaanite taboo on allowing the crops at the time of the harvesting season to become leavened.
    Any relation to the exodus narrative is an aetiological construction of much later monarchical sources.

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  63. SA,
    Couldn't you share a source with us?

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  64. We discussed this at the Seder and it was suggested that Matzah is still most emphatically the bread of haste:

    1. One of the main points is that it's the bread of the nomadic shepherds we were, whose very life is one of constant travel.

    2. More importantly, even if they had time for bread to rise in the preceding days, they surely didn't have time or, more importantly, facilities (ie. big brick ovens) to bake leavened bread during their 3 day flight from Egypt to the Sea. Likewise, in the dessert they lacked the facilities/time to bake leavened products and once again flatbread became the dominant product.

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