Sunday, April 13, 2014

Why do we eat Matzah on Pesach?


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 the one given in the Haggadah. The Torah commands us to eat matzah on Pesach in commemoration of the Bnei Yisrael being rushed out of Egypt so quickly that their dough did not have time to rise. It's commonly assumed that this is nothing more than a paraphrase of what the Torah itself says. But why would this make matzah so very important? And is it indeed necessarily what the Torah says?

Fascinatingly, Ramban has a very different approach. According to Ramban (Shemos 12:39), it's not the case that they were too rushed for the dough to rise. Ramban is of the view that even if they would have had time, they would not have waited for the dough to rise and make bread. Instead, Ramban understands the Torah as stating that they had no time to bake the dough into matzos, and instead they had to take the unbaked dough and bake it into matzos along the way. Ramban notes that the Bnei Yisrael had already been commanded to get rid of all chametz as mentioned a few pesukkim earlier (12:19-20), and thus the passuk 12:39 is to be read in light of that, as follows:
And they baked matzah-cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened (due to God's earlier command); (and they could only bake them now) because they were driven out of Egypt, and could not tarry (and bake them earlier)...
Ramban is thereby arguing with the Haggadah! One book that I saw claimed that Ramban would never have done such a thing, and must have had a different text of the Haggadah. I don't know that that is necessarily the case; Ramban was not entirely averse to arguing even with Chazal, in certain cases. But, at any rate, we are left with the following question on Ramban's approach - if eating matzah has nothing to do with how the Bnei Yisrael left Egypt but was instead a pre-existing command, what was the reason for it?

(Skip the following small text if you want: One might wish to posit on Ramban's behalf that matzah commemorates the Bnei Yisrael not having time to bake their dough, and that Hashem commanded the consumption of matzah with the foreknowledge of this. After all, it seems unambiguous that the mitzvah of eating matzah has something to do with the haste in which it was baked. This would initially seem to be the meaning of Devarim 16:3:
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 to see to their dough. But the word chipazon 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."
And so the notion of eating in haste is not specifically related to matzah. Indeed, Devarim 16:3 is preceded by a passuk commanding about the korban pesach, and it is with regard to this that the Torah continues, "Do not eat ON IT chametz, for seven days eat ON IT matzos, for in haste you left..." - thus, there too the notion of haste is relating to the korban Pesach rather than to matzos. It thus seems that the theme of haste may relate to the general notion of our leaving Egypt in haste, and not to the way in which the matzos were baked.

So, again, we are faced with a question according to Ramban's view: What is the reason for eating matzah on Pesach? Why did Hashem command the Bnei Yisrael not to have chametz?)

Let us first note that this is not the first time we see matzah preceding Pesach. 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 about Eisav making a berachah of hamotzi. Is there a more rationalist explanation?

One possible 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 - 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. Rameses III has a list containing 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.

This would explain why there is an important prohibition against eating leavened bread on Pesach. 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.

(This is an adaptation of a post that appeared two years ago. Thanks to David Ohsie for his input. For more on all this, see this article from Neot Kedumim, and also this article and this one. )

39 comments:

  1. Regading Lot eating matzot and Rashi saying that this was on Pesach, I just read an article by rationalist Rav Yoel Bin-Nun on that very subject :

    http://www.ybn.co.il/mamrim/PDF/Pesach_Lot.pdf


    He says he was very puzzled by this Rashi. He went back and read the whole section without any meforshim and was surprised to see a lot of parallels between the story of Lot with the Malachim and the story of Yetziat Mitzraim.....people forced to stay locked in their house at night, a major plague or disaster hits the non-Jews who were harassing the protagonists, the protagonists have guests (in MItzraim the korban pesach was eaten in a haburah-group), eating matzot, the protagonists forced to flee and the outcome is the creation of one new nation (Am Israel) or two new nations (Ammon and Moav). Thus, he came to view Rashi's comment as being quite rationalist and appropriate! It must be noted that it is very accepted to looks for paralles of wording and events between different narratives of the Torah and TANACH and to apply details found in one narrative to the parallel narrative.

    Hag Kasher v'Sameach

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    1. wrote about this many years ago....http://arikahn.blogspot.co.il/2014/04/the-matzah-of-lot.html

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    2. also rabbi sacks in his hagaddah talks about the parallel with lot and sees a comparison of jews feeling at home in a gentile environment and then bei g rudely awakened. thus it was pesach for lot as he experienced that unsettling feeling.
      but i love this idea of yours and will use it at the seder. thanks and chag sameach

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  2. "One book that I saw claimed that Ramban would never have done such a thing, and must have had a different text of the Haggadah."
    That doesn't make any sense - shivim panim l'Torah. Only in halacha would the Ramban presumably feel constrained not to argue on Chazal.

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    1. Very true. Ramban differentiates many many times between דרך הפשט and ורבותינו אמרו. One of my pet peeves is contemporary commentaries on the Ramban al HaTorah, that relate to the Ramban as one might relate to a shiur clali complete with pilpul and attempts at reconciling the Ramban's commentary with various Midrashim, etc. Bugs be to no end.

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  3. Your explanation doesn't make sense. Avraham serves the angels bread in the chapter immediately before the chapter of Sodom; there are many other references to bread cooked before the Egyptian captivity. Lot's use of matzo is an outlier. So were all the references to bread actually references to matzo? Then why uniquely specify that Lot made matzo?

    The suggestion that Lot served matzo to his guests is based on a midrashic reading of the text:
    The angels visited Lot on the evening of the day they left Avrohom;
    Avrohom was promised that Yitzchak would be born "at that time of life" (and the text repeats this, twice), which implies that the time was significant;
    The count of years for the prophecy that Avrohom's descendents would be "strangers" only makes sense if it includes Yitzchak's life;
    The Jews left Egypt "on that very day" of the end of the decree against Avrohom's descendents, implying that it was tied to some event;
    That event was, implicitly, the birth of Yitzchak;
    Hence, Yitzchak was born on Pesach;
    Hence, Avrohom was visited on Pesach;
    Hence, Lot was cooking matzos on Pesach.

    Midrash presumes that nothing in the Bible was casual, so all of this is tied together to say that there is a reason why Lot was baking matzos. I'll add something to the usual form of the Midrash: Lot, who ate matzos in the evening, was rescued by angels in the morning, just as the Jews were rescued four hundred years later. Even if you're too rational to believe that Lot had the actual ability to cook leavened bread, surely you can recognise that there is a literary theme here, and that multiple threads tie together to this point?

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    1. One does not need to say that Lot, as Avraham's nephew somehow knew that he had to eat matzot because it was Pesach, rather, that as last minute guests had arrived (the malachim) he had to quickly bake an edible form of bread which is matza This does not in any way detract from the symbolism of it.

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  4. Nice pshat, but I have a few issues with your support:

    1) You highlight the fact that Lot served Matza to the angels as a demonstration that chametz-type bread is an Egyptian invention. But this ignores the other instances in Sefer Bereshit which make reference to "lechem". Off the top of my head, there's Hashem's curse of Adam ("b'zei'at apech tochal lechem"), Avraham serving it to the angels, and Yaakov giving it to Eisav.

    2) Rashi notes that when the Torah refers to Potiphar entrusting everything to Yosef except bread, it's really a euphemistic reference to his wife. This is not merely a nice "vort", but has a basis in the text, when Yosef tries to talk his way out of Eshet Potiphar's advances. The Torah uses almost the same phraseology, but substitutes "כי אם אותך באשר את אשתו" for "כי אם הלחם אשר הוא אוכל". Tellingly, both phrases have the same meter and use the same tune, which is a meaningful poetic (some might say, rationalist :-) ) device.

    3) The existence of a royal baker doesn't tell us anything about the importance of bread in Egypt (or even that he baked bread and not matza). There was also a royal wine steward, a royal butcher, and a royal jailer, and those are only the ones which are part of the Yosef-narrative. A country doesn't have to be known for something, nor does it have to be of tremendous importance, for its sovereign to have someone in charge of it. The US isn't known for its bread, but POTUS has an executive pastry chef on his staff.

    4) Your explanation of Devarim 16:3 that the notion of haste is related to the Korban Pesach seems to rely on a misreading of the pesukim. You indicate that "for seven days eat ON IT matzos" refers to the Korban. However, the Korban and the seven-day period overlap for a few hours, from sunset to midnight. Clearly, the "on it" in the pasuk refers to something else.

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  5. (Continued from the previous comment)

    5) "The usual assumption is that the mention of 'haste' is a reference to the pessukim in Shemos 12:33-34". This is not just the "usual assumption" - it from Rashi, who knew the pesukim in Shmot very well. Clearly, he was of the opinion that the "hipazon" with which the Jews were commanded (in Shemot 12:11) to eat their Korban Pesach was in anticipation of the haste with which the Egyptians would rush them out later (12:33).

    6) I find it hard to believe that you're arguing with Rashi based on a snarky Youtube video which someone made, presenting one side of an issue. You can believe that Hashem spoke to the Avot, sent them angels which, among other things, predicted the destruction of a bunch of cities, turned Lot's wife into a hunk of salt, but the fact that he told them to eat matza on the 15th of Nissan somehow crosses some sort of line? That might be rationalist, but it doesn't sound very rational. (for the record, Rashi states it was Pesach, with no mention of metaphysical anything. Putting those words into Rashi's quill in order to argue with him on rationalist grounds is intellectually dishonest.)

    I think you allude to the answer to your original question in the small print (I actually thought of this idea a few days ago, and I'm pleased that someone else seems to agree.) Matza is not eaten as a commemoration of the matza which was eaten by Yetziat Mitzrayim, but, like other things we eat, as a symbol. In order to commemorate the bitterness of the slavery, we don't embitter our lives, but eat Marror, which symbolizes bitterness. In order to symbolize the haste with which Bnei Yisrael left (see, e.g., Shmot 12:33) we eat Matza, which symbolizes haste, as it can be made even when you're in a hurry. Only after the korban pesach and matza was eaten did it become clear why the haste was necessary. (Again, in a context where we can accept a divine commandment, foreknowledge of events can be accepted, if not expected.) The fact the the Jews' dough did not have a chance to rise (12:34) indicates that dough is a good medium for symbolizing the idea of haste, not that we're specifically commemorating the dough which didn't have time to rise.

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  6. Nathan-
    See this book (http://www.amazon.com/Six-Thousand-Years-Bread-History-ebook/dp/B002CGRSCI/)
    6000 Year History of Bread who wrote this very idea.
    Mendy

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  7. R Natan, while I appreciate your explanation to those with more a rationalist approach I think there is a deeper problem here in how you as an orthodox jew understands the word "rationalism"
    I have the feeling that you understand the word "rationalism" as an idea that you feel emotionally comfortable with.
    Let me give you one example:
    Many times in this post you have correctly bemoaned how a whole community does not value the concept of working for a living. You have quoted the Rambam many occasions on the importance of work.
    Correct me if I am wrong, but in your article in Jerusalem Post one of your reasons you became post charedi was this idea how the Charedim do not work.
    But here is my problem: There are other Rambams which in the DL are community are ignored. Take the Rambam in Hilchot Yom Tov that Beth Din must appoint people during the Jewish Holidays to stop the mingling of the sexes.
    Now the charedi Mea Shearim community adhere to that Rambam albeit not on the one about working.
    The DL community adhere to the Rambam on working albeit not on the obligation for the Beth Din to stop mingling.
    So back to rationalism, if Rambam and many other Rishonim led a "rationalist" way of Judaism and that's the path in Judaism you want to follow why do you pick and choose? surely if the ultra rationalist Rambam would have put guards on Kikar Shabbat to stop mingling like the eida charedis do, surely you should be writing post after post on the failure of the DL community to adhere to this Rambam. And even perhaps become post DL....
    Perhaps your rationalism is more an emotional acceptance of how you personally feel Judaism should portray itself

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    1. There are other Rambams which in the DL are community are ignored. Take the Rambam in Hilchot Yom Tov that Beth Din must appoint people during the Jewish Holidays to stop the mingling of the sexes.

      The "mingling of the sexes" in the looser moral atmosphere in the urban Spain of the High Middle Ages took place amidst wine-soaked feasts, hordes of young slaves, secluded garden parties and romantic poetry readings...not just sharing bus rides or walking on the same side of the street. When people complain about modern mores, they've no idea how well-behaved and even prudish we are in comparison to some of the periods in the past.

      Temujin

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  8. There's an interesting table in the back of the Safrais' Haggadat Chazal which shows various early texts of the Haggadah. The detail about tarrying doesn't appear in the Haggadah of Rav Amram Gaon. It does appear in (the later ones of) Rav Saadia Gaon and Rav Natronai Gaon.

    Ramban's approach seems to work with both Rav Amram Gaon's text and the later ones.

    But there's a further complication: Surely in the journey from Ramses to Sukkot, the dough would have leavened. And shepherd's bread can be baked pretty quickly; brushwood fire to heat a flat rock, and there you go.

    This problem is solved by Ramban's apparently following the Mekhilta that that leg of the Exodus took place in the "twinkling of an eye". So perhaps Ramban was saying that there was kefitzat haderech which though not exactly a rationalist explanation would certainly fit "couldn't tarry!"

    Lets look at the actions: we point out the matzah at "ha lachma", and later at the mishna of Rabban Gamliel. But that part of the Haggadah is really dealing with how to do a seder without the Beit Hamikdash, and Rabban Gamliel (the Rabban Gamliel of Yavneh after the Churban) is making a halachic point. By the way, he, and the nusach of Eretz Yisrael following him, ate roast lamb at the seder.

    Anyway, in a halachic framework, the Korban Pesach is sort of a Korban Todah though has particular specifications: it's done by individuals and groups, and is a _mandatory_ thanksgiving for a specific ancestral event. And while a Korban Todah can be eaten with any kind of bread, whereas the Pesach only with matzah (now where have I heard that before...)

    But there's another problem. "This is 'lachma aniya' that our fathers ate in Egypt" – is clearly matzah. That seems to lead to the conclusion that the Haggadah is telling us that despite what the Egyptians ate, all we had to eat in Egypt was unleavened bread. But that doesn't fit with the implication of Shemot 12:39 that leavened bread was eaten.

    So if not for the issur of chametz it would seem that leavened bread would be the best symbol of our oppression since we didn't have it until we were in Egypt!

    OK, we are refraining from eating the Egyptian staple, we are returning to our ancestral bread, and for much of our history we’re about to eat it with something the Egyptians abominate.

    Is it just because of the issur of chametz that we eat matzah with the Korban Pesach or at the seder? No. The Korban is dafka with matzah, and even without the Korban Pesach, there’s still the specific mitzvah of eating matzah on the Seder night.

    That brings us back to the original question: Why matzah on Pesach? It’s both our ancestral bread AND is also lachma aniya. By eating it reclining (and, with God’s help as a part of a fancy meal) we are symbolically reframing our subjugation and – literally – nourishing ourselves with the first positive commandment we have as a people; it’s a mitzvah that was part of Pesach Mitzrayim and Pesach Dorot and continues before and after the Churban.

    The bit about not having time to let it rise... part of Magid, which can now be seen as implicit in the matzah itself, which is both the Bread of Affliction and the Bread of the Answer to the questions.

    Chag kasher v'sameach to all.

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  9. Very interesting...

    The following is not a reason but rather (I guess) a later observation [of symbolism?], something to add to its meaningfulness.

    Matzah is representative of humility; whereas, on Shavu'oth we eat hametz, which is puffed up, filled with pride for receiving the Torah. I believe that the only time hametz was offered in the Miqdash was on Shavu'oth (correct me, if I am mistaken), the two loaves.

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  10. if eating matzah has nothing to do with how the Bnei Yisrael left Egypt but was instead a pre-existing command, what was the reason for it?

    RI"D and Avudraham ask similar questions. They answer (Avudraham quotes Rav Yosef Kimchi) that HaShem gave the mitzva of eating matzo al shem he'asid. HaShem knew they would leave Egypt in a hurry and therefore commanded them beforehand to eat matzo. This answers your question but doesn't fit well with the Ramban because he writes explicitly that they hurried to bake their dough before it rose because of the prohibition against having chametz impliying that they could have let the dough leaven.

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  11. Indeed, to paraphrase an old song and TV commercial, It's what made Egypt (Milwaukee) famous,
    So not just bread, it's beer too.
    These 2 commodities were huge in the ancient world and Egypt had cornered the market and controlled prices. It helped having slave labour on the farms and factories.Those rationalists of us who believe that the Passover story, the Torah and Judaism itself are polemics against les ancien regimes of Egypt and Babylon have much to hang our kippas on here.It continues in the Haggada. Compare the 4 sons to the 4 sons of Horus for example.So much more.
    Chag Semeach

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    1. "Compare the 4 sons to the 4 sons of Horus for example."

      Would you mind elaborating on this? Aside from that fact that there are 4 of each, could you please explain the significance or connection between these things?

      "So much more."

      Please tell us more, then, because it's hard to guess what you refer to.

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    2. You are absolutely wrong about Egypt cornering ancient beer production. Beer was not an Egyptian invention or monopoly. If anything it was a Sumerian specialty and a cornerstone of diets throughout the area. Evidence of organized barley beer production in what is now Iraq and Iran dates from at least 3100 BCE which would place it in early- or pre-dynastic Egypt. One of the oldest pieces of extant writing is a Sumerian hymn to Ninkasi, goddess of beer brewing.

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  12. Interesting that you bring up that bread was an Egyptian invention: Not quite accurate, but here's something that make it even better: Egypt was the only nation to use yeast to bake their bread as opposed to either using an existing sourdough starter or letting the dough naturally rise (which takes a lot of time). However, as you wrote, bread is largely a luxury item. If you want to feed an entire nation of slaves, you need to feed them matzah because it gives them more nutrition and is cheaper.

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  13. As R. Slifkin notes, the alternative reading of the pasuk in Shemos - the one Ramban is implicitly rejecting - is that if not for the chipazon, the Jews would have let the dough turn into chametz. This requires one to assume that bal yira'eh and bal yimatzeh did not apply during that first Pesach in Egypt.

    This reading is adopted by Ran, in his commentary to the Rif (75b):
    מצה על שום שנגאלו שנאמר ויאפו את הבצק וגו'. ולא יכלו להתמהמה שאילו יכלו להתמהמה היו מחמיצין אותו דפסח מצרים לא נהג אלא לילה ויום כדאיתא בפסח שני ולמחר היו מותרין במלאכה ובחמץ ולפיכך אילו יכלו להתמהמה החמיצו עיסותיהם לצורך מחר שלא הוזהרו בבל יראה אלא מתוך שלא היה להם פנאי אפאוהו מצה וזכר לאותה גאולה נצטוו באכילת מצה.

    Noda b'Yehuda (Tzlach, 116b) thought that this was preposterous:
    ואני תמה שזה דבר חדש שלא נצטוו במצרים על בל יראה וזה לא שמענו, ובפרשת החדש הזה לכם כתיב שאור לא ימצא בבתיכם, ואף דכתיב שבעת ימים, הרי גם באכילת חמץ כתיב שבעת ימים, ואפילו הכי לא היה נוהג רק יום אחד, ה"נ לא יראה נהג יום א'. ועוד, שהרי במשנה בפרק מי שהיה טמא (לעיל צ"ה ע"א) שנינו מתחלה מה בין פסח ראשון לפסח שני פסח ראשון אסור בבל יראה ופסח שני מצה וחמץ עמו בבית, ואח"כ (צ"ו ע"א) שנינו משנה מה בין פסח מצרים לפסח דורות, וחישב כמה דברים. ואם כדברי הר"ן היה לומר ג"כ פסח דורות אסור בבל יראה ופסח מצרים מצה וחמץ עמו בבית, אלא ודאי ליתנהו לדברי הר"ן וגם פסח מצרים היה אסור בבל ויראה עכ"פ יום אחד כמו האכילה.

    A further point - in his comments to Devarim 16:3, Ramban seems to suggest that we ate matzah during our entire enslavement in Egypt, and that remembering this is part of the reason for the mitzvah:

    ובאר בכאן דברים רבים. כי הזכיר במצה שתהיה לחם עני, להגיד [???] כי צוה לזכור שיצאו בחפזון, והיא עני זכר כי היו במצרים בלחם צר ומים לחץ, והנה תרמוז לשני דברים, וכן אמרו הא לחמא עניא די אכלו אבהתנא בארעא דמצרים.

    This idea is found in other sources:

    אבודרהם - סדר ההגדה ופירושה
    ואם תאמר מהו די אכלו אבהתנא בארעא דמצרים כי (שמות יב ל) ויאפו את הבצק לא היה אלא אחר יציאת מצרים. ופירש ה"ר יהוסף האזובי בשם בן עזרא שהיה שבוי בהודו והיו מאכילין אותו לחם מצה ולא נתנו לו לעולם חמץ. והטעם מפני שהוא קשה ואינו מתעכל במהרה כחמץ ויספיק ממנו מעט וכן היו עושים המצרים לישראל.

    ספורנו - דברים טז:ג
    ''לחם עוני.'' לחם שהיו אוכלים בעוני ושלא היה להם פנאי להשהות עיסתם עד שתחמץ מפני נוגשים אצים: ''כי בחפזון יצאת.'' והטעם להזכיר חפזון הלחם הוא כי תמורת אותו חפזון העוני היה לך אח"כ חפזון הגאולה כענין והפכתי אבלם לששון (ירמיהו לא, יב).

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  14. I just read a fascinating article written by Rav Menachem Kasher zt"l in which he gives a novel reason for the issur of chametz and the chumros surrounding the issur. The article is in section 7 of the addenda section of his Haggadah Shleima. It's also in Torah Shleima Chelek 19 Miluim 20.

    Based on a Yerushalmi, essentially the issur of chametz is a harchaka from idolatry. Idolators would offer chametz as a sacrifice. The Moreh writes that this is the reason for the korban pesach itself. Rav Kasher brings proofs from the Zohar, Ba'al HaTurim and others. Very interesting. This would definitely answer the question and would also go well with Ramban.

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    1. Very interesting. Does Rav Kasher bring in any actual history to support his contention? I don't mean the notoriously unreliable Zohar or Talmud quoting other Talmud sources but real independent research

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  15. "if eating matzah has nothing to do with how the Bnei Yisrael left Egypt but was instead a pre-existing command, what was the reason for it?"

    I just saw a piece from the Alter Rebbe of Chabad asking the same question. For those interested, I believe it was in Parshat Tzav in his Torah Ohr/Likkutei Torah.

    I normally do not learn chassidut, and the answer was very kabbalistic, so I can not say I fully understood it, but what I think I understood follows-

    There are kabbalistic concepts of mochin d abba (chocma) and mochin d imma (bina). Eating Matzah helps us recognize our Abba/Hashem, and that is the reason for the command, as chazal say, a child does not recognize their parent until they eat Chita.

    I guess since Pesach is the holiday through which Hashem first reveals himself to us as a nation via the plagues and sea splitting, we should recognize and connect to our father via the matza. I asked the Chabad rabbi I learned this piece, based on the chazal on children eating chita, then why matza and not chametz?

    He said because in order to recognize our father, we need to be mevatel ourselves, and our "yesh"ness. I understood this to mean Hametz represents haughtiness and Matza being mevatel our ego.

    If anyone is familiar with this piece of Torah and can clarify, that would be appreciated. (Based on how I understood it, I see the Jews not having time to make hametz b/c Hashem wanted us to have the matza symbolism, and not vice versa).

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  16. Firstly, the reason we eat Matza CANNOT be because circumstance caused the Jews to not have time to bake their bread/let it rise because Hashem gives them the commandment to eat Matza a full 2 weeks before they leave. He could have easily given them a commandment to set a sourdough starter going when they tied up their lamb (yum!). The timing implies the need for an explanation other than surprising speed in which they were forced to leave Egypt. On the other hand, the text makes frequent references tying Matza to the hurry in which they left Egypt.

    I think the key is in the parsing of the taamei hamikra in Devarim 16:3. We would expect the verse to be parsed as such:
    (a)
    לֹֽא־תֹאכַ֤ל עָלָיו֙ חָמֵ֔ץ שִׁבְעַ֥ת יָמִ֛ים תֹּֽאכַל־עָלָ֥יו מַצּ֖וֹת לֶ֣חֶם עֹ֑נִי כִּ֣י בְחִפָּז֗וֹן יָצָ֨אתָ֙ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם
    (b)
    לְמַ֣עַן תִּזְכֹּ֗ר אֶת־י֤וֹם צֵֽאתְךָ֙ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם כֹּ֖ל יְמֵ֥י חַיֶּֽיךָ׃


    Hover the etnachta is under the oni so we parse it as:
    (a)
    לֹֽא־תֹאכַ֤ל עָלָיו֙ חָמֵ֔ץ שִׁבְעַ֥ת יָמִ֛ים תֹּֽאכַל־עָלָ֥יו מַצּ֖וֹת לֶ֣חֶם עֹ֑נִי
    (b)
    כִּ֣י בְחִפָּז֗וֹן יָצָ֨אתָ֙ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם לְמַ֣עַן תִּזְכֹּ֗ר אֶת־י֤וֹם צֵֽאתְךָ֙ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם כֹּ֖ל יְמֵ֥י חַיֶּֽיךָ׃

    Which I think can be interpreted as Hashem making it clear that He set up of the exodus to have a forced sense of urgency because that is what makes it exciting and memorable. In fact we largely ignore the very long nature of the 'diplomatic' process that proceeded the night of the Exodus.The 'story' of not having time to bake/rise bread is a big part of this. Hashem is giving us insight into how to design the 'perfect' holiday that will still be celebrated thousands of years later.

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    1. Moshe replies to Y Segal.
      Since you mention this posuk let me tell you how R S Kluger explains it.
      He asks why must you remember that you went out of Egypt daily because you went out in a hurry.
      He answers (his words) that people may think that hashem is sitting in gan eden (having a good time there) and has completely forgotten about us and needs reminding to bring moshiach now. On that the posuk says that when the time comes hashem will want us to go more than we will want to. And the proof being that in Egypt hashem was ready when we were not. So the posuk is telling us remember daily that hashem needs no reminding and the time has not come yet. Instead we should made sure to be ready when it comes. .

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  17. Moshe replies
    The question is really altogether different. We keep matzo as a symbol of redemption. Just because they happened to eat matzo when they went out, what has that to do with redemption. Do you have to copy what they were wearing then.
    Another question. Rashi says on the end of the posuk that they had emuna and didnt prepare any 'tsaido' and for that they went out. The posuk they did prepare but it wasnt ready yet.
    Correct answer to both questions will be written later.

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  18. Moshe carries on
    Thanks for publishing my questions. Now here is one answer. People in advance say they are going to do something and then when it comes to it they get cold feet. In advance they never prepared any 'tsaido laderech' and that is what rashi says was the reason they were taken out, because they had emuna that God would provide for them in the desert. But when it came to it on the day their emuna 'wavered' and they started preparing. Hashem realises this and if they would have succeeded in baking they would not have been taken out. So hashem made sure that they went out before they managed to bake it so their emuna was still intact that is why we eat matsa, because of the emuna of matsa we were taken out.

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  19. Very interesting. And very interesting follow-on comments.

    Two additional sources/ideas help to reinforce the idea that eating matza and avoiding leaven were sort of an emancipation declaration from Egyptian culture:

    a. R. Menachem Leibtag, in his shiur on parashat hachodesh (see http://tanach.org/shmot/bo/bos1.htm) points out that not only was leavened bread a symbol of Egyptian culture/idolatry (which Yechezkel 20 tells us we had succumbed to) but so was the sacrifice of a lamb/goat, as was well known (see below). So whole point of the korban pesach-- both meat and bread-- was to publicly demonstrate our loyalty to Hashem and our willingness to publicly renounce Egyptian (idolatrous) culture. So this is how we demonstrated that we deserved redemption. Here is how R. Leibtag puts it:

    "... immediately prior to their redemption, Bnei Yisrael are given another chance to do "teshuva" (Shmot 12:1-20), specifically through two prominent symbols of Egyptian culture. As we know from outside sources as well as Shmot 8:21-22, offering a lamb would be considered awfully offensive to an Egyptian. Similarly, in ancient culture, Egyptians were renown for their expertise in baking all sorts of leavened bread. Therefore, offering a lamb and eating it with unleavened bread may have been meant to reflect the people's rejection of Egyptian culture. "

    b. In his wonderful book Exploring Exodus [unfortunately not read in frum circles; it is an eye-opening pshat and history based analysis], Nahum Sarna points out (see pp. 81-85) that the mitzvah that begins the parshia of the korban pesach/chag hamatzot--
    (12:2) "החודש הזה לכם ראש חדשים ראשון הוא לכם לחדשי השנה", which of course is the first mitzvah given to Am Yisrael -- is also meant to be a way to declare emancipation from Egyptian culture. Why? Two reasons. First, the Egyptian state religion and calendar were extremely heliocentric-- they revolved solely around the sun and suppressed the moon. And so this mitzvah is revolutionary because it raises the moon to the status of the sun (as in the creation story), intertwining them both to create our lunisolar calendar. Second, Israel’s calendar was revolutionary (“without analogue in the ancient world,” according to Sarna) in that it was rooted in an historical event, thus marking a break from the cyclical conception of history that governed the ancient world and providing us with the basis for our narrative conception of history based on collective memory. We take the idea of a national calendar for granted today because it is central to modern nationalism, but it is a relatively new idea actually, and it began with the revolutionary moment of the first mitzvah given to am yisrael, as part of the mitzvot of korban pesach and chag hamatzot, for all future generations. (And note that changing the calendar is a standard feature of modern revolutions as well)

    Two additional thoughts:

    1. While Yoni Ross's objections above are important to consider, I think he overstates his case viz the meaning of לחם. It's not at all clear that in the cases of לחם he cites that the Torah means leavened bread. It seems much more natural to think of לחם as a general category for food. After all, there was definitely no leavened bread at the time of Adam Harishon. And note that the Torah consistently calls the manna "לחם מן השמים." This obviously cannot mean leavened bread.

    2. The possibility that the שר האופים was somehow connected to leavening is intriguing. It is also possible that the שר המשקים also is somehow connected to this, if he was up to making beer. It's true that he dreams about grapes and a vineyard. But it could be that he got in trouble for making drinks with other ingredients. Maybe the story was that the baker and the butler figured out that they could make beer and bread and their new booming enterprise was a challenge to pharaoh! (of course that doesn't explain why the butler lives to see another day...)

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  20. I don't have the time now to review the relevant commentary by the Ramban. However, it seems to me that the citation doesn't imply that the Ramban disagrees with the author of that part of the Hagadda - not that he couldn't. It's just that the dough carried by the Israelites would have normally risen during the day's journey (it was baked when they camped at night). But it hadn't risen, and could, therefore, be baked as matzot. According to the Ramban, the Israelites should have baked their matzot for their travel provisions on the eve of Pesach since they were ostensibly forbidden from eating leavened bread. However, they had no time to do so. Nor could they tarry on the road before their night stop. Hence, had the dough risen, they would have discarded it. According to the more conventional view, they could have eaten leavened bread on the road, but the dough made in haste in Egypt (Raamses) had never risen. Had it risen, they would have baked it as chametz. In any case, matzah properly symbolizes food made in haste which attests both to the difficulties of the Egyptian exile and the suddenness of their liberation. All allusions to earlier celebrations of Pesach are homiletic in nature and are not required by a straight-forward reading of the verses.
    Chag kasher ve'sam'ei'ach

    Y. Aharon

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    1. > All allusions to earlier celebrations of Pesach are homiletic in nature and are not required by a straight-forward reading of the verses.

      Just to be clear, are you suggesting that Rav Slifkin's post is somehow based on the midrash/homily that Lot celebrated Passover? I don't see that in his post at all. Rav Slifkin only referred to Lot baking matza as evidence that matza was the common way to prepare bread in Canaan in those days -- all year around -- whereas in Egypt leavened bread was popular.

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  21. "One book that I saw claimed that Ramban would never have done such a thing, and must have had a different text of the Haggadah."

    Why ? It's pretty well established by the scholars that the text of the present-day haggadah was compiled in the period of the gaonim. So he wouldn't be arguing on chazal, but on one of the prominent gaonim. Rambam routinely argued on the gaonim almost as a matter of course, and rishonim generally did not feel restricted from arguing with gaonim, especially on matters of hashkafa. So I don't see where this argument stems from, and your reply saying Ramban sometimes argued on chazal is interesting but only strengthens the relevant point here which is that there is no reason he shouldn't have or couldn't have argued on the Gaonim.

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  22. Warren Burstein-

    I wonder what's R Slifkins take on the issues of Kitniyot on Pessah. Don't remember you talking about it ever.

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  23. Enclosed is a link to a short essay by Rav Yoel Bin-Nun on the subject of פסח לוט. I advise all who think that this midrash is irrational or some-such to first read this.
    http://www.ybn.co.il/mamrim/PDF/lut.pdf

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  24. Rabbi Slifkin, you should know better than to talk about "the Bnei Yisrael". That's "the the children of Israel".

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  25. Sorry, even Rav Bin-Nun states that the Lot incident involving making matzot for the angelic visitors need not have been Pesach time. He merely draws comparisons of Lot's experience with that later of the Israelites on the eve of their liberation. There is nothing novel about such comparisons. It is a facet of the talmudic adage, "ma'asei avot siman lebanim". Finding parallels, however, is not the same as establishing a date for the event. Nor does the verse concerning the exodus directly reference when Yitzchok was born. In fact, it refers explicitly to the 430 year period of exile - not 400, which would hark back to Yitzchok's birth. The evident understanding of the 430 years interval is that it started with Avram's apparently miraculous departure from Ur. The language used for that departure is, indeed, parallel to language used for the Egyptian exodus, "I am Hashem who has taken you out of Ur of the Kasdim..". If anything, it is that event that occurred exactly 430 years prior to the Egyptian exodus on the 15th of the spring month. The birthdate of Yitzchok, in this understanding, is unspecified, as is the time of the visitation of the angels to Avram and then to Lot. Hence, Lot's baking of matzot for his guests need have nothing to do with the later Jewish holiday celebrating the liberation of Avraham's descendents from Egypt - parallels, notwithstanding. I find it more meaningful to celebrate a liberation holiday that is uniquely associated with the Jewish people and had no prior antecedents.

    Chag kasher vesamei'ach,

    Y. Aharon

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  26. Rav Yoel Bin-Nun's essay is also in english.
    http://www.vbm-torah.org/pesach/pes69-ybn.htm

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  27. from the original post:
    > But, at any rate, we are left with the following question on Ramban's approach - if eating matzah has nothing to do with how the Bnei Yisrael left Egypt but was instead a pre-existing command, what was the reason for it?

    We can ask a similar question on Chumash itself, without reference to Ramban. As a few others mentioned above, the initial prohibition against chametz appears in parshat hachodesh, prior to the Exodus and before we ever left in haste without time for dough to rise. Why was chametz prohibited at that point? Yes it is possible that God commanded this based on His foreknowledge of what would happen in the future; a mystical/chabad explanation is also cited above. However, the approach given in Rabbi Sllifkin's post provides a much more satisfying answer, I think.

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  28. Y. Aharon, the point of R. Yoel Bin-Nun's essay is that "yehi pesach" does not mean, the date was pesach, but rather the story is the story of pesach.

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  29. I believe that translating the word חפזון as “haste” is the source of the confusion. חפזון is more properly translated as “fear,” “trepidation” or “panic” at times leading to flight. This feeling of חפזון is brought about by an encounter with a powerful enemy or the awe of a king (or The King).

    This becomes clearer in Devarim 20:3 in the oration of the Kohen to the people before setting out to battle. The Kohen tells the people not to fear their enemy in four phrases: אל ירך לבבכם, אל תיראו, אל תחפזו, ואל תערצו מפניהם. All four are synonyms for fear. Onkelos translates “אל תחפזו” as “לא תתבעתון.” This word is also found in Megillat Esther after Esther accuses Haman where it says: “והמן נבעת מלפני המלך והמלכה.” Haman was not reacting in haste, he was recoiling in fear.

    This understanding of חפזון can be applied to other places where this root is found I TaNaKh. Tehillim 31:23, Tehillim 116:11, Shemuel II 4:4, Melakhim II 7:15 etc.

    The Neziv in his commentary on the Haggadah explains חפזון as fear. This also helps to explain the Gemara in Berakhot 9a and the discussion between the Sages and Rabbi Akiva if חפזון refers to the Egyptians or Yisrael.

    Finally, we encounter this word again on Yamim Noraim in the piyut “ונתנה תוקף.” Here, in describing the awesome sight of the judgment in heaven, we find the phrase: “ומלאכים יחפזון וחיל ורעדה יאחזון.” Once more understanding the word “יחפזון” as “fear” or “trepidation” makes more sense than “haste.”

    We therefore eat matzah not because of the haste, but rather as a remembrance of the awe and trepidation that accompanies our nation’s first direct encounter with מלך מלכי המלכים – הקדוש ברוך הוא.

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