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So you think you know why we eat Matzah!?

Friday, 16 March, 2012 - 2:57 pm

Instead of sharing a thought or insight, this week I present you with a question.  Please share with me your thoughts on the matter; I’d love to hear back from you.

Do you know why we eat Matzah on Passover? Of course! It was because the Jewish people had to rush out of Egypt and they didn’t have time to let the dough rise into bread. It was baked instead as flat, unleavened bread - Matzah. The Haggadah (the guide to the Passover seder) even says as much:

“This Matzah that we eat for what reason? Because the dough of our fathers did not have time to become leavened before the King of the kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, revealed Himself to them and redeemed them.”

It then quotes the verse in the Torah (Exodus 12:39) ,“They baked the dough that they had taken out of Egypt as unleavened cakes, for it had not leavened, for they were driven out of Egypt, and they could not tarry.”

It sounds pretty straight forward, doesn’t it? They rushed out of Egypt and didn’t have time to bake bread for the journey.

Here’s the question: Do you know what the Jewish people did the day before they left Egypt? They were instructed to bring a "Passover offering" to G-d: a lamb or young goat was to be slaughtered and its blood sprinkled on the doorposts and lintel of every Jewish home, so that G-d should pass over (hence the holidays name, Passover) these homes when He comes to kill the Egyptian firstborn (the tenth plague). The roasted meat of the offering is to be eaten that night together with... (drum roll) matzah(!!) (unleavened bread) and bitter herbs.

So, the night before they left Egypt they were already commanded to eat Matzah as part of the annual Passover offering!

Another point, do you know what time the plague of the firstborn struck Egypt? Exactly at midnight. As an immediate result of that plague Pharaoh came running to Moshe (Moses) begging him to leave Egypt and spare them from this plague. (Pharaoh himself was a firstborn and was afraid that he too would die.)

But did they leave right then and there? No! The commentaries explain that they actually left the next day at noon - 12 hours later! Could they not have baked regular bread in that time?

In summary, it turns out that 1) they already were commanded to eat Matzah on Passover even before they left Egypt and 2) they had plenty of time to bake bread and allow it to rise. So why does everyone think (and the Haggadah state) that we eat Matzah because of their haste to leave?

Please share with me you answers and thoughts on this matter. We will discuss this question (and many others) at the pre-Passover class coming up on Tuesday, April 3rd at 8pm click here for details.

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