Two Matzahs: Two Ideas

Moshe Ben-Chaim

Thanks to my friend Davida's question, we derive new insights from an apparent repetition. Exodus 13:6,7 reads as follows:

"Seven days eat matzas and on the seventh day is a celebration to God."

"Matzas shall be eaten these seven days, and you shall not see for yourself chametz, and you shall not see for yourself leaven in all your borders."

Why do we need two verse telling us to eat matzas for seven days?

Most people do not know this, but on the first Passover, what we refer to as Pesach Mitzrayim (the Egyptian Passover) there was no prohibition to eat bread or leavened foods! This is startling, given the central role of chametz on Passover. How can we have Passover, and still eat chametz?!  However, a careful read of the verses (Exod. 12:1-13) reveals no prohibition on chametz. The prohibition is on "future" Passover celebrations. Exodus 12:14,15 states clearly, "And this day shall be a remembrance…but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your homes." The prohibition of chametz is only on future Passovers, when it becomes a "remembrance", but no prohibition of chametz existed during Pesach Mitzrayim. Ibn Ezra (Exod. 12:15) says, "Had the Egyptians not rushed them, the Jews' loaves would have become chametz." Rashi also says "The Egyptians didn't allow the Jews to tarry so their loaves could become chametz (Exod. 12:34)."  Thus, the Jews presented in their actions that there was no prohibition to eat bread during Pesach Mitzrayim.

This forces us to ask: What generated the prohibition of eating chametz? And this must be subsequent to the Jews' Egyptian Passover, as chametz was not prohibited then. 

It is also interesting to note that the prohibition of chametz is on the "home": "remove leaven from your homes (Exod. 12:16)", "Seven days leaven shall not be found in your homes (Exod. 12:19)", "Any leaven shall not be eaten, in all your dwellings eat matza (Exod. 12:20)", "you shall not see leaven in all your borders (Exod. 13:7)."  What is this significance of the home? And what is so severe about leaven that eating it is meat with excision, Karase?

A few verses catch our attention, and we are puzzled at their message: 

"The people picked-up their dough before it became chametz in their kneading troughs; wrapped in their garments on their shoulders (Exod. 12:34)."  

"And they baked the loaf they took out of Egypt into cakes of matza, for it did not rise, as they were driven out from Egypt and could not tarry, and also provisions they did not prepare (Exod. 12:39)."

The Jews were all preoccupied with bread. Why? If one wishes to suggest that the Jews made this bread for their journey, Rashi disagrees: "[This verse] speaks of the praise of the Jews, for they did not say 'How can we go out into the desert without food'. Rather, they believed in God (Exod. 12:39)." Now, if Rashi is saying the Jews believed God would feed them in the desert, why did they take the loaves of dough? It must be that Rashi understood this dough was taken for a different purpose, not for food. It is quite intriguing that the Jews all did this in unison, without orchestration or command. It means they all possessed some internal motivation to make bread.

This sheds light on our question. The Jews were preoccupied with creating bread. This was because as slaves, they were fed hard, dry matza for 210 years.  Once freedom was at hand, they wished to embody a life as a free person. People find it unsatisfying to simply internally feel a certain attitude; they must demonstrate it. This explains why rich people spend their riches for others to see. They lavishly clothe themselves with the most extravagant wardrobes and jewelry. Just knowing they are rich and that they can purchase anything, doesn't give them full satisfaction in their riches.

The emancipated Jews in Egypt felt the same. They wished to act as free people, like the Egyptians, who's mark of freedom in their eyes, were people who ate bread, not matza. This is why all the Jews were preoccupied with baking bread that Passover night, and why the Torah records this. 

It is telling how they carried the dough…they placed the dough "in their garments!" That is an odd way to carry anything, unless we explain this loaf as we said: it was not taken for food, but as a means of distinguishing themselves, as is the goal of garments! Thus, they placed the dough in their garments, like a badge or adornment of sorts.

Now we understand why chametz became prohibited. God did not wish the Jews to embody the Egyptians values. They were being taken from there for the opposite purpose; to accept a lifestyle different than idolaters. Once they expressed an identity with Egyptian culture, through bread, this very bread became prohibited. But this expression was subsequent to Pesach Mitzrayim, so bread was not prohibited then. In Egypt, they were only obligated in matza as a means to reflect on their bondage where they were fed mere matza, and contrast that to their newfound freedom. Freedom creates an appreciation for God, to a greater degree, when we contrast it to our slavery. This is why matza was required even in Pesach Mitzrayim. Today we too must contrast our slavery to our freedom, as the Rabbis say, "Commence the Passover Seder with discussion of our lowly state, and conclude with our praise for God (maschile b'gnuss, umissayame b'shevach)."

Now we understand: matza possesses two identities: 1) poor man's bread; 2) absence of chametz. In Egypt, prior to our expressed attachment to Egypt's culture via bread, there was no prohibition of chametz. Matza was commanded merely to help us reflect on our bondage. But once we expressed an identity with Egypt by baking bread, God said this cannot be, and He created the prohibition of this identification, of eating bread. 

The fact the Jews as a whole were all involved in bread making that night, is a clear lesson of their attachment to freedom. Go wished to tell them another lesson: freedom per se is not the goal in life. They were being freed to serve God. Their attempt at expressing a completely unbridled free state was met with God's disapproval.

We can answer Davida's question on the two verses:

"Seven days eat matzas and on the seventh day is a celebration to God."

"Matzas shall be eaten these seven days, and you shall not see for yourself chametz, and you shall not see for yourself leaven in all your borders."

The first verse refers to the matza of bondage, for which we praise God as the verse says, since He freed us. Therefore it is connected with "praise", for God' act of granting us freedom. The second verse refers to the matza that opposes the Egyptian free lifestyle, without a Torah. Here, were are taught that matza now includes the additional lesson that we are not to follow a simply "free" lifestyle, embodied in the Egyptian bread-eating culture. This explains why chametz must be removed from the "home". For it is the home that represents one's life and lifestyle. This is where one "lives." And God is teaching us that our lives must be completely removed of all destructive cultural influences. Chametz — the symbol of Egyptian freedom without God – must be removed from "all our borders." 

We can also appreciate that excision (Karase) is the punishment for deviating from living as God's servants; for a philosophical sin of preferring freedom, than following His ways. Choosing freedom, over serving God (which is really serving ourselves) is a futile life, expressed by spiritual death.

There are no redundancies in Torah. Every one of God's words and verses teaches something new. As a wise Rabbi said, "Let the verses speak to you."  There is great wisdom in the Torah. We need not force an explanation, since God dictated the Torah to Moses in a design that will present both the questions, and answers…provided we are patient, and remain unsatisfied with mediocre explanations, and diligently search for the gems. 

Thanks Davida.