The Benefit of Eating Matzah is only During Seven Days a Year
“שבעת ימים מצות תאכלו” (שמות יב:טו(
“Seven days you shall eat matzos” (Shemos 12:15)
Question: If matzah is holy bread, why does the Torah command us to eat it only seven days a year!? The reason is, that only because of the special sanctity which descends upon the Jewish people during the seven days of the Yom Tov of Pesach is the soul able to benefit from the lofty spiritual qualities imbedded in the simple food of matzah.
However, Hashem in His mercy, created seven days as a full cycle of time thus equating it in certain ways to the cycle of a full year. Thus, one who eats matzah during the seven days of Pesach is considered as though he ate matzos the whole year through!
This idea is hinted to as well in the posuk “שלש רגלים תחוג לי בשנה” / “Three holidays celebrate in My Name each year” (Shemos 23:14). Apparently the word “בשנה” / “each year” is redundant!? From here we learn, as above, that one who fulfills each holiday in its limited number of days is considered to have fulfilled it during the whole year!
With this in mind, we learn of the great holiness of the holiday of Shavuos for we celebrate it for only one day (from the Torah). That is, because of the great holiness of the chag we are only able to connect to it and receive its spiritual message one day a year, dissimilar to Pesach where we celebrate it for seven days. If you’ll say that really Pesach is on the same level as Shavuos and that the reason we celebrate it seven days is because the events of the time lasted seven days, whereas by Shavuos it lasted only one day, and this is the reason for the discrepancy in the number of days we celebrate each chag!? We cannot say this, for we celebrate the holiday of Succos as well for seven days even though there is no apparent reason for doing so! Thus, we are left with the original assumption that we celebrate Shavuos for one day only because its holiness is greater than that of Pesach and Succos! The reason is clear – for on that day we received Hashem’s Torah which is the source of all holiness in Israel!
The Plague of the Striking of the First Born: First in Thought, Last in Action
“ויהי בחצי הלילה וה’ הכה כל בכור בארץ מצרים…” (שמות יב:כט)
“And it was in the exact middle of the night and Hashem struck and killed every first born in the land of Egypt” (Shemos 12:29)
The striking of the first born was the last of the ten plagues as it states“ויאמר ה’ אל משה עוד נגע אחד אביא על פרעה ועל מצרים אחרי כן ישלח אתכם מזה… כחצות הלילה… ומת כל בכור בארץ מצרים”… / “And Hashem said to Moshe one more plague I will bring upon Pharoh and on the Egyptians, afterwards he will send you out from this… in the exact middle of the night… and each and every first born in Egypt will die…” (Shemos 11:1-5). If so, why did Hashem tell Moshe when He first told him of his mission to speak to Pharoh in order to free the Jewish people“ואמר אליך שלח את בני ויעבדני ותמאן לשלחו הנה אנכי הרג את בנך בכורך” / “And I will say to you send out My son and they will worship Me and if you will refuse to send them out behold I will kill your first born son” (ibid. 4:23)!?
In addition, we can ask, if Hashem promised to kill the Egyptians’ first born if Pharoh refused to send out the Jewish people, why did He first inflict the Egyptians with nine other plagues!?
To answer these questions we can suggest, with G-d’s help, based on the statement of the Sefas Emes in the name of his Rebbi and grandfather, the Chidushei Harim, that the ten plagues were meant to correct the impurities (created by man’s sins) that affected that Ten Statements by which means Hashem created the world, and to allow for the impending giving of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai. Therefore, the plagues would need to be in the same structure as the Ten Statements of Creation and the Ten Commandments.
Now, at the beginning of the Ten Statements with which Hashem created the world it is written “ויהי ערב ויהי בקר יום אחד” / “and it was evening and it was morning, one day” (Bereishis 1:5). Apparently, is should have said “יום ראשון” / “the first day” as we find by the other days of Creation!?
We can explain that “יום אחד” / “one day” comes to teach us that the whole creation is included in the creation of light on the first day and that the additional parts of creation only extended from it, each on its own day.
In a similar vein, Rashi explains that the wording “יום אחד” / “one day” teaches us that that Hashem was alone in His world, and we can deduce from that, that just as Hashem includes all, so too all of creation is included in the first day.
In this manner Rashi comments on the posuk “יהי מאורות ברקיע השמים” / “and there shall be luminaries in the expanse of the heavens” (ibid. 1:14) explaining that the luminaries were created on the first day of creation and on the fourth day Hashem commanded them to take their place in the heavens. And so with all the earthly and heavenly creations, they were created on the first day and were revealed and began functioning each on its destined day. All of these creations are included in the wording “את” השמים / “the heavens” and“ואת הארץ” / “and the land”. Rashi repeats this explanation again on the posuk“אלה תולדות השמים והארץ בהבראם ביום עשות ה’ אלקים ארץ ושמים” (ibid. 2:4).
We find a similar setup regarding the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai where it states “וידבר אלקים את כל הדברים האלה לאמר” / “And Hashem spoke all these things/words saying” (Shemos 20:1). Now, it appears that this statement is entirely unnecessary and that the section should have begun with the actual commandments!? Rashi explains that it comes to teach us that Hakadosh Baruch Hu said the Ten Commandments all in one word. If so, asks Rashi, why does the Torah then reveal the commandments one by one? He answers, quoting the Mechilta, that after stating all the laws as one, Hashem then continued to explain each one separately.
According to the above, it appears that Hakadosh Baruch Hu at first stated “הנה אנכי הורג את בנך בכורך” / “behold I will kill your first born son” even though He only killed their first born after all the other plagues to teach us that all the other plagues were included in the plague of the killing of the first born. This is well understood, for just as the first born is the source of the rest of the family, so too the plague of the first born is the source of all the other plagues.
An additional proof of the above can be found in the posuk“עוד נגע אחד אביא על פרעה” / “Another single plague I will bring upon Pharaoh”. The word “אחד” / “one” seems redundant for its message appears to be included in the word “עוד” / “another”!? Rather the posuk is teaching us that the plague of the first born is “one” plague that contains all the rest of the plagues, similar to our explanation above of the posuk “יום אחד” / “one day”.
However, we do find one difference between the plague of the first born and the Ten Statements of Creation and the Ten Commandments. And that is, regarding the Ten Statements of Creation and the Ten Commandments, all of the Statements and Commandments are included in the first Statement, while all the plagues are included in the last plague (although it was mentioned first).
We can suggest the following reason for this difference: the Ten Statements of Creation and the Ten Commandments were given as building blocks of the world, therefore their source is revealed at first, while the purpose of the plagues was to correct the state of the world, and therefore, since the plague of the first born completed the correction, it came last.
According to this, we can understand that which is stated regarding the mitzvah to obliterate the name and memory of nation of Amalek. The posuk states“והיה בהניח ה’ אלקיך לך מכל אויביך מסביב בארץ… תמחה את זכר עמלק” / “And it shall be when Hashem your G-d relieves you of all your enemies around you in the land… obliterate the memory of Amalek” (Devorim 25:19). We can ask, why does Hashem instruct us to fulfill this mitzvah only in the end of days!? Also, we find that even before we received the Torah we battled Amalek as the posuk states “ויבא עמלק וילחם עם ישראל ברפידים” / “And Amalek came and fought with the Jewish nation in Refidim” (Shemos 17:8)!?
We can answer that the obliteration of Amalek is similar to the plague of the first born. Just as the plague of the first born was first in thought and last in action, so too the mitzvah to obliterate Amalek was first in thought and last in action, for the purpose of both is to correct the failings of society. This is as it states “וירא את עמלק וישא משלו ויאמר ראשית גוים עמלק ואחריתו עדי אובד” / “And he (Bilaam) saw Amalek and in proverbial language said Amalek is the first of nations and its end will be permanent destruction” (Bamidbar 24:20).
In the future, may it come speedily in our days, Hakadosh Baruch Hu will gather all the individual acts and creations which have separated from their source because of man’s sins, and reattach them to their source until they become become indivisible with it, for at that time G-d will reign alone in His world and His reign is one of total unity. Regarding that period the prophet says“ביום ההוא יהיה ה’ אחד ושמו אחד” / “on that day Hashem will be One and His Name One” (Zechariah 14:9).
The Mitzvah to Relay the Miracles and Wonders that Hashem Performed for the Jewish People as they Left Egypt
According to all opinions, the following posuk teaches us certain aspects of the above mitzvah. Some opinions say that this is the main source of the mitzvah and others say that it is a secondary source. In any case, it holds within it major concepts relating to our obligation to fulfill this mitzvah as well as important lessons to be learned from the way in which Hashem took us out of Egypt. We will attempt to capsule some of these concepts through the explanation of each and every word of the posuk. The posuk states: “והגדת לבנך ביום ההוא לאמר בעבור זה עשה ה’ לי בצאתי ממצרים” / “And you shall speak to your son on that day saying because of this Hashem made for me when He took me out of Egypt” (Shemos 13:8).
(1) “והגדת” – “And you shall say” – Some authorities hold that this posuk is the source of the mitzvah to relate the miracles that Hashem performed for us as we left Egypt. All learn from here that a father should relate the events of the leaving of Egypt to his son even if the son shows no interest in the topic, as the Torah puts the responsibility to engage the son in discussion on the father.
(2) “לבנך” – “to your son” – Even though one who does not have children is still obligated in this mitzvah, the wording “בנך” teaches us that this mitzvah is strongly imbedded in the relationship between father and son.
(3) “ביום ההוא” – “on that day” – From here we learn that this mitzvah emanates from the mitzvah to sanctify the new month. It teaches us that the ability of the Jewish people to break away from the other nations and to rise beyond their nature and to reach a higher spiritual nature stems from the ability Hashem gave the sages to be the ones who decide the course of the nature of the world through the sanctification of the new moon.
(4) “לאמר” – “to say” – (a) Hints to that which we say in the Hagada, even if we are all wise men, we are all clever men, we are all elders, we all know the whole of the Torah, it is incumbent upon us to relate the story of the leaving of Egypt. A proof for this can be found in the posuk “ויאמר ה’ לא ידון רוחי באדם לעולם” / “And Hashem said My Spirit will no longer judge man forever” (Bereishis 6:3) which teaches us that the language of אמירה is used even where there is no one listening, (b) This language does not express any limitation similar to that which is stated in the Hagada וכל המאריך ביציאת מצרים הרי זה משובח / And one who relates in length about the events surrounding the leaving of Egypt is very praiseworthy, (c) אמירה is used as well to mean a person speaks in his heart, as it states “ויאמר המן בלבו” / “And Haman said in his heart” (Ester 6:6). This teaches us that we should say the Hagada with a full heart and not merely by reading the words. And this for three reasons: 1. in order to try and relieve the events which occurred to our forefathers as they left Egypt, 2. in order to awaken the children to the importance of the day, and 3. in order to praise Hashem and recount His miracles which He performed on our behalf as we say in the Hagada (from Pesachim 116b)אנחנו חייבים להודות להלל לשבח לפאר לרומם להדר לברך לעלה ולקלס למי שעשה לאבותינו ולנו את כל הנסים האלו, הוציאנו מעבדות לחרות וכו’ / We are obligated to thank, to praise, to exult, to express His greatness, to uplift Him in the eyes of others, to bless Him, to raise Him above all because of the miracles which He performed for our forefathers and for us; He brought us from bondage to freedom, etc.
(5) “בעבור זה” – “because of this” – One must fulfill this mitzvah when matzah and bitter herbs are placed on the table in front of you (Mechilta) Another explanation is Hashem took us out of Egypt because we agreed to fulfill His mitzvos as exemplified by the fulfillment of the mitzvos of this night (Rashi).
(6) “עשה ה'”– “made Hashem” – By taking us out of Egypt, Hashem uprooted our connection to the family of nations and through this “made” us into a new spiritually-uplifted nation. This is as it is written by Avraham Avinu“את הנפש אשר עשו בחרן” / “the souls which they “made” in Charan” (Bereishis 12:5). See Rashi’s commentary there. This hints as well to the very creation of man as it states “נעשה אדם בצלמנו” / “let’s make man in our image” (ibid 1:26).
Alternatively, we can explain that the wording “עשה ה‘” includes within it that which we say in the Hagada “ויוציאנו ה’ ממצרים” (דברים כו:ח) לא על ידי מלאך לא על ידי שרף ולא על ידי שליח אלא הקדוש ברוך הוא בכבודו / “and Hashem took us out of Egypt” (Devorim 26:8) not through the agency of an administering angel or any other agent, but by Him, Himself in all His honor!
(7) “לי” – “to me” – The Hagada says that this is hinting to the wicked son saying that if he would have been in Egypt at the time of redemption he would not have been redeemed (Mechilta). In addition, “לי” hints to Hashem’s special guidance over our lives
(8) “בצאתי ממצרים” – “as I left Egypt” – Even though we became a new nation upon leaving Egypt, it is incumbent upon each and every individual to reflect upon the great miracles which Hashem performed for our forefathers in Egypt and to reflect on all the benefits he enjoys from those miracles until today in his private life and circumstances, as the Gemora (Pesachim 116b) relates that in each and every generation, each person is obligated to see himself as though he left Egypt.
A Gut Yontov!
חג כשר ושמח!