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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Pesach 72(72)

Some of the questions about the mitzvos related to Pesach continue to bother us.

For example a classic question is :


A Question:

The Torah commands us several weeks before the Exodus that we must not eat Chametz and we should eat Matza.(Exodus 12:15) So how can the Torah say only a few verses later, when the Jews ran out of Egypt that:

"They baked the dough that they took out of Egypt into matzos cakes because for they could not leaven for they were driven out of Egypt and they could not tarry." (Exodus 12: 39).

So the reason for eating matzos on Pesach is because the Israelites were rushed and no time to let the dough leaven. This seems to imply that had they had the time they would have let the dough rise. But how so? They had already been command (12:15) not to eat chametz for a week ?

This a classic question dealt with by many Commentaries. The Ramban deals with this question on verse 12:15 and his answer is quite simple. He reads the verse differently, than we had at first glance. He says: "They baked matzos on the way –and did not bake them in Egypt – because they were driven out of Egypt.

We asked our question based on a different reading. We thought the verse meant, "They baked matzos (and not bread) because they were driven out of Egypt.


In the Haggada we read

"This Matzo that we eat: What is the reason? The reason is because the dough of our fathers did not have time to rise by the time they were redeemed by the King of kings, the Holy One Blessed be as it says: " They baked the dough that they took out of Egypt into matzos cakes because for they could not leaven for they were driven out of Egypt and they could not tarry." (Exodus 12: 39).

This of course is the same verse we had above. But here the Haggadah says clearly that reason we eat Matzos is because their dough didn't leaven; ignoring the fact that they were previously – two weeks before the exodus - commanded to make matzos and not eat bread.

How can we understand this?

Your Answer:


The Karban Pesach – Pascal lamb – was the main part of the final meal before the Israelites' hasty exit from Egypt.

Let us look at the various mitzvos associated with that meal:

1) The lamb is roasted not cooked

2) Each household ate together anyone parting of the meal had to reserve place earlier. (Exodus 12: 3 &4)

3) You may not break a bone while eating in order to suck out the marrow.

4) The lamb is roasted whole, not cut up. (12:9)

5) "So you shall eat it: your loins girded; shoes on your feet; and your walking staff in your hand – eat it in haste." (Exodus 12:11)

Commentators give various reasons for each the different mitzos, but the Rashbam sees many of them as being geared to eating quickly and leaving quickly. Certainly verse 12:11 says this explicitly.


I would add, and I believe this has not been suggested before, that the reason we were originally commanded to eat matzos and not bread was because matzos bake much quicker than bread. Just like roasting meat is quicker than cooking, so too matzos join the other mitzvos which were done to make the meal and its preparation as speedy as possible.


With this in mind we can now attempt to answer our question. True they were commanded weeks before to eat matzos and true that it was predicted even before any of the plaques they would be chased out of Egypt. (Exodus 6:1). So perhaps the command to eat matzos comes from the need to bake them quickly because they wouldn't have time - Hashem said so and He knew it. So when the verse says they baked matzos (on the way) and not in Egypt. It shows us that while they understood the need for haste, but they underestimated the immediate pressure that the Egyptian used to drive out their slaves

In short, both the historical events and the original command to make matzos stem from the same reason.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Somayach
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.

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