Chag HaMatzos

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The Yom Tov of Pesach has many names. It’s called Pesach, (a) in tribute to Hashem having mercy upon us and passing over our houses, and (b) because of the korbon Pesach which was one of the Mitzvos which was responsible for us being able to leave. It’s also called z’man cheirusainu – the time of our freedom. Yet the Torah always calls it Chag HaMatzos – the Yom Tov of Matzos. Whenever we find Pesach mentioned in the Torah it is always in reference to the korbon Pesach, not the name of the Yom Tov. This seems quite strange.

1) The most appropriate name for the Yom Tov should have been z’man cheirusainu – the Yom Tov of our freedom. The eating of the Matzos was only one small detail in the process of our freedom. Why give it the main billing? If you want to name the Yom Tov after a food we eat, why not call it Chag HaPesach, the way we do? Why Chag HaMatzos?

2) Why do we play up the seemingly unimportant detail of what we ate on the way out of Mitzrayim? Why is the food we ate upon our release such an important factor in our freedom that the entire Yom Tov is named after it? Had everyone eaten ice cream or pizza on the way out of Mitzrayim, would we be required to eat it nowadays as well?

3) Even if we assume that the reason weeat Matzoh is in commemoration of the food we ate on our way out of Mitzrayim (l’havdil ) like the goyim eat turkey on Thanksgiving), why eliminate all Chometz? Why does chometz suddenly become all that bad that not only can’t we eat it, but we can’t even possess the smallest speck of it? We can’t even lock it up in some closet under guard of lock and key. It may absolutely not be in our possession. Nowhere does it say that the Jews on their way out of Mitzrayim possessed absolutely no chometz. Chances are they did. In fact, we find that those people who celebrate Pesach Sheni (because they were tomei are permitted to have all the chometz they want on Pesach Sheni.

4) If chometz is so bad (it represents the yetzer hora), then why are we permitted to eat it all year long?

5) Why was a korbon mincha never allowed to become chometz and anyone that was chometz was never allowed to be put on the mizbeach (altar), even if it wasn’t Pesach? Can there be something wrong with chometz that Hashem never ever wants us to put it on the mizbayach?

6) Why does Hashem give us specific instructions to make the shtei halechem brought on Shavuos chometz, and thereby unable to be put on the mizbayach. (We give it to the Kohanim.) If chometz is so bad on Pesach, why does it suddenly become the in thing on Shavuos? (One could ask the same about the lachmei todah which were partly chometz).

7) When we begin saying the Haggadah, we refer to the Matzoh as the “poor man’s bread eaten while we were in Mitzrayim.” “This is the bread of affliction which our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt.” Yet we all know that the Matzoh is eaten because that is what the Yidden ate in the process of leaving Mitzrayim “for there was no time for the dough of our ancestors to become leavened” – and not because of what we ate in Mitzrayim itself.

8) Shouldn’t we be required to eat the Matzoh as a commemoration of the Matzoh our fathers ate the night of the geulah (redemption) itself? Why do we eat it in commemoration of what first happened the next morning? Or why not for both reasons?

9) The ingredients of chometz and Matzoh are exactly the same. They are both made from flour and water. Then, why does the poor man eat the plain Matzoh. For the same money he can bake it into good delicious fluffy chometz? It’s not going to cost him a single penny extra, so why not enjoy it for the same money?

10) Doesn’t it seem kind of strange: The Yidden have already suffered two hundred and ten years in Mitzrayim. They are now leaving, heading toward a desert where they cannot possibly find any food. Why not give them just a little more time to prepare some good sandwiches for the trip? If they were there for so long, what’s so terrible if they took another few hours? What’s the great hurry? Whats the big rush? They had waited this long. They could wait just a little longer. Would those few extra hours mean that all the Jews would have fallen into the bottom stage of tumoh (the fiftieth shaar hatumoh) from which there was no way out? It’s hard to imagine that they had lasted so long and they couldn’t take it a few hours longer?

11) We find that the future redemption will be very similar to yetzias Mitzrayim. As it says, “like the days that you went out of Egypt I will show you wonders”. Yet in Sefer Yeshayahu we find that it says “you will not go out in haste” – exactly the opposite of yetzias Mitzrayim. If haste is so important in leaving the golus Mitzrayim, why shouldn’t it be as important in the final geula?

I guess we have asked enough questions, so let’s now get on to the answers.


Indeed, Chometz and Matzoh have the same identical ingredients. In fact, they may be only a single second apart. One moment it’s Matzoh, and Poof! The next moment it’s transformed into chometz. One second can make the entire difference. Matzoh can turn to chometz, but chometz can’t turn back to Matzoh. It’s too late! The damage is already done. One cannot go back in time. Chometz can never turn back into matzoh.

Interestingly enough, we even see this in the very letters of the words themselves. The only difference between them is the ches and thehey. The difference between a ches and hey is only one tiny drop of ink. Attach the little leg of the hey to its roof, and it turns into a ches. Matzoh turns to chometz. It takes a fraction of a second extra to write the word chometz than the wordmatzoh.

The only difference between Matzoh and chometz is the element of time. There is no other difference. But time makes a load of difference! One second can make a world of difference.

The Gemorah (Taanis) tells us a story about the great tzaddik Nochum Ish Gam Zu. He was once riding on a donkey, when he was approached by a poor man asking for something to eat. Surely said Reb Nochum Ish Gam Zu, With the greatest of pleasure! But let me first unload my donkey.” This way he could probably feed the poor man properly. Perhaps the tastier food was at the bottom! Certainly the great tzaddik had the best of intentions! Yet, as he was in the process of unloading the donkey the poor man died. That poor man couldn’t wait that one extra second. He was starved to death! To him that one extra second made the difference between life and death.

A poor man barely scrapes together the few pennies he needs to buy water and flour. He can’t afford the sky rocketing price of ready-made food. He mixes it together quickly and puts it in the oven. He can’t afford the luxury of waiting till it rises as the rich man does. He’s starved. Every second counts. He doesn’t have the time to wait till it rises. If he doesn’t bake it quickly, it may be too late!

The Jews in Mitzrayim were in a similar predicament. The moment the time of the geulah came they had to get out as quickly as possible. Every second of delay could mean one more person sinking into the depths of the Egyptian tumoh from where there was no way out.

Every second of delay may have meant one more person lost from Klal Yisroel forever. Four-fifths of Klal Yisroel were killed during the makkoh of choshech (Plague of Darkness) because they were too far gone. (In fact, some say only one of 500 left Mitzrayim.) They were beyond help. They were beyond rescue. They were lost forever.

Hashem could not bring the geulah earlier by even one second. He had specified the exact precise moment of the Geulah. Those that could not hold out till then were forever lost to Klal Yisroel.

But the very moment the golus was over, Hashem would not wait even one extra second. Every second may have meant more lives being lost. The geulah would have to be accomplished as fast as possible. There was no time even to make some delicious chometz sandwiches. One more life could be lost. Who knows if that one might not have been one of our own great great …. grandfathers? Our chazal tell us that “rescuing even one Jewish soul is like upholding our entire world.” Don’t ever underestimate the greatness and preciousness of a single Jewish life. Just think of the eventual generations that one person may bring.

Shaul Hamelech lost his kingdom because he didn’t realize the danger of allowing even one Amoleki to live. We still suffer today, thousands of years later because of this one seemingly little mistake.

Matzoh is made quickly. Chometz needs time. And therefore chometz symbolizes the yetzer hora. His entire tactic is time. Why do the mitzvah now? Why not delay it for later? It’s going to be much better if we take our time and make the proper preparations. Let’s unload the donkey and spread everything out properly. Set the table with nice linens, dishes and fancy spreads and then we’ll invite the poor man to eat a proper meal. We forget that when we’re playing with a life or death situation, we have no time. The poor man may die in the interim. If we don’t get out of Mitzrayim quickly enough, one more person will become a statistic and fall into the tumoh of Mitzraim.

The yetzer hora always uses the tactic of You have plenty of time. What’s the hurry? to lead us astray. He tries to convince us how much better it would be if we did the exact same thing later. After all, chometz tastes much, much better than Matzoh. Why not wait a bit and enjoy it properly?

But just think back. How many mitzvos have we lost because we waited too long? We’ll daven mincha a little later. Suddenly we look at our watch. It’s too late! We’ll play now and learn later. Later we’re already much too tired, so there is no later. He’s always telling us later, tomorrow. And we fall for his bag of tricks.

“Tomorrow” can mean a considerable amount of time later. It doesn’t always necessarily mean literally tomorrow.Chazal explain that the word mochor (tomorrow) in the Torah, can also mean after a long time.

Throughout our life the yetzer hora plays the same tricks, and uses the same tactics, and we never really catch on. First get educated. Then open a business and make lots of money. Then later you’ll have plenty of time for learning, and you’ll be able to give plenty of tzedakah. Sounds good, doesn’t it! The yetzer hora’s not such a bad guy after all. Look at the brilliant ideas he comes up with. Only one problem. It’s all theoretical. It never works practically. It sounds like a great idea, but it’s an illusion. It looks real, sounds real, but it’s a mirage. The Rambam warns us of his seemingly clever theories. (See hilchos Talmud Torah perek 3- “Should you say that first I’ll gather money and then I’ll go back to learning, or I’ll buy what I need and then I’ll find time to learn – if this thought ever enters your heart, then you will never merit wearing the crown of Torah”.)

All those that have tried to prove the Rambam wrong have failed. The Rambam knew exactly what he’s talking about. He had a deep insight into the yetzer hora’s tactics. Wait! Take your time. Not now, later. Tomorrow. Tomorrow. And tomorrow.

How many times have we fallen for his bait? Your mother or father asks you to do something now. You answer, soon, later, tomorrow. In the meantime the Mitzvah gets swept under the carpet, soon to be forgotten completely.

Something you enjoy very much you don’t put off for later. If you love it, then you’ll do it right away. If you keep delaying it, that’s proof that you don’t like it so much. Hashem doesn’t want chometz on His mizbayach. If you really like Him and want to bring Him a present, why are you taking your time? You should be doing it quickly. Hashem doesn’t want your presents unless you bring it with a full heart. If you do it slowly or keep putting it off, you probably are doing it half-heartedly. Kohanim must do their avodah quickly, for this is a sign that they enjoy what they are doing. (The word tzav – command – is a language that means speed.)

When the recess bell rings, you don’t walk slowly to the playing field . You run. Maybe we’ll have recess soon, later, tomorrow. No sir! Nothing can stand in your way.

I once read a story about Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev. He was in such a hurry to fulfill the mitzvah of Esrog and Lulav on Sukkos morning that in his excitement he didn’t realize that there was a glass window in the way. By mistake he broke it. That’s called true enthusiasm for a Mitzvah.

Our Chazal teach us “When a mitzvah comes in your direction, never delay it!” It must be done quickly with great speed, like Matzoh. Don’t fall prey to the yetzer hora’s delaying tactics. He’s the chometz. He has plenty of time. They’re meant to get you to forget about the Mitzvah completely. A few extra seconds can mean missing the Mitzvah entirely. That’s what happened to the great tzaddik Nochum Ish Gam Zu. He had the best of intentions, but that didn’t do the poor man any good! He died!

Chazal tell us that “the yeast in the dough tries to hold us back from performing the Mitzvah”. Throughout one’s life the yetzer hora always tells a man, Don’t worry. What’s the hurry? You still have plenty of time. What the rush! You’re still so young. You’ve got so many years ahead of you. You’ll have plenty of time to do the Mitzvos later. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. It comes and goes, comes and goes, and before you turn around the years slip by slowly but surely. The person doesn’t realize the emergency till it’s too late. The yetzer hora stands there laughing. He’s done it again. He won once more. The same trick works over and over again. People just never learn. And that’s the lesson of Matzoh. When we are in danger of falling victim to the yetzer hora, then we must be quick, hurry, speed. Don’t delay for even one second. Grab the Mitzvah as quickly as possible, while you still can.

Even the very words ,umn and ,umn are spelled the same. They both must be done quickly. And that’s the first Rashi in parshas Tzav-Be quick!-When commanded to do something you must hurry! Everything in life can be replaced. A broken house can be rebuilt. A broken tree can be replanted. But time can never be replaced. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. No scientist has yet been able to invent a machine that takes you back in time. Time moves forward only. Matzoh can turn into chometz, but chometz can never turn back into Matzoh.

Only on Shavuos the time of the giving of our Torah, should we take all the time we want. We can learn and learn and learn and never stop. (If that disgusting one meets you, then pull him into the bais hamedrash.) Take the yetzer hora along with you into the bais hamedrash. Now tell him you’ve got all the time in the world. (Now chometz is fine.) You’re in absolutely no hurry. All of a sudden he’ll change his tune. Quick, we’d better move on. We’ve got many other things to do. Ah! Ah! Now you play chometz – take all the time in the world. You’re in no hurry at all. And if he still tells you to be quick – that there are so many other important things to take care of, then advise him of the v,hnv ouh (the day of death). Soon chas v’sholom, maybe the last. You’re right. You don’t have time. It may soon be too late!

How does dough turn into bread? The invisible yeast cells floating about in the air attack the piece of dough causing chemical changes that make the piece of dough fluff up. These small yeast cells are everywhere. They may be invisible to the eye but they are all about us nevertheless. They symbolize the Yetzer hora that seems invisible yet is all around us. They give the bread its fluffy appearance, making it seem a lot larger than it really is. It looks big from the outside, but it’s really only full of air. This symbolizes the baal gaavoh – the haughty person who makes himself a lot bigger than he really is. If we act very quickly the yeast doesn’t have a chance to multiply and cause problems. If we do the Mitzvah quickly the yetzer hora won’t have a chance to stop us.

However, we find that the novi Yeshayahu tells us that the future geulah will be totally different. There the posuk says “There will be no need for haste or speed. There will be no need to rush out quickly. There will be plenty of time.” That’s because in the future, Hashem will destroy the tumoh completely. Therefore, there will be absolutely no worry that a Jew chas v’sholom might fall into the tumoh anymore. Therefore, there’s absolutely no need to hurry. We can take our time. By the Golus Mitzrayim, Hashem took us out from the tumoh, but the tumoh still existed. But, by the final geulah, Hashem will destroy the tumoh forever.

Matzos represent speed. We thank Hashem for having taken us out with great speed, for otherwise some of us might not be around today. And that’s why it says that “a person is required to see himself as if he went out of Egypt”

In order to get out of Mitzrayim we want no part of chometz, which represents the yetzer hora and taking of time. We don’t even allow one tiny drop into our house. We don’t want it in our possession. Our lives are in danger. We don’t have one second to waste.

And so the entire Yom Tov is called Chag HaMatzos – which expresses the importance of speed. We eat the Matzos not because we ate them in Mitzrayim. That wouldn’t have been reason enough. We eat them to show our thanks and gratitude to Hashem for having taken us out with such speed. So we could have eaten delicious chometz! Who cares? We were able to save lives, which was far more important! When our lives are in danger we had better move quickly. There’s no time to delay. Grab the mitzvos as quickly as possible!