“Ho Lachmo Anyah..” ~ “This is the bread of affliction…”

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While we find that Hashem had already commanded the Yidden to eat matza on their last night in Mitzrayim, we are told that the reason that we eat matzos at the seder table is because this is what the Yidden ate on their way out of Mitzrayim and not because of what they ate in Mitzrayim itself. Yet this seems rather strange. Don’t we start the Haggadah by saying that “this is the bread of affliction that our farther’s ate in Mitzrayim?” Isn’t this in contradiction to what we say later on?

In order to get at the answer, let’s try and understand why the Yidden were commanded to eat matzah in Mitzrayim itself if it wasn’t until the next morning that they hurried out of Mitzrayim and had no chance to bake any bread. If this did not happen until the next morning, then why were we commanded to eat matza on the night before this incident actually took place?

Perhaps the commandment to eat matza on their very last night in Mitzrayim was done in order to let them know that this was going to be the very last time they were going to eat this unleavened bread which they had been eating for the last 210 years. Hashem may have commanded us to eat it so that we will appreciate our upcoming freedom. It’s like someone who is still in jail and is told that he will be released and go free the very next morning. He takes his last piece of stale and moldy bread and breathes a sigh of relief that his misery will soon come to an end. And so when we begin the Haggadah we begin my mentioning this matzah that we ate in Mitzrayim itself. That’s because we first want to remind ourselves of what it was like when we were still in Mitzrayim.

Yet the mitzvah of eating matzah nowadays is because Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim in a very big hurry. The tumah of Mitzrayim was so great that every second counted. The moment Hashem had promised to take us out had finally arrived and Hashem did not delay it even for an extra second. Every moment could have meant another person falling to the fiftieth level of tuma for which there is no escape. According to some meforshim, four out of five Jews never made it out and died during the macko of darkness. Every delay would mean more people would be lost. We know that even one life is like an entire world as we say “Ha’matzil nefesh achas mi’Yisroel k’ilu hitzil olom moley.” Who has time to wait for the dough to rise and bake delicious fluffy chometz sandwiches when even one person’s life is in danger of being lost forever. It is for this reason that we eat the matza at the Pesach table today. We thank Hashem for taking us out with such great speed. If not for that, who knows if we’d be around today?

And so by rescuing our great-great-grandfathers, it is as if we ourselves were rescued as well! This may be what is meant when we say that “Chaiyev odom liros es atzmo k’ilu hu yotzo mi’Mitzrayim.” – each person is obligated to feel as if he himself was taken out of Mitzrayim.