June 19, 2024
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Looking Forward to the Redemption With Chag HaMatzos

When I was 19, I went with two friends to Egypt to spend a few amazing days before Pesach. We toured the pyramids, saw the Sphinx up close, and sailed on the Nile River. We knew in advance there would be no kosher food to purchase in Egypt, so we brought our own. On the last day, our supply was very low. All we had left to eat was stale pita (tasted like matzah!) and a can of beans. Not at all gourmet, but it was the only food we had, so we ate it up!

This Shabbos is Shabbos HaGadol, which reminds us of the great level of emunah, faith, which Klal Yisrael exhibited in Mitzrayim on the 10th of Nisan. On that day, they took a lamb—the deity of the Egyptians—and publicly designated it for slaughter as the korban Pesach. Hashem told Bnei Yisrael to smear some of the blood of the korban Pesach onto their doorposts. Chazal tell us that this blood was a merit for them to be spared from makas bechoros, the death the Egyptian firstborn suffered, and then to be freed from Egypt!

There are multiple names for the Yom Tov of Pesach. The two most common names are Pesach and Chag HaMatzos. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev explains that Chag HaMatzos expresses Hashem’s praise of Klal Yisrael for listening to Him in going out into the desert without provisions and food, other than the matzah they baked before they left. Yet, Bnei Yisrael refer to the Yom Tov as Chag HaPesach, as this expresses our thanks to Hashem for sparing the firstborn of the Jewish homes during makas bechoros.

Rav Moshe Wolfson elaborates on the explanation of Reb Levi Yitzchak. The emphasis of the names for Pesach is not on the great miracles which occurred, but specifically on the emunah of Bnei Yisrael. Hashem refers to the Yom Tov as Chag HaMatzos because of the great emunah that Klal Yisrael exhibited by following Hashem into the desert without proper provisions. Klal Yisrael refer to it as Pesach because of the incredible faith in us which Hashem exhibited by skipping every Jewish home and sparing each Jewish first born, even though they may not have been worthy of saving at that time, and even if they were worthy, there was no guarantee they would remain faithful and committed.

The Satmar Rebbe offers a different explanation. He says that while the real name is Chag HaMatzos, as it is referred to in the Torah, we refer to it as Chag HaPesach because Bnei Yisrael needed the protection of Hashem provided by the Korban Pesach when we exited Mitzrayim, and we still need the protection now in exile. However, after the ultimate redemption, we will once again only refer to the Yom Tov as Chag HaMatzos. (He notes that this explains the practice of referring to the last day of Pesach as Acharon Shel Pesach, indicating our desire that this should be the last time we refer to the Yom Tov as Pesach.)

We seem to switch from Pesach to matzah when we eat the afikomen. In the time of the Beis Hamikdash, the korban Pesach was eaten after Shulchan Oreich, as the completion of the Seder meal. Currently, at the end of our Seder meal we eat a piece of matzah as the afikomen. The Rosh says the reason for eating matzah again at the conclusion of the meal is as a remembrance of the korban Pesach. Similarly, we are not allowed to eat after eating the afikomen matzah, to ensure the taste of the matzah lingers in our mouth the rest of the night.

What is the symbolism of replacing the meat of the korban with matzah for the afikomen?

The afikomen is created at the beginning of the Seder when we split the middle matzah and hide the larger part for eating later as the afikomen. The Sfas Emes explains that the afikomen is labeled in the order of the seder as Tzafun—hidden. At the ultimate redemption, Hashem will reveal the “hidden half,” and we will see and understand the whole picture of our history with all its mysteries. Indeed, the Zohar calls matzah the bread of emunah.

May we rejoice in this coming Pesach by displaying emunah in our eating matzah and performing the detailed mitzvos. In so doing, we daven that this Pesach will lead to the final redemption, revealing all of Hashem’s mysteries in the world from the earliest times to today.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara learning program. PTI has attracted adult Jews of all ages from all over northern New Jersey for its learning programs. Fees are not charged, but contributions are always welcome. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.

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