Why Is This Night Different Than All Other Nights? (Metzora 04/09/22)
Why Is This Night Different Than All Other Nights?
- The costs for this meal are twice the price of an average meal?
- We are surrounded by friends and family, some of whom we only see once a year?
- On this night we eat matza while on all other nights we enjoy fluffy and scrumptious bread?
If you picked “all of the above” then you are a lucky person.
With regards to matza, we have learned that we consume unleavened bread because there wasn’t enough time for the dough to rise and leave Egypt immediately, so we baked the dough into matzas. But is this really the true reason?
There’s actually an earlier mention of matzas in the Torah. When the two Angels came to Sodom (to destroy the city), Lot, Abraham’s nephew greeted them and offered them hospitality (Genesis 19):
ב) וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֶּה נָּא אֲדֹנַי סוּרוּ נָא אֶל בֵּית עַבְדְּכֶם וְלִינוּ וְרַחֲצוּ רַגְלֵיכֶם וְהִשְׁכַּמְתֶּם וַהֲלַכְתֶּם לְדַרְכְּכֶם וַיֹּאמְרוּ לֹּא כִג) וַיִּפְצַר בָּם מְאֹד וַיָּסֻרוּ אֵלָיו וַיָּבֹאוּ אֶל בֵּיתוֹ וַיַּעַשׂ לָהֶם מִשְׁתֶּה וּמַצּוֹת א“And Lot said, ‘please my masters, turn to the house of your servant, spend the night, wash your feet, and then be on your way.’ They replied, “no, we’ll sleep in the street.’ He persisted and they turned to him and came inside his house. He made a party for them, he baked matzas, and they ate.”
Since it was already late at night, we could understand why Lot baked unleavened bread, in order to get it ready in a hurry for his guests. Yet famed commentator, Rashi, provides us with a different reason:
ג) ומצות אפה – פסח היה
“Lot baked Matzas because it was Pesach.”
Now, this is confusing, how could it be Passover, given that the exodus didn’t happen yet?
What’s notable though, is that baking of matza is immediately preceded by Avraham undergoing a bris milah.
Now, let’s calculate the dates. If the Angels went to Sodom on the night of 15th of Nisan (Passover night) and they visited Avraham on the 3rd day from his circumcision on the 14th, therefore, he must have had his bris milah on the 12th of Nisan.
So going back 400 years before the Jews left Egypt, we have a chronology of:
Avraham’s Bris – Nisan 12
Lot serving Matza- Eve of Nisan 15
The wicked city of Sodom being destroyed on the morning of the 15th of Nisan.
Now, let’s go forward 400 years to the morning of the Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 12):
לט) וַיֹּאפוּ אֶת הַבָּצֵק אֲשֶׁר הוֹצִיאוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם עֻגֹת מַצּוֹת כִּי לֹא חָמֵץ כִּי גֹרְשׁוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם וְלֹא יָכְלוּ לְהִתְמַהְמֵהַּ וְגַם צֵדָה“And they baked the dough that they took out of Egypt into matzas, for they could not let them rise, for they were driven out of Egypt…”
So, the eating of Matzas is directly influenced by a lack of time. Yet the day before the Exodus, when they had time, they were also instructed to eat matzas with their Pascal lamb:
ז) וְלָקְחוּ מִן הַדָּם וְנָתְנוּ עַל שְׁתֵּי הַמְּזוּזֹת וְעַל הַמַּשְׁקוֹף עַל הַבָּתִּים אֲשֶׁר יֹאכְלח) וְאָכְלוּ אֶת הַבָּשָׂר בַּלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה צְלִי אֵשׁ וּמַצּוֹת עַל מְרֹרִים “And they should take from the blood, and place it on the doorposts and lintels of the home where they will be eating. And they will eat the meat on this night, roasted on the fire, with matzas and bitter herbs.”
It’s also notable that before they eat the Pascal lamb, they had to circumcise en masse, for we have a tradition that all the Children of Israel with the exception of the tribe of Levi did not perform bris milah in Egypt. But the rule is that males must be circumcised to partake of the Pascal lamb, therefore there were a large number of circumcisions taking place at least three days beforehand.
So again, in Nisan of the year of the exodus, 2448, we have the following sequence of events:
Bris Milah of the nation- ~Nisan 12
Matza on the eve of the 15th
The Destruction of Egypt. For not only were their firstborn killed, their idols and temples crumbled as well.
Now, let’s fast forward 40 years to when Joshua brings the nation into the land of Israel.
The Jews crossed the Jordan river on the 10th of Nisan, 2488 (Joshua 5):
ב) בָּעֵת הַהִיא אָמַר יְדוָד אֶל יְהוֹשֻׁעַ עֲשֵׂה לְךָ חַרְבוֹת צֻרִים וְשׁוּב מֹל אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵג) וַיַּעַשׂ לוֹ יְהוֹשֻׁעַ חַרְבוֹת צֻרִים וַיָּמָל אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל גִּבְעַת “And it was at that time, God said to Joshua, ‘make sharp flints and go circumcise the Children of Israel a second time’…”
י) וַיַּחֲנוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בַּגִּלְגָּל וַיַּעֲשׂוּ אֶת הַפֶּסַח בְּאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר יוֹם לַחֹדֶשׁ בָּעֶרֶב בְיא) וַיֹּאכְלוּ מֵעֲבוּר הָאָרֶץ מִמָּחֳרַת הַפֶּסַח מַצּוֹת וְקָלוּי בְּעֶצֶם הַי“And the Children of Israel encamped in Gilgal and they offered the Pascal lamb on the 14th of the month. And they ate from the fruit of the Land, matzas and roasted barley on this very day.”
Under Joshua’s reign we also see the same order of events:
Milah en masse- ~12 Nisan
Eating matzas – eve of the 15th of Nisan
The destruction of Jericho
Why is this night different than all other nights? It’s because of the essence of Nisan (our current Jewish month). It is a spiritual time of purification and cleansing.
It’s when the Abraham and the Jewish men began to elevate and dedicate their bodies through circumcision.
It’s when Lot and the Children of Israel (during Moses’ and Joshua’s times) partook of matzah, a food that represents simplicity and humility to further bring spirituality inside themselves.
It’s also when Sodom, Egypt, and Jericho are destroyed, representing the downfall of the arrogant.
So yes, indeed, matza is a remembrance of the Exodus, but it is also a spiritually elevating food. A food corresponding to a time of spiritual renewal and cleansing.
I’m confident all the men at MHJC are well circumcised, therefore, no mass circumcisions for us. We’ll be having matzas soon, so we await the third part of this purification process: the downfall of tyranny. Then there will be peace for the Ukrainians and for all people worldwide, Amen.
Wishing you an uplifting, joyous and meaningful Passover,
R’ Neil, Judy and Family