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Zev Farber

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2018

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How Eating Matzot became Part of the Exodus Story

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Zev Farber

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How Eating Matzot became Part of the Exodus Story

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2018

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How Eating Matzot became Part of the Exodus Story

Originally the Festival of Matzot was an agricultural holiday but through its association with the Pesach sacrifice, it became historicized and connected to the exodus story. This shift prompted the redaction of several biblical passages and the question “how indeed does eating matzah commemorate the exodus?”

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How Eating Matzot became Part of the Exodus Story

The Connection between Matzot and the Exodus

The oldest legal text in the Torah, the Covenant Collection (Exodus 20:19–23:33), lists the festival of Matzot (“Unleavened Bread”) as one of three pilgrimage festivals (רגלים). The description of the Matzot festival differs in several important details from the other two holidays (see indentations):

שמות כג:יד שָׁלֹשׁ רְגָלִים תָּחֹג לִי בַּשָּׁנָה.
Exod 23:14 Three times a year you shall hold a festival for Me:
כג:טו אֶת חַג הַמַּצּוֹת
23:15 The Feast of Matzot
תִּשְׁמֹר שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תֹּאכַל מַצּוֹת כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִךָ
you shall observe. You shall eat unleavened bread for seven days as I have commanded you
לְמוֹעֵד חֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב
at the set time in the month of Aviv,
כִּי בוֹ יָצָאתָ מִמִּצְרָיִם
for in it you went forth from Egypt;
וְלֹא יֵרָאוּ פָנַי רֵיקָם.
and none shall appear before Me empty-handed;[1]
כג:טז וְחַג הַקָּצִירבִּכּוּרֵי מַעֲשֶׂיךָ אֲשֶׁר תִּזְרַע בַּשָּׂדֶה
23:16 and the Feast of the Harvest, of the first fruits of your work, of what you sow in the field;
וְחַג הָאָסִף בְּצֵאת הַשָּׁנָה בְּאָסְפְּךָ אֶת מַעֲשֶׂיךָ מִן הַשָּׂדֶה.
and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in the results of your work from the field.

Time – Matzot is to be observed for seven days whereas Qatzir and Asif are not assigned a length of time. The seven-day description and the verb “observe” interrupt the simple flow of the verse.

Agriculture – The holidays of Qatzir (“Harvest”) and Asif (“Ingathering”) are agricultural festivals, whereas Matzot here is connected to the story of the exodus from Egypt.

Thus, it seems that the current form of the Matzot verse is not original, and it has been edited and supplemented. Originally, Matzot was most likely an agricultural festival like Qatzir and Asif and the three holidays were listed pithily, with no verbs, following the verb of the opening phrase, “Three times a year you shall hold a festival for me” (שָׁלֹשׁ רְגָלִים תָּחֹג לִי בַּשָּׁנָה).

In keeping with the style of the other two festivals (name + season), the Matzot phrase originally read, “The Feast of Matzot, at the set time in the month of Aviv” [2] (אֶת חַג הַמַּצּוֹת לְמוֹעֵד חֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב).  Moreover, the translation “month of Aviv (spring)” is imprecise, as William Propp argues: “ʾābîb denotes the young ear with soft grains.”[3] A better translation would be as “month of new grain.”

The Festival of Matzot and the Barley Harvest

The Covenant Collection originally listed three pilgrimage holidays: the early spring holiday of Matzot, the late spring holiday of Qatzir, and the autumn holiday of Asif. For Cisjordanian farmers, the early spring marked the beginning of the barley harvest, which would have been followed by the wheat harvest a month or two later.[4] The “Gezer Calendar”[5]lists two harvesting periods one after the other (common translation):

ירח קצר שערם
The month of harvesting barley
ירח קצר וכל
The month of harvesting (wheat) and measuring (grain)[6]

Thus, many scholars assume that the Matzot festival celebrates the barley harvest, Qatzir celebrates the wheat harvest, and Asif, the olive gathering.[7]

According to the Leviticus 23:6-14, the ritual of the “first cut” and “first sheave” of the barley[8] takes place immediately after Matzot, before which it was forbidden to consume any of the new growth:

ויקרא כג:י …כִּי תָבֹאוּ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נֹתֵן לָכֶם וּקְצַרְתֶּם אֶת קְצִירָהּ וַהֲבֵאתֶם אֶת עֹמֶר רֵאשִׁית קְצִירְכֶם אֶל הַכֹּהֵן…כג:יד וְלֶחֶם וְקָלִי וְכַרְמֶל לֹא תֹאכְלוּ עַד עֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה עַד הֲבִיאֲכֶם אֶת קָרְבַּן אֱלֹהֵיכֶם חֻקַּת עוֹלָם לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם בְּכֹל מֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם.
Lev 23:10 …When you enter the land that I am giving to you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest…. 23:14 Until that very day, until you have brought the offering of your God, you shall eat no bread or parched grain or fresh ears; it is a law for all time throughout the ages in all your settlements.

Thus, perhaps Matzot was a preharvest apotropaic ritual, in which the Israelites ate matzot baked from their old grain, before switching to the new grain, to bless the new year.[9]Alternatively, Matzot could have once been part of the celebration of the omer ritual, but as the festival of Matzot became connected to the exodus and Pesach, it developed its own identity separate from the omer ritual.[10]

Why Connect Matzot to the Exodus?

The redactor of Exodus 23 connects Matzot with the Israelite exodus from Egypt, a trend that continues with many holidays and mitzvot in the Torah (though at a later stage).[11] In a very late passage in Leviticus, Sukkot also becomes connected with the exodus, and even later, in Second Temple and rabbinic traditions, Shavuot becomes connected with the Sinai experience.[12] Thus, Matzot is not the only agricultural festival to become historicized, it is merely the first. But this begs the question of why Matzot is the first to undergo this process.

The answer is likely because of its connection to Pesach. Whatever the origins of Pesach, likely once an apotropaic holiday to protect a person’s flock or even his family,[13] it was early on interpreted as a commemoration of the exodus from Egypt. It was observed in the spring, around the same time as Matzot, which is one reason—if not the reason—that the two festivals would eventually be seen as a unit and merge in the Jewish calendar.[14]  This association of Matzot with Pesach is responsible for the idea that the Matzot festival commemorates the exodus.

The Day of Pesach and the Seven Days of Matzah

We can see the beginning of this association between the two holidays in the description of the plague of the firstborn in Exodus 12. In advance of the plague, YHWH tells Moses and Aaron to instruct the Israelites to offer the Pesach sacrifice and put the blood on the doorposts of their houses so that YHWH knows which houses to protect from the destruction he is going to unleash (Exod 12:3-14). The command ends with a summary verse:

שמות יב:יד וְהָיָה הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה לָכֶם לְזִכָּרוֹן וְחַגֹּתֶם אֹתוֹ חַג לַי-הוָה לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם חֻקַּת עוֹלָם תְּחָגֻּהוּ.
Exod 12:14 This day shall be to you one of remembrance: you shall celebrate it as a festival to YHWH throughout the ages; you shall celebrate it as an institution for all time.

The summary is straightforward: In commemoration of what YHWH did on the fateful night of the tenth plague, the Israelites shall celebrate every year on the anniversary of that night.

The next verse then takes an unexpected turn:

שמות יב:טו שִׁבְעַת יָמִים מַצּוֹת תֹּאכֵלוּ… יב:טזוּבַיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ יִהְיֶה לָכֶם כָּל מְלָאכָה לֹא יֵעָשֶׂה בָהֶם…
Exod 12:15 Seven days you shall eat matzah (unleavened bread)… 12:16You shall celebrate a sacred occasion on the first day, and a sacred occasion on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them…

This law introduces the seven-day holiday of Matzot, whose relationship to the celebration of Pesach and its sacrifice is unclear.[15] Why would verse 14 command a one-day holiday in a summary fashion if the very next verse was going to command a seven-day holiday, whose first day is on that same day? Put differently, the text describing Pesach’s one-day celebration is unaware that this same day is also the first day of Matzot.

As in the pilgrimage festival laws in Exodus 23, the seven-day Matzot passage here is almost certainly redactional. By putting the seven-day Matzot together with God’s command to perform the paschal offering, the editor is connecting the festival of Matzot with the exodus from Egypt, as the editor of Exodus 23 did.  

A Summary Verse of Matzot or Passover?

Further evidence that the Matzot passage was added can be seen in an otherwise inexplicable summary verse, v. 17, which does not actually appear to summarize the Matzot passage (vv. 15-16).[16] Moses is told that the Israelites should keep the commandment or festival,[17]    

שמות יב:יז …כִּי בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה הוֹצֵאתִי אֶת צִבְאוֹתֵיכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם חֻקַּת עוֹלָם.
Exod 12:17 …for on this very day I brought your ranks out of the land of Egypt; you shall observe this day throughout the ages as an institution for all time.

If the verse is meant to explain why the Israelites must keep the seven-day festival of Matzot (or the mitzvah of eating matzah for seven days), why does the verse twice refer to “this day” in the singular? At least in the second instance, should it not say, “observe these days”?

A Resumptive Repetition

I suggest that following the insertion of the Matzot material, the scribe brings the reader back to where the original text left off, i.e., the ending of the Passover section (v. 14), by repeating the summary in similar words in v. 17, a scribal technique known as Wiederaufnahme (resumptive repetition), ubiquitous in the Bible. Note the similar phraseology:

שמות יב:יד וְהָיָה הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה לָכֶם לְזִכָּרוֹן וְחַגֹּתֶם אֹתוֹ חַג לַי-הוָה לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם חֻקַּת עוֹלָם תְּחָגֻּהוּ.
Exod 12:14 This day shall be to you one of remembrance: you shall celebrate it as a festival to YHWH throughout the ages; you shall celebrate it as an institution for all time.
יב:טו שִׁבְעַת יָמִים מַצּוֹת תֹּאכֵלוּ…
12:15 Seven days you shall eat matzah …  
יב:יז …וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם חֻקַּת עוֹלָם.
12:17 …You shall observe this day throughout the ages as an institution for all time.

Note also the use of the word “and you shall keep” (ושמרתם), which is used in reference to Pesach multiple times in this chapter:

שמות יב:כד וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה לְחָק לְךָ וּלְבָנֶיךָ עַד עוֹלָם. יב:כהוְהָיָה כִּי תָבֹאוּ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יִתֵּן יְהוָה לָכֶם כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֵּר וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת.
Exod 12:24 You shall observe this as an institution for all time, for you and for your descendants. 12:25And when you enter the land that YHWH will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite.[18]

Thus, the “commandment” and “day” the Israelites should be celebrating for all time is Pesach, not Matzot. In other words, Matzot is not intrinsically connected to the exodus story in this section, but the redactor is trying to imply this association by connecting Matzot to the exodus story and the mitzvah of pesach.

This same process occurs in Exodus 13, in which Matzot is again added to a passage that was once about the Pesach, this time obscuring its original meaning entirely (see excursus).[19] 

Explaining How Matzah Reminds Us of the Exodus

Connecting Matzah to Pesach and the exodus story generated a new question about the festival of Matzot: why would eating matzah commemorate the exodus? No text in Exodus ever addresses this question directly, although two passages might be attempts to provide a reason.

1. Eating the Paschal Lamb on Matzah

First, in the description of how the paschal offering should be eaten, the text states:

שמות יב:ח וְאָכְלוּ אֶת הַבָּשָׂר בַּלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה צְלִי אֵשׁ וּמַצּוֹת עַל מְרֹרִים יֹאכְלֻהוּ.
Exod 12:8 They shall eat the flesh that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs.

The biblical matzah is most probably not a cracker, as per the Ashkenazi practice, but a soft wrap, like a tortilla, as still used by Israelite-Samaritans and Yemenite Jews. Eating roasted meat in a wrap with bitter herbs is a standard way of eating a meat meal in the Middle East, as anyone who has ordered a schwarma on a laffa can testify.

Moreover, as William Propp points out, matzah was a standard food for the Israelites “when the preparation is hurried.”[20] Lot, for instance, serves matzot to his unexpected guests (Gen 19:3), Gideon serves matzot to the angel that comes to speak with him (Judg 6:19), and the witch of Endor serves them to King Saul when he appears faint (1 Sam 28:24).

Thus, the verse does not seem to have been written to explain why Israelites should eat matzah but rather to encourage the Israelites to eat their pesach properly. Nevertheless, the mention of matzah here is striking and seems to be too much of a coincidence. Moreover, the phrase “and matzot on bitter herbs” is grammatically problematic; eat the pesach “matzahon marror” makes no sense.

Propp argues that the text here is corrupt, and that the phrase as it appears in the similar verse in Numbers (9:10-11) regarding Pesach Sheni (the second Passover) reflects what the original form of the Exodus verse must have been:

וְעָשָׂה פֶסַח לַי-הוָה… עַל מַצּוֹת וּמְרֹרִים יֹאכְלֻהוּ. 
And they perform a pesach to YHWH… on matzot and bitters herbs they should eat it.

An alternative possibility, suggested by Shimon Gesundheit, is that the word “and matzot” was added and that originally the verse merely said to eat the pesach on bitter herbs.[21] Gesundheit’s suggestion also solves the coincidence problem: if the word is redactional, then it was added to connect the eating of matzah with the eating of the pesach. The Numbers verse, then, should be understood as a later text that quotes the Exodus text but corrects its incoherent grammar by switching the placement of the prepositions to read “on matzah and marror.”

2. No Time to Bake the Dough

Later in the story, we find an additional attempt to ground matzah in the exodus story. When the Egyptians decided that it was time for the Israelites to leave, the text states: 

שמות יב:לד וַיִּשָּׂא הָעָם אֶת בְּצֵקוֹ טֶרֶם יֶחְמָץ מִשְׁאֲרֹתָם צְרֻרֹת בְּשִׂמְלֹתָם עַל שִׁכְמָם.
Exod 12:34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls wrapped in their cloaks upon their shoulders.

A few verses later we are told what the Israelites do with this unleavened dough:

שמות יב:לט וַיֹּאפוּ אֶת הַבָּצֵק אֲשֶׁר הוֹצִיאוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם עֻגֹת מַצּוֹת כִּי לֹא חָמֵץ כִּי גֹרְשׁוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם וְלֹא יָכְלוּ לְהִתְמַהְמֵהַּ וְגַם צֵדָה לֹא עָשׂוּ לָהֶם.
Exod 12:39 And they baked matzah cakes of the dough that they had taken out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, since they had been driven out of Egypt and could not delay; nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.

Although the text here does not connect the dots, this likely meant to provide background for why matzot should be eaten in memory of the exodus. In fact, a verse in Deuteronomy makes this very connection:

דברים טז:ג לֹא תֹאכַל עָלָיו חָמֵץ שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תֹּאכַל עָלָיו מַצּוֹת לֶחֶם עֹנִי כִּי בְחִפָּזוֹן יָצָאתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לְמַעַן תִּזְכֹּר אֶת יוֹם צֵאתְךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ.
Deut 16:3 You shall not eat anything leavened with it; for seven days thereafter you shall eat unleavened bread, bread of distress — for you departed from the land of Egypt hurriedly — so that you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt as long as you live.

And yet, the happenstance nature of the unleavened bread anecdote, occurring only after God gives the command to have a seven-day festival,[22] implies that this explanation for the seven-day festival of Matzot is a post facto attempt to add matzah into a story where it didn’t originally feature. Once the passage about Matzot was included, the narrative of the exodus was supplemented to include some reference to matzot, as a hook to connect the festival to the exodus, and thus the story of the hasty escape and the unleavened dough arose.  

Israel’s First Consumption of Local Grain: An Alternative Matzot Myth

An alternative attempt to connect eating matzot to an Israelite cultural memory appears in Joshua 5, which describes what the Israelites did on the day after Pesach in their first days in the land:

יהושע ה:י … וַיַּעֲשׂוּ אֶת הַפֶּסַח בְּאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר יוֹם לַחֹדֶשׁ בָּעֶרֶב בְּעַרְבוֹת יְרִיחוֹ. ה:יאוַיֹּאכְלוּ מֵעֲבוּר הָאָרֶץ מִמָּחֳרַת הַפֶּסַח מַצּוֹת וְקָלוּי בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה.ה:יב וַיִּשְׁבֹּת הַמָּן מִמָּחֳרָת בְּאָכְלָם מֵעֲבוּר הָאָרֶץ וְלֹא הָיָה עוֹד לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מָן וַיֹּאכְלוּ מִתְּבוּאַת אֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן בַּשָּׁנָה הַהִיא.
Josh 5:10 … the Israelites offered the paschal sacrifice on the fourteenth day of the month, toward evening. 5:11 On the day after the paschal offering, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the country,matzot and parched grain. 5:12 On that same day, when they ate of the produce of the land, the manna ceased. The Israelites got no more manna; that year they ate of the yield of the land of Canaan.

If Matzot marks the transition between old grain and new grain, as suggested above, here the “old grain” is the manna and eating the matzot represents the Israelites’ first consumption of native produce in their new lands. Thus, the agricultural “first new grain consumed of the year” is replaced with the mnemohistorical “first local grain consumed by the Israelites.”

The Joshua passage makes no reference to a Matzot festival, but it does likely reflect an early tradition in which the night of Pesach is followed by a day of eating matzot. The fact that the story connects this with the “first consumption” of produce on the land demonstrates that early on, even before Matzot was established as a seven-day festival, the Israelites were searching for an explanation for why they ate matzot during this season beyond just agriculture. Whereas Joshua connected the holiday to the settlement of the land, the Torah’s editors connected it with the exodus from Egypt.

Excursus

Moses Teaches the Matzot Law to the Israelites

Exodus 12:15-20 recounts how God commands Moses to tell the Israelites about the Matzot festival, and yet, in Moses’ speech to the Israelites in this chapter, he makes no mention of Matzot at all. Instead, Moses tells them about this holiday as part of his speech in chapter 13 (vv. 3-16), which takes place after the Pesach has been offered, after the exodus from Egypt has taken place, and after the festival of Matzot would have ostensibly already begun!

Moses’ speech consists of an introduction (vv. 3-4) followed by two parallel passages (vv. 5-10 and 11-16). The latter explains the law of the sanctification of the firstborn and the former appears to explain the festival of Matzot. But again, the mention of Matzot in this speech seems incongruous, for a number of reasons:

The passage begins with a reference to the importance of “this day,” i.e., the day the Israelites leave Egypt:

שמות יג:ג וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל הָעָם זָכוֹר אֶת הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר יְצָאתֶם מִמִּצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים כִּי בְּחֹזֶק יָד הוֹצִיא יְ-הֹוָה אֶתְכֶם מִזֶּה….
Exod 13:3 And Moses said to the people, “Remember this day, on which you went free from Egypt, the house of bondage, how YHWH freed you from it with a mighty hand…[23]

This would imply that the mitzvah he is about to announce will be part of commemorating that day. But then, the verse is restated with a different time frame:

יג:ד הַיּוֹם אַתֶּם יֹצְאִים בְּחֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב.
13:4 You go free on this day, in the month of Aviv.

This otherwise inexplicable reference to a month appears again in the passage with regard to the “service” the Israelites are to perform (v. 5):

וְעָבַדְתָּ אֶת הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה.
And you shall perform this service on this month.

Why mention the month of Aviv all of a sudden?[24] The answer lies in the next verse that introduces the seven-day festival of Matzot:

שמות יג:ו שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תֹּאכַל מַצֹּת וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי חַג לַי-הוָה.יג:ז מַצּוֹת יֵאָכֵל אֵת שִׁבְעַת הַיָּמִים…
Exod 13:6 Seven days you shall eat matzot, and on the seventh day there shall be a festival of YHWH. 13:7 Throughout the seven days matzot shall be eaten…

Thus, the entire month is referenced, to create room for the integration of the festival of Matzot.

“This Service” (עבודה)

Further evidence that Moses’ speech (13:3-10) was originally part of the Pesach laws and had nothing to do with Matzot can be seen from the phrase את העבדה הזאת “this service” which appears in the Pesach passage and is incongruous with the practice of eating matzot for seven days:

Pesach

שמות יב:כה וְהָיָה כִּי תָבֹאוּ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יִתֵּן יְ-הוָה לָכֶם כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֵּר וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת. יב:כווְהָיָה כִּי יֹאמְרוּ אֲלֵיכֶם בְּנֵיכֶם מָה הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת לָכֶם.
Exod 12:25 And when you enter the land that YHWH will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this service12:26 And when your children ask you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’

?

שמות יג:ה וְהָיָה כִי יְבִיאֲךָ יְ-הוָה אֶל אֶרֶץ הַכְּנַעֲנִי וְהַחִתִּי וְהָאֱמֹרִי וְהַחִוִּי וְהַיְבוּסִי אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ לָתֶת לָךְ אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ וְעָבַדְתָּ אֶתהָ עֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה.
Exod 13:5 When YHWH has brought you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall perform this service in this month.

The structure of the two passages are similar – when God brings you to the Promised Land you shall perform the service – and the term העבודה הזאת is identical in both. “Service” always refers to an offering or some sort of Temple or altar ritual.

A Loose Connection

The connection between eating matzah and the exodus is assumed but never explained:

שמות יג:ח וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה יְהוָה לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם.
Exod 13:8 And you shall explain to your son on that day, “It is because of what YHWH did for me when I went free from Egypt.”

This contrasts starkly with the firstborn passage, which explains the connection between it and the exodus clearly: Since YHWH protected the firstborn Israelites, in return, the Israelites give YHWH their firstborns.[25] It also contrasts starkly with the passage explaining the Pesach offering, which also makes a clear connection between the offering and the exodus story: The paschal offering saved the Israelites’ lives in Egypt, and in memory of this, the Israelites continue to offer it to YHWH yearly.[26]

Building on the Pesach Passage

For these reasons, it seems probable that this first part of Moses’ speech was not originally written to explain the festival of Matzot. Rather, the passage was originally designed to further explain the Paschal offering and was connected to the passage about the paschal offering in Exodus 12:24-27 as an expansion or supplement, as Shimon Gesundheit has argued.[27] If so, Matzot was added to this passage to put it on even footing with the key exodus-based rituals of the pesach and firstborn offerings.

Again, the summary verse seems to be key here. Just as the redactor in chapter 12 added a resumptive repetition post his addition of the Matzot material to connect back to the pesach passage, he did the same here as well, this time connecting the closing of this “matzah” passage the opening of the Pesach passage:

Pesach

יב:כד וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה לְחָק לְךָ וּלְבָנֶיךָ עַד עוֹלָם.
12:24 You shall observe this as an institution for all time, for you and for your descendants.

“Matzah”

יג:י וְשָׁמַרְתָּ אֶת הַחֻקָּה הַזֹּאת לְמוֹעֲדָהּ מִיָּמִים יָמִימָה.
13:10 You shall keep this institution at its set time from year to year.

Note the verb “keep” (שמר) and “law” (חק) as well as the general sense of participating in the ritual every year forever.

In short, an early form of Exod 13:3-10 was originally part of the Pesach laws and had nothing to do with Matzot. A later editor reworked it to make it Moses’ command to the Israelites to keep the festival of Matzot, adding his standard “eat matzot for seven days” (שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תֹּאכַל מַצֹּת; 13:6) and sundry other adjustments to make Matzot fit this context as best he could.

Published

March 23, 2018

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Last Updated

October 5, 2019

Footnotes

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Dr. Rabbi Zev Farber is a fellow at Project TABS and editor of TheTorah.com. He holds a Ph.D. from Emory University in Jewish Religious Cultures (Hebrew Bible focus) and an M.A. from Hebrew University in Jewish History (biblical period focus). In addition to academic training, Zev holds ordination (yoreh yoreh) and advanced ordination (yadin yadin) from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT) Rabbinical School. He is the author of Images of Joshua in the Bible and their Reception (De Gruyter, BZAW 457) and the editor of Halakhic Realities: Collected Essays on Brain Death (Maggid).