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The first of four questions specifically says, "On all other nights we eat chametz or matza, why on this night only matza?"

While I understand that it's halakhically acceptable to eat matzah when it isn't Pesach, was there a time when people regularly ate matzah outside of Passover?

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crackers? [.15] –  yair Apr 3 '13 at 21:24
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Tortillas? –  Isaac Moses Apr 3 '13 at 21:38
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@CharlesKoppelman Soft matzah is essentially the Indian flat bread known as Roti/Rotta. Really the only differences are the shmurah flour and mayim shelanu. So everytime my family makes curry and rotta we are eating "matzah" in the strictest sense. –  Rabbi Michael Tzadok Apr 4 '13 at 12:16
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People still do, both Streits and Manischewitz have entire lines of non-Passover matzos. –  Yirmeyahu Apr 11 '13 at 5:15
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@ShmuelBrin I thought that was covered in the "Shmura flour" caveat. –  Rabbi Michael Tzadok Apr 11 '13 at 10:41

4 Answers 4

This text was written when the Temple stood and people were eating sacrifices. In fact, all sacrificial bread (other than a few from the Thanksgiving offering) were non-leavened, year-round. Furthermore, on any other run-of-the-mill night of the year you'd see Jews in Jerusalem eating a Thanksgiving sacrifice, and along with it some leavened bread, and some non-leavened bread. (Lev. 7:12).

The Gemara in Pesachim does discuss someone staring at a loaf and saying "hm is this leavened?", implying that unleavened bread was generally more common then; but I think the historical-context answer is the simplest.

(Similarly, the original text of Ma Nishtana had: "on other nights we eat the meat however, but tonight only roasted" -- again, ordinary sacrificial meat can be fried, roasted, boiled, whatever; the Passover sacrifice is unique in its instructions how ordinary Jews consume it. This stanza was modified when we stopped having the sacrifice; however, stanza #1, which addresses matza, was left in-place as it was the only tangible biblical mitzva still in force.)

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The sefer Binyan Ariel here writes:

According to what would appear to be the simple understanding of this stanza - that on all other nights we can eat either chametz or matzah, whichever our heart desires - it should have written “we eat either chametz or matzah”, like it wrote in the last stanza “we eat either sitting or leaning”. Or better still, it should have written “on all other nights we eat chametz”, like it wrote with maror “on all other nights we eat other vegetables”. Why does it say chametz and matzah?

However, it seems to me that we can explain the wording of this stanza according to what the poskim and commentaries wrote - that the matzah that we eat to fufill the mitzvah of matzah is a commemoration of the thanksgiving offering. Because there are four categories of people who are obligated to give thanks to Hashem, and the mnemonic to remember them is חיי"ם - one who has recovered from sickness (חלה), one who has returned from sea (ים), one who has been released from captivity (יצא מאסורים), and one who has crossed a wilderness (מדבר). And all of these four things happened to Yisrael - they were released from slavery, they were healed from their spiritual sickness, they crossed the sea and they crossed the wilderness.

Now, the thanksgiving offering can be eaten on the day that it is brought and the following night, and there is a mitzvah to eat it. Therefore, the son asks: Why is it that usually when there is a mitzvah to eat bread, that is, the thanksgiving offering, we eat both chametz and matzah, because the mitzvah includes eating them both (the thanksgiving offering is accompanied by forty loaves of bread - thirty unleavened (matzah) and ten leavened (chametz)). So why on this night when we are eating as a commemoration of the thanksgiving offering are we not eating chametz and matzah together, and instead we are eating only matzah?

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furthermore the halachos of a Pesach indicate it's a close cousin of a Shelamim. –  Shalom Apr 7 at 1:32

What about - "Bein Yoshvin UBein Mesubin" When else do we recline?

  • It means that we can recline or eat sitting.

  • It means that we can eat Chametz or eat Matza.

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Why doesn't it say בין חמץ ובין מצה or או חמץ או מצה? Instead it says חמץ ומצה –  Double AA Apr 11 '13 at 5:50
    
On Purim, I'd answer that it refers to the Korban Todah –  Shmuel Brin Apr 11 '13 at 6:06
    
Why Purim? [15] –  Seth J Apr 12 '13 at 4:28
    
Purim Torah. This phrase refers to eating 30 Matzas with 10 Chametzs –  Shmuel Brin Apr 12 '13 at 4:38
    
@doubleaa , the זרע גד writes that chametz and matzah could be eaten at the same time but sitting and leaning cannot,you are either sitting straight or leaning. –  sam Apr 7 at 17:59

Biblically, the Jews ate matzoh before the Exodus from Egypt. While we often say that matzoh was "invented" when the Jews left hastily out of Egypt, however, many of them ate matzoh prior to the Exodus. In fact, they were commanded by G-d, as some sources say, to eat an unleavened bread significantly before leaving Egypt.

http://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov/pesach/5758/vol4no04.html

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Hi Noah! How does this address the question? –  Double AA Apr 11 '13 at 5:10
    
@DoubleAA I think that he means that the Jews ate Matzo even when not commanded, so on "normal" days we eat Chametz and Matza (Biblically, the Jews ate matzoh before the Exodus from Egypt). –  Shmuel Brin Apr 11 '13 at 5:33
    
@ShmuelBrin But he says that that was by God's command. (I didn't look through the link yet.) –  Double AA Apr 11 '13 at 5:34
    
@DoubleAA and they couldn't eat Chametz then. (so no Chametz umatza) –  Shmuel Brin Apr 11 '13 at 5:35

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