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Mishna Pesochim Perek 10 mishnah 5.

Rabban Gamliel requires us to mention three things at the seder and gives the reasons.

פסח, על שום שפסח המקום על בתי אבותינו במצרים. מצה, על שום שנגאלו אבותינו במצרים. מרור, על שום שמררו המצרים את חיי אבותינו במצרים.

For the korban pesach, the reason to mention it could be that the Torah says “The Lord will pass to smite the Egyptians, and He will see the blood {of the korban pesach} on the lintel and on the two doorposts, and the Lord will pass over the entrance, and He will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses to smite”

We mention matzo because we were redeemed from Egypt and the matzo was evidence for this as עיקר תוי"ט quotes the Rambam to say: עַל שׁוּם שֶׁלֹּא הִסְפִּיק בְּצֵקָם שֶׁל אֲבוֹתֵינוּ לְהַחְמִיץ עַד שֶׁנִּגְלָה עֲלֵיהֶם etc הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא וּגְאָלָם,שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וַיֹּאפוּ אֶת הַבָּצֵק because there was no time for the dough of our forefathers to rise until HKB”H was revealed to them and redeemed them as it says and they baked the dough etc.

So for these first two, there is a direct link between the thing to mention (Pesach and matzo) and the thing we ate, whereas for the moror the reason to mention seems just to be an association of words.

How do we explain the reference to the reason to mention moror from Rabban Gamliel? Is it just a word association?

  • Why do you quote 12:23 instead of :27 as most Haggadas do? – Double AA Mar 8 '15 at 16:23
  • Because 12:23 explicitly links the actions associated with the korban (He will see the blood) to the passing over which 12:27 does not do explicitly. – Avrohom Yitzchok Mar 8 '15 at 17:04
  • This question has now been published in Hagada - Mi Yodeya Second Edition. Thanks! – Isaac Moses Apr 18 '16 at 16:04
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In old manuscripts of the Mishna (and in the Rambam's Haggada), the questions are actually phrased "על שם מה" not "על שום מה". Thus the "reasons" we are giving are based on the names. (See, for instance, the commentary in this Haggada.)

"Sabba, why do we eat this thing called Pesach?" "Well, it's because God skipped (Pasach) over our houses when he killed the firstborns back when we were in Egypt. Have I told you that story? A long time ago..."

"Sabba, why do we eat this thing called Matza?" "Well, it's because we had to bake flat-bread (Uggot Matzot) when we were fleeing slavery in Egypt. Have I told you that story? A long time ago..."

So too in your case:

"Sabba, why do we eat this thing called Maror?" "Well, it's because the Egyptians embittered (Mareru) our lives back when we were enslaved in Egypt. Have I told you that story? A long time ago..."


What follows are my own thoughts:

The verses cited as proof-texts are not found in the Mishna or in the Yerushalmi, and in our printings of the Bavli they are in brackets. The stated reason for the name Matza is just שנגאלו that we were redeemed. Perhaps the original answer of "_Matza Al Shem Mah?" was something like this:

"Sabba, why do we eat this thing called Matza?" "Well, it's because God took us out (Motzi) of our slavery in Egypt. Have I told you that story? A long time ago..."

Isn't Sabba punny? :)

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I am not sure I would agree with the premise of the question, that the reason to mention these (two of) three things because (for Pesach) the Torah says the Lord will see the blood and not smite and because (for Matza) that it is evidence.

Rather, the most immediate cause of Rabban Gamliel's opinion is the word Zeh, within the command to relate the story of the Exodus. Shemot 13:8 reads: וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר: בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה ה' לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם. "And you shall relate to your son on that day saying: Because of Zeh (this) Hashem did for me when I left Egypt.

Zeh is taken, midrashically, to something you can point to. For instance, the word Zeh by the construction of the Menorah is the spark for the midrash that Moshe did not understand its complex construction until Hashem showed him a Menorah made of flame. The same for the half-shekel, where the word Zeh is a spark for saying that Hashem showed him the coin out of fire.

בַּעֲבוּר זֶה teaches us that the mitzvah of sippur yetziat mitzrayim is only at the time when the (Pesach) Matzah and Maror are resting before him. That is, he is supposed to be able to point to these symbols and say "because of this", indicating these physical items.

Once these items are meant to be pointed out, as an essential part of the commandment (such that "whoever does not say these three things has not fulfilled his obligation"), we may then search for the significance. And perhaps the mentioning of the significance is also essential to the mitzvah, as the "baavur" (because of) of "baavur Zeh". Then we find elaboration of the significance of the three.

Further, the connection is not just linguistic, in the sense of a pun. It is called maror because it is indeed bitter. And so it represents bitterness, just as the Egyptians in a non-taste fashion embittered the lives of the Hebrews.

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    Maror is indeed bitter. But is the Korban Pesach indeed pass-over-ly? There must be a strong linguistic component going on. – Double AA Mar 9 '15 at 2:32
  • sure it is pass-over-ly. it is called the korban pesach not because of any pun but because Hashem skipped over the houses, perhaps in its merit. – josh waxman Mar 9 '15 at 3:19
  • @joshwaxman If you want to prove that the Korban Pesach is "pass-over-ly" you have to give a causal connection. "..**perhaps** in its merit" does not quite satisfy. – Avrohom Yitzchok Mar 9 '15 at 9:22
  • If course it gets its name from an etymology! It isn't random. Hedging the specifics of the etymology (by using perhaps instead of a bold assertion) doesn't remove the the etymology, which is clear. Perhaps in its merit, perhaps in God's behavior at the time of the korban. – josh waxman Mar 9 '15 at 10:26
  • That is, the pasuk says זֶבַח פֶּסַח הוּא לַיהֹוָה אֲשֶׁר פָּסַח עַל בָּתֵּי בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּמִצְרַיִם בְּנָגְפּוֹ אֶת מִצְרַיִם וְאֶת בָּתֵּינוּ הִצִּיל – josh waxman Mar 9 '15 at 10:35

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