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Why didn't Klal Yisrael prepare any bread the night before they left Mitzrayim? The pasuk in Shemos (12:39) as translated by mechon-mamre writes,

וַיֹּאפוּ אֶת-הַבָּצֵק אֲשֶׁר הוֹצִיאוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם, עֻגֹת מַצּוֹת--כִּי לֹא חָמֵץ: כִּי-גֹרְשׁוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם, וְלֹא יָכְלוּ לְהִתְמַהְמֵהַּ, וְגַם-צֵדָה, לֹא-עָשׂוּ לָהֶם. And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual.

It seems the nation was caught unaware that they were leaving Mitzrayim the next morning on short notice. No one knew of the imminent exodus?

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The Netziv explains that they did not prepare provisions in advance because they wanted the Egyptians to think they were returning immediately. Maybe this includes the baking of matzah (chometz was forbidden until morning according to some commentators) at night, which may have aroused suspicions.

  • Thank you for the interesting answer! I was under the impression the Egyptians believed we were leaving for 3 days---which would understandably require a few days worth of bread? Also, after everything they went through at that point in time, wouldn't the Egyptians have wanted to get rid of us at all costs? They might be suspicions - and hopeful - we'll never return. – NJM Apr 4 '17 at 16:10
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The verses in Parashat HaChodesh clearly indicate that the exodus would occur on the 15th of Nissan. The fact that Am Yisrael were "caught unawares" is to our detriment. We were unready for our own redemption. .similarly, we were unready to receive the Torah at Sinai (ויוצא משה את העם, עיין ברש"י). Our goal should be to eat the matzo at the seder as a "tikkun", so that we will be ready for our next and final redemption.

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    This doesn't exactly answer the question, which is why they were, as you put it, "caught unaware." Also, please try to edit in some sources. – DonielF Apr 4 '17 at 13:13
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Even Moses didn't know the exact time the Jews would leave. He said to Pharaoh that God would inflict the 10 the plague at "about midnight", but the Torah later teaches that God did this "at midnight". This is because midnight exactly is very hard to calculate, and Moses didn't want the astrologers to say that God came at the "wrong" time.

Also, the Jews were commanded to eat only matza during the first Seder in Egypt. So they had prepared for this meal but perhaps not after. The Torah describes matza in contrasting ways as both bread of freedom at this first Seder, and bread of affliction. To be discussed at Seder this year!

  • "This is because midnight exactly is very hard to calculate" - I'm going to "back track" some assumptions, here. We've had the concept of "sha'ot zemaniyot" (location / seasonal hours) for hundreds if not thousands of years - long before clocks were around. I assume that even in Egypt, someone, esp. Moshe would have known exactly how to calculate when midnight was in Egypt at that time by observation. Also, the calculation of midnight is astronomy, not astrology. – DanF Apr 4 '17 at 14:07
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    See Brachos 3a for a full explanation, but there is a disagreement about this in the Talmud. Moses was in doubt as to the exact time, and King David had a sign that his harp would make music from a North wind but he did not get it by calculation. Your comment is a good one, and is actually discussed in the next sugyah on Berachos 4a where it is said in the name of Rav Zeira that Moses did know the time but feared as I posted above that they would err and Moses and by extension God would be called a liar. – Jon Apr 4 '17 at 15:23
  • Even if he got midnight wrong, it wouldn't be off by a few days. So they knew that some time tomorrow they're leaving Egypt. So why not prepare? – Shmuel Brin Apr 4 '17 at 15:50
  • The Torah answered you, כי גורשו ממצרים the Egyptians threw them out immediately – Jon Apr 4 '17 at 15:58

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