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I'm not Jewish, so please forgive me if my question sounds ignorant.

My understanding is that in modern Judaism, the Passover meal is eaten sitting rather than standing.

However, this seems to completely go against Exodus 12:11, which says "This is how you should eat it. You should be dressed, with your sandals on your feet and your walking stick in your hand. You should eat the meal in a hurry. It is the Passover of the LORD."

How do modern Jews justify sitting during the Passover meal when Exodus 12:11 seems to say that they should stand?

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First of all, it's a great question!

The Torah (that is the five books of Moses), simply says that you should eat the meal in great haste. The translation from Artscroll reads: "So shall you eat it: your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; you shall eat it in haste - it is a pesach-offering to Hashem."

The word in question is "Chipazon" which means haste. It is a unique word that doesn't appear too often.

There is no indication in the text that first Passover, they did not eat lying down. Their last meal was eaten quickly. You can certainly eat quickly and be sitting/lying. The definition here is simply that they ate quickly, gathered all their possessions together and left.

This is the first Passover, there is another Passover mentioned in the Torah - how they celebrated afterwards. If you look at Deuteronomy 16:1-8, you will see outlined there is a fulfillment of how to celebrate Pesach, post-Exodus. To achieve the fact the Jews left in haste, we eat unleavened bread (commonly referred to as Matzos), because we left in haste. (Deut 16:3).

Jews, since the first Exodus from Egypt have been celebrating Passover meal by eating unleavened bread (Matzos) as a way of expressing that we left in haste, just as the Torah tells us in Deuteronomy 16:3. The verse in Exodus 12:11, tells us that G-d Himself told the people at the time of the Exodus to gird their loins, don sandals and eat quickly in haste because they're going to leave that night.

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The Mishnah cites eating in haste as one of the few differences between the paschal offering that first year and that of subsequent years. The modern Passover meal is modeled primarily on the latter.

  • 1
    Note that this fully resolves the question asked, but does so by addressing only one of the question's assumptions (that our Passover meal is like that of Exodus) and not the other (that the meal in Exodus was eaten standing). In fact, both are likely incorrect; see the other answer. – msh210 Oct 28 '18 at 4:30

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