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D11. Recounting What God Did for Us When We Left Egypt.    [Make a Comment]

On the evening of Passover, we are to tell our children that we eat matzah and remove leaven and chametz from our domain as a reminder of what God did for us when we left Egypt.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed is He):

Exodus 12:15-20 (Maimonides RP156, RP158, RN198; Meir MP22, MP23, MN5; Chinuch C6, C9, C12)
For seven days you are to eat matzah - on the first day remove the leaven from your houses. For whoever eats hametz [leavened bread] from the first to the seventh day is to be cut off from Isra'el. On the first and seventh days, you are to have an assembly set aside for God. On these days no work is to be done, except what each must do to prepare his food; you may do only that. You are to observe the festival of matzah, for on this very day I brought your divisions out of the land of Egypt. Therefore, you are to observe this day from generation to generation by a perpetual regulation. From the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month until the evening of the twenty-first day, you are to eat matzah. During those seven days, no leaven is to be found in your houses. Whoever eats food with hametz in it is to be cut off from the community of Isra'el - it doesn't matter whether he is a foreigner or a citizen of the land. Eat nothing with hametz in it. Wherever you live, eat matzah.

Exodus 13:3-8 (Maimonides RP157; Meir MP24; Chinuch C21)
Moshe said to the people, "Remember this day, on which you left Egypt, the abode of slavery; because ADONAI, by the strength of his hand, has brought you out of this place. Do not eat hametz. You are leaving today, in the month of Aviv. When ADONAI brings you into the land of the Kena'ani, Hitti, Emori, Hivi and Y'vusi, which he swore to your ancestors to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you are to observe this ceremony in this month. For seven days you are to eat matzah, and the seventh day is to be a festival for ADONAI. Matzah is to be eaten throughout the seven days; neither hametz nor leavening agents are to be seen with you throughout your territory. On that day you are to tell your son, 'It is because of what ADONAI did for me when I left Egypt.'

This was commanded for us (Israelites) to do after we emerged from Egypt and entered the Land that the Lord had promised our ancestors. Although Israel's exodus from Egypt occurred many centuries ago, we retell its events in the first person as though "we" (not "they") left Egypt. I believe it is also applicable to Gentiles who permanently live within the Jewish community (K'rovei Yisrael) because those whom God brought out of Egypt were a mixed multitude that consisted, not of Jews only, but also of Gentiles (Exodus 12:38).

At our modern Passover seder, it is customary for a child to ask four questions, and for us to answer the questions by telling him (or her) the story of when we left Egypt. Through this retelling, we are reminded of God's miracles in our behalf, that He brought us out of Egypt "by the strength of His hand," and that we left in such haste that we brought no leaven with us so the bread we had to eat was un-risen. Although our living conditions in the desert were strenuous, God provided for us with man1, quail, water, and shoes that did not wear out. His greatest provision for us, however, was His divine presence, for He accompanied us and guided us through the desert in a column of cloud by day and a column of fire by night.

While this Mitzvah to recount Israel's exodus from Egypt is clearly directed to Jews and K'rov Yisrael Gentiles, the remembrance of what God did for Israel should be a joy and encouragement for all believers. All Gentile parents who are believers may therefore want to tell the story of the Exodus, and explain about matzah, leaven, and chametz to their children as well. It is recommended.

1. A flaky sweet-tasting bread sent from heaven - "manna" in English.

Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch all state that we are to tell about the exodus from Egypt. However, Maimonides and HaChinuch say that we are to tell it on the evening of the 15th of Nisan, and Meir says it should be told on the night before the 15th of Nisan. These are probably not disagreements, but rather different ways of referring to the Passover seder event.


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