Parshas Bo - The Role of the Unleavened Dough in Yetzi'as Mitzrayim

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Jan 23, 2009

The Gemara (Pesachim 96b) states that Pesach Mitzrayim, the Passover observed in Egypt, required only a one-day abstention from chometz. However, Rashi (on Shemos 16:1), based on a discussion in a different Gemara (Shabbos 87b), explains that the unleavened dough which the nation brought along for the Exodus and baked into matzah toward the beginning of its travels (v. Ramban on Shemos 12:39) lasted for about a month. This is puzzling, as if there was no need for B'nei Yisroel to observe the laws of chometz and matzah beyond the first day of Pesach, and Hashem would surely provide them with food throughout their journey, why was there a need to take along an abundance of unleavened dough when departing from Mitzrayim? (Although Rashi on Shemos 12:34 cites the Mechilta's explanation that B'nei Yisroel took leftover matzos and marror with them out of love for these mitzvos, our question is why a month-long supply of unleavened dough, which was not used for Pesach matzos, was also taken along.) 

Rashi, based on the Mechilta, explains the phrase (Shemos 12:39), "...and they had not made provisions for themselves...", as a display of the strong belief in Hashem on the part of B'nei Yisroel. Rather than worrying about what they would eat upon departing from Mitzrayim on Pesach night, B'nei Yisroel trusted that Hashem would take care of their needs.

This explanation actually adds to the mystery, for if, according to the Mechilta and Rashi, B'nei Yisroel demonstrated great faith by not preparing food for the journey, why did they bring along their unleavened dough? Should they not have been wiser to leave it behind, in an even greater display that they trusted in Hashem to provide food, rather than putting forth effort to supply it themselves?

In truth, there are two distinct types of trust. One is a trust in a business sense, in which a party trusts that the other party will carry through on its side of a deal. For example, a merchant will deliver goods to a purchaser with the assumption that the purchaser will pay for the goods when he is billed at a later date, as the purchaser can be trusted to keep his side of business deals. This type of trust is more of an expectation, in which each party expects that the other will uphold its contractual obligations. A second type of trust is that of faith, in which someone has faith in someone else and relies on that party in light of a personal relationship. When a child goes to preschool, he trusts that his parents will pick him up at the end of the day, as he has come to rely upon his parents and knows that they care for him. This is not a contractual trust; rather, it is a trust predicated on faith in the other party's carrying through due to a personal relationship.

The Torah is telling us that B'nei Yisroel commenced their relationship with Hashem in faith of His care, as per the second type of trust noted above. Although B'nei Yisroel were not told to prepare food for the Exodus, they did not take things for granted. Rather than expect Hashem to provide, as if to say, "Since He is taking us out, we expect Him to feed us", and intentionally leave all comestibles behind, B'nei Yisroel humbly and submissively took what they had at hand - unleavened dough - so as to keep them nourished. They did not make demands or harbor expectations of Hashem, feeling entitled to Divine handouts; rather, they did what they were told and took along their dough in simple faith, knowing that Hashem would provide whatever else may be necessary (for He did not command them to prepare anything), while not expecting or assuming that Hashem "had to" provide all for the journey. The Torah emphasizes that this is the type of faith which enabled our forefathers to be redeemed and to enter into Hashem's service. This is the true symbolism of matzah - simple faith, not businesslike expectations of entitlement.

This concept may help us answer another vexing question. B'nei Yisroel were instructed to consume the Pesach offering in Egypt and to eat matzos and marror alongside the Pesach meat, all prior to the departure from Mitzrayim. The Torah states that the Pesach rites serve as a future remembrance of the Exodus. How could it be that B'nei Yisroel observed the rites of Pesach before leaving Egypt, seeing that the function of these mitzvos is for future commemoration of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim, which had not yet occurred? Was it logical for Pesach to be observed before the Exodus even took place?

The answer is that the entirety of Pesach is a sign of faith and fidelity to Hashem. B'nei Yisroel had the faith to fulfill the Pesach service before the events it signifies were even fact, for they trusted and knew that Hashem would take them out of Mitzrayim on that very night. The humble faith of B'nei Yisroel was the key to meriting the Exodus, and it is the reason that they brought forth their unleavened dough with a sense of humility upon departing from Mitzrayim rather than with a sense of expectation, assumptiveness or entitlement.


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