Chametz and Matzah: Fascinating Pshat on the first question of Ma Nishtana

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    Chametz and Matzah: Fascinating Pshat on the first question of Ma Nishtana
    אם על תודה יקריבנו והקריב על זבח התודה חלות מצות בלולת בשמן ורקיקי מצות משחים בשמן וסלת מרבכת חלת בלולת בשמן: על חלת לחם חמץ יקריב קרבנו על זבח תודת שלמיו
    If he shall offer it for a thanksgiving offering, with the sacrifice of the thanksgiving-offering shall he offer unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of scalded fine flour mixed with oil. With loaves of leavened bread shall he bring his offering, with the sacrifice of his thanksgiving peace-offering (Vayikra 7:12-13).
    In the first question of the Mah Nishtanah, the child asks: “She’be’chol haleilos anu ochlin chametz u’matzah halaylah hazeh kulo matzah — On all other nights we eat chametz and matzah, but on this night — only matzah.” Is this true? Do we actually eat both chametz and matzah on all other nights except for the night of Pesach? If it is supposed to mean either chametz or matzah, and not both, then the wording could have been more like the fourth question: “She’be’chol haleilos anu ochlin bein yoshvin u’vein mesubin halaylah hazeh kulanu mesubin — On all other nights, we eat either sitting or reclining, but on this night we all recline.”
    In Binyan Ariel, Rav Shaul Lowenstam of Amsterdam explains that the Mah Nishtanah is not stating that we eat both chametz and matzah throughout the year except for Pesach, but it is referring to the specific case of the korban todah, which consists of an animal sacrifice, as well as thirty loaves of matzah and ten loaves of chametz.
    The Gemara (Berachos 54b) teaches: Four categories of people are obligated to bring a korban todah: one who recovered from illness, one who was freed from prison, one who safely crossed the sea, and one who traversed the desert safely. At the time of the Exodus from Egypt, Bnei Yisrael were like all four of these people: They were physically and emotionally ill in Mitzrayim, they were imprisoned there, they crossed the Yam Suf, and then traveled through the desert. They had all the reasons to bring a korban todah.
    The korban Pesach closely resembles a korban todah. Like the korban todah, the korban Pesach must be eaten by a certain time, before the next morning. Additionally, a korban Pesach must be eaten with matzah, much like the korban todah must be eaten with lechem. Indeed, the korban Pesach essentially serves as a korban todah, as it expresses our gratitude to Hashem for taking us out of Mitzrayim.
    Therefore, the child wonders: If, when we bring a korban todah, we eat it with both chametz and matzah, then why, when we eat the korban Pesach, is it accompanied only by matzah? The obvious answer, says the Binyan Ariel, is that on Pesach, chametz is forbidden in order to commemorate the haste with which Bnei Yisrael left Mitzrayim, without enough time for their dough to rise. Hence, chametz is assur on Pesach, and so only matzah can be eaten along with the korban Pesach.
    This connection between the korban Pesach and korban todah is the basis for the custom, cited first by the Rosh (Pesachim 10:30) and later codified in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim, Rema 475:7), to use an issaron measure for the three matzos at the Seder, so as to resemble the korban todah. In Menachos (77a), we learn that each of the matzah loaves of the korban todah was one-third of an issaron, meaning that three loaves of matzah of the korban todah totaled one issaron. Hence, some Ashkenazim followed the custom that the three matzos at the Seder add up to one issaron.
    In Toras Moshe (Vayikra 23:17), the Chasam Sofer adds that the shtei halechem, the korban brought on Shavuos from chametz, serves to complete the korban Pesach, which is only accompanied by matzah. In other words, the korban Pesach and shtei halechem are really two parts of one whole, together creating a full korban todah. The Chasam Sofer cites the Ramban (Vayikra 23:36), who states that Shavuos is the continuation of Pesach; on Pesach, Bnei Yisrael were redeemed in order to receive the Torah on Shavuos. When it comes to the korbanos, as well, we see how Shavuos is an extension to Pesach.
    Rav Hirsch (Vayikra 7:14; Shemos 29:2) discusses why a korban todah requires both chametz and matzah, and his words can serve as a lesson to us in terms of relying on Hashem. Chametz, he asserts, shows man’s independence and personal intervention in the world. Man takes HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s creation and brings it to the next level, demonstrating how human ingenuity yields a more advanced, sophisticated product than the original ingredients. Adding yeast, kneading the dough, and forming the bread creates a value-added product— no longer a thin, flat, tasteless matzah, but a delicious and chewy bread with all of its subtleties. Chametz represents man’s manipulation over nature. While going through the travails for which he now has to bring a korban todah, man was restrained from doing all he wanted to do; he had no input into his destiny. However, now that he has been liberated from illness, imprisonment, or the ravages of the sea or desert, he is able to go full steam ahead, follow his independent will, and resume his influence over nature.
    Matzah, on the other hand, represents dependence, subordination to Hashem. Matzah symbolizes nature in its simplest, crudest form, before man’s involvement and improvement. After all, what is matzah? Only flour and water; it doesn`t get any more basic than that, and man has very minimal input in its formation. He mixes flour and water, bakes it — and nothing more. Matzah represents HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s world, unaffected by human beings. Even though after being released from his constraints, man is now able to return to his normal activities, he acknowledges that if not for Hashem’s intervention, he would never have been let go in the first place.
    At the time of the Exodus, we grasped that this was a miracle of only the Ribbono Shel Olam’s doing. We ourselves recognized our utter dependence upon Him. Yechezkel HaNavi (Yechezkel 16:7) describes Bnei Yisrael at the time of the Exodus: “Ve’at eirom ve’eryah — But you were naked and bare.” Like an infant abandoned at birth, who is neither washed, clothed, or cared for, Bnei Yisrael were utterly helpless, until Hashem adopted the abandoned child, washing and caring for it, even purchasing the finest clothing and oils as it grew older. We did not and could not help ourselves on the night of the Exodus (Shemos 12:22). We were told to remain indoors, hidden and cowering in our homes; He did all the work for us. Thus, the korban Pesach, the thanksgiving offering of our Exodus, was accompanied only by matzah, the symbol of our dependence on the One Above.
    An ordinary korban todah, however, contains both chametz and matzah. Though we are always 100% dependent on Hashem and His kindness, in normal life, we often go through the motions of hishtadlus, as well, as symbolized by the loaves of chametz. Even in times of salvation, if our salvation is not on the caliber of our redemption from Mitzrayim, we do not necessarily recognize that it is all from Hashem. Instead, we allow ourselves to believe that our intervention and input helped effect our deliverance. And so we join the matzah with chametz, to symbolize how we think we are really independent, though this is not so. Our ultimate goal is to emulate those leaders who put all their hopes in Hashem, and not in mankind at all.
    Perhaps we can also say that Shavuos, the celebration of Bnei Yisrael’s acceptance of the Torah, when we bring the Shtei HaLechem made of chametz, is the time to demonstrate true independence. Not independence from Hashem, chas ve’shalom, but from all outside factors aside from the Torah. As it says in Pirkei Avos (6:2), “She’ein lecha ben chorin ella mi she’oseik be’salmud Torah — For you can have no freer man than one who engages in the study of Torah.” The truly independent person realizes that he will always be dependent upon Hashem and His Torah.
    Having accepted the Torah and all that entailed, Bnei Yisrael were flush with zechuyos. For the twenty-six generations since creation, they had been living as the recipients of chesed, where they were not worthy of their own keep. This corresponds to the twenty-six times the phrase “Ki le’olam chasdo — For His kindness endures forever,” is mentioned in Chapter 136 in Tehillim. After twenty-six generations, through their acceptance of the Torah, Bnei Yisrael were deemed worthy, with their own merits, as well, granting them input into their own destiny.
    With kabbalas haTorah on Shavuos and Bnei Yisrael’s newfound input, they were able to offer the heretofore absent chametz of the korban todah.

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