Bo 5781


Why did the Jews bake matzah when they left Egypt?[1]

ותחזק מצרים על-העם למהר לשלחם מן-הארץ כי אמרו כלנו מתים: וישא העם את-בצקו טרם יחמץ משארתם צררת בשמלתם על-שכמם: ויאפו את-הבצק אשר הוציאו ממצרים עגת מצות כי לא חמץ כי גרשו ממצרים ולא יכלו להתמהמה וגם צדה לא עשו להם
The Egyptians were very forceful in sending out [the Jewish people] from the land, as they said: “We’re all going to die!” The nation took their dough before it became leaven; their kneading bowls were wrapped in their clothing, resting on their shoulders. And they baked the dough that they had taken out of Egypt into matzah, as it had not risen. This was because they were expelled from Egypt and didn’t have time to wait. They also didn’t bring any other provisions[2]

The Torah tells us that the Jews were rushed out of Egypt. Their salvation came in a blink of an eye. Many of them were planning on baking food for their expected Exodus from Egypt. What seems to have been unexpected is just how willing and forceful the Egyptians would be. The verse tells us that when the Jews had to leave, their dough had not yet had time to rise. Indeed, Rashi explains[3] that the Egyptians didn’t give the Jews a chance to let their dough rise. This would imply that if the Egyptians had been more patient, the Jews would have let their dough rise to be baked into bread. The problem with this implication is that it was the first day of Pesach! Bread is not only forbidden for consumption, but we are even forbidden from owning leavened dough on Pesach. How then could the Jews have intended to let their dough rise?

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