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

On the evening of Passover, we are to ceremonially 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 be He):

Key Scriptures

Exodus 12:15-20 (Maimonides RP156, RP158, RN198; Meir MP22, MP23, MN5; Chinuch C9, C10, 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 12:25-27
When you come to the land which ADONAI will give you, as he has promised, you are to observe this ceremony. When your children ask you, 'What do you mean by this ceremony?' say, 'It is the sacrifice of ADONAI's Pesach [Passover], because [[ADONAI]] passed over the houses of the people of Isra'el in Egypt, when he killed the Egyptians but spared our houses.'" The people of Isra'el bowed their heads and worshipped.

Exodus 12:41-49 (Maimonides RN126-128; Chinuch C13-14, C17)
At the end of 430 years to the day, all the divisions of ADONAI left the land of Egypt. This was a night when ADONAI kept vigil to bring them out of the land of Egypt, and this same night continues to be a night when ADONAI keeps vigil for all the people of Isra'el through all their generations. ADONAI said to Moshe and Aharon, "This is the regulation for the Pesach lamb: no foreigner is to eat it. But if anyone has a slave he bought for money, when you have circumcised him, he may eat it. Neither a traveler nor a hired servant may eat it. It is to be eaten in one house. You are not to take any of the meat outside the house, and you are not to break any of its bones. The whole community of Isra'el is to keep it. If a foreigner staying with you wants to observe ADONAI's Pesach, all his males must be circumcised. Then he may take part and observe it; he will be like a citizen of the land. But no uncircumcised person is to eat it. The same teaching is to apply equally to the citizen and to the foreigner living among you.

Exodus 13:3-8 (Maimonides RP157, RN197, RN200; 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.'

Matthew 2:13-15
After they had gone, an angel of ADONAI appeared to Yosef in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and escape to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you to leave. For Herod is going to look for the child in order to kill him." So he got up, took the child and his mother, and left during the night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod died. This happened in order to fulfill what ADONAI had said through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I called my son."

Hebrews 8:9
'It will not be like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by their hand and led them forth out of the land of Egypt; because they, for their part, did not remain faithful to my covenant; so I, for my part, stopped concerning myself with them,' says ADONAI.


This ceremony (that we now call a seder) 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 manna1, 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.

1. A flaky sweet-tasting bread sent from heaven - "man" in Hebrew.

Classical Commentators

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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