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Reciting "Ha-motzi" over Matza at the Seder

  • Rav Shlomo Levy


The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Special Holiday Shiur







Reciting "Ha-motzi" over Matza at the Seder

By Rav Shlomo Levi

Translated and Adapted by Rav Eliezer Kwass



Eating matza at the Seder serves a dual function: performing the mitzva of eating matza on Pesach, and eating a Yom Tov meal that opens with "lechem mishneh," double bread. These two functions seem to make conflicting demands regarding the physical form of the matza. The mitzva of eating matza requires that the matza be broken, indicating poverty, as the gemara (Pesachim 115b) says,


"Another explanation of [the Torah's expression] 'lechem oni' is 'bread of poverty:' just as a poor person [is accustomed to eat] broken pieces [of bread], so too [matza should be eaten] as broken pieces."


On the other hand, the "lechem mishneh" requirement of Yom Tov mandates reciting "Ha-motzi" over two complete matzot.


Rashi (Pesachim, ibid.) relates to matza's duality:


"[We require broken matza in order] to recite the blessing, 'Al akhilat matza.' Two complete matzot are brought for the 'Ha-motzi' blessing, for Pesach is no different than any other Yom Tov with regard to the requirement to begin the meal with two complete breads. One of the complete matzot is eaten as the opening of the Yom Tov meal."


Rashi's resolution of the problem is that we should recite "Ha-motzi" over two complete matzot and use a third broken matza for the mitzva of eating matza. In the following discussion, we will attempt to present the different solutions which the Rishonim offer for this problem, and then we will examine the practical halakhic conclusions.


Tosafot, in their comments on the passage in Pesachim, introduce a crucial source. The gemara (Berakhot 39b) explicitly states:


"Everyone agrees that on Pesach a broken piece is placed among the complete ones to begin the meal."


This seems to go against Rashi's compartmentalizing approach - reciting "Ha-motzi" over two whole matzot and fulfilling the mitzva of matza with a broken one. The gemara speaks of saying "Ha-motzi" over a complete and a broken piece together.


A number of Rishonim offer approaches to dealing with the conflicting sources. There are three points of contention among the Rishonim:


A. How many matzot are taken when the blessing is made?

B. What is the post-blessing procedure?

C. What quantity of matza must be eaten?




Tosafot, along with many other Rishonim, hold that two complete matzot are taken for lechem mishneh, in addition to a broken one for "lechem oni" - a total of three matzot. Tosafot furthermore hold that one should perform "Korekh" (eating matza together with marror) with the third matza, in order for a mitzva to be performed over all three. The Rif and the Rambam argue that only one complete matza should be taken with the broken one (following the simple reading of the gemara in Berakhot). The Rif writes:


"[While we usually require two breads,] on Pesach, the requirement of 'the bread of poverty' comes in and detracts half of one of the matzot. Therefore, one should recite 'Ha-motzi' over one and a half matzot. The broken one should be placed together with the complete one when saying 'Ha-motzi' so as to fulfill Rav Papa's statement, 'Everyone agrees that on Pesach a broken piece is placed inside a complete one to begin the meal.'"


Therefore, the Gra's custom was also to take one and a half matzot.




We find four basic approaches:

1. to recite "Ha-motzi" over the complete matza, "Al akhilat matza" over the broken one, and then to commence eating - the Ri (quoted in Tosafot) along with many other Rishonim;

2. to pronounce both blessings over the broken matza - Rav Menachem of Juny (quoted in Tosafot), the Ba'al Hamaor in Berakhot, and others;

3. to say "Ha-motzi" over the broken matza and "Al akhilat matza" over the complete one - the Ra'avan (who quotes this as the opinion of Rabbenu Chananel and the Geonim) cited in the Ra'avia, and quoted by the Tur (OC 475);

4. to hold both the complete and the broken matzot while saying both blessings and then to eat whichever one prefers - quoted in the responsa of the Geonim and, in my opinion, the Rif and Rambam's approach.


Conceptually, the Rambam and the Rif stand together against the other three groups of Rishonim. Underlying the argument seems to be different perspectives about whether all of the matzot held during the blessing are seen as one unit. Unlike all of the other Rishonim, the Rif and the Rambam view everything that one holds (i.e. the complete and the broken matza) as one unit. Therefore, once a person has made the blessing over both of them, he can choose to eat a ke-zayit of either.


Viewing all which one holds in his hand during the blessing as one unit is also behind the Rif and the Rambam's position to only take one and a half matzot instead of two and a half. On Pesach, because of the "lechem oni" requirement, we must take fewer loaves than on every other Yom Tov. If we were to take two and a half, then we would still have two full matzot in hand for "Ha-motzi;" the extra half does not detract from that. However, the other Rishonim view the broken and the complete matzot as two separate units, even though both are in hand together during the blessing. It therefore matters whether the complete matza is eaten for "Ha-motzi" or for the mitzva of matza. This position also enables taking two complete matzot and one broken one, for they can be viewed as two separate units, the two for "Ha-motzi" and the half for the mitzva of matza.


Of the other three approaches in the Rishonim, the simplest seems to be the Ri's. "Ha-motzi" is made over the complete matza, and "Al akhilat matza" is pronounced over the broken one. What, though, is behind the approach of Rav Menachem and the Ba'al Ha-maor? Why make the blessing over a complete and a broken matza when the two ke-zeitim (olive's sizes), both of "Ha-motzi" and of the mitzva of matza, will be eaten from the broken matza? They seem to differentiate between the blessing and eating. The honor and importance of the blessing demands taking a complete matza. On Pesach, though, even one's meal is to be eaten over the bread of poverty.


The Ra'avan's opinion is more difficult to understand, though. It seems to be the opposite of the Ri's, and against the grain of our whole discussion. Why make "Ha-motzi" over the broken matza and fulfill the mitzva of matza over the complete one? The opposite would seem to make more sense - "Ha-motzi" over a complete matza for Yom Tov's sake, and the mitzva of matza ("the bread of poverty") over the broken one.




Before attempting to understand the Ra'avan's opinion, we mention the third dispute among Rishonim, regarding how much matza must be eaten. The simple answer is that one must eat an olive's size (ke-zayit) of matza. Those who say that eating from only one matza is sufficient would say that one ke-zayit is enough. Even those who say that (for "Ha-motzi") one must eat from more than one matza would ostensibly not require eating another ke-zayit. Only the mitzva of matza, not "Ha-motzi," requires a ke-zayit. Therefore the Ra'avia's and Mordekhai's opinion, that we are required to eat two ke-zaitim, one for "Ha-motzi" and one for the mitzva of matza, is puzzling.




The gemara (Pesachim 120a) quotes Rava's opinion that even though marror is only a rabbinic obligation after the destruction of the Temple, matza is still obligated biblically. Marror is totally dependent on the sacrifice - "Eat it with matzot and marror" - whereas there is a separate verse independently commanding one to eat matza - "Eat matzot at night." Some viewed these two verses obligating matza as two separate obligations (eating matza with the sacrifice and eating it separately), even if they could both be fulfilled with one ke-zayit. Others saw both as one obligation, the sverse extending the obligation after the destruction.


There is a parallel obligation to eat a ke-zayit of bread in the sukka on the first night of Sukkot. This obligation is derived from a gezeira shava from Pesach (that is, the same expression, "the fifteenth of the month," appears in both contexts). On Pesach night we make a separate blessing over eating matza, and on Sukkot night, even though there is no separate blessing, the blessing over sitting in the sukka also applies to the mitzva of eating the bread. Eating the ke-zayit of bread on Sukkot night is an aspect of the fulfillment of the mitzva of dwelling in the Sukka, so its blessing is covered by "leisheiv ba-sukka" (the blessing "to dwell in the sukka"). Eating bread on Sukkot night is not an independent mitzva; rather, one must eat a meal in the sukka on the first night, and the bread designates the meal ("kove'a se'uda").


This analogy will help us understand the mitzva of eating matza on Pesach night. There are two aspects to eating matza on Pesach:

a. eating matza with the Pesach sacrifice - here the mitzva is actually to eat matza itself; and

b. to be kove'a se'uda on matza instead of on bread. Just as on Sukkot night one must have a meal in the sukka, on Pesach night one must make a meal out of matza.


This explains why the Ra'avan rules that the "HA-MOTZI" should be made over the broken piece of matza. The mitzva of MATZA entails making "Ha-motzi" over and starting the meal on matza. "Lechem oni," the bread of poverty, is a description of the matza that is commanded in the verse, "At night eat matzot." That verse says that we should make a meal out of matza. However, there is no requirement that the matza which is eaten with the sacrifice (or, today, the matza over which we recite the blessing, "On eating matza") be "lechem oni." A complete piece is to be used for that mitzva. This also explains why two ke-zaitim are to be eaten. One is for "Ha-motzi," when one fulfills the mitzva of "Eat matzot at night," making a meal out of matza. The second is for the mitzva of eating matza with the Pesach sacrifice, accomplished today with the blessing, "On eating matza." [This approach is not airtight; an obligation to make a meal out of a ke-zayit of matza need not necessarily be fulfilled immediately after "Ha-motzi."]




The Tur quotes both the opinion that one must eat a ke-zayit of the broken matza for "Al akhilat matza" and the opinion that a ke-zayit should be eaten from the complete matza. The Shulchan Arukh therefore rules that one should eat both a ke-zayit from the broken matza and a ke-zayit from the complete one. [The Bi'ur Halakha protests that there is no source obligating eating two ke-zaitim. However, the Shulchan Arukh's approach stems from doubt, not an essential obligation to eat two ke-zaitim.] This is only, of course, when one has enough specially watched (shemura) matza.


There is a practical problem. The number of ke-zaitim in the matza on the seder plate is usually not sufficient for the amount of people at the seder, making it difficult for everyone to receive a ke-zayit from both the broken and the complete matza. One solution is for the leader of the seder to break the seder plate matza into many pieces and for everybody to supplement with other matza. This is not ideal, because everyone does not get a ke-zayit from the matza the blessing was made over. Furthermore, the Shulchan Arukh's conclusion is based on the doubt about whether his ke-zayit should be from the broken or complete matza that the blessing was made over. The participants end up with neither. Also, even if it were not Pesach the leader would have to hand out a ke-zayit to each of the participants - here he ends up not doing that.


Therefore it seems sensible that every participant should have before him both a complete and a broken matza. He should intend to fulfill the mitzva, with the seder leader's (or his own) blessing, on the matzot in his hand. Immediately he can eat a ke-zayit from both (while leaning). This also prevents a common problem in a seder with many participants, the long break between the blessings and eating the matza.


(Originally appeared in Daf Kesher vol. 6 p.493 [no. 597, Nisan 5757]. This adaptation was not reviewed by the author.)





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