Shiur #11: The Relationship Between the Mitzva of Matza and the Meal of the Holiday

  • Rav Moshe Taragin
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Talmudic Methodology
Yeshivat Har Etzion


Shiur #11:
The Relationship Between the Mitzva of Matza and the Meal of the Holiday


By Rav Moshe Taragin



            The night of Pesach mandates two different halakhic obligations.  First, we are obligated to eat a meal, just as we must partake in a meal during every holiday and Shabbat.  Although this meal typically revolves around bread, on Pesach it is pivoted around matza instead.  Our second obligation demands the ingestion of a ke-zayit, an olive's worth, of matza. This is an obligation even without  the broader framework of a festive meal. 


Are these two obligations integrated at all? By demanding a ke-zayit of matza, is the Torah shaping a different form of Yom Tov meal? Or should we view these two independent obligations as merely convergent? Perhaps we are simply commanded to conduct both a festival meal as well as partake of matza as the bread of affliction on the same evening. The answer to this fundamental question regarding the nature of these obligations may in turn affect several subsidiary issues. 


            Perhaps the most intriguing issue affected by this discussion concerns the number of mandated matzot for the twin blessings of ha-motzi and al akhilat matza.  It is clear that at least two matzot are necessary for lechem mishna, as is standard for any Shabbat or holiday. But the gemara (Pesachim 115b and Berakhot 39b) establishes that the theme of lechem oni, "poor man's bread,"  requires the matza to be broken or cracked bread.  How does this adjustment affect the standard rule of lechem mishna?  Is the requirement of lechem oni an addition to the standard of two complete lechem mishna, thereby requiring a total of three matzot? Or does this condition qualify the type of lechem mishna demanded, yielding a total of two matzot for lechem mishna, one of which should be broken to signify lechem oni?


This issue was debated by the Geonim and Rishonim.  The Rif, in his comments to the aforementioned gemara in Pesachim, popularized the position that only two matzot are necessary, with one of them being a broken matza. (Our minhagim suggest breaking the matza at the beginning of the seder during the stage known as yachatz, but many Rishonim envisioned a seder which began with a broken matza).  In contrast, the Rosh claimed that the lechem oni, broken bread, concept cannot affect the integrity of lechem mishna. He argued that the broken matza is demanded in addition to the standard, complete lechem mishna.


            This debate may revolve around the level of integration between the mitzva of matza and the general festival meal.  Presumably, the Rosh claimed that the two obligations remain independent of one another. Thus, the typical, two complete "breads" are necessary in order to fulfill the standard holiday obligation, while a separate broken matza facilitates the unique and independent mitzva of matza.  The Rif, however, argued this point; by demanding matza, and broken matza at that, the Torah reshapes the holiday meal.  The entire meal should reflect the theme of lechem oni. Therefore, the standard two complete breads should be replaced by at least one broken bread.  Although our minhag follows the position of the Rosh, this is simply because it affords us the luxury of fulfilling each view. 


            A second but related question concerns the distribution of the two blessings of ha-motzi and al akhilat matza.  Should they be recited upon the same matza or should the two blessings be distributed upon different matzot?  This issue is debated by Tosafot in Berakhot (39b), who initially claim that the two berakhot should not be recited upon one matza. They argue that this would violate the principle of "ein osin mitzvot chavilot chavilot" -  we do not perform multiple mitzvot upon a single item.  By reciting two berakhot upon the same matza, two mitzvot, as well as their respective blessings, are converging upon the same matza.  After considering this option, Tosafot concede that the two berakhot may be recited upon the broken matza, citing Rabbeinu Menachem of Vienna as an authority who employed this method.  In defending the allowance of the recitation of the two berakhot upon one matza, Tosafot posit that the berakha of ha-motzi is a birkat ha-nehenin, a blessing said when receiving pleasure or benefit, and therefore does not violate the "chavilot chavilot" condition by adding an extra birkat ha-mitzva, a blessing made upon performance of a mitzvah, upon the same item.  Tosafot cite the precedent of Kiddush, whereby two berakhot, "borei peri ha-gafen" and "mekadesh ha-Shabbat" are recited upon one cup of wine without violating the caveat of "chavilot chavilot."  This principle would only be violated if two berakhot of mitzva were made on the same object.


            Even if we were to conclude that any two berakhot made upon the same object would constitute a chavilot chavilot problem, despite the fact that one was a birkat ha-nehenin, it is still possible to refute Tosafot's initial position.   Reciting ha-motzi to launch the meal of the chag along with the birkat ha-mitzva of al achilat matza upon the special mitzva of eating matza does not violate the concern of chavilot chavilot since the two activities are integrated into one "halakhic experience."  The concern of chavilot chavilot emerges when two separate mitzvot are performed on one item; this compression of two mitzvot is evidenced by the recitation of two berakhot.  However, in the instance where ha-motzi and al achilat matza are recited upon the same matza, only one compound mitzva is being performed with the lone matza.  No violation of chavilot chavilot occurs. 


            A third issue which reflects the structure of the two experiences is the amount of matza that must be eaten.  The gemara repeatedly speaks of a ke-zayit of matza, the standard shiur, or measurement, for any halakhic act of eating.  In siman 472, the Shulchan Arukh demands the ingestion of two ke-zeitot (plural for ke-zayit), without citing any source for this position.  Presumably the Shulchan Arukh discerns two separate mitzvot, each demanding an independent ke-zayit. 


            However, the position of the Shulchan Arukh can be disputed in two distinct ways.  First, even if the two mitzvot are truly independent of one another, the mitzva of launching a holiday meal with ha-motzi may not require the ingestion of a ke-zayit; merely a taste may be sufficient for such purposes.  In fact, the Mishna Berura (se'if katan 9) argues this point.  From this perspective, eating a ke-zayit plus an additional scrap would be sufficient.


            Alternatively, even if the holiday meal does require an actual ke-zayit, perhaps the ke-zayit of the meal can also function as the ke-zayit of the mitzva of matza.  Since the two mitzvot are one integrated experience, only one ke-zayit is necessary.  The Torah reshaped the holiday meal by demanding matza consumption, thereby establishing that one, single ke-zayit fulfills both obligations. 



On the night of Pesach we face dual obligations.  We must ingest a quantity of matza to recall our suffering in Egypt and our quick redemption.  In addition, we must conduct a typical holiday meal.  Are these two obligations parallel or integrated?  By exploring the relationship between the two obligations, we may determine the number of matzot required, the distribution of their respective blessings, and the volume of matza which must be eaten. 


            Finally, this question may impact upon the manner in which we eat the "second" ke-zayit.  Based upon the position of the Shulchan Arukh, we try to consume two ke-zeitot of matza.  Must the second ke-zayit (not necessary chronologically but logically) be eaten with the standard conditions of matza?  For example, must the ke-zayit necessary to fulfill the requirements of a standard meal be eaten while reclining in the posture of heseiba, a condition mandatory for the mitzva of matza? 


Assuming that the two mitzvot are separate experiences, the conditions governing the mitzva of matza should not affect the experience of eating matza as part of the holiday meal.  Even if heseiba is an ideal posture for every experience of the night of Pesach, its omission should certainly not obligate a repetition of the eating.  In contrast, if the mitzva of matza is integrated with the overall mitzva of eating a meal, we should then apply the same conditions of heseiba to the matza eaten in order to launch the festival meal. 


            The Shulchan Arukh appears to demand heseiba for each of the two required ke-zeitot, while others allow the ke-zayit of the meal to be eaten without heseiba. This creates an interesting enigma in our explanation of the position of the Shulchan Arukh.  By demanding two ke-zeitot, he implies lack of integration between the two mitzvot.  By demanding heseiba for each ke-zayit, he suggests integration.  Evidently, one of our proposed theories is not acceptable to the Shulchan Arukh. 


            Another question surrounds the type of matza to be eaten for the second ke-zayit, that of the meal.  The Maharal postulated that it is permissible to eat matza ashira (egg matza or matza prepared with other juices) on Pesach and that it is actually considered matza.  However, since it possesses flavor, it cannot be deemed lechem oni and does not enable the fulfillment of the mitzva of eating matza.  Can matza ashira be employed to fulfill the  mitzva of eating a holiday meal?  Again, if the mitzvot are distinct, none of the conditions governing the mitzva of matza should affect the experience of launching a festival meal.  However, if the two mitzvot are integrated, we may demand lechem oni for the portion of matza eaten to begin the meal of the night of Pesach.