Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How many matzot?


We face a basic challenge in setting up our matzah for the seder. On one hand, we need lechem mishneh, two matzot, just as we use two loaves of bread at our Shabbat meals. On the other hand, we want to fulfill the biblical description of matzah as lechem oni, which one view on Pesachim 115b explains as "bread of a pauper". Normally, our two loaves are whole, but a pauper's bread is broken; he doesn't eat from whole loaves at each meal.

The Rambam (Hilchot Chametz uMatzah 8:6) and Vilna Gaon (Orach Chaim 473:4:שלשה) say to use two loaves, and to break the second one; although we have whole loaves on Shabbat, we won't at the Seder.

Most families, though, follow Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 473:4 and use three loaves, breaking the middle one at Yachatz. We hold all three together when we recite the usual berachah of HaMotzi, so that we have two whole loaves as well as the broken one.

We then put down the bottom [whole] one, and retain only the top [whole] matzah and the broken one, and recite the berachah of Al Achilat Matzah, "on eating matzah". In this way, the second berachah, which is the more specialized berachah for Pesach, is recited with clear-cut "paupers' bread".

Have a great day,

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