Eating Matza on the Seven Days of the Festival of Matzot - The Festivals Section in the Book of Devarim (chapter 16)

  • Rav Elchanan Samet
 
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IN LOVING MEMORY OF  
Jeffrey Paul Friedman
August 15, 1968 – July 29, 2012  
לע"נ 
יהודה פנחס בן הרב שרגא פייוועל
כ"ב אב תשכ"ח – י' אב תשע"ב 
ת.נ.צ.ב.ה
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I. Why was the Festivals Section in the Book of Devarim Written?
 
The festivals section with which Parashat Re'eh closes (Devarim 16:1-17) is the last of several sections in the Torah, beginning with Shemot 12 and continuing to here, that spell out the laws governing the various festivals. Some sections that we will discuss deal with only one festival, while others deal with a group of festivals, or even all of them.[1]
 
The festivals section in the book of Devarim deals with the three pilgrimage festivals – Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot. In this sense, it is similar to two sections in the book of Shemot, that in Parashat Mishpatim (Shemot 23:14-19) and that in Parashat Ki-Tisa (Shemot 34:18-26), which repeats the previous section with minor changes.[2] The similarity between our section and the two sections in Shemot relates to additional matters as well:
 
• In all three sections, there is no mention of the dates of the festivals under discussion, and in some cases the festival is defined according to its agricultural time.[3]
 
• The restriction of the discussion in all three of these sections to the pilgrimage festivals stems from the emphasis placed on the duty of making a pilgrimage, which applies only on them. In each of these three sections, the specification of the various festivals is followed by the concluding commandment: In Shemot (23:17; 34:23) – "Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God," and in Devarim (16:16) – "Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God…."
 
• The command that is repeated in the book of Shemot, "And none shall appear before Me emptyhanded" (Shemot 23:15; 34:20), appears also in the book of Devarim, "And none shall appear before Me emptyhanded" (Devarim 16:16).
 
Despite these similarities, there are significant differences between the festivals section in our book and those in the book of Shemot, and some of them hint to a connection between our section and the section dealing with the festivals in Vayikra 23 (Parashat Emor).
 
• Verses 1-8, about half of the section, are dedicated to the Pesach offering and the Festival of Matzot, with the emphasis on the offering (to whose laws most of the verses are dedicated). This is not the case in the festivals sections in the book of Shemot, but also not in the festivals sections in the book of Vayikra and in the book of Bemidbar.[4]
 
• The counting of seven weeks “from the time that the sickle is put to the standing grain” until the festival of Shavuot (verse 9) is mentioned elsewhere only in the section dealing with the festivals in Vayikra 23.[5]
 
• "The Festival of Sukkot" (v. 13) is called in the book of Shemot "the festival of ingathering." Only in the section dealing with the festivals in Vayikra 23 is it called the "feast of Sukkot" based on its central mitzva, which is explained there.[6]
 
When we compare the festivals section in our book to those that precede it in the books of Shemot, Vayikra, and Bemidbar, the question arises: What is unique about our section? For what purpose does the Torah in our parasha return to the issue of the festivals, which was discussed already many times for various different purposes?
 
1. "Because of Intercalation"
 
            The Sifrei to our parasha (Re'eh 127) states:
 
In three places, the festivals section is mentioned: In Vayikra (23) – because of their order; in Bemidbar (28-29) – because of the [relevant] offerings; in Devarim – because of the intercalation.[7]
 
This midrash appears on the verse with which the festivals section opens in our book (16:1): "Observe the month of Aviv…" This verse is explained by Chazal as referring to intercalation, the proclamation of a leap year, which must be done in the month before the first month, so that the first month always falls in the spring.[8]
 
According to the Sifrei, the main novelty of our parasha, because of which it appears in the book of Devarim, is the mitzva of intercalation, which appears at the beginning of the parasha.
 
 This answer does not suffice. First of all, it relates only to the first half of the first verse in our parasha and does not explain the need for the laws of the festivals appearing in the rest of the parasha. Furthermore, the mitzva of intercalation could have been written in one of the other sections dealing with the festivals that include the three pilgrimage festivals. Why was it necessary to bring it in a separate section?
 
Second, it stands to reason that the repetition of the laws of the festivals in the book of Devarim is connected to the special nature of this book and to the innovations contained in it. But the need for intercalation is not connected specifically to the book of Devarim; in principle, wherever mention is made of the agricultural dimension of the pilgrimage festivals,[9] which is all the places in which the Torah commands about them, the need for intercalation arises.
 
2. "You, and your son, and your daughter, and your man-servant, and your maid-servant, and the Levite that is within your gates, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow ..."
 
A novelty that is found in our parasha in comparison to all the previous sections dealing with the festivals, one that is typical of the book of Devarim, is the emphasis found twice in our parasha – once in connection with the mitzva of the festival of Shavuot (v. 11) and once in connection with the mitzva of the festival of Sukkot (v. 14) – on the fact that when one rejoices before God on a festival, he must include in his rejoicing the Levite, the stranger, the orphan, and the widow.
 
In the book of Devarim, this point is emphasized wherever mention is made of the joy of the individual going up to the place that God shall choose in order to fulfill his obligations.[10]
 
Concern for the weak in society appears in additional places in the book of Devarim, even outside of the context of an obligation falling upon an individual to give of his animals and produce. In the oration concerning the mitzvot before the festivals section, we find two sections in which this is the main point: the section dealing with the release of debts and the obligation to lend to one's poor brother (15:1-11) and in the section dealing with the release of one's slave in the seventh year and granting him a parting gift (15:12-18).
 
So writes also the Rambam in Hilkhot Yom Tov (6:17-18), under the influence of the festivals section in our book:
 
… on the seven days of Pesach, the eight days of Sukkot, and the other holidays… a person is obligated to be happy and in good spirits; he, his children, his wife, the members of his household, and all those who depend on him, as it is stated: "And you shall rejoice in your festivals" (Devarim 16:14)…
When a person eats and drinks [in celebration of a holiday], he is obligated to feed converts, orphans, widows, and others who are destitute and poor.
In contrast, a person who locks the gates of his courtyard and eats and drinks with his children and his wife, without feeding the poor and the embittered, is not indulging in rejoicing associated with a mitzva, but rather the rejoicing of his gut.
 
3. "In the place that the Lord your God shall choose"
 
One of the major themes in the orations concerning the mitzvot in the book of Devarim, beginning in chapter 12, is the centrality of "the place that the Lord your God shall choose" and its exclusivity with respect to the offering of sacrifices and with respect to other mitzvot connected specifically to it. This phrase – "the place that the Lord your God shall choose" – appears throughout Parashat Re'eh about fifteen times, and it connects the oration concerning the mitzvot included in chapter 12[11] to the mitzva of second-tithe (14:22-27) and the offering of the firstborn males among the herds and flocks (15:19-23)[12] and the festivals section in chapter 16, which closes the orations concerning the mitzvot in Parashat Re'eh.[13]
 
In the festivals section, this phrase appears six times.
 
It is clear, then, that this is the main novelty that the book of Devarim wants to introduce regarding the festivals: Certain laws concerning them connect them to "the place that the Lord your God shall choose."
 
The first law that depends on "the place that the Lord your God shall choose" is the Pesach offering. The laws governing this offering were spelled out in detail in the book of Shemot in chapter 12, first in connection with the Pesach offering that was brought in Egypt, prior to the exodus. This sacrifice was offered by the Israelites in their homes; even with respect to the Pesach offering that Israel was commanded to bring in Eretz Yisrael, it is not stated that it must be brought in a particular place.
 
Here, however, comes the book of Devarim and emphasizes this point three times:
 
2: And you shall sacrifice the Pesach offering to the Lord your God… in the place that the Lord shall choose to cause His name to dwell there. 
5-6: You may not sacrifice the Pesach offering within any of your gates, which the Lord your God gives you; but at the place that the Lord your God shall choose to cause His name to dwell in, there you shall sacrifice the Pesach offering…[14]
7: And you shall cook and eat it in the place that the Lord your God shall choose; and you shall turn in the morning and go to your tents. 
 
This is why in this festivals section the Pesach offering is discussed at such great length in connection with the Festival of Matzot. Of the three pilgrimage festivals, only on the Festival of Matzot is there a mitzva unique to that festival that each individual member of Israel is obligated to fulfill "in the place that the Lord your God shall choose."
 
The mitzvot that are obligatory on the individual on the Festival of Sukkot and that were mentioned in Vayikra 23 – dwelling in the sukka and taking the four species – are not connected to the place that the Lord your God shall choose, and therefore are not mentioned in our section.
 
The second law that depends on "the place that the Lord your God shall choose" is the chagigah offering of the festivals and the rejoicing before God in the place that He shall choose. This law relates to all three pilgrimage festivals and is mentioned three times in the second half of the section:
 
Regarding the festival of Shavuot:
  
11: And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God… in the place that the Lord your God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there. 
 
Regarding the festival of Sukkot:
 
15: Seven days you shall keep a feast to the Lord your God in the place that the Lord your God shall choose… and you shall be altogether joyful.
 
Regarding all three of the pilgrimage festivals:
 
16: Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord your God in the place that He shall choose
 
With regard to the Festival of Matzot, it was not necessary to mention this, because the Pesach offering necessitates going up to the place that the Lord your God shall choose, and because on the Festival of Matzot there is no obligation to remain in that place all the days of the festival (as is necessary on Sukkot; see v. 15), but rather after bringing the Pesach offering:
 "And you shall turn in the morning and go to your tents" (v. 7).
 
The mitzva of "being seen" appears already in the festivals section in the book of Shemot, but there it is not stated, as is emphasized in the book of Devarim, that this appearing before God is possible only in the place that He shall choose. In the book of Devarim, there is also an expansion of that obligation to be seen. On the festival of Shavuot, "And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God… in the place that the Lord your God shall choose"; and on the festival of Sukkot, "Seven days you shall keep a feast to the Lord your God in the place that the Lord your God shall choose… and you shall be altogether joyful."
 
It is clear now why our parasha concentrates on the three pilgrimage festivals. The other festivals – Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur – are not connected to "the place that the Lord shall choose," as there is no obligation on those days to go up to that place and appear there before God.[15]
 
II. Eating Matza – Seven Days or Six Days
 
As stated above, the first half of the festivals section is dedicated to the Pesach offering and the Festival of Matzot, and these two issues are inextricably intertwined.[16]
 
Certain details mentioned in these verses seem to contradict the laws of the Pesach offering and the Festival of Matzot known to us from the previous books of the Torah. Chazal and the commentators made great efforts to explain these details in a way that removes the contradictions.[17]
 
We will dedicate the rest of this study to one such detail, which concerns the main issue of the Festival of Matzot.
 
Nine verses in the Torah contain a mitzva to eat matza, unleavened bread, for seven days. Indeed, it is because of this mitzva that the whole festival is called "the Festival of Matzot":
 
  1. Shemot 12:15: Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread…
  2. 12:18: In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening.
  3. 13:6: Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the Lord.
  4. 13:7: Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with you…
  5. 23:15: The feast of unleavened bread shall you keep. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Aviv…
  6. 34:18: The feast of unleavened bread shall you keep. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Aviv…
  7. Vayikra 23:6: And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread to the Lord; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.
  8. Bemidbar 28:17: And on the fifteenth day of this month shall be a feast; seven days shall unleavened bread be eaten.
  9. Devarim 16:3: You shall not eat leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it.
 
But then in our parasha, it is stated in the last verse dealing with the Pesach offering and the Festival of Matzot:
 
Devarim 16:8: Six days you shall eat unleavened bread; and on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to the Lord your God; you shall do no work therein. 
 
This surprising verse contradicts all of the nine verses that precede it. Special mention should be made, however, of Shemot 13:6, the content and structure of the verse are very similar to those of v. 8 in our parasha, apart from the contradiction between the numbers six and seven:
 
Shemot 13:6: Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day shall be a feast to the Lord.
 
Verse 8 contradicts not only the verses in the previous books of the Torah, but also the verse in the very section in which it is found. At the beginning of the festivals section it is stated:
 
Devarim 16:3: You shall not eat leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it.
 
Does the mitzva of eating matza last seven days or only six days? And which day is it on which, according to v. 8 in our parasha, that this mitzva does not apply?
 
Tractate Pesachim 120a brings the following baraita (which has parallels[18]):
 
"Six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to the Lord your God" – Just as [on] the seventh day [the eating of unleavened bread] is voluntary [Rashbam: As it is written: "And on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly," but it is not written: "You shall eat unleavened bread," as it was removed from the general law], so [on] the six days it is voluntary [Rashbam: For if one wants to eat meat without bread or to fast, he may do so]. What is the reason? Because it is something that was included in the general law and then excluded from the general law, in order to clarify [other cases], [which means that] it was excluded not in order to shed light upon itself, but in order to shed light upon the entire general law.
 
According to this baraita, when the verse states: "Six days you shall eat unleavened bread," it comes to remove the seventh day from the general law of eating matza. The verse is built on the contrast: On the first six days of the festival, you shall eat matzot, whereas on the seventh day, it shall be a solemn assembly and you shall not do work, but there is no obligation to eat matza.
 
The baraita then uses one of the thirteen hermeneutical principles by way of which the Torah is expounded (which appear in the baraita of R. Yishmael at the beginning of the Sifra):  "Anything that was included in the general law and then excluded from the general law was excluded not in order to shed light upon itself, but in order to shed light upon the general law." The seventh day of the Festival of Matzot was included among the other days about which it is stated: "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread." It was removed from that general law in verse 8 to teach that on that day there is no obligation to eat matza. But not only on the seventh day itself is there no such obligation; the verse comes to teach that on all seven days there is no obligation to eat matza, just as on the seventh day itself.
 
What, then, is the meaning of the verse: "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread"? That verse does not establish an obligation, but rather a voluntary act: If one wishes to eat bread on those seven days, he should eat unleavened bread and not leavened bread. But he is not obligated to do, for he has the option of eating vegetables or meat or not eating anything at all. That this is meaning of the verse we learn from the fact that the verse in our parasha removed the seventh day from the general law governing the seven days. Just as on the seventh day there is no obligation to eat matza, so on the six preceding days there is no obligation to do so.
 
The baraita then continues to clarify the status of eating matza on the first night of the Festival of Matzot:
 
You might think that on the first night too it is [merely] voluntary; therefore, it is stated: "They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs" (Bemidbar 9:11).[19] I know this only when the Temple is in existence [when we are obligated to eat matza together with the Pesach offering]; from where do we know it when the Temple is not in existence [and there is no Pesach offering]? From the verse: "At evening you shall eat unleavened bread" (Shemot 12:18) – thus Scripture made it a permanent obligation.
 
III. “Six days you shall eat unleavened bread” – To exclude the first day
 
Is the baraita's interpretation of the verse, "Six days shall you eat unleavened bread" – that it comes to exclude the seventh day from the obligation of eating matza – the plain meaning of Scripture? Are there other interpretations of this verse?
 
Before we turn to the medieval and modern commentators to the Bible, let us examine another exposition of the verse by Chazal themselves. In Menachot 66a and in several parallel texts,[20] we find the following baraita:
 
R. Shimon ben Eliezer said: One verse says: "Six days you shall eat unleavened bread," whereas another verse says: "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread." How are they to be reconciled? [In this way:] You may not eat unleavened bread of the new produce seven days [for on the first day, the omer meal-offering has not yet been brought, and the new produce is still forbidden], but you may eat unleavened bread of the new produce six days [starting from the sixteenth of Nisan, when the omer meal-offering is brought].[21]
 
According to this baraita, the day which our verse comes to exclude is not the seventh day, but rather the first day. What the verse means is that on six days, beginning on the sixteenth of Nisan, you shall eat matza made of the new produce, and the seventh day, counting from the fifteenth of Nisan, shall be a solemn assembly to the Lord.
 
It is difficult to accept this interpretation of our verse as the simple meaning of the text, for in the verse there is not even a hint to the distinction between new and old produce, which is of no concern to our passage. However, the explanation that "six days" comes to exclude the first day is accepted by several commentators who seek the plain meaning of the text, for reasons other than those put forward by the midrash.
 
Before we discuss these explanations, let us first consider the explanation offered by the Ibn Ezra:
 
It is possible that "on the seventh day" is joined to "six days," and it was removed from one corner to the other, in order to forbid on it: "You shall do no work."
 
The Ibn Ezra seems to read the verse as follows: "Six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day [you shall also eat it], [and on the seventh day] shall be a solemn assembly to the Lord your God; you shall do no work thereon." The words "and on the seventh day" are read with both parts of the verse, as if they were doubled. This explanation likens our verse to the verse in Shemot 13:6: "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the Lord." In our verse, the seventh day is removed from the general law, but it was removed not with regard to the eating of matza, but with regard to the doing of work. This explanation is not persuasive.
 
Let us now turn to the explanations proposed by the above-mentioned commentators who seek the plain meaning of the verse.
 
R. Sa’adya Gaon translates our verse in a non-literal manner, thereby revealing his interpretation (Peirushei Rabbeinu Sa’adya Gaon al Ha-Torah, ed. R. Y. Kafih):
 
And after that he shall eat matza for six days, and on the seventh day…
 
What is the meaning of the words "and after that he shall eat"? R. Sa’adya undoubtedly alludes to the end of the previous verse (7): "And you shall turn in the morning and go to your tents." The term "after that" in R. Sa’adya's commentary alludes, then, to the "morning," when those who offered the Pesach offering turn to their tents.
 
What morning is this? Since from that day on there are six days left to eat matza, it must be the morning of the sixteenth of Nisan. This is indeed the way Rashi explains verse 7: "'You shall turn in the morning' – in the morning of the second day. This teaches that he [the pilgrim] is required to stay [in Jerusalem] during the night when the festival terminates."[22]
 
The Chizkuni explains the verse in the same way that R. Sa’adya Gaon did (without, of course, having seen his words):
 
"Six days you shall eat unleavened bread" – This does not come to exclude the seventh day from the law governing the other days. Rather, it refers to what is stated earlier, and this is what it means: "And you shall turn in the morning and go to your tents" – and all "six days" that are left from then on, "you shall eat unleavened bread."
"And on the seventh day" – from the first day.
 
The author of the Ketav Ve-Ha-Kabbala, R. S.R. Hirsch, and R. D.Tz. Hoffman in their commentaries all followed in the footsteps of R. Sa’adya and the Chizkuni.[23]
 
The interpretation offered by these commentators raises the following question: Why did the Torah count the number of days left for eating matza after those who offered the Pesach offering turned to their tents? After all, it was already stated in the previous books of the Torah, and even in our parasha, that one must eat matza for seven days. Why, then, is a reminder needed in verse 8, that after each person turns to his tent, six more days are left for eating matza?
 
The answer to this question is connected to the purpose of the entire section. We already said that our parasha's perspective on the festivals is their connection to "the place that the Lord shall choose." The laws of the Pesach offering and the Festival of Matzot discussed in verses 1-8 are also discussed from this perspective – which of them must be observed in the place that the Lord shall choose and which of them apply also outside this place. Most of the laws mentioned here must be kept in the place that the Lord shall choose, but there are some laws that extend to outside of it, and this extension takes place in two dimensions – the dimension of place and the dimension of time.
 
The prohibition of chametz is connected to the Pesach offering, which must be brought to the place that the Lord shall choose, as is stated in verse 3: "You shall eat no leavened bread with it," but it spreads out beyond it, as is stated in verse 4: "And there shall be no leaven seen with you in all your borders seven days."
 
The commandment to eat matza is also connected to the Pesach offering, as is stated in verse 3: "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, even the bread of affliction."[24] However, only on the first day must it be eaten in the place where the Lord shall choose. The morning of the second day marks the end of the obligations connected to that place, and the people of Israel return to their tents. But the Festival of Matzot continues. Verse 8 mentions the mitzvot related to the festival that apply on the coming days of the festival, when the people are already home in their tents. The mitzva of eating matza continues during those six days, and refraining from working on the seventh day (as on the first day) applies even after a person has returned to his home.[25]
 
IV. The Halakha that Eating Matza all Seven Days is Voluntary
 
Let us return to the other interpretation of the verse: "Six days you shall eat unleavened bread," according to which the intention is to exclude the seventh day from the obligation to eat matza. As noted above, this interpretation serves in the baraita in tractate Pesachim as the source of a fundamental halakha – that the instruction that repeats itself many times in the Torah to eat unleavened bread for seven days was not meant as an obligation, but as a voluntary act (apart from the first night, on which it is obligatory to eat matza).
 
As we saw, in tractate Menachot, another baraita is brought in the name of R. Shimon ben Elazar, according to which the verse: "Six days you shall eat unleavened bread" refers to matzot from the new produce, which can only be eaten for six days, beginning with the second day of the festival of Matzot – the day of the waving of the omer.
 
Tosafot (Menachot 66a, s.v. katuv echad omer sheshet yamim tokhal matzot) comment about the relationship between the two baraitot:
 
At the end of Arvei Pesachim (120a), they expound from it [the verse: "Six days you shall eat unleavened bread"] – just as [on] the seventh day [the eating of unleavened bread] is voluntary, so [on] the six days… Perhaps two things are learned from it [the verse].
 
The resolution offered by the Tosafot is difficult. It is impossible to derive both derashot from the verse, as they interpret the verse in opposite manners, and therefore exclude one another! According to the baraita in Pesachim, the "six days" are from the first to the sixth days of the festival, whereas according to the baraita in Menachot, the "six days" are from the second to the seventh day. It turns out that according to the baraita in Menachot, the seventh day is included in "six days you shall eat unleavened bread" and is not removed from the law of eating matza; it cannot shed light on itself or on the other six days, teaching that eating matza on them is a voluntary act.
 
This is also the case according to the commentators from R. Sa’adya Gaon and the Ibn Ezra to R. Hoffman. According to their understanding of the verse: "Six days you shall eat unleavened bread," there is no room for the exposition: "Just as on the seventh day eating unleavened bread is voluntary, so on the six days it is voluntary."
 
The question may now be raised: Do the exposition of R. Shimon ben Elazar in tractate Menachot and the explanations of the commentators cited above cancel the law that established the eating of matza all seven days as a voluntary act, thereby turning the eating of matza all seven days of the festival into an absolute obligation, as it follows from the plain meaning of many verses (cited at the beginning of section II)?
 
This is wholly unreasonable. The accepted halakha is that the obligation to eat matza is only on the first night, while on the other days of the festival, there is no such obligation. It seem that this halakha does not depend on the exposition brought in the Talmud – not on the interpretation that the verse "Six days you shall eat unleavened bread" comes to exclude the seventh day, which is not the plain meaning of the verse, and not on the expansion of this law to the rest of the days of the festival based on the principle that "anything that was included in the general law and then excluded from the general law was excluded not in order to shed light upon itself, but in order to shed light upon the general law."[26]
 
            It stands to reason that this halakha is included among what the Rambam refers to in the introduction to his commentary to the Mishna as "explanations received from Moshe," about which there is no disagreement whatsoever:
 
But even though they are transmitted and there is no dispute about them, we can – with the wisdom of the Torah that is given to us – extrapolate these explanations [from the Torah] by one of the ways of reasoning, or from the associations, proofs, or hints found in Scripture. And when you see in the Talmud that they are investigating and disagreeing… and bringing proofs for one of these explanations, and similar to these… they did not bring these proofs because the matter was in doubt to them, until it became known to them from these proofs… But rather without a doubt, we have seen from Yehoshua until now… And there is no disagreement about it, but rather they were probing for the hint that is found in Scripture for this transmitted explanation… And this matter is that which they said: "Its general principles and its details [from Sinai]," that is to say, matters that we can extrapolate by "the general principle and the detail" and the rest of the thirteen [hermeneutical] principles, but they were [also] transmitted from Moshe from Sinai.[27]
 
If so, even someone who interprets the verse in a manner different from the exposition brought in tractate Pesachim agrees about the halakha itself, which was accepted from time immemorial, that there is no obligation to eat matza all seven days.
 
Now the question arises: What is the relationship between this received halakha and the plain meaning of all the verses, which clearly implies a mitzva to eat matza all seven days?
 
V. A Voluntary Act that is a Mitzva
 
One who examines the list of verses cited at the beginning of section II will see that most of them are formulated as clear imperatives: "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread" (Shemot 12:15); "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Aviv" (Shemot 23:15); and may others like them.
 
Indeed, some of the medieval commentators observed that the plain meaning of Scripture indicates that there is a mitzva to eat matza all seven days. The first of them was the Ibn Ezra, who noted this in two places in his long commentary to the book of Shemot. In his commentary to Shemot 12:15, "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread," he adds and explains also the verse in Devarim 16:3: "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, even the bread of affliction; for in haste did you come forth out of the land of Egypt; that you may remember the day when you came forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life":
 
The reason for "you shall eat unleavened bread" – in remembrance of your eating when you went forth from Egypt… of that which happened to you when you went forth from Egypt, for there it is written: "for it was not leavened" (Shemot 12:39). Had the Egyptians allowed them to tarry a little, they would have made their dough leaven. And during the seven days after they went forth, they ate unleavened bread until Pharaoh drowned on the seventh day…
And thus it is written about Pesach [in Devarim]: "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, even the bread of affliction." Here it is mentioned about Pesach "seven days you shall eat unleavened bread" – an obligation according to the plain meaning. And the proof is: "that you may remember the day that you came forth" [for if it is not an obligation, but a voluntary act, how can the Torah give as a reason for this: "that you may remember"].
 
The Ibn Ezra says this a second time in his commentary to Shemot 23:15: 
 
Here it is written: "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread," like: "You shall keep the festival of Sukkot seven days" (Devarim 16:13). We see here that it is an obligation.
 
So it would appear also from the words of the Rambam in his Guide for the Perplexed (3: 43), where he gives a reason for the mitzva of eating matza on Pesach:
 
If, however, the eating of the unleavened bread would only last for one day, we would not take notice of it and its meaning would not be made clear. For man often eats one kind of food for two or three days. Accordingly, the meaning of [the eating of unleavened bread] only becomes clear and the account with which it is connected only becomes generally known through its being eaten for a complete period [a full week].
 
It is difficult to reconcile this reason for eating matza all seven days with the assumption that this eating is voluntary.
 
It may be added that the very name of the festival in the Torah – "the Festival of Matzot" – testifies to the fact that eating matza on all the days of the festival is what characterizes it and gives it its name, as is the case with "the Festival of Sukkot." If the eating of matza on the festival is not an ongoing mitzva but a voluntary act, what is the point of calling it "the Festival of Matzot"?
 
R. M.M. Kasher dealt with this issue at length (Torah Sheleima, vol. 10-11 [to Parasha Bo], in the addenda, no. 27, "Eating matza all seven days – does this involve a mitzva" (pp. 228-232), and in the introduction to his Haggada Sheleima, pp. 159-166).[28] R. Kasher brings more than ten sources from the two Talmuds, from Midrashei Halakha, and from the words of the halakhic arbitrators among the Geonim and the Rishonim from which it may be inferred that there is a mitzva to eat matza all seven days.
 
Is it possible to reconcile what seems to be the plain meaning of all those verses in which it is stated that the mitzva of eating matza applies all seven days (an understanding that is supported by several sources in the Oral Law) with the accepted halakha that the eating of matza all seven days is a voluntary act?
 
A short passage in the second chapter of tractate Sukka (27a) may serve as a basis for solving this problem. The mishna there states:
 
R. Eliezer said: A man is obligated to eat fourteen meals in the sukka, one on each day and one on each night.
The Sages, however, say: There is no fixed number [Rashi: If he wishes to fast, we do not concern ourselves with him. But if he eats, he must not eat outside the sukka], except on the first night of the festival alone.
 
The Talmud clarifies their disagreement:
 
What is the reason of R. Eliezer? "You shall dwell [in sukkot seven days]" (Vayikra 23:42) implies just as you normally dwell. As in a [normal] abode [a man has] one [meal] by day and one by night, so in the sukka [he must have] one meal by day and one by night.[29]
And the Rabbis? [They say that the implication is] like an abode. Just as in an abode a man eats if he desires and if he does not so desire he does not eat, so also with the sukka; if he desires he eats, and if he does not so desire he does not eat.
But if so, [why should he not have the option] on the first night of the festival also?
R. Yochanan said in the name of R. Shimon ben Yehotzadak: With regard to sukka it is stated: "the fifteenth" ["On the fifteenth of this seventh month is the Festival of Sukkot"; Vayikra 23:34); and with regard to the Festival of Matzot it is stated: "the fifteenth" (ibid. v. 6). Just as there [regarding the Festival of Matzot] the first night alone is obligatory, but from then on it is optional, so here [regarding the festival of Sukkot] also the first night is obligatory, but from then on it is optional.
And in the case [of Pesach], from where do we know this [that the first night is obligatory]? Since the verse states: "At evening you shall eat unleavened bread," Scripture thus establishes it as an obligation.
 
R. Yochanan draws a double comparison between the mitzva of dwelling in a sukka for seven days and the mitzva of eating matza for seven days: On the first night, the night of the fifteenth, there is an absolute obligation to dwell in the sukka by taking his meal there, just as it is an absolute obligation to eat matza; from then on, it is optional. That is to say, one is not obligated to eat a meal in the sukka on the Festival of Sukkot, but if one wishes to eat a meal, he must eat it in the sukka, just as one is not obligated to eat on the Festival of Matzot, but if one wishes to eat, he must eat matza.
 
Here it is clear that if one eats in a sukka during the seven days of the festival, he fulfills the positive Torah commandment: "You shall dwell in sukkot seven days," even though if he does not eat a meal during those seven days (but he eats fruit or meat that need not be eaten in the sukka), he has not cancelled this mitzva. R. Yochanan's comparison all but necessitates that this is also the case on the Festival of Matzot: If one eats matza on the seven days of the festival, he fulfills the positive Torah commandment of: "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread," even though if he does not eat matza during those seven days, he has not cancelled this mitzva. R. Yochanan refers to both of these halakhic situations as "a voluntary act."
 
It follows, therefore, that the Festival of Matzot, which teaches us about the obligation to eat in the sukka on the night of the fifteenth, learns from the Festival of Sukkot what it means that on the seven days of Pesach, eating matza is a voluntary act.[30] 
 
The parallel that is implied by the words of R. Yochanan between eating a meal in the sukka on the other days of the festival and eating matza on the other days of the festival – that they are both "voluntary" acts, but one who performs them fulfills a Torah commandment – raises a question that is discussed by various Rishonim. Why do we recite the blessing "to dwell in a sukka" over eating a meal therein during the week of Sukkot, whereas over eating matza on the rest of the days of the festival, we do not recite the blessing "about eating matza"?[31]
 
Here is the answer proposed by R. Zerachya Ha-Levi, the Ba’al Ha-Ma’or, at the end of tractate Pesachim
 
It may be answered: Because on the other days [of Pesach] a person can go without eating matza, and feed on rice and millet and all kinds of fruits. This is not true on Sukkot, for one cannot go for three days without sleeping, and so he must sleep in the sukka and pass his leisure in it… This is the reason that we recite a blessing over the sukka all seven days, but we do not recite a blessing over matza all seven days. This is a correct reason.
 
In other words, the mitzva of eating in the sukka does not stand on its own, but is rather part of a broader mitzva – to dwell in the sukka. The obligation to dwell in the sukka includes sleeping there and taking one's meals there, and it is recommended that one even "pass his leisure" in it (Sukka 28b). The blessing that was established for eating in the sukka is essentially a blessing for all of these activities. Indeed, the wording of the blessing is "to dwell in the sukka," but for various reasons it was established that the blessing be recited only over eating, representing also the other activities that must be performed there. Therefore, a blessing is recited over the sukka all seven days when one eats there, for even if he could avoid eating a meal in the sukka for seven days, he cannot avoid the other activities that must be performed in the sukka, and the blessing he recites relates to all those duties as well.
 
On the Festival of Matzot, on the other hand, eating matza is the entire mitzva, and it does not represent other obligations. The wording of the blessing was accordingly established: "about eating matza." How, then, can a person say that God commanded him about eating matza, when in fact this is a voluntary action, and he can free himself of eating matza all seven days by eating meat and fruit?
 
VI. “All seven days a mitzva” – The Position of the Vilna Gaon and the Chizkuni’s Explanation of the Mekhilta
 
This conception of the mitzva of eating matza all seven days as a Torah commandment that is a "voluntary act" because one can avoid observing it is clearly formulated in the words of several Acharonim, but first and foremost it is attributed to the Gaon R. Eliyahu of Vilna.[32]
 
The Gra himself did not write this, but his disciple R. Yissachar Ber recorded his position for posterity in his book Ma'aseh Rav, in which he describes the Gra's customary practices. In Hilkhot Pesach, he writes as follows (no. 181): 
 
"Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread" – All seven days it is a mitzva, and it is called a voluntary act only in relation to the first night, when it is an obligation. A mitzva in relation to an obligation is called a voluntary act.[33] Nevertheless, it is positive commandment by Torah law.
He was very fond of the mitzva of eating matza all seven days, and on the last festival day he ate a third meal, even though he did not eat such a meal on other festival days, because of his fondness for the mitzva of eating matza, whose time was passing.
 
We find a very similar position in the words of the medieval commentator the Chizkuni, in his commentary to Shemot 12:18. The verse states:
 
In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening.
 
In the Mekhilta De-Rabbi Yishmael (Bo, massekhet de-pischa, parasha 10), it is stated regarding this verse:
 
"Until the twenty-first day of the month in the evening" – what does this verse come to teach?
Since it is stated: "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread" – I only know about the days. From where do I know about the nights? Therefore the verse states: "Until the twenty-first day" – to include the nights [because this notation of the time from one point to another includes everything in between].
 
This is the way the Chizkuni explains these words of the Mekhilta (as they were cited by Rashi, ad loc.):
 
For certain things one receives reward for doing them and punishment for not doing them, e.g., matza on the first night [of Pesach].
And for certain things one does not receive reward for doing them or punishment for not doing them, e.g., matza from the first night and on. [This is the conventional understanding of the voluntary nature of eating matza all seven days, but on this the Chizkuni asks]:
Nevertheless, it is written: "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread" [and the plain meaning of the verse indicates that this is a mitzva for which reward is given for its performance]. That is to say, if one ate matza all seven days, he fulfilled this verse of "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread."
"From where do I know about the nights?" [This is the Mekhilta's question]. That is to say, if one ate matza all seven nights, from where do we know that he fulfilled the verse? Therefore the verse teaches: "until the twenty-first day."
 
According to the Chizkuni's explanation, the Mekhilta explicitly states that there is a Torah mitzva to eat matza all seven days of the festival, and the verse discussed by the Mekhilta comes to teach us that this mitzva is fulfilled not only by day, but also during the night.
 
* * *
 
The concept presented in the last sections of our study regarding the mitzva of eating matza all seven days of the festival – that it is not an obligation, but one who eats matza on these days fulfills a Torah commandment – need not be based on an exposition of the verse in our parasha: "Six days you shall eat unleavened bread," and on the hermeneutical principle regarding "something which was included in the general law and then excluded from the general law." Even those who explain the verse in our parasha in its plain sense – that it does not remove the seventh day from the general law regarding the eating of matza – can accept the conception presented at the end of this study. This conception stems from the plain meaning of many verses that teach that there is a mitzva to eat matza all seven days of the Festival of Matzot, as well as from the broad comparison between the mitzva of eating matza and the mitzva of dwelling in a sukka, both of which begin on the night of the fifteenth with obligatory eating and continue during the rest of the festival with eating that is a mitzva but still voluntary.
 
(Translated by David Strauss)
 
 

[1] In Shemot 12, we find the laws governing the Pesach offering brought in Egypt and the Pesach offering brought in later generations, as well as the laws of the Festival of Matzot. Shemot 23:14-9 and Shemot 34:18-26 are a doubling of a passage dealing with the three pilgrimage festivals and the mitzva of appearing before God. Vayikra 16 is a section dealing with the High Priest's service on Yom Kippur and all the laws governing that day. Vayikra 23 is the main section dealing with the festivals, which includes all of the festivals in order. Bemidbar 9:1-14 is the section dealing with Pesach Sheni. Bemidbar 28-29 contains the laws of the additional sacrifices brought on all of the festivals. Devarim 16 is the festivals section in our parasha.
[2]  This repetition results from the renewal of the covenant after atonement was achieved for the sin of the golden calf and when the second tablets were given. It includes a repetition of additional commandments that were given at the time of the first covenant as well.
[3]  For example, “The festival of ingathering" (as it appears in the two sections in the book of Shemot), which in our parasha is described as "the festival of Sukkot… after that you have gathered in from your threshing-floor and from your winepress."
[4] In the sections in the book of Shemot, mention is made only of the Festival of Matzot (in one verse), while the Pesach offering is mentioned at the end of each of the two sections as sort of a footnote: "You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread, neither shall the fat of My festival remain all night until the morning" (Shemot 23:18, and similarly in Shemot 34:25). In the festivals sections in Vayikra 23:5 and Bemidbar 28:16, Scripture prefaces the mitzva of the Festival of Matzot with a short verse that mentions the obligation to bring the Pesach offering, with no specification. A broad specification of the laws governing the Pesach offering is found only in Shemot 12, in the sections devoted to the Pesach offerings brought in Egypt and in later generations.
[5] In the book of Vayikra, this count connects the omer offering to the two-loaves offering, two offerings that are not mentioned at all in the section in the book of Devarim. An allusion to these seven weeks is found in the name "the Festival of Weeks" in Shemot 34:22 and in the term "in your weeks" in Bemidbar 22:26.
[6] Apart from in these two festivals sections, the Festival of Sukkot is called by this name in the Torah only in Devarim 31:10 in the context of the mitzva of hakhel.
[7] The reading "because of the intercalation [ha-ibbur]" is the reading of R. D.Tz. Hoffman, which Finkelstein accepted in his edition of the Sifrei (see footnotes to these words, p. 185). In the edition of the Sifrei of R. Meir Ish-Shalom, the reading is "because of the congregation" [ha-tzibbur]," and he explains this reading in his Meir Ayin commentary: "That is to say, because the book of Devarim is read in an assembly." He means to say that the festivals are mentioned in the book of Devarim so that they should be mentioned in the public reading at the Hakhel assembly. However, this reason is unlike the reasons given by the Sifrei for mentioning the festivals in the book of Vayikra and in the book of Bemidbar, which are reasons that stem from the content of the festivals section in those books. Moreover, in the Midrash Ha-Gadol on the book of Bemidbar and the book of Devarim, where this passage is brought in two different places, the reading is "because of the ibbur." See ed. Fisch for the book of Bemidbar (Jerusalem, 5723), p. 271 and editor's note 117; and ed. Fisch for the book of Devarim (Jerusalem, 5733), p. 348, and editor's note there.
[8]  This is what is stated in Rosh Hashana 21a (and in the parallel passage in Sanhedrin 13b): "'Observe the month [chodesh] of Aviv' – see to it that the Aviv of the cycle should commence in the earlier half [chodesh] of Nisan." In the Sifrei (Re'eh 127), it is stated: "'Observe the month of Aviv' – Observe the month that it be close to Aviv, so that Aviv will be in its time." And Rashi explains the verse: "'Observe the month of Aviv' – Before it comes, watch whether it will be capable of producing ripe ears [aviv], so that one may offer the omer meal-offering during it, and if not, intercalate the year."
[9] For example, the Festival of Shavuot being "the festival of the harvest" (Shemot 23) or the Festival of Sukkot being "the festival of ingathering."
[10]  See: Devarim 12:11-12; 12:17-19; 14:27 (where mention is made only of the Levite who has no portion and inheritance with you); 14:29 (though there dealing with "within your gates"); 26:11; 26:12-13 (there too, dealing with "within your gates").
[11]  See our study for Parashat Re'eh, second series, section II: Dinei Ha-Avoda "Be-Mekom Asher Yivchar" Ve-Hista'afutam Mei-Issurei Avoda Zara.
[12] These two mitzvot serve as the opening and closing of the fourth oration concerning the mitzvot in our parasha, an oration that begins in 14:22 and ends at 15:23 and that deals with mitzvot related to cycles of years.
[13] Later in the book of Devarim, in the next orations concerning the mitzvot and even in the oration concerning the covenant at the end of the book, this phrase appears in various contexts; see: 17:8 and on; 18:6; 26:1-11; 31:10-13. However, this issue occupies the central place particularly in the orations concerning the mitzvot in our parasha. (It should be noted that there are mitzvot in the book of Devarim about which it is emphasized that they can be fulfilled, or that they must be fulfilled, specifically "within your gates" – that is to say, not "in the place that the Lord shall choose," and they too are connected to the topic under discussion by way of contrast.)
[14] Compare the style of verses 5-6 to the following verses in 12:17-18: "You may not eat within your gates the tithe of your corn, or of your wine, or of your oil, or the firstlings of your herd or of your flock, nor any of your vows... but you shall eat them before the Lord your God in the place that the Lord your God shall choose…"
[15] While there are communal offerings that are brought on those days in the Temple, the book of Devarim does not deal with them, but only with the obligation falling upon the individual to go up to the place that the Lord shall choose, whether this is for the offering of the Pesach offering or for the purpose of rejoicing and bringing chagigah offerings in that place.
[16] Elsewhere in the Torah, the Pesach offering is discussed separately on the fourteenth of Nisan and the Festival of Matzot is discussed separately on the next seven days. The reason for the intermingling of matters in our section is the perspective from which the two are discussed – which aspects of the Pesach offering and of the festival that follows it must be performed in "the place that the Lord shall choose" and which can be done in "your tents." The dividing line is located in the heart of the Festival of Matzot: "And you shall turn in the morning and go to your tents" (v. 7).
The combination of the sacrifice and the Festival of Matzot creates the impression (which may also be substantively correct) that the Festival of Matzot is a continuation of the Pesach offering that precedes it. In v. 3, it is stated: "You shall eat no leavened bread with it [alav, with the Pesach offering]; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it [alav]." The second instance of "with it," stated with respect to the eating of matza, is difficult. After all, the offering is eaten only the first night; how, then, can matza be eaten for seven days "with it," with the Pesach offering?
R. Sa’adya Gaon explains this instance of "alav" differently than the first instance of the term: "You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread after it." R. Ovadya Seforno punctuates the verse against the cantillation notes: "You shall eat no leavened bread with it for seven days; you shall eat unleavened bread with it, bread of affliction [on the first night alone]." Chizkuni follows in the footsteps of R. Sa’adya Gaon, but explains the second alav in a different manner: "Alav – because of it, as in: 'But for Your sake [alekha] are we killed all the day' (Tehillim 44:23)… This means: Eat unleavened bread because of the offering that comes to commemorate the exodus from Egypt." His explanation accords with the general impression that rises from our section – that the mitzva of the Pesach offering and the Festival of Matzot are one united unit.
[17] The first contradiction is evident already in verse 2: "And you shall sacrifice the Pesach offering to the Lord your God, of the flock and the herd." In the book of Shemot (12:5), it is stated about the Pesach offering: "Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year; you shall take it from the sheep or from the goats." Chazal explain that the flock is for the Pesach offering, whereas the herd is for the chagiga offering (Sifrei 129; Onkelos; and see Rashi). See also Ramban on this verse, who writes that a vav ("and") should be added mentally before the word "flock," and so also explains Targum Pseudo-Yonatan.
The second contradiction arises in verse 7: "And you shall cook it and eat it [the Pesach offering]." In the book of Shemot (12:9), it is stated: "Eat not of it raw, nor cooked with water, but roast with fire." Chazal explain that the "cooking" here is in fire: "For roasting is included in the term 'cooking'" (Rashi, based on Mekhilta De-Rabbi Yishmael Bo, massekhta de-pischa, parasha 6). The Ibn Ezra cites the verse (II Divrei Ha-Yamim 35:13): "And they cooked the Pesach offering with fire." R. D.Tz. Hoffman notes that in the book of Shemot, cooking in itself is not prohibited, but only cooking in water. This was already suggested by Ri Bekhor Shor.
The third contradiction concerns the Festival of Matzot and will be discussed in the body of the study.
[18] Mekhilta De-Rabbi Yishmael Bo, massekhta de-pischa, parasha 8, on Shemot 12:15: "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread"; Torat Kohanim, Emor 11:3.
[19] This verse, which is frequently quoted in the gemara and in the words of the Rishonim as the source for eating matza and maror together with the Pesach offering, is stated with respect to Pesach Sheni. Clearly, the gemara is referring to the similar verse stated with regard to the first Pesach offering (Shemot 12:8): "And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; with bitter herbs they shall eat it." See also Torah Sheleima, XI, p. 94, and in the addenda to that volume, pp. 210-213.
[20] Mekhilta De-Rabbi Yishmael Bo, massekhta de-pischa, parasha 8; Yerushalmi Pesachim 6:1 (33a); Torat Kohanim, Emor 12:5; Sifrei Devarim 134; Targum Pseudo-Yonatan on our verse.
[21] This verse is brought in tractate Menachot (as well as in Torat Kohanim, Emor) as proof that the time for the waving of the omer "on the morrow of the Sabbath" is on the morrow of the first day of the Festival of Matzot, for only in that way are we regularly left with six days to eat unleavened bread from the new produce.
[22] This is not how Rashi interpreted what is stated in a baraita in tractate Pesachim 95b: "The first Pesach requires spending the night [in Jerusalem] – the first night he must sleep in Jerusalem; from then on he is permitted to dwell outside the wall within the limit. This is the meaning of 'to your tents' – to the tent outside the wall, but not to his actual house, for it is a festival day." According to his explanation there, "You shall turn in the morning" refers to the morning of the fifteenth.
However, in tractate Rosh Hashana 5a (s.v. ta'un lina and s.v. u-fanita ba-boker), Rashi explains the matter as he explains in his commentary to the Torah; so too in Sukka 47a (s.v. ve-lina).
[23] It should be noted that the commentators cited above – who connect the end of verse 7, "then you shall turn in the morning and go to your tents," to the beginning of verse 8, "six days you shall eat unleavened bread" – actually solve two difficulties in these two verses. First, the "morning" on which it is possible to turn "to your tents" is clarified. The commentators widely debated the matter (see the various explanations of Rashi discussed in the previous note). See also the detailed discussion in R. Hoffman's commentary to Vayikra, p. 122, note 45. Verse 8, which is a continuation of the preceding verse, establishes that this morning is the morning of the sixteenth of Nisan, which is reasonable also for other reasons. Second, this connection clarifies which are the six days on which "you shall eat unleavened bread." If verse 8 is a continuation of verse 7, it is clear that the six days are from the second to the seventh day. If so, these two verses explain each other and prove what the correct explanation is of each one of them.
[24] See Chizkuni's interpretation of these words, cited at the end of note 16.
[25] R. Hoffman offers a similar explanation in his commentary to the book of Devarim (Tel-Aviv, 5720, pp. 264 and 269) of the fact that our parasha mentions a prohibition of work only with respect to the seventh day of the Festival of Matzot: "The book of Devarim… does not repeat this [the prohibitions of work on the days of the festivals] in a specific manner, with the exception of the seventh day of Pesach, because according to the plain sense of 16:7, the people of Israel were not obligated to appear before God on that day, and it falls out during the period of the harvest, and therefore they could have erred and thought that work is permitted then."
[26] Indeed, the use of this hermeneutical principle here raises a difficulty, as was pointed out by the editor of Mekhilta De-Rabbi Yishmael, Ch. Sh. Horwitz, in his commentary to the Mekhilta's exposition (Bo, massekhta de-pischa, parasha 8, p. 27), which parallels the exposition of the baraita in Pesachim: "This exposition is puzzling, for how can it be called 'something that was excluded from the general law in order to shed light upon the general law," when it contradicts the general law, for in one verse it says 'seven' and in the other verse it says 'six'?" Indeed, one who examines the examples brought for this principle in R. Yishmael's baraita will find that they are not at all like the exposition under discussion.
[27] Hakdamot Ha-Rambam La-Mishna, ed. R. Y. Shilat, pp. 38-39.
[28] In Haggada Sheleima he repeats what he writes in Torah Sheleima, but adds valuable additions in various places.
[29] The practice of eating three meals a day is a relatively new practice. In Biblical, Mishnaic, and Talmudic times, people dined twice a day.
[30] The Ibn Ezra alludes to this comparison between the mitzva of dwelling in the sukka for seven days and the mitzva of eating matza for seven days in his commentary to Shemot 23:14, and his words are cited at the beginning of this section. He, however, concludes from this comparison that the eating of matza is an obligation, but perhaps he means that it is a mitzva.
[31] Some Rishonim (the Ittur, Aseret Ha-Dibrot; R. Shemuel, Orchot Chayim, Hilkhot Sukka) answer this question by rejecting the very comparison between the "voluntary act" of eating in a sukka and the "voluntary act" of eating matza, arguing that the former is a "voluntary act of a mitzva," whereas the latter is an "absolutely voluntary act," which involves no fulfillment of a mitzva. However, the answer that we will bring below from the words of the Ba’al Ha-Ma’or does not accept this distinction, which is clear already from his formulation of the question: "Some ask: When eating matza, why do we not recite a blessing over it all seven days, in the way that we recite a blessing over the sukka all seven days, for we learn the one from the other, that the first night is an obligation and from then on it is a voluntary act, both regarding matza and regarding sukka, as is stated in chapter Ha-Yashen (Sukka 27a)."
[32] The other Acharonim who mention this were influenced by what they heard in the name of the Gra; this includes the Chatam Sofer (Responsa, Yoreh De'ah 191); Arukh Ha-Shulchan, Orach Chayyim 475:18; the author of the Ketav Ve-Ha-Kabbala, R. Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg, in his commentary to Devarim 16:8.
[33] This is how the Tosafot (Berakhot 26a, s.v. ta'a) explain the words of Rav (Berakhot 27b): "The evening prayer is optional" – "That which we said it is optional, that is to say, in comparison to a different mitzva whose opportunity to fulfill it is passing… but it should not be cancelled for no reason."