Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 12 April 2014 / 12 Nisan 5774

Matza Split

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Laura

Dear Rabbi,

What is the reason that we split the middle matza on Passover. Normally, we’re so careful to use whole loaves for Shabbat and Holiday meals. Thanks for clarifying.

Dear Laura,

Before answering why we do the “matza split”, the point you make about whole loaves is exactly why we use three matzot on Passover. Since the matza for the mitzvah is split during yachatz, we place it between two whole matzot in order to make the motzi blessing on two whole “loaves”.

But why do we split a matza? Many answers are given to this question. I’ll present a few of them.

Matza is referred to in the Torah as “the bread of suffering” for obvious reasons. This term may also be understood as “bread of poverty”. Since a poor person is often lacking a complete loaf of bread, we break the matza in two in order to indicate that without G-d we are like a poor and destitute vagrant.

G-d originally condemned the descendants of Avraham to exile in a foreign land for 400 years. But in His great mercy G-d terminated the exile after 210 years – cutting the allotted time roughly by half. We therefore break the matza — which symbolizes our suffering — roughly in half.

On the holidays, we are commanded to celebrate the special, bountiful nature of the day with a festive meal. Lest we come to indulge in the meal for the food’s sake alone, we are told that half of our attention should be focused on ourselves and half for G-d – meaning for spiritual pursuits. The splitting of the matza on Passover reminds us that, despite the resplendent, holiday meal, we must simultaneously maintain our focus on the spiritual essence of the day.

When two beloved friends temporarily depart from one another with the intention of re-uniting, they split a precious object — like two halves of a pendant — which they each guard until they rejoin. Despite the continued exile we split the matza as a sign of the covenant with G-d that during the separation we will faithfully follow His ways and observe His commandments, as He will faithfully fulfill His promise to bring about the complete and final Redemption.

  • Sources: Seder Secrets, Rabbi Dovid Meisels

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