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Why is this night different from all other nights? : Pesachim 116a

Written by Anonymous

Pesachim 116a “Why is this night different from all other nights? For on all other nights we eat Chametz and Matzah, but on this night only Matzah.” (Gemara Pesachim 116a) Do we really eat Matzah on all other nights? Even if we allow some flexibility in the translation and say it actually means “we eat Chametz or Matzah”, do we in fact eat Matzah on other nights during the year?1 Chatam Sofer2 provides a novel explanation that the Hagadah’s question here is not concerning the food eaten on every night of the year. Rather, the question relates to the Korban Todah, thanksgiving offering. One whose life had been saved from a dangerous situation3 was obliged to bring this offering in the Temple, nowadays substituted with the HaGomel prayer. The classic instances of a dangerous situation are easily recalled by the acronym CHaYYiM, meaning life: CHoleh – illness, Yissurim – prison, Yam – crossing the sea, and Midbar – traversing the desert. According to the Vilna Gaon, when the Israelites were redeemed from Egypt they were saved from all four of these classic scenarios: they were physically ill from all the hard labour, escaped from prison (Egypt is called Mitzrayim, an anagram of Meitzarim, meaning boundaries), crossed the Red Sea and braved the desert. Surely the Jewish People should offer a Korban Todah on Pesach. Abarbanel comments that the Korban Pesach is our Korban Todah to God for having released us from the bondage of Egypt. However, this would appear to present a problem on Pesach. The Korban Todah needed to be accompanied by 40 loaves, of which 10 were Chametz and 30 were Matzah. Hence, Chatam Sofer explains, “on all other nights we eat Chametz and Matzah”. But on this night, the night when it is most apt to offer the Korban Todah, we eat only Matzah and so cannot bring this offering. How can we express our gratitude to God for redeeming us? Chatam Sofer elucidates that, in fact, if we truly internalise the message of Seder night we will attain the elevated level of re-experiencing the exodus from Egypt. This will act as a springboard to our service of God in the future. We will re-dedicate ourselves to strive even higher in our spiritual life. The Mishnah4 teaches that the Korban Miluim (dedication offering) required the same 30 Matzot as the Korban Todah but did not require the 10 loaves of Chametz. On all other nights we express our thanks to God via the Korban Todah, but on this night we aim higher, and aspire to the level of Korban Miluim. 1. Many translations opt for the slightly less accurate: “on all other nights we may eat Chametz or Matzah, but on this night only Matzah.” 2. Rabbi Moshe Sofer (1762-1838) 3. Gemara Berachot 54b 4. Menachot 7:2

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