Thursday, / May 13, 2021

Talmud Teasers: Moses, Miracles & Matzah

Passover is packed with more traditions, customs, and historic significance than any other holiday on the Jewish calendar. The Talmud dedicates considerable discussion to these, and derives a great many lessons from the story and celebration of our Exodus.

A

The splitting of the Red Sea was not the only time a miracle of this nature occurred. The Talmud tells of another such instance when:

  1. Rabbi Akiva left his wife (at her urging) to study Torah late in life
  2. Rabbi Zeira made aliyah from Babylon to the Holy Land
  3. Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair went to redeem a Jew in captivity 
  4. Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai escaped Jerusalem during the revolt against the Romans

B

From the statement, “You shall keep watch over the matzahs” (Exodus 12:17), the Talmudic sage Rabbi Yoshia derives that:

  1. If someone encounters an opportunity to fulfill a mitzvah, they must stop to do so even if they are on their way to fulfill another mitzvah
  2. One must take care not to allow the matzah to rise
  3. One must keep watch over the water used to make the matzah so that it maintains a certain temperature
  4. At the Seder, one must never take their eyes off the matzah to prevent the afikoman from being stolen

C

According to Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha, G-d chose to reveal himself to Moses in a burning bush to reflect that:

  1. He feels the burning pain of the people suffering in exile
  2. He is present everywhere, even in a simple thorn bush
  3. Just as the burning bush was not consumed by the fire, so the Jewish people will not be consumed by exile
  4. He will reveal Himself at Mount Sinai, which was covered with bushes of this type

D

One who missed bringing the Passover sacrifice (for legitimate reasons) is given a second chance to do so on the day of Pesach Sheini (the 14th of Iyar). This is unusual, for rarely does one get a second chance to fulfill a mitzvah they missed. To make this point, the Talmud uses which of the following expressions:

  1. “Do not allow a mitzvah that comes your way to become leavened”
  2. “That which is crooked cannot be made straight”
  3. “Run like a deer to fulfill the Divine will”
  4. “Do not say, when I will have time, I will attend to it”

E

One of the major arguments between the Talmudic sages and those who did not accept the Oral Law revolved around which of these questions:

  1. Whether we are required to count the Omer even though the Temple has been destroyed and sacrifices are no longer made
  2. Whether the command to eat matzah applies to all the days of Passover or only the first night
  3. Whether we start counting the Omer on the day after the first day of Passover or the day after the first Shabbat of the seven days of Passover
  4. Whether the splitting of the sea happened on the seventh or eighth day of Passover

Answers:

A3 (Chulin 7a)

B1 (Mechilta Bo 12:17)

C1 (Shemot Rabba 2)

D2 (Berachot 26a – Kohelet 1:15)

E3 (Menachot 65ab)

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