26. The Procedure of Eating Matza

Hands are now washed with a berakha, and the Seder leader holds up the three matzot and recites the berakha of “Who brings forth bread from the earth” (“ha-motzi leḥem min ha-aretz”). The top and bottom matzot, which are whole, constitute leḥem mishneh. After this berakha, he puts down the bottom matza so that he is left with the whole top matza and the broken middle matza (which represents “leḥem oni” – the “bread of poverty”) and recites the berakha “Who sanctified us with His mitzvot and commanded us concerning eating matza” (“asher kideshanu be-mitzvotav ve-tzivanu al akhilat matza”). Then he takes a kezayit from the upper, whole matza, and a kezayit from the middle matza, and eats them together.

If there are many participants, it makes sense to add more matzot to the bottom matza, so that portions can be given to everybody. Once the Seder leader has finished distributing from the middle, broken matza, he no longer needs to give two kezeytim to the remaining participants, only one kezayit. Only when one distributes portions from the middle matza is it necessary to give a kezayit from the broken matza and a kezayit from the whole matza, but when the broken matza is finished, one gives only a kezayit to each person. However, as we have seen, in order to satisfy the opinion that today’s eggs are smaller than those of the Sages’ time, it is better to give each participant the equivalent of two thirds of a machine-made matza. It makes no difference whether this is given from one matza or from parts of two matzot.

The Seder leader should taste a little bit of the matza before distributing portions, in order to avoid an interruption between the berakha and the eating. After distributing matza to everybody, he reclines and eats two kezeytim with the intention of fulfilling the mitzva.

According to Sephardic custom, the Seder leader dips the matza in salt before distributing it to the participants, just as he does throughout the year. Ashkenazic custom is not to dip the matza in salt, because without salt it appears much more like leḥem oni (SA 475:1).

Some people have a custom of giving each participant three matzot, so that everyone can have a kezayit from a whole matza and a kezayit of a broken matza, and neither the leader nor the participants have to wait to receive matza after the berakha. But many have the custom that the Seder leader distributes matza to everybody, and the fact that everyone eats together and that the Seder leader recited the berakhot on everyone’s behalf enhances the mitzva. Others have a custom to put out three matzot before the head of each household, who distributes portions to his family members. Even though each of these practices is fine, it is best for the head of each household to distribute matza to his family members.

The matza is eaten while reclining. One should have in mind to fulfill the Torah commandment, remembering that it is eaten in commemoration of the matzot our forefathers ate when they left Egypt for freedom.

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