Which Holiday is it? by Michael Billet


In just a few days, we will celebrate the holiday of Pesach. There are a few names for this holiday, the most prevalent being Chag HaPesach. Despite Chag HaPesach’s popularity, in Tefillah and Birkat HaMazon we recite, “Et Yom Chag HaMatzot HaZeh, Zeman Cheiruteinu “(Today is) the holiday of Matzot; the time of our freedom.” The text includes only the two other names of Pesach, those of Chag HaMatzot and Zeman Cheiruteinu. Why do we fail to mention the name Chag HaPesach in our davening?

The answer is quite simple. Since the Torah refers only to Pesach as Chag HaMatzot and Zeman Cheiruteinu, those are the names we mention in our davening. In addition, Chag HaPesach refers only to the first night of Pesach, when Bnei Yisrael would offer the Korban Pesach in the Beit HaMikdash.  When the Seder is finished, Chag HaPesach is technically over, but Chag HaMazot is still in existence, because it lasts the entirety of the holiday. Therefore, we say Chag HaMatzot in our davening throughout Pesach. This answer creates another problem. Why do we call all of Pesach Chag HaPesach if this refers only to the first night?

The Netivot HaMussar derives a profound lesson from the name Chag HaPesach. During Makat Bechorot, Hashem decided to kill the Egyptian firstborns and pass over the houses of the Jews.  This is the origin of “Chag HaPesach,” “the holiday of passing-over.” Did Bnei Yisrael merit being saved by Hashem? Some of the Jews even worshiped Avodah Zara! In fact, Bnei Yisrael didn’t merit to be saved, and Hashem did not have to pass over the Jews.  This unnecessary passing-over shows the great love that Hashem has for Bnei Yisrael. Therefore, Chag HaPesach isn’t just another name for the holiday of Pesach; it is a symbol of the everlasting love Hashem has for Bnei Yisrael.  For further discussion of the distinction between Chag HaPesah and Chag HaMatzot, see Rav Menachem Leibtag’s discussion at www.tanach.org.

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