Shemot Thirteen: Matzah and the Firstborn Son

The people have finally left Egypt, and Moses tells them “Remember this day, in which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place; there shall be no leavened bread eaten (Exodus 13:3).” It’s so interesting to me that matzah is immediately such an integral part of the Exodus, and of the Pesach experience. While of course matzah has become the ultimate symbol of Pesach, to have it be the first thing said after the people are told to remember the day of their freedom makes me see it in a whole new light.

The people also receive the commandment to sanctify the firstborn. This immediately follows the tragedy of the death of the Egyptian firstborn. The people are told that the firstborn of both people and animals will be given to God. “And it shall be when you son asks you in time to come, saying: What is this? That you will say to him: By strength of hand the Lord brought us out fro Egypt, from the house of bondage; and it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go that the Lord slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast; therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all that opens the womb (Exodus 13:14-15).” I like that the explanation provided for the redeeming of the firstborn is a direct result of the slaying of the firstborn. It shows an acknowledgment, and an ongoing memorial that we as Jews continue to act upon.

Having commanded them in matzah and sanctification of the firstborn, God leads the people towards the Red Sea. In a real blast from the past, we are told that Moses made sure that they took the bones of Joseph with them, in order to fulfill the promise to rebury him in his native land. God continues to lead the people, taking the form of a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. His presence is constantly with the people, a motif that will continue throughout their wanderings.



  1. tjustincomer · March 17, 2015

    In the Pesach, we break the matzah and wrap it in a napkin to “bury” it under the pillow on the chair. Do you think this might somehow be a connect between the death of the firstborn and the moatzah? A symbol of the death and burial experienced in Egypt while we were passed over? Chen and Shalom to you, precious sister!


    • Samantha Vinokor · March 17, 2015

      I hadn’t thought of that connection but I like the symbolism you’re providing! Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Shemot Twenty-One: An Eye for an Eye | 929 Days of Tanakh

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