Zekhirat Y'tzi'at Mitzrayim & K'riat Sh'ma
Rabbi Yitzchok Etshalom
Kriat Shema 1:03
3. Even though the Mitzva of Tzitzit is not practiced at night, we read
it at night because it includes the commemoration of *Yetzi'at Mitzrayim*
(the Exodus from Egypt) and it is a Mitva to mention Yetzi'at Mitzrayim
by day and at night, as it says: "In order that you may remember the day
of your leaving the land of Egypt all the days of your life" (Devarim
16:3). The reading of these three parashiot in this order is called
Q1: In Halakha 2, Rambam gives one reason for the reading of the
Parasha of Tzitzit (remembering all of the Mitzvot) - why does he offer
another reason here?
YF: Because the remembering of all Mitzvot comes from seeing the
Tzitit which is not practiced at night.
YE: In addition, in Halakha 2, he is not explaining why we read this
Parasha, rather, why it is read last - as opposed to commanding us to do
specific Mitzvot, it contains the command to remember the Mitzvot (which
takes a back seat to actual action).
Q2: If mentioning Yetzi'at Mitzrayim is a Mitzva, why doesn't Rambam
include it in his introduction to these Halakhot? Indeed, Rambam doesn't
even reckon it among his count of the 613 Mitzvot - why not?
YF: First, Kriyat Shma is not the only way to fulfill remembering
Yetziat Mitzrayim so Rambam doesn't bring it down previously. Secondly,
a possible reason for Rambam not bringing it down in Sefer Ha-Mitzvot
can be because it is really not a Mitzvah in itself but it is
connected with eating Matzah and maybe not be a Mitzvah by itself.
Q3: Why does Rambam have to add to "The reading of these three
parashiot is called K'riat Sh'ma" the phrase "in this order"?
Q4: It seems as if Rambam considers all three parashiot to comprise
the D'Orayta (Torah) level of obligation of K'riat Sh'ma - what is his
reasoning? (see the Introductory Shiur, which presents the major
approaches to the question of "how much of K'riat Sh'ma does the Torah
obligate us to read?")
HH (Howard Herskine):
Q5: When Rambam says
... and it is a Mitva to mention Yetzi'at Mitzrayim by day and at
night, as it says: "In order that you may remember the day of your
leaving the land of Egypt all the days of your life"....
he doesn't quote the well known Mishnah (included in the Pesach
Haggadah) which explains how the verse implies 'day & night'.
Without such explanation, the quotation doesn't explain that aspect
of the Mitzva at all.
Why does he not include the full explanation?]
YE: [This shiur on K'riat Sh'ma and Zekher liY'Tzi'at Mitzrayim is
dedicated to the memory of Abraham L. Butler (Avraham Aryeh b. Shraga
Feivel haLevi). May his memory be a blessing to us all and may the legacy of
his dedication to Torah and the Jewish community serve as a source of
comfort and inspiration to all who mourn his loss.]
The Mishna in Berakhot (1:5 - mentioned by Howard Herskine above) relates
a dispute between R. Elazar b. Azariah with Ben Zoma against the sages -
as to whether Y'tzi'at Mitzrayim must be mentioned/remembered every
night. Their debate revolves around the implication of the extra word
"Kol" (All) in the verse: "...in order that you remember the day of your
leaving Egypt ALL the days of your life" (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 16:3).
Whereas the sages inferred from "all" that the Exodus will be remembered
after the coming of Mashiach, R. Elazar b. Azariah/Ben Zoma felt that
"all" indicates that the Exodus should be remembered at night, as well as
during the day.
Everyone is in agreement, however, that the Exodus must be mentioned
every day. Why is the day a more obvious time for this remembrance than
Two possible answers come to mind:
(a) The word "Y'mei hayyekha" - lit. "Days of your life" indicates
"daytime" first. This answer is weak, inasmuch as the phrase "y'mei
hayyei..." throughout T'nakh has no "daytime" implication - it simply
means "length/duration of the life of...". Even "yom" alone, which is
sometimes understood as daytime (e.g. "B'yom Tzavoto" - "On the day in
which He commanded him" (Vayyikra [Leviticus] 7:38) - which is the source
for not bringing offerings at night), in its generic usage means both day
and night - as evidenced in the beginning of Beresheet - and it was
evening and morning "yom echad" - one day.
(b) The daytime somehow is a more "significant" time for remembering the
Exodus. This is not only difficult to prove, but from the first half of
our verse, the opposite is more likely. The entire verse reads: "You
must not eat with it anything leavened. For seven days you shall eat
Matza with it Qthe bread of affliction Qbecause you came out of the land
of Egypt in great haste, so that all the days of your life you may
remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt." The one
Mitzva associated with remembering the Exodus in this context is Matza -
and the only obligation we have to eat Matza is specifically at night!
A third answer can be found in an earlier sugya in Berakhot (4b). The
Gemara records a dispute between R. Yehoshua b. Levi and R. Yohanan about
the order of the evening service. R. Yohanan maintains that, just like
in the morning, we first read K'riat Sh'ma and then immediately move to
Tefilla (prayer) (we will discuss this "immediation" in Hilkhot
Tefilla). R. Yehoshua b. Levi, on the other hand, holds that there is no
need to "attach" K'riat Sh'ma to Tefilla at night, and we say Tefilla
first and then K'riat Sh'ma. (The Halakha follows R. Yohanan). One of the
possible bases for this dispute, as reconstructed by the Gemara, is based
on the relative significance of the Exodus at night. According to R.
Yohanan, although he admits that B'nei Yisra'el left Egypt in the
morning, since they experienced part of the redemption at night, it is
important enough to merit "attaching" that redemption to Tefilla. R.
Yehoshua b. Levi holds that since the main redemption did not take place
until morning, the nighttime needs no "redemption-Tefilla attachment."
This Gemara begs explanation: Why should the time of day of the Exodus
affect the order of prayers today (and tonight?). It must be that we are
not merely "mentioning" the Exodus - we are attempting to reexperience it
- at the time it happened! Therefore, if the nighttime component of the
historic Exodus was significant, then, when we mention the Exodus at
night, it becomes a revival of that great historic moment - and demands
the proper attachment to prayer. If, on the other hand, it is not
bringing us back to our last night in Egyptian slavery - but is merely a
mention "in-order-not-to-forget" - then it lacks the personal impact via
the connection with the historic Exodus which would necessitate attaching
it to prayer.
We can now explain why "daytime" is a more obvious time for remembering
the Exodus and why the Sages and R. Elazar b. Azariah/Ben Zomah only
disagree about nighttime - because the daily mentioning of the Exodus is
a "reliving" of the event - which took place in all its glory and power
in the morning.
The Gemara in Berakhot (12b) states that the Sages requested to include
the section of "Balak" (Bamidbar [Numbers] 22-24) in K'riat Sh'mat, on
account of its mention of the Exodus (and it's poetic tie with the first
two paragraphs - see Rashi s.v. Kara) - but they did not do so because it
is too long and a burden on the community. The Gemara then suggests that
they should just read the verse in question (not the whole Parasha) - and
responds "Any Parasha that Moshe did not mark off, we do not mark off".
>From this Gemara we see three principles about the (twice) daily Zekhirat
(a) Although we are obligated to remember the Exodus daily - and this
obligation may be "D'orayta" (of Torahic origin), the specific text used
is not D'orayta - rather, the rabbis had the right to select which text
(b) the "commemoration" should occur within the context of an entire
Parasha and not just a phrase, verse or group of verses.
(c)the "commemoration" should occur within the context of K'riat Sh'ma.
The first and third points are further supported by the report about R.
Yehuda haNasi, whose K'riat Sh'ma (if the time for K'riat Sh'ma came
while he was teaching) consisted of reciting the first verse. It is
further reported that in the context of his teaching, he would always
find something to teach which mentions the Exodus. When asked whether or
not he would, after finishing his teaching, complete the reading of
K'riat Sh'ma - there were two opposing reports. According to the report
that he would read the entire Sh'ma later on, why did he try to
incorporate some Torah which included the Exodus? The response is that he
wanted to "mention the Exodus in its time". Why was it so important to
mention it in "its time"? If it is a daytime-Mitzva, its time should be
all day, as the Mishna in Megilla (2:6) indicates: "Anything which is a
Mitzva during the day is valid all day". In addition, when is "its
It must be that remembering the Exodus must be done within the context of
K'riat Sh'ma and therefore within the time parameters of K'riat Sh'ma.
In addition, it is clear that no one particular text is mandated, which
is why R. Yehuda haNassi could select various texts, as long as they each
mentioned the Exodus. This Gemara also supports the idea that although
it is proper to remember the Exodus within the context of a Parasha, that
isn't the "bottom line" of the obligation, which is why R. Yehuda haNassi
could utilize any text (even Rabbinic) to fulfill this obligation.
(Unless we posit that he taught and read a complete Parasha from the
Torah which includes the Exodus - the simple reading of the Gemara does
not indicate that.)
Why is Zekhirat Y'tzi'at Mitzrayim so closely bound with K'riat Sh'ma?
We have already seen that the remembrance of the Exodus is, to some
degree, an attempt at recreating the experience. Not only are the times
directed by that concern, but the verse which holds the command of daily
remembrance indicates this: "You must not eat with it anything leavened.
For seven days you shall eat Matza with it Qthe bread of affliction
Qbecause you came out of the land of Egypt in great haste, so that all
the days of your life you may remember the day of your departure from the
land of Egypt." Why do we eat Matza? In order to remember the Exodus -
remembering by reliving what B'nei Yisra'el experienced at that time!
(This notion is greatly expanded and intensified at the Seder - but even
our everyday/night remembering is somewhat tempered by this attempt at
K'riat Sh'mat shares this orientation:
Sh'ma Yisra'el...You shall love...And these words which I command you
Rashi (Devarim 6:6, 26:16, 27:9) comments that the use of "Hayom" teaches
that every day we should regard the commandments and the covenant as
having just happened - to approach them with the excitement and zeal
appropriate as if they had just been revealed and decreed. Following
this, K'riat Sh'ma is a re-creation of the Giving of the Torah at Sinai
(which explains the comment of the Shulchan Arukh regarding K'riat Sh'ma:
"One should read K'riat Sh'ma with fear, awe, trepidation and dread - the
source of this is the Gemara in Berakhot 22a, which relates that that is
what we experienced at Sinai). As Ramban points out (commentary to Exodus
20:2), this declaration and reexperience is called "Kabbalat Ol Malkhut
Shamayim" - acceptance of God's rule.
The first words which we heard from God at Sinai were: "I am God, your
God, who took you out of Mitzrayim, the house of slavery." Many of the
Rishonim question this introduction - would it not have been more
appopriate to introduce with "I am God, your God, who created the heavens
and the earth"? R. Yehuda haLevi (Kuzari 1:25) answers that the Exodus
was something which they had directly experienced and which was a greater
"proof" to them of God's existence and power.
Rashi, following the Mekhilta, presents another perspective: "The Exodus
is enough to cause you to be subservient to Me." In other words - "I am
God (of the entire world), your God (with a special relationship to you -
on account of the Exodus) - who took you out..." The Exodus is more
than an introduction or even a justification/explanation for the covenant
- it is the very raison d'etre of the special relationship between B'nai
Yisra'el and God which was confirmed and sealed at Sinai.
Since the original Kabbalat Ol at Sinai was presented in the context of
the Exodus, it follows that any recreation of that event will follow that
"I am God" - the existence, power, unity of God;
"Your God" - obligation of Mitzvot - following that which He commands;
"Who took you out of the land of Mitzrayim" - historical context for the
In the same manner, our twice-daily reaffiramtion and re-creation of
Sinai follows this order:
Sh'ma - God's existence, unity, our obligation to love Him and be
"consumed" with His words;
VeHaya Im Shamoa' - the special relationship, defined by reward and
punishment and fulfilling the Mitzvot;
Vayomer (or any other Parasha which includes the Exodus) - historical
context for the relationship.
Since the elemental experience of Sinai was Talmud Torah (the Sages
suggest this is many places; e.g. Megilla 21a, where our body language
during study is modeled after Moshe's stature at Sinai), we are commanded
to re-create Sinai, using Torah as the vehicle. Therefore, we read
entire Parashiot (modular units) of the Torah which reflect the different
components of the experience. (Nevertheless, this requirement is not a
sine qua non -"bottom line" - as we see with R. Yehuda haNassi, who only
read the first verse of Sh'ma and then found some teaching about the
Exodus to relate during the time of K'riat Sh'ma.)
Now to the responses:
Q2: It follows that the twice-daily remembrance of the Exodus is not an
independent Mitzva, with its own time parameters; rather, it is part and
parcel of K'riat Sh'ma.
Q3: Only by reading these Parashiot in this particular order are we able
to accurately follow the Sinai model - which is why Rambam adds "In
this order" to his definition of K'riat Sh'ma.
Q4: All three Parashiot make up the D'orayta command of K'riat Sh'ma -
for we cannot re-create the Sinai experience without all three components
- but the particular text of the third Parasha is not commanded by the Torah.
Rambam, Copyright (c) 1999 Project