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The Unasked Question

5 Kezeisim of Matzah in One Night? Really?

The seder is complete. It was beautiful and inspiring. Just as we merited to make the seder this night, so may we merit to perform these mitzvos next year in Yerushalayim in the Beis Hamikdash. Did you ever realize that you may have just ingested FIVE kezeisim of matzah!?

Here is how it works.


We lift all three matzos and recite the brachah,“Hamotzi lechem min haaretz”. While still holding the matzos, we drop the bottom one and recite the brachah, “Al achilas matzah.” Then we take a kezayis from the top matzah and a kezayis from the middle one (the broken one), lean on the left side and eat it. We now have eaten TWO kezeisim.


We take a kezayis from the bottom matzah, make a sandwich with a kezayis maror inside and recite the paragraph of Zecher L’mikdash KeHillel. We have now eaten THREE kezeisim.


Fast forward to the Afikoman. We take out the afikoman that had been hidden away for the meal and eat two kezeisim as a remembrance of the Korban Pesach which was eaten in the time of the Beis Hamikdash once a person was already satiated. We have now eaten a grand total of FIVE kezeisim.

Obviously, the fact that we are instructed to eat this amount of matzah during our Seder is no accident, rather our Rabbis have a very deliberate reason for these instructions. Let’s delve into the words of our Sages so the next time we sit down to our Seder we will understand why we are eating so much matzah.

The Importance of Eating Matzah Nowadays

The commandment of eating matzah on Pesach holds a very unique value nowadays. It is the only form of eating that is a Mitzvah deoraysa (biblical commandment) as opposed to a mitzvah derabanan (rabbinical commandment). Once upon a time, before the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, we had Biblical mitzvos to eat the various korbanos, ma’aser sheini, terumah among others. Now that we cannot perform all of those commandments, all that is left of the Biblical mitzvah to eat is matzah! Therefore, the Chasam Sofer1Shut Chasam Sofer, Choshen Mishpat 196, Hashmatos. urges us to be extremely diligent in the fulfilment of this precious mitzvah.

So we have a Torah obligation to eat matzah. Where does a kezayis come into the picture?

The Shiur of Kezayis

The foundation upon which halacha and the fulfillment of mitzvos stands is the specific measurements and volume requirements of each mitzvah. Many of these “shiurim” are derived from Parshas Eikev2Devarim 8:8. where the Torah enumerates the seven species of Eretz Yisroel. The Gemara in Berachos3Berachos 41a. explains that the word “zayis” (olive) eludes to the fact that Eretz Yisroel is a “land where most of its ‘shiurim’ are like olives [in size].”

The Gemara in Succah4Succah 6a. concludes that this law is actually a “halacha l’Moshe miSinai” (law given to Moshe Rabbeinu on Har Sinai and passed down from generation to generation). As such, it is codified in halacha that one must eat a kezayis of matzah to fulfil his obligation.

So, that’s one kezayis. How did one become five?

Let’s take this one kezayis at a time.


The obligation to eat matzah on the first night of Pesach is learned from the verse in Parshas Shemos:5Shemos 12:18. “In the first month on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening you shall eat matzos.” This is the source for the mitzvah, as the Gemara in Pesachim6Pesachim 120a. points out, and, as stated earlier, we know a kezayis is required. If one consumes a kezayis of matzah on the first night of Pesach, he may recite the berachah of “al achilas matzah” and he has fulfilled his Torah obligation.


While there was still a Beis Hamikdash, Hillel used to take his Korban Pesach and maror, wrap them in the matzah7The hard, cracker-like matzah we use today is a relatively modern phenomenon. Look for full-fledged exploration into the history of matzah in a future edition of Kankan! and eat it together as a sandwich. This was Hillel’s way of fulfilling the verse8Bamidbar 9:11. mandating that the korban Pesach be eaten with matzah and maror. The universal custom today is to follow Hillel’s example and we eat the matzah together with the maror. (May we merit soon to add the korban Pesach as well!). While this is not a Torah or Rabbinic mitzvah, it is a very old and accepted minhag that has been codified in Shulchan Aruch as mandatory. We now have kezayis number two.


The Shulchan Aruch states:9Orach Chaim 477.

After the meal is completed, we eat from the matzah that was kept under the cloth, a kezayis for everyone, to remember the Pesach offering that was eaten once satiated.

The korban Pesach was always eaten at the end of the meal when people were no longer hungry. At this point in the Seder, we are directed to eat a single Kezayis of matzah to commemorate the korban Pesach, the last of which was brought 1950 years ago. This is kezayis number three.

Just when you think we have it all figured out, let’s remember that by Motzi–Matzah we eat two kezeisim. Therefore, we are going to have to revisit Motzi–Matzah to figure out why we eat the second kezayis.

Motzi-Matzah – Round Two

The Gemara in Brachos discusses the beracha of Hamotzi. As part of the discussion there, Rav Pupa is quoted regarding the mitzvah of matzah:10Brachos 39b.

Everyone agrees that on Pesach you place a piece of matzah with the whole matzah.

Since the Torah refers to matzah as “lechem oni” – a poor man’s bread, we are instructed that the matzah should be broken like the bread of a poor man.

Now, just like on Shabbos, the Yom Tov meal requires “lechem mishneh,” two whole loaves. Does the requirement of “lechem oni” mean that we should have two matzos, one whole and one broken, or that we should have the regular two whole matzos and add a third matzah which is broken? The commentaries fall on both sides of the debate.

Two important questions arise from this Gemara and the surrounding discussion. The first kezayis of the evening, the main Biblical obligation of eating matzah, is from which matzah? The whole one or the broken one? In addition, there are two berachos to be said, Hamotzi and Al Achilas Matzah. Which matzah do you make which beracha on?

According to this Gemara, which of the two or three matzos do you eat the first kezayis from?

In the Rishonim we find four opinions:

  • Rashi is of the opinion that both berachos are recited on both Matzos – the whole one and the “broken piece.”11Rashi, ibid. See Rashba, ibid, 39a, para. Mein’ach.
  • Many Gaonim and Rishonim including the Rif,12Rif, Pesachim 155a, as explained by the Teshuvas Harosh 14:3. Rambam,13Hilchos Chametz Umatzah 8:6. Tosafos14Pesachim 116a, Para Mah. and many more15Rabbi Mencham de Joigny, mentioned in Tosafas para. Hakol, Berachos 39b , Also in Pesachim 166a, para. Mah; Rabbi Yomtov de Joigny of York, mentioned by Rav Mordechai, Pesachim 30; Rabbi Yehuda Sir-Lion, mentioned by the Sefer Mitzvos Gadol, Essin 41; Rashba, Berachos 39a, para. Meini’ach, also mentioned in Beis Yosef, Orach Chaim 475; Rav Mordechai, Pesachim, Seder shel Pesach; Ran, Pesachim, 115a, para. Hakol Modim. maintain that both berachos are made on the “broken piece.”
  • The Rosh,16Pesachim 30. Tur and others17Ri, mentioned in Tosafos, Berachos 39, para. Hakol, Pesachim 116a, para. Mah. contend that the first beracha of Hamotzi is to be recited on the whole one and the second beracha on the “broken piece.”
  • Other Geonim, Rabeinu Chananeil18Ravyah 525. and others rule that Hamotzi should be said on the “broken piece” while “achilas matzah” should be recited on the whole one.

As stated above, the practice today is to take two whole matzos for “lechem mishneh” together with a broken piece between them for “lechem oni.” We lift up all three matzos and make the bracha “hamotzi lechem min haaretz.” Then the bottom matzah is dropped and the beracha of “al achilas matzah” is recited. A kezayis from the top matzah and a kezayis from the broken middle matzah are then eaten while reclining on the left side.

The reason we make “al achilas matzah” on the whole and broken piece (top and middle) is to satisfy all of the opinions listed above regarding which matzah should be held during the second beracha.

Now, why must we eat a kezayis from each matza?

The Tur is of the opinion that not only does the beracha on the matzah require a kezayis (as mentioned earlier), but Hamotzi also requires a kezayis! The Magen Avraham is also of the opinion that unlike all other Birchos Hanehenin (berachos made on something pleasurable) which do not require a certain amount to be able to recite the beracha beforehand, Hamotzi does require a kezayis. Therefore, according to the Tur, we need two kezeisim, one for each beracha.

The Mechaber, Rav Yoseph Karo, explains that once we are holding both matzos during “al achilas matzah” due to the difference of opinion, and the beracha is going on both as well, therefore we must also eat one kezayis from each.

We can now distinguish between the leader of the Seder and the other participants. The one making Hamotzi has all three matzos in front of him and therefore must eat a kezayis from each matza. Everyone else receives a small piece of each matzah from the leader and supplements the remainder of the required kezayis from other matzos. Those not making their own Hamotzi aren’t in the same dilemma of which matzah to make a beracha on, so they only need one kezayis by Motzi-Matzah.

Now that we clearly understand the two kezeisim of Motzi-Matzah, it is time that we revisit the afikoman and figure out our mysterious fifth kezayis.

Tzafon – Round Two

If we are commemorating the Korban Pesach, why do we eat two kezeisim?

There is another opinion about when we fulfil the Torah obligation of eating matzah on the night of Pesach. The Rashbam in Gemara Pesachim19Pesachim 119b, para. Ein Maftirin. holds that we fulfil the mitzvah by eating afikoman! Yes, you heard right. We are fulfilling the mitzvah now, at the end of the Seder and not earlier! The Rashbam explains “just like in the time of the Beis Hamikdash one fulfilled the obligation with the matzah eaten at the end of the meal together with the Korban Pesach, so too now, we fulfil our obligation with the matzah eaten at the end of the meal.”

According to the Rashbam, the obvious question is why do we make a beracha earlier on the matzah as opposed to now at the end of the meal when we are actually fulfilling the mitzvah? The Rashbam explains that we must eat matzah for the Yom Tov meal and it would not make sense to make the beracha “Al Achilas Matzah” only once you have already eaten your fair share of matzah. Therefore, the beracha is recited earlier, but the actual fulfilment of the mitzvah takes place by the afikoman.

Based on the Rashbam’s opinion with regards to the afikoman, the Bach20Orach Chaim 477. instructs us to eat two kezeisim by afikoman, one as a :remembrance of the Korban Pesach and one to fulfil the mitzvah of matzah according to the Rashbam.

Five Kezeisim is a lot of matzah to eat in one evening. For the The Lubavitcher Rebbe ztz”l writes21Edition Brooklyn N.Y. 1946, page 37, para. Tzafin. See also Moadim Uzemanim by Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, vol. 3, siman 251, para. Velo Nisbareir Li. that if one finds that he is unable to eat two Kezeisim for the afikoman, he could eat one kezayis with both reasons in mind.

And finally, it is worth mentioning the Maharil who says22Turei Zahav, Orach Chaim, 477:1. that to show our “chavivas hamitzvah,” our love for the mitzvah, we should do our best to eat a double portion of afikoman.

Now, at long last, we understand our fifth and final kezayis.


Let’s summarize what we have learned:

Kezayis One and Two

Our desire to fulfil the opinion of as many Rishonim as we can, results in making the beracha on two matzos and eating a kezayis of each one.

Therefore, only one who has all three matzos in front of him and is therefore involved in this dilemma must eat the two Kezeisim. A Seder participant supplementing from other matzos only needs to eat one kezayis.

Kezayis Three

The kezayis of Korech.

Kezayis Four and Five

These are the two Kezeisim of the afikoman.

According to the Bach, one is a remembrance of korban Pesach (Rosh) and second is because, the matzah is eaten together with the korban Pesach (Rashbam).

According to the Maharil, we eat double, out of our love of the mitzvah.

As noted the basic obligation is only one kezayis for afikoman, so if you find it difficult to eat five, just have in mind the conditional intention of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and have four.

So there you have it! Now when we are busy eating all these Kezeisim of matzah we can hopefully appreciate why.

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