It is a positive commandment to eat matzah on the Seder night. To fulfill one’s obligation, one must eat a kezayis (a measure formally described as the size of an olive, and traditionally determined as one ounce; 25.6 grams). This amount of matzah must be eaten bichedei achilas p’ras (within the time it usually takes to eat a portion of food of a defined quantity). The precise definition of this time period is a matter of debate among the Rabbis. The accepted figure with regard to the mitzvah at hand is four minutes. The matzah should be eaten while reclining on the left side. As mentioned below, we actually eat two kezeisim.

Usually, the matzos of the Seder plate are not large enough to provide everyone with portions of the desired size. Therefore, other matzah is taken in addition.

Before reciting the blessing hamotzi, one should lift all the matzos (the two complete matzos and the broken half between them). After reciting hamotzi, the third (bottom) matzah is put down, and the blessing al achilas matzah is recited while holding only the upper matzah and the half of the middle matzah.

When reciting the blessing al achilas matzah, one should have in mind that it refers not only to the matzah about to be eaten, but also to the matzah eaten for the korech and for the afikoman at the end of the meal. Nevertheless, though one should avoid any irrelevant talk before eating the korech, it is not the prevailing Lubavitch custom to extend this stringency until the eating of the afikoman.

One then breaks off a kezayis from the upper matzah, and a kezayis from the middle matzah. These two pieces should be eaten at the same time. The prevailing Lubavitch custom is not to dip the matzah in salt.

ברוך Blessed are You, G‑d, our L‑rd, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

ברוך Blessed are You, G‑d, our L‑rd, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning the eating of matzah.

Not to dip the matzah in salt

To underscore the dearness of the mitzvah, no other taste should be combined with it (the Alter Rebbe).1


“When one eats matzah, one eats G‑dliness (the Rebbe Maharash).”2

Our Sages state: “A child will not call out to his father before he tastes grain.” Eating matzah — “the bread of faith” — enables us to recognize our Father in Heaven (the Mitteler Rebbe).3

The word matzah can also mean “strife.” Freeing oneself from the egotism and self-concern symbolized by chametz involves struggle and inner strife (the Alter Rebbe).4

The Zohar5 refersto matzahwith two names: “the food of faith,” and “the food of healing.” For matzah strengthens our awareness of G‑d. In general, eating strengthens the connection between the body and the soul. When one eats matzah, one internalizes a connection to G‑d which transcends intellect, enabling the simple faith we all possess to permeate our lives. And this becomes “the food of healing,” strengthening the body and enabling it to appreciate the purpose for the soul’s descent (the Previous Rebbe).6

The Alter Rebbe taught: “On the first night, matzah is ‘the food of faith’; on the second night, ‘the food of healing.’ ” The Mitteler Rebbe explained that the opposite order, healing before faith, would imply that one was sick, and is giving thanks to G‑d for being healed. When, by contrast, faith comes before healing, one will never become sick.

The Mitteler Rebbe added: “This applies in material things as well as in spiritual things. For a Jew, there is no division between the spiritual and the material (the Previous Rebbe).”7

The matzah of the Alter Rebbe would serve as “the food of healing” in the most literal sense. One of his chassidim was a doctor in Riga. Each year, the Alter Rebbe would send him the remnants of the third matzah, the maror, and the karpas from his Seder plate, and the doctor would crush them together and use them as medication.

Once he was called to tend to a patient with serious heart and lung disorders. Seeing no other remedy, he gave him the Alter Rebbe’s Pesach remnants. Miraculously, the patient recovered.

Another doctor who had cared for the patient was stunned by his recovery and asked the chassidic doctor his secret. With genuine humility, the chassidic doctor explained that the patient’s recovery was not a result of his own wisdom and told his colleague the ingredients contained in the remedy he had administered.

The other doctor had connections with prominent government officials. When the Alter Rebbe was imprisoned for spreading Chassidus, this doctor offered a character reference (Ibid.).8