Bo: The Holiday of Freedom ~ Tzvi Abrahams
The holiday of freedomחַגָא דְפַטִירַיָא
פֶּטֶר רֶחֶם: The firstborn issue from the wombפְּטוּר: Exemptionפָּטוּר:Freeנִפְטָר: Departedלְהִפָּטֵר: To departמַפְטִיר:Maftirהַפְטָרָה: Haftorahפַּטְרוֹן: Patronפִּטרִיוֹת: Mushrooms
פֶּטֶר רֶחֶםקַדֶּשׁ לִי כָל בְּכוֹר פֶּטֶר כָּל רֶחֶם בִּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בָּאָדָם וּבַבְּהֵמָה לִי הוּא1 Sanctify to me every firstborn that opens every womb in the Bnei Yisrael, whether it be in man or animal, it is mine.
Rashi explains the term פטרas the first opening, like the verse in Mishlei פוטר מים ראשית מדון (משלי יז,יד.)/the beginning of a quarrel is the releasing of water, and like the verse in Tehillim יפטירו בשפה (תהלים כב, ח.)/the opening of the lips. Alsoפוטר מים/the releasing of water is to do with השלחה/sending, where פטר רחם/the opening of the womb also means sending out from the womb, i.e. what issues from the womb.
Every opening and sending out from a narrow place to a more expansive place has the notion ofחפשיים/freedom, like it says “וְשַׁלַּח רְצוּצִים חָפְשִׁים” תרגום ופטר דאניסין בני חורין/the releasing of freemen from imprisonment.
קַדֶּשׁ לִי כָל בְּכוֹר/the sanctification of the firstborn is one of many mitzvoth that are a remembrance of the coming out of Egypt. The nation of Israel is the firstborn of Hashem, as it says “כֹּה אָמַר ה’ בְּנִי בְכֹרִי יִשְׂרָאֵל”/so says Hashem my son my firstborn Israel. The going out from Egypt is compared to פטר רחם in that just like the firstborn issues from the womb from a narrow restricted space to a more expansive place so too Hashem redeemed us from Egypt from a narrow restricted space to a more expansive place. And Just like the release of water from a narrow space to an expansive place is with force, so too the going out of Egypt was בחפזון ובחוזק יד/with a strong hand and very quick.
“מִן הַמֵּצַר קָרָאתִי יָּהּ עָנָנִי בַמֶּרְחָב יָהּ” The key that released us from Egypt was צעקה/outcry of prayer, as it says “וַנִּצְעַק אֶל ה’ אֱ-לֹהֵי אֲבֹתֵינוּ וַיִּשְׁמַע ה’ אֶת קֹלֵנוּ”/and we called out to Hashem the G-d of our fathers, and Hashem heard our voices. The time approaching the coming of Moshiach is termed חבלי משיח/the birth pangs of Moshiach, so just the birth of a nation from Egypt needed the key of צעקה/outcry of prayer, so too we need this key to bring Moshiach. This can only be achieved if we feel the distress of being in exile, however if we live a life of contentment living in our comfort zones then our generation has lost its key to redemption.
פְּטוּר,להפטר,פָּטוּר, נִפְטָר/Departed, Free, to Depart, Exemption”כִּי לֹא פָטַר יְהוֹיָדָע הַכֹּהֵן אֶת הַמַּחְלְקוֹת”2 For Yehoiada the Kohen did not dismiss the outgoing group (of Kohanim). Yehoiada the Kohen did not give permission for the outgoing guard of Shabbas Kohanim to go home as per usual, rather he obligated them to stay longer. (Mesudas Dovid).
Sometimes in order to be released, one needs permission from a higher authority. One who takes leave to depart is called נפטר/departed, and the permission to depart is called a פְּטוּר/exemption. Therefore one who is נִפְטָר/departed from the world is considered exempt/free from mitzvot. We are born in to this world against our will and we depart from this world against our will. All is in the hands of Hashem, where His permission is needed to release us.
מַפְטִיר,הַפְטָרָהWe see that the root ‘פטר’ has the dual meaning to depart from one domain and to enter another. When we go from one room to another, at the same time the door opens to one room it closes on the other. So too the הַפְטָרָה/Haftorah concludes the Shacharis tefillah and opens the Mussaf tefillah. Theמַפְטִיר/the last Aliyah to the Torah completes the reading of the Torah.
פַּטְרוֹןYosef is called both אַבְרֵךְ/Avreich and אב לפרעה/father to Pharaoh. Rashi explains that אַבְרֵךְ/Avreich is the one, where everything that come in or goes out, is under his jurisdiction, whereas אב לפרעה is called Patron, one who oversees and manages the affairs, and makes decrees like a father over a son. He is the advisor to the King who finds solutions to problems. This fits nicely with the English terms for both Patron and Patriarch.
אפוטרופוס/Guardian Yosef is also called אפוטרופוס [Brachos 63a] According to this, אפטרופוסfits well with the root ‘פטר,’ the one who controls all that comes in and goes out.
פִּטרִיוֹת/Mushrooms”ואין מפטירין אחר הפסח אפיקומן”3 Rashi explains the wordמפטירין in the above Mishna to mean הנפטר/like one who takes leave from his friend, so too here it means the bringing out of sweet types of foods for dessert before one leaves the meal. For example פטריות/mushrooms, meaning dessert food before one departs. פטריות/mushrooms could also come from the word פָּטוּר/exempt from terumot and maasarot because it grows above the ground.
חַגָא דְפַטִירַיָא/The holiday of Freedom The Targum for חַג הַמַּצּוֹת isחַגָא דְפַטִירַיָא and Targum for מצות is פַּטִיר. So what is the connection between מצה andפטיר?
According to the root definitions of ‘פטר’ we could perhaps answer in the following ways. 1) Matzah symbolizes redemption and freedom [Maharal] So too פטירה/release from a narrow place to a more expansive place is considered freedom, like we said above (“וְשַׁלַּח רְצוּצִים חָפְשִׁים” תרגום ופטר דאניסין בני חורין).
2) Matzah symbolizes חפזון/haste without delay. So too the פטירה/release, like water from a narrow place to a more expansive place, gushes forth with strength and speed, and so too the going out of Egypt was with haste and force without delay..4
3) The eating of the Pesach with Matzah and Maror was eaten in a state with their belts girded, shoes on their feet and sticks in their hands, waiting for the moment when they would be given רשות להפטר/permission leave.
4) Matzah symbolizes eating. The mishna says אין מפטירין אחר המצה אפיקומן. Like the words יַפְטִירוּ בְשָׂפָה/the opening of the lips here too מפטיריןcan mean not to open the mouth and eat any dessert after the matzah, so as not to lose the taste of matzah in the mouth.5
5) Matzah comes from the root 6‘נצה’ like the verse “וְהִוא כְפֹרַחַת עָלְתָה נִצָּהּ” referring to a blossoming flower. This fits nicely with what the Iben Ezra writes regarding פטר רחם where he describes the opening of the womb to פטורי ציצים7/blossoming flowers, which are mentioned in the adornments of the Beis Hamikdash.8
So according to this explanation מצהis connected to פטר, the budding fruit referred to as נץ/neitz. Neitz, the term commonly used for the sunrise, represents a new day, so too matzah symbolizes newness, the birth of the Jewish nation. Rashi writes in the first verse of Bereishis that the Torah could have begun from the first mitzvah of Kiddush Hachodesh (the sanctification of the new moon) because the main reason for the Torah is the observation of the mitzvot. The reason for Hashem commanding us to start counting the months from this new time, was because in this month was the birth of His firstborn Israel. It is also possible to say that the reason why Pesach has to fall out in the Aviv/spring, because the Aviv comes from loshen אב when the first fruits appear.9This is the time where Hashem has given permission in nature for the blossoming of flowers (Nissan being the month when we make the special blessing on the flowers). This is the time where Hashem commanded us to eat Matzah that represents the פטר רחם, the firstborn issue of Israel. This explanation then fits nicely with חַג הַמַּצּוֹת הוא חַגָא דְפַטִירַיָא.
2דברי הימים ב,כג:ח
4ראה ספר שם משמעון (שו”ת חו”מ סי’ח)
5רע”ב,וגם ראה תפארת ישראל,פסחים י:ח
6םפר השרשים לרד”ק,ראה גם ספר חשק שלמה שרשים לרבי שלמה פפנהיים שרש ‘צא’
7מלכים א ו:יח
8מצודת ציון שם
9רש”י שמות כג:טו