The dispute about mentioning the Exodus at night in the manuscripts

Thursday, 8 April, 2021 - 4:39 pm

In the opening of the Passover Haggadah, it brings a text from the Mishnah in tractate Berachot[1]to support the idea that one is commanded to tell the story of the Exodus on the night of Passover.[2] There are a number of versions to this text of the Haggadah:


1. In the Ashkenazi Siddur CCC MS 133, it states:


Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah said: “Behold I am like[3] a man of seventy years and I have not merited [to know the scriptural source[4]/prevail over the sages that[5]] the exodus from Egypt should be mentioned at night - until Ben Zoma explicated it, as it is stated:[6] ‘That you remember the day you left Egypt all the days of your life.’ Now, ‘the days of your life’ refers to the days; ‘all’ (kol) indicates the inclusion of the ‘nights.’ The Sages, however, said, ‘the days of your life’ refers to present-day world; ‘all’ (kol) indicates the inclusion ‘the days of Mashiach.’


In this version of the text, the only word that is used for the explication (d’rasha) to include ‘nights,’ according to Ben Zoma, and ‘days of Mashiach,’ according to the Sages, is the additional word: ‘all’ (kol) - but omitting the continuation of the verse: ‘the days of your life’ (y’mei chaye’cha). This is how it is found also in the 13th century Machzor Vitry at the British Library - Add MS 27201 (1242-1299).[7]


2. In the Reggio Machzor Vitry manuscript (JTS Library MS no. 8092),[8] regarded as the oldest and most authentic of the three extant manuscripts,[9] it omits the section about the ‘nights’ (kol ye’mei cha-yecha ha’leilot) all-together, and, instead, cites the section about the ‘days of Mashiach’ as part of the teaching of Ben Zoma – with no mention of the Sages. This suggests, as argued by Rabbi Judah Loew, that the main purpose of bringing thisMishnaic text in the Haggadah is to highlight the importance of discussing the Exodus on the night of Passover based on the view of the Sages that it must be told even in the days of Mashiach. As the Ashkenazi Siddur CCC MS 133 and the British Library Machzor Vitry, the Reggio Machzor Vitry manuscript also cites the d’rasha only based on the word: ‘all’ (kol), by itself.


3. In the 13th century English legal work, Etz Chaim, by Rabbi Jacob ben Judah Chazan of London, that was produced before the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290, it includes: ‘days of your life’ (y’mei chaye’cha), in the explication of Ben Zoma, to include ‘nights,’ but omits it in the explication of the Sages, to include ‘the days of Mashiach’ - it only mentions ‘all’ (kol),[10] similar, in the view of the Sages, to the Ashkenazi Siddur CCC MS 133 and the above version of the Machzor Vitry. In addition, in Etz Chaim, it states the explication that the Exodus should be mentioned during the daytime - ‘ha-yamim’ (the days), immediately after the citation of the complete verse, without repeating the words: ‘the days of your life’ (y’mei chaye’cha) a second time, for the specific purpose of the explication.[11] This may be explained, as argued by Rabbi Isaiah Hurwitz, in his commentary on the Haggadah, that the part of the homily of Ben Zoma to mention the Exodus during the days is not based on the words: ‘days’ (y’mei), but: ‘your life’ (cha-yecha) - following the Talmudic statement[12] that one may remove, in regard to sin, the amount of years that correspond to the night time, since it is a time of sleeping or resting.


4. The most common version is the complete version that includes the repetition of the words in both instances: ‘the days of your life’ (y’mei chaye’cha) when including the ‘days’ (ha-yamim), and a further two times: before including the ‘nights’ according to Ben Zoma, and ‘days of Mashiach’ according to the Sages. The version states:


now, 'the days of your life' refers to the days, and 'all the days of your life' indicates the inclusion of the nights." The Sages, however, said, 'the days of your life' refers to present-day world; 'all the days of your life' indicates the inclusion of the days of Messiah."


This is how it is found in a third manuscript of the Machzor Vitry, found at the Bodleian Library - MS Opp. 59[13] and the 12th century ex-Sassoon Machzor Vitry manuscript (MS. 535),[14] late 11th-mid 12th century Kaufmann Mishnah;[15] 14th century Catalonian Kaufmann Haggadah (MSA422);[16] prayer book with Haggadah, according to the Ashkenazi rite at the British Library - Add MS 27556 (1200-1399); the ‘Golden Hagadah’ - Add MS 27210 (1320-1330); the ‘Barcelona Hagadah’ - Add MS 14761 (1325-1350); the ‘Sister Hagadah’ – MS Or 2884 (1325-1374); the ‘Brother Hagadah’ according to the Spanish rite - Or 1404 (1350-1374); the ‘Ashkenazi Hagadah’ - Add MS 14762 (1430-1470); and all standard modern-day Ashkenazi and Sephardic Haggadot.[17]




It seems the development of the text of this Mishnah, how it is presented in the Haggadah, took place in four stages: the earliest text may have been as found in the Reggio manuscript of the Machzor Vitry, that cites the opinion of Ben Zoma in the context of recalling the Exodus in the days of Mashiach, followed by the 12th century Ashkenazi Siddur MS CCC 133 and Machzor Vitry in the British Library, that cites two distinct opinions of Ben Zoma and the Sages but in a shortened format. This was then followed by a further editing of the text as found in the Etz Chaim where ‘all the days of your life’ (kol ye’mei cha’yecha) was added in the opinion of Ben Zoma. It was then added in both opinions: Ben Zoma and the Sages, in the Machzor Vitry copy as found at Oxford, and the many above versions of the Mishnah and Haggadah texts.[18]


Ashkenazi Siddur MS CCC 133


A reason for the variant found in the Ashkenazi Siddur MS CCC 133 may be due to two ways in understanding the d’rasha, explicating the superfluous word ‘all’ (kol), in the verse: ‘That you remember the day you left Egypt all the days of your life’ - to include ‘nights,’ or ‘days of Mashiach:’


a. One way to understand the d’rasha is that the word: ‘kol’ (all) aims to interpret the following words: ‘days of your life’ - to include the ‘nights,’ following Ben Zoma, or ‘days of Mashiach,’ following the Sages.[19]


b. A second way to understand the d’rasha is that the word: ‘kol’ (all) allows for ‘days of your life’ to retain its meaning - ‘days,’ and the superfluous word ‘all’ (kol), by itself, is explicated to include ‘night.’[20]


The latter is based on the notion, as explained by Rabbi Judah Loew (1520-1609) and Rabbi Shmuel Eidels in the 16th century (1555-1631),[21] that there is good reason for the Exodus to be recalled during the daytime (only), because that is when the Exodus actually occurred, as it states:[22] ‘on the day following the Passover sacrifice, the children of Israel left triumphantly before the eyes of all the Egyptians.’ This being the case, the phrase ‘days of your life’ refers, indeed, to the ‘daytime.’ Ben Zoma, however, explicates the superfluous word ‘kol’ to include also the ‘nights’ – since that is when Pharaoh granted permission for the Exodus, as indicated in the verse:[23] ‘the Lord, your G-d, brought you out of Egypt at night.’ The Sages, however, who don’t recognise the onset of the Exodus as significant, explicate ‘kol’ (all) for the inclusion of ‘days of Mashiach.’ [24]This underlying reasoning of the dispute, whether the onset of the Exodus is significant, explains the version found in the Ashkenazi Siddur CCC MS 133 and the British Library manuscript of the Machzor Vitry, that records only the word ‘all’ (kol), to include ‘nights’ or ‘days of Mashiach.’





[1] Talmud Berachot 12b.

[2] Pirush Maharal on the Haggadah, ‘Amar Rabbi Elazar.’

[3] He appeared like seventy, due to strenuous Torah study, but actually only 18 years old.

[4] Ra’avad maintains that the Exodus was recalled at night time before Ben Zoma explicated the verse but only as a Rabbinical commandment, not Biblical.

[5] Rabeinu Efraim Qala’i (last name is thought to be connected to Al Qal'a of Beni Hammad or Beni Hammad Fort, an 11th century fortified city in Algeria), disciple of the Rif; Siddur Rashi; Rabbi Isaiah De-trani, Rabbi Zedekiah ben Abraham Anav in his Shibolei Ha-leket; Kol Bo; P’nei Moshe on Jerusalem Talmud on Berachot 11a; Rabbi Elijah of Fulda, known as Mahara m’Fulda (c. 1650 – c. 1720), on the Jerusalem Talmud on Berachot 11a - the third part of the Shema that contains the Exodus was not recited at all at night time until the d’rasha of Ben Zoma or Rabb I Elazar Ben Azarya would say it but the Sages – the majority – need not agree until the d’rasha of Ben Zoma. According to this, ‘zachiti’ is similar to the way its used in the Talmud (Nidah 52b, Sanhedrin 39a).

[6] Deuteronomy 16:3.

[7] This is different to the Machzor Vitry at the Bodleian Library - Bodleian Library, MS Opp. 59 (Neubauer no1100) – where it has the complete sentence: ‘all the days of your life’ in the context of both, the d’rasha of the ‘nights’ and ‘days of Mashiach.’ In contrast in the Reggio Machzor Vitry (MS NY JTS 8092), fol. 57, it has the sentence: ‘kol ye’mei cha-yecha ha’leilot’ omitted completely. This may suggest In Siddur Rashi it’s ambiguous, as its first cites the ‘kol ye’mei cha’yecha ha-leilot’ and then explains that it is derived only from the word ‘kol’ (

[8] Fol. 57:|FL25514464.

[9] A. Berliner’s introduction to Mekitzei Nirdamim edition of the Machzor Vitry - Mafte’ach u’mavo l’Machzor Vitry, Likutei batar likutei, p. 172:

[10] It also omits ‘days of your life’ when referring to ‘days,’ following Ben Zoma.

[11] This suggests that the explication of ‘days’ may be from the final word in the verse: ‘your life,’ as opposed to ‘days’ that naturally can include also nights. The reason is since ‘life’ is primarily day times,

[12] Talmud Shabbat, 89b.

[13] Fol. 83. There is a dispute amongst scholars, which of the three manuscripts of the Machzor Vitry is most authentic and reliable. According to R. Aryeh Leib Frumkin (1845-1916), the Oxford manuscript is most authentic. According to Arye Goldschmidt, the London manuscript is most authentic (Machzor Vitry, Arye Goldschmidt (2003 – 2009), vol. 1, p. 53, f.42), though both, the London and Oxford copies contain additions that are not from the author (the letter ‘tav’ and ‘even’ - from Tosafist Rava’n - indicate the sections that are not from the original). For this reason, the British Library Macḥzor Vitry has been used as the basis for two editions: by Solomon Hurwitz (1st edition: 1893 and 2nd edition: 1923) and a more recent one by Arye Goldschmidt (2003 – 2009). According to A. Berliner, the Reggio manuscript is the oldest and closest to the original, as it contains no additions. The writing is however damaged and difficult to decipher (Mafte’ach u’mavo l’Machzor Vitry, Likutei batar likutei, p. 172). A further manuscript of Machzor Vitry, considered by Prof. Sacha Stern to be even earlier than the Reggio manuscript, is known as ex-Sassoon 535 (Paris, private collection), a microfilm reproduction of which is held by the British Library (Or. Mic. 2792) and currently available online with National Library of Israel (NLI). 

[14] Fol. 109:|FL51634900. The manuscript is part of the Klagsbald collection (Paris). It includes a calendar that has included the year 1145.

[15] Kaufmann Mishnah: In the margin in the Kaufmann Mishnah, it adds: ‘the world to come’ (Ha-olam haba). This follows the Jerusalem Talmud Berachot on Berachot 11a that states: ‘ha-olam ha’ba,’ followed by: ‘l’havi et yemot hamashiach.’ A reason for the addition of ‘l’havi l’yemot hamashiach’ may be understood by the comment of Rabbi Akiva Eger, who explains the phrase as reflecting the subsequent statement in the Talmud that the mentioning of the Exodus in the Messianic era will be secondary to the miracles of the Messianic era itself, whereas the mentioning of the Exodus at night is the same as the day. A further variant in the Kaufmann Mishnah is that it states: ‘et’ before ‘yemot hamashiach,’ instead of: ‘l’yemot hamashiach.’ This also follows the way it is written in the Mishnah in the Jerusalem Talmud. The same version can be found in the Nusach Hagadah inMaimonides’ Mishneh Torah, which is followed by the Yemenite tradition, as can be found in the Yemenite manuscript of the Haggadah - Agadeta de’fischa (Haggadah, 1800), held at JTS library:

[16] Kaufmann Haggadah:

[17] A further version is the Chabad Haggadah that writes ‘l’havi’ for also Ben Zoma’s d’rasha - the ‘nights.’ In all other versions ‘l’havi’ is only mentioned for the d’rasha of the Sages – ‘l’havi l’yemot hamashiach.’

[18] As Siddur Rashi does have a complete of the Haggadah it’s unclear what his version was. When viewing the text of Siddur Rashi (p. 191), and the way he elucidates the d’rasha, one may read it either way (

[19] Pirush Hagra on the Haggadah explains: ‘kol ye-mei’ (all the days) can mean ‘the whole day’ or ‘all the days – without interruption.’ Ben Zoma explicates from ‘kol’ (all) that ‘the whole day’ includes also ‘night.’ The Sages read ‘all the days’ and therefore includes also the ‘days of Mashiach.’ This is predicated the understanding that it is the whole phrase: ‘all the days’ (kol ye’mei) that serves as the basis for the explication.

[20] To view the application of this principle (k’lal and p’rat/ribiu miut), see Bava Kamma 64a; Pesachim 43a.

[21] Maharsha on Talmud Berachot 12b. See also Pirush Maharal on the Haggadah ‘ad she’drasha Ben Zoma.’

[22] Numbers 33:3.

[23] Deuteronomy 16:1. See Rashi: ‘But did they not go out by day, as it is said, “on the morrow of the Passover the children of Israel went out…” (Num. 33:3)? However, since during the night Pharaoh gave them permission to leave, as it is said, “So he called for Moses and Aaron at night’” (Exod. 12:31).

[24] Abarbanel in his commentary on the Haggadah, Zevach Pesach, argues that the Sages are adding to Ben Zoma, since ‘days of your life’ in any case includes ‘the nights,’ based on Genesis (1:5): ‘and it was evening and it was morning, one day.’ They therefore, instead, apply the verse to ‘exile’ and ‘days of Mashiach.’ 


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