As with the other articles in this series, this article is meant to present a general overview of some of the complex laws surrounding the commandment to eat matzah. This is by no means meant as a practical guide. For any practical queries please refer to a practical guide, and, if in doubt, consult an orthodox Rabbi.

This article will focus on the laws and concepts specifically relating to the mitzvah of eating the matzah.This article will not address what makes the matzah acceptable by Jewish law. For some information on the preparation of the matzah see here.

The Significance of the Mitzvah of Matzah

The mitzvah of matzah is one of many mitzvot established to commemorate our exodus from Egypt. Specifically, the matzah commemorates the specific manner in which we were redeemed from Egypt. As we say in the Hagaddah: “this matzah that we eat, for what reason [do we eat it]? Because the dough of our fathers did not have sufficient time to become leavened before G‑d revealed Himself and redeemed them.”

According to the Sefer Hachinuch, (a thirteenth century work which enumerates the mitzvot and explains their basic laws), by performing actions that commemorate the exodus from Egypt, we strengthen our belief in the omnipotence of G‑d and in His ability to change nature and perform miracles, as He did when He liberated us from Egypt. This is because our hearts are drawn after our actions, when we perform actions that remind us of redemption this strengthens our belief.1

Similarly, the Zohar writes that the matzah strengthens our belief in G‑d, calling the matzah “the bread of faith.” However, according to the Zohar, it is not simply (as the Sefer Hachinuch explains) that matzah reminds us of our exodus from Egypt, which in turn—when meditated upon—strengthens our faith, rather the matzah itself, when ingested, has a direct effect on our faith.2

The importance of this mitzvah is highlighted by the fact that, as Rabbi Moshe Sofer, the Chasam Sofer, (1762-1839) points out, the mitzvah of matzah is the only remaining Biblical mitzvah that involves eating. In the times of the Temple there were many examples of such mitzvot, such as eating various sacrifices, or eating the tithes and so on. Nowadays, however, we are left with only one Biblical mitzvah involving eating.3

The Source of the Mitzvah

The Obligation to Eat Matzah: All the Days of Pesach or Just Seder Night?

Many of the verses4 which speak of eating matzah on Pesach state that matzah should be eaten throughout all seven days of the festival.5 On the other hand, the Talmud points out an additional verse in which the Torah states, “For six days you shall eat matzah, and on the seventh day there shall be a halt to the Lord, your G‑d,”6 implying that there is in fact no obligation to eat matzah on the seventh day. Further complicating things are additional verses which speak specifically about eating matzah on the first night of Pesach. How are we to reconcile these verses?

The Talmud explains that the verse which states, “For six days you shall eat matzah,” actually reveals the meaning of the verses mentioning seven days: Just as it is clear from the verse referring to six days that there is no obligation to eat matzah on the seventh day, so too all seven days are non-obligatory. When the Torah states, “eat matzah for seven days”—it is not an actual obligation, rather, it is entirely voluntary (reshut).7 Meaning, if one desires to eat a bread-like substance, matzah is the only option as anything else would be leavened (chometz).8

This is based on principle eight of the 13 principles of Torah elucidation: if something is included in a certain category but is then parceled out from that same category, it is not just excluded by itself; rather, it excludes the entire category. Here, the seventh day was excluded from the mitzvah of eating matzah, thus teaching us that the other six days are non-obligatory, too. The Talmud continues to explain that the only time when there is a Biblical obligation to eat matzah is on the first night of Pesach. (In the Diaspora there is a rabbinic obligation to eat matzah on the second night as well.) This is derived from a verse9 regarding the Pesach sacrifice which states, “It [the korban pesach] shall be eaten together with matzah and maror.”10

Matzah in Contemporary Times - Biblical or Rabbinic?

Since the obligation to eat matzah (and maror) on the first night of Pesach is derived from the verse, “It [the korban pesach] shall be eaten together with matzah and maror,” the Talmudic sage, Rav Acha bar Yaakov, concludes that on a Biblical level there is no obligation to eat either matzah or maror in post-Temple times, since we are no longer able to offer the korban pesach.

However, an additional verse, “in the evening they shall eat matzot,”11 implies that the obligation to eat matzah is independent of the korban pesach. Rav Acha Bar Yaakov understands this verse as referring only to those who, during Temple times, were unable to offer the Pesach sacrifice, (either they were ritually impure or not present in Jerusalem). He maintains that in post-Temple times, there is in fact no Biblical obligation to eat matzah or maror; nowadays, the obligation is merely rabbinic in nature.

The halacha, as codified by Maimonides and later halachic authorities, follows the mainstream Talmudic opinion of Rava. Rava maintains that unlike maror, which is indeed nowadays considered a rabbinic injunction, the mitzvah of matzah is still a Biblical obligation on the first evening of Pesach, even in post-Temple times. This is due to the fact that—as mentioned above—there is a specific verse telling us that eating matzah is an independent obligation unrelated to the korban pesach.12

Rabbi Yosef Teomim (1727-1792) (known after the name of his seminal work, Peri Megadim), and others, point out some practical ramifications due to this being a Biblical obligation.

A basic practical implication would be the case of a person who is in doubt if he or she has fulfilled the mitzvah in the correct manner.13 If the mitzvah was rabbinic, (as is indeed the case with maror nowadays), then following the principle of, “safek derabanan le’kula”—a rule allowing us to be lenient if doubt arises regarding matters rabbinic in nature—one would not be obligated to eat the matzah again. However, being that matzah is a Biblical obligation, we would follow the principle of “safek deorayta le’chumra”—doubt concerning matters of Biblical status are dealt with stringently—one would therefore be required to eat the matzah again, ensuring that it is done in the proper manner.14

Another practical implication—albeit, hopefully, a rare occurrence—would be the case of one who only has sufficient funds to purchase either the matzah or the maror. If matzah was rabbinic in nature, then there would be no reason to differentiate between it and the maror. However, being that matzah is still a Biblical obligation, it would be given priority over the maror.15

Eating Matzah the Rest of Pesach - Mitzvah or Reshut?

As established above, the Talmud explains that the verses which seem to imply that matzah should be eaten all seven days, actually mean that matzah would be the only bread-like unleavened option during this time. Most authorities take this at face value and believe that there is no mitzvah (or value) whatsoever in eating matzah throughout the rest of Pesach (other than independent obligations unconnected to Pesach which require one to eat “bread” on Shabbat and Yom Tov.)16 However, the practice of the Rabbi Eliyohu of Vilna, (1720-1797) the Vilna Gaon was to be careful to eat matzah during all seven days of Pesach, including during Chol Hamoed - the intermediate days. He assumed the position that while there is no actual obligation to eat matzah during these days, nonetheless, one still performs a mitzvah by doing so.17

This position is also found (explicitly or implicitly) in the writings of a number of Rishonim, including the Ibn Ezra, (1089-1167), the Hizkuni (thirteenth century) and Rabenu Asher, (1259-1327), the Rosh.18 According to this view, the verse “seven days you shall eat matzahs” is to be understood literally, there is indeed a mitzvah to eat matzah during these days, even given the verses that specify eating matzah on the first night, which teach us that only then is it obligatory. As to the fact that the Talmud refers to the eating of matzah on these days as reshut (optional), they would explain that when contrasting a mitzvah with an obligation the mitzvah would be classified as reshut.19

Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, (1839-1933), the Chafetz Chayim in his authoritative halachic work, Mishnah Berurah and Rabbi Yechiel Epstein (1829-1908) in his halachic work the Aruch Hashulchan both approve of this practice.20 However, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe pointed out21, it is clear that the Alter Rebbe did not consider it to be a mitzvah.22

Nevertheless, a middle-ground approach is advanced by Chabad Chassidic sources: On the one hand, in line with the opinion of the Alter Rebbe, they understand there is no obligation to eat matzah on these days. However, they emphasize that there is still a great advantage to eating matzah specifically when one is not obligated. In a certain sense, eating matzah when it is entirely optional can lead to greater spiritual heights than when one is obligated.23

How Much Matzah Must be Eaten and in What Timeframe?

The verse, “on the evening they shall eat matzahs,” does not specify how much one should eat. However, there is a general principle that, “there is no eating less than a kezayit24an olive sized amount. Anytime the Torah prohibits the consumption of something, an olive sized amount is meant. Similarly when the Torah commands us to eat matzot, one is obligated to eat an olive-sized amount of matzah.25

(It must be emphasized that the discussion here concerns itself with the basic Biblical obligation of matzah. However, practically speaking, as a result of a number of rabbinic obligations and considerations beyond the scope of this article, on Seder night one is in fact obligated to eat anywhere between three and five kezeisim of matzah.)

Is a Little Matzah Still a Mitzvah?

Though it is undisputed that one is obligated to eat at least a kezayit of matzah, there is some discussion amongst the Achronim (later authorities) about the case of one who eats less than a kezayit.

As stated above, regarding negative prohibitions which involve eating, the amount of forbidden food one must eat in order to transgress the prohibition is also an olive-sized amount. Nevertheless, there is a principle that “chatzi shiur osur min hatorah” —even a lesser amount of forbidden foodstuff than a kezayit is also forbidden. Biblically, though, one would not receive the prescribed punishment for it.26

The question arises as to whether a similar principle applies to positive mitzvot. Is there a principle of chatzi shiur by mitzvot or not? While one only fulfills the obligation by eating a full kezayit of matzah, if less than that amount is consumed would one still fulfill the mitzvah to some extent?

The practical ramification would be the case of one who, for one reason or another, is not able to eat the full kezayit. If we say that there is a principle of chatzi shiur with regards to positive mitzvot then it would follow that one would be Biblically obligated to eat at least some matzah. If, however, there is no such principle then there would be no point whatsoever in eating less than a kezayit of matzah.

Rabbi Yaakov Reischer (1661-1733) in his responsa Shvut Yaakov maintains that no mitzvah is fulfilled when one eats less than a kezayit.27 Other halachic authorities including Rabbi Chaim Yosef Dovid Azoulai (the Chida, 1724-1806), Rabbi Yaakov Chaim Sofer in his work Kaf Hachayim (1870-1939) and Rabbi Yechiel Epstein disagree and maintain that some sort of mitzvah is fulfilled28.

It has been further argued that the plain language used by Maimonides (when he describes the mitzvah of matzah) seems to imply that even if one is not able to eat the full olive-sized amount, there is still an obligation to eat whatever one can. This is because Maimonides does not write clearly that, there is a mitzvah to eat a kezayit of matzah on the evening of Pesach, rather, he simply writes “there is a mitzvah to eat matzah”, and only later does he write that “once a person has eaten an olived-size amount he has fulfilled his obligation.”29 It seems evident that in his opinion there is a mitzvah to eat matzah even less than a kezayit, although a person is not absolved from one’s obligation until he eats a kezayit.30

Is More Than a Kezayit Still A Biblical Mitzvah?

This section of Maimonides is also used as a proof in a similar discussion:

Rabbi Judah Loew, the Maharal of Prague, (1525-1609) writes that even the matzah that one eats beyond the minimum amount of a kezayit is considered part of the Biblical mitzvah of matzah.31

Some have argued that one can find support for this opinion in the Talmud (tractates Berachot and Pesachim) where the Talmud states that Rava would drink wine on the day preceding Pesach in order to whet his appetite for the matzah.32 The wording of the Talmud seems to imply that this would enable him to eat more matzah during the Seder. Rabbi Avrohom Bornsztain (1838 -1910), known after the name of his responsa the Avnei Nezer and Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank (1873-1960), deduce from this that one does indeed fulfill a mitzvah by eating more matzah than the required amount.33

However, in contrast to the Avnei Nezer, Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank ultimately rejects this as a proof, arguing that the Talmud can also be understood to mean that the wine would enable him to eat the matzah with a greater appetite, but not that he would be able to eat more matzah.34

Coming back to the section of Maimonides quoted above, Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik (1903-1993) and others argue that the language of Maimonides implies that the mitzvah is not restricted to an olive-sized amount, since Maimonides does not explicitly limit it to a kezayit. Therefore, one who eats more than a kezayit would continue to fulfil the Biblical mitzvah of eating matzah.35

When Exactly Must it Be Eaten?

When it comes to the timing of this mitzvah there are three distinct timeframes one must bear in mind: the earliest start time, the latest end time, and finally, once commenced, how long a person has to consume the matzah. We will address the latter first.

Halachic authorities stipulate that ideally the matzah should be eaten within the time it approximately takes the average person to eat three (or four) eggs, (“toch kedei achilas peras”).36 There are differences of opinion regarding exactly how long this measurement of time is in minutes; according to Rabbi Avraham Chaim Naeh, this time is four minutes,37 although in Sefer HaMinhagim (the authoritative voice on Chabad custom) it states that one should try and be stringent and eat it within three minutes.38

The Latest Time for Eating Matzah

As explained above, the Biblical obligation to eat matzah is only on the first evening of Pesach,39 as the verse states, “in the evening they shall eat matzahs”.40 Practically, at what time during the evening or nighttime must this obligation be fulfilled?

Although there is a Biblical obligation to eat matzah, independent of the obligation to eat the korban pesach, nevertheless, since the verse juxtaposes the two, the Talmud infers that the timeframe for the obligation of matzah (and maror) is the same as that of the korbon pesach.41

The Talmud itself only makes this comparison with regard to the end-time by which the matzah must be consumed. However, Tosafot and other early authorities extend this to the earliest start time as well.42 (This will be explored, below.)

Regarding the Pesach offering the verse states, “They shall eat the meat on this night.”43 A simple reading of this verse would imply that one can eat the Pesach offering anytime during the night of the fifteenth of Nissan.

However, we find that the Tannaim (rabbis of the Mishnaic period) disagree as to the meaning of this verse. Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah maintains that it can only be eaten until (halachic) midnight, while Rabbi Akiva is of the opinion that it can be eaten anytime during the night up until the crack of dawn.

The rationale for their differing views is as follows: Based on the fact that the Torah uses the words “on this night,” the same language used by the Torah when referring to the smiting of the firstborn, which took place at chatzot (halachic midnight), Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah maintains that the verse regarding the korban pesach is similarly referring to chatzot.

According to Rabbi Akiva, the key word is “b’chipazon” (lit. with haste), used in the verse which instructs the Jews to eat the very first korbon pesach. The simple meaning of the verse is that the sacrifice was to be eaten quickly, but Rabbi Akiva maintained that the verse also teaches us that the latest time for eating the korbon pesach is the time of chipazon which means the time period at which the Jews were to leave Egypt i.e., daytime. Accordingly, the verse is to be understood to mean that the korbon pesach (and by extension the matzah) must be eaten before daybreak, but may be eaten the entire night.44

The Rishonim argue as to whether the halacha follows Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah or Rabbi Akiva.

Maimonides maintains that one can fulfil one’s obligations of both the korbon pesach (in Temple times) and the matzah the entire night, in accordance with the view of Rabbi Akiva.45 Tosafot disagrees, maintaining that one cannot fulfill one’s obligation of korban pesach after chatzot.46 Yet, other Rishonim such as Rabbeinu Nissim say that the matter remains unresolved.47

To complicate things further, the Rosh suggests that it is possible that even according to Rabbi Akiva it is only from a Biblical perspective that one fulfills the obligation after chatzot. However, the rabbis stipulated that one must fulfil the mitzvah before chatzot.48 This is analogous to the obligation of reciting kriyat shema in the evening. Although on a Biblical level one may fulfil the mitzvah of shema the entire night, the rabbis decreed that a person should perform the mitzvah before midnight, so as to distance a person from the sin of unintentionally forgetting to recite it altogether.49

Practically speaking, halachic authorities all emphasize the importance of eating the matzah before chatzot, since even if it can be argued that the halacha has been decided in accordance with Rabbi Akiva, we saw that the Rosh argued that even he would agree that l’chatchila—in the first instance, one should eat the matzah before chatzot.

The practical ramification as to whether the final halacha follows Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah or Rabbi Akiva would only be in an instance of b’dieved, a case in which a person (for whatever reason) did not manage to eat the matzah before chatzot. If the final halacha follows Rabbi Akiva then one would be obligated to eat matzah, and even make a blessing, since in his opinion one can definitely fulfill the mitzvah after chatzot in a case of b’dieved.

However, if the final halacha follows Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, then then there is no need to eat matzah after chatzot.

Most halachic authorities (including Mishna Berurah and the Aruch Hashulchan) rule that the halacha remains undecided on the issue and one should therefore make sure to eat the matzah even after chatzot in order to satisfy the opinion of Rabbi Akiva. On the other hand, no blessing should be recited following the principle of safek brachot lekula, that in a case of doubt, no blessing should be recited.50

There are some latter-day authorities who argue and say that one should make a blessing even after chatzot, in accordance with Rabbi Akiva, but this opinion is not generally accepted.51

The Earliest Time for Eating Matzah

Tosafot and other authorities point out that this comparison of matzah to the pesach offering is also relevant when it comes to the earliest time one may eat the matzah. Generally, when it comes to Shabbat and Yom Tov there is a principle that one may “add from the mundane onto the holy.” Meaning, one may take upon himself the holiness of the day before the actual start time. And, according to most authorities one may even fulfil the mitzvot of Shabbat and Yom Tov (such as Kiddush and eating the meal of Shabbat) while it is still daytime.

However, regarding eating the matzah, Tosafot points out that one must wait until nightfall. Since the Pesach offering must be eaten at night, as the verse states, “and they shall eat the meat on this night,” so too, one must wait until nightfall to perform the mitzvah of matzah; it is not sufficient to simply accept Yom Tov ahead of time.52

Halachic authorities rule in accordance with Tosafot, going even further and extending this law to all the mitzvot of the night, including the four cups of wine. In practice one should not make Kiddush before nightfall.53

Who is Obligated?

Putting aside the argument as to when exactly the mitzvah of matzah is to be performed, it is clear that it is a time-bound mitzvah. As such, it should follow that women should be exempt in line with the principle that women are generally exempt from positive time-bound commandments.54

Nevertheless, The Talmud teaches us that women are obligated in the mitzvah of matzah. The Talmud derives this from the juxtaposition between the mitzvah of eating matzah and the negative prohibition not to eat chametz, interpreting the verse to mean that these two mitzvot are interconnected. Anyone who is prohibited to eat chametz during Pesach is also obligated to eat matzah on Seder night. Since women are included in the prohibition against consuming chametz they are likewise obligated to eat matzah.55

Tosafot questions why this rationale is necessary. We find that when it comes to the mitzvah of lighting the menorah on Chanukah, reading the megillah on Purim and drinking the four cups of wine on Pesach, the Talmud states that women are obligated in these mitzvot (despite them being time-bound positive mitzvot) because, “They too were involved in the miracle.56

Tosafot poses the obvious question: That being the case, why do we need a special verse juxtaposing the mitzvah of not eating chametz and eating matzah to teach us that women are obligated to eat matzah? it should logically flow from the fact that they too were exiled and redeemed from Egypt.

Tosafot offers two resolutions:

1) The logic of “They too were involved in the miracle can only obligate them on a rabbinic level. The verse teaches us that women are obligated in the mitzvah of matzah on a Biblical level as well.

2) Alternatively, even if the logic of “They too were involved in the miracle.”can obligate women on a Biblical level, were it not for the juxtaposition connecting chametz to matzah, there would be reason to think that women are exempt from eating matzah for the following reason: A number of laws pertaining to Sukkot and Pesach are derived from each other as by each of these festivals the Torah uses the words, “on the fifteenth day [of the month]”; therefore, were it not for the juxtaposition we would think that women are exempt from matzah just as they are exempt from Sukkah.57

Are Children Obligated?

As explained in the article in this series on the mitzvah of Tzitzit, on a Biblical level, children are exempt from performing positive mitzvot before reaching the age of Bar or Bat Mitzvah.58 On a rabbinic level, however, children are required to observe mitzvot from a younger age. This is known as the mitzvah of chinuch (education), which obligates a father to educate his children in the performance of mitzvot. Generally speaking, a child becomes obligated in positive mitzvot at the age that he or she is capable of performing a particular mitzvah in its proper manner.59

With this in mind we can understand why Maimonides obligates a father to educate his child in the mitzvah of matzah, as soon as the child is capable of eating bread (i.e., matzah).60

However, two points must be noted:

1) First—as many halachic authorities take for granted—Maimonides’ ruling does not simply mean that if the child knows how to eat matzah that he is obligated to do so. Rather, he has to be capable of eating an olive-sized amount in the proper time frame (as described above). The mitzvah of chinuch starts at the age when a child is able to fulfil the mitzvah in the proper manner.

Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (1910-1995) ruled that for a child it is adequate to eat the kezayit matzah in nine minutes, which is the most lenient opinion regarding the timeframe in which the matzah can be eaten.61

2) Other authorities stipulate that the child must also understand what he is doing; it is obvious, they argue, that a one-year-old who may be capable of eating matzah would still not be obligated, as the concept of chinuch is about educating a child and getting him or her in the habit of performing the mitzvah. This only makes sense at an age when the child has at least a basic understanding of what a mitzvah is.62

Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch (a contemporary rabbi, born 1928) illustrates how inconceivable it is to take Maimonides’ ruling at face value, interpreting it to mean that at the age when a child is technically able to perform any given mitzvah, she or he would be obligated. If that was the case, then a newborn would be obligated in the mitzvah of shofar, since he is technically capable of listening to the sound of the shofar.

He further suggested that the age at which a child would be obligated in eating matzah would be about four or five years of age. 63 However, this is obviously just a general estimate and ultimately it would depend on the development of each individual child.

Is it Necessary to Taste It?

The Talmud and subsequent halachic codes contrasts one who swallows matzah to one who swallows maror—without tasting them. In the case of maror, one does not fulfill the obligation without tasting it. Matzah is different in that although ideally one should taste the matzah, if one did not do so the mitzvah of matzah is still fulfilled.

The reason for this distinction is that swallowing without chewing is considered “eating,” but being that the mitzvah of maror is to remind us of the bitter enslavement in Egypt, it is integral to the mitzvah that we experience the bitter taste of the maror. In regards to matzah, no such consideration exists so as long as one “eats” the matzah one thereby fulfills the obligation.64

Many Talmudic commentators, as well as halachic authorities, point out that this ruling is contradicted by another Talmudic ruling: one cannot fulfill the obligation if one eats matzah which has been boiled because it no longer has the taste of matzah. Clearly the taste is an integral part of the mitzvah of matzah as well!

Rabbi Menachem Meiri (1249-1306, known simply as the Meiri) explains that tasting the matzah is not integral to the mitzvah, but it is integral that the matzah itself have the taste of matzah and have the potential to be able to be tasted.65

Along similar lines, Rabbi Avraham Gombiner (1635-1682) in his commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, Magen Avraham, explains that while it is not necessary to taste the matzah, matzah which has been cooked in liquid and no longer has the taste of matzah, is no longer considered matzah.66

What Intent is Required?

There is a discussion in the Talmud as to whether or not it is essential to have conscious intent that he or she is doing a mitzvah at the time one performs a mitzvah. For example, what if one were to blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah (making all the correct and necessary sounds) for the sole purpose of performing a musical performance, without any intention of fulfilling the mitzvah? In this case, does blowing the shofar count as a mitzvah?67 Although the Rishonim are also divided on the matter,68 the halacha (as codified by Maimonides69 and the Shulchan Aruch70) is that mitzvot, at least those mitzvot which are Biblical in nature,71 do require proper intent.

It should therefore follow that matzah, which is a Biblical mitzvah, would require the correct intent.

Nevertheless, we find that Maimonides72 rules that one who was forced to eat matzah against his will and did not have intent to eat the matzah, yet alone fulfil the mitzvah, would still fulfil his obligation, which seems to be a blatant contradiction to Maimonides’ other rulings, i.e., that mitzvot do require intent.

As early of an authority as Rabbi Nissim of Gerona (1320-1376, the “Ran”) explains that, according to Maimonides, a distinction is to be made between those mitzvot which the body derives benefit from and those that it does not. Regarding those mitzvot that the body does not derive benefit from, (such as Shofar, reading of Shema, Lulav and the like) if one is lacking conscious intent while performing the mitzvah then it is not considered as if the person performed the act. However, in those cases in which the body derives benefit, one may say that he performed the mitzvah regardless of whether he has the intention to perform the mitzvah or not since the body derived benefit.73

The Shulchan Aruch and many subsequent halachic authorities rule in accordance with Maimonides and in accordance with Rabbi Nissim of Gerona’s distinction; in general, mitzvot do need positive intent, with the exception of mitzvot which entail physical benefit, in which instance no intent is necessary.

Nevertheless, some level of kavannah is essential even in instances where the mitzvah entails bodily benefit. Although it is not essential for the person to have intent to perform the mitzvah (or even have intent to eat the matzah) he is nevertheless required to be conscious that he is eating matzah and not some other food, and that it is Seder night.74

The Rebbe points out that the fact that one can fulfil one’s obligation of matzah even if one did not have the correct intent highlights that the focus of Judaism is on the deed. Someone could have noble intentions and contemplate the many levels of spiritual meaning of matzah, yet if the matzah is not physically eaten the mitzvah is not fulfilled. On the other hand, someone who simply eats the matzah without any intention of performing the mitzvah whatsoever, would fulfill the obligation fully.75

Although, as mentioned above, the vast majority of mitzvot do require basic intent, even then, one is still not required to be aware of the deeper meaning of the mitzvah; the emphasis is on the deed itself. By focusing on action we can make a tangible difference in the world, ultimately leading to the coming of Moshiach, may it be speedily in our days.