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December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
 
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How Much Matzah?

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Question: How much matzah must one eat at the Pesach Seder?

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 486:1) rules that one must eat at least an olive’s worth (kzayit) of matzah to fulfill the mitzvah. It states that an olive is equivalent to half of an egg. The Noda B’Yehudah argues that eggs in Talmudic times were much larger than eggs nowadays. Accordingly, whatever amount one comes up with for a kzayit must be doubled. The Mishnah Berurah rules that people should follow this stringent opinion when observing biblical mitzvot.

Rav Moshe Shternbuch (Haggada of Pesach p.42, rule 5) notes that, practically speaking, this stringency means that one should eat 30 grams, or the size of a whole matzah, to fulfill the mitzvah. Since there is a debate whether the kzayit should come from the broken matzah or the whole one, Rav Shternbuch notes that one should eat a kzayit from both the whole and broken matzot.

But is this the minhag of klal Yisrael? Many people who have spent a Pesach Seder with chassidic Rebbes report that they hand out very small pieces of matzah to those at the table. In addition, many people don’t recall eating so much matzah when they were growing up. They received relatively small pieces from the head of the family and that was it. Was everyone just ignorant of basic halacha?

Based on the belief that that there must be a halachic rationale for such a widespread custom, the following is suggested as a possible explanation:

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 271:13) rules that a person who makes kiddush on Friday night should drink at least a mouthful (melo lugmav) of wine. If he doesn’t drink the requisite amount but everyone collectively does, the Shulchan Aruch writes: “some say they have fulfilled their obligation since their collective drinking combines to complete the required measure.” The Mishnah Berurah (271:72) rules that this is only true post facto (bidi’eved). Initially, though (l’chat’chila), the person making kiddush should drink the requisite amount himself.

The Aruch HaShulchan (271:36) discusses this issue at length. Those who argue that the person making kiddush must drink the required amount himself reason that a person doesn’t derive pleasure from drinking less than this amount. Those who argue that it’s not necessary reason that a person derives pleasure even from a sip (which is why drinking even a small amount of wine requires a blessing). This is the position of the Ritva.

In an attempt to find support for this latter position, the Aruch HaShulchan notes that the Talmud (Yoma 39a) states that kohanim in the Beit Hamikdash ate less than a kzayit of the lechem hapanim even though the verse, “And they shall eat it in a holy place” (Vayikra 24:9), requires the eating of at least a kzayit. The Aruch HaShulchan argues that the only way this Gemara makes sense is if it maintains that the requisite kzayit may be eaten collectively.

Thus, if a group can combine to drink the minimum amount of kiddush wine and if a group of kohanim can combine to eat the minimum amount of lechem hapanim bread, perhaps everyone sitting at the Pesach Seder may combine to eat the minimum amount of matzah. If that is the case, no single individual at the Seder would need to eat very much matzah.

Rabbi Cohen, a “Jerusalem Prize” recipient, has just published “Jewish Prayer The Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dilemmas” (Urim Publications), available at Amazon.com and Judaica stores.

Why Don’t We Make A Berachah Over Korech?

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

The Gemara in Pesachim 115a says that there was a machlokes regarding how one was supposed to eat matzah and marror in the times of the Beis HaMikdash. Hillel said that during those times, when there was a korban Pesach, matzah and marror should be eaten together. His peers argued that they must be eaten separately. The Gemara concludes that since the halacha was not paskened we eat matzah separately, then marror separately, and then both together to accommodate both opinions.

The Rambam (Hilchos Chametz U’matzah 8:8) says that one should korech matzah and marror together, dip it into charosses and eat it without reciting the berachah, “zecher l’mikdash.” The Rambam’s words imply that the reason that we do not recite a berachah on the takanah of korech is because it was instituted zecher l’mikdash (as a remembrance of the Beis HaMikdash). Any takanah that was instituted zecher l’mikdash does not require a berachah.

However the Achronim ask the following question: Originally the mitzvah of lulav was to take the lulav only on the first day, with the exception of taking it in the Beis HaMikdash – where it was taken for seven days. The Mishnah in Sukkah 41a says that after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, Reb Yochanan ben Zakai instituted the policy that the lulav should be taken for seven days everywhere, even outside the Beis HaMikdash, as a remembrance of the Mikdash. Why is it that regarding the institution of taking a lulav for all seven days of Sukkos we recite a berachah, and regarding the institution of korech we do not? The rule that we do not recite a berachah on an institution that was initiated zecher l’mikdash should exempt a berachah on the takanah to take the lulav for the remaining six days of Sukkos.

I would like to suggest that the answer lies in the words of the Rambam. The Rambam (Hilchos Lulav 7:15) says that after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, it was decided that the lulav should be taken on each of the seven days of Sukkos – zecher l’mikdash. One should recite the berachah of “al netilas lulav” over it every day because it is a mitzvah midivrei sofrim (from the Rabbanan). The Rambam seems to be alluding to this question when he answers that this takanah is a mitzvah. I think this can be better understood based on the following explanation:

The Gemara in Sukkah 44a brings a dispute as to whether a certain rabbinic institution was a takanah or a minhag. The Gemara says that if it is a takanah, a berachah is recited; if it is a minhag, a berachah is not recited. Rashi explains that as the Gemara in Shabbos 23a and Sukkah 46a both say, in order to recite a berachah on a rabbinic decree and say “vetzivanu” (Hashem commanded us) it must be decreed that if one disobeys this ruling he will have transgressed the Torah’s prohibition of lo sasor. Rashi explains that only if one disobeys a takanah will he transgress the Torah’s prohibition; therefore one can make a berachah on it. But if one does not follow a minhag of the Rabbanan, he does not transgress the Torah’s prohibition of lo sasor. As a result, a berachah is not recited.

The Rambam, in Hilchos Mamrim 1:2, says that if one does not adhere to even a minhag he transgresses the Torah’s prohibition of lo sasor. According to this opinion this question remains: Why don’t we recite a berachah on a minhag of the Rabbanan?

The Brisker Rav, in his sefer on the Rambam, explains that there are two requirements that must be met in order to recite a berachah on a rabbinic decree. One is that it was a commandment; this is met when one will transgress a Torah prohibition by disobeying the decree. The second is that its essence must be a mitzvah. Even though one who does not follow a minhag that the Rabbanan instituted will transgress the Torah’s prohibition, it was nevertheless not instituted to be a mitzvah by nature; rather it is a minhag. We do not recite a berachah over minhagim. We only recite a berachah on mitzvos.

By applying this rule we can differentiate between the takanah of taking a lulav on all seven days of Sukkos and that of korech. By the takanah of taking the lulav on all seven days, the actual decree was an institution of a mitzvah in its essence. The reason why this mitzvah was established was zecher l’mikdash. The takanah to eat korech with matzah and marror together was not instituted as a mitzvah, but rather its essence is to commemorate and remember the Beis HaMikdash. The Rambam writes that the takanah of taking the lulav on all seven days of Sukkos is a mitzvah, and therefore we recite a berachah. Regarding the takanah of korech, the Rambam does not say that it is a mitzvah because it was not established as a mitzvah – but rather as a zecher l’mikdash. Thus we do not recite a berachah on korech since its essence is not a mitzvah.

Pesach Video: Baking Passover Matzah in Israel’s Heartland

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Yishai Fleisher takes us to Beit El in Israel’s heartland, the location of Yaakov’s (Jacob’s) ladder, to bake matzot (unleavened bread) the old fashioned way by hand.  A crew of friends and neighbors carefully follow the detailed processes laid out in Jewish Law (Torah) for preparing and baking the matzah in less than 18 minutes total from start to finish.

Chad Gadya – Pesach & the Order of Things

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

As the Seder night ebbs away – long after the Four Questions have been asked and answered, after the festive meal has been eaten and the post-feast drowsiness descends, after the evening’s mitzvot have been observed and the fourth cup of wine emptied – we raise our voices in a curious, delightful, seemingly whimsical song at the end of the Haggadah.

The song is Chad Gadya, a lively tune that is one of the most popular of the many Pesach songs as well as one of the strangest.

On the surface, Chad Gadya appears to be nothing so much as a simple folk tune. Perhaps even a nursery rhyme suitable for the youngest among us, the very child who sang the Four Questions early in the Seder.

Like so many nursery rhymes – an egg perched upon a wall? A fork running away with a spoon? A cow jumping over the moon? Two young children tumbling down the hill? – it is filled with odd images and paradoxes.

What are we to make of these curious images? Likewise, what are we to make of a song that seems, on its surface, to be about the purchase of a goat? While it is possible to enjoy the song just in the singing, the paradoxes and troubling images draw us deeper as we search for meaning and significance.

Why have the rabbis placed this strange song in the Haggadah?

Certainly it keeps the children awake so that the end of the Seder is as filled with delight as its beginning. But more than that, the song is part of a sublime and meaningful religious/halachic experience.

A skeptical reader will no doubt ask: A religious experience? About goats? What does Chad Gadya – a song worthy of Dr. Seuss, a song that goes on and on about goats, cats, dogs, sticks and butchers – have to do with the leil shimurim, the night of geulah and redemp­tion?

Is this any way to conclude Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim?

* * * * *

Among many other things, our ancient rabbis were brilliant educators. God had commanded that we teach our children. The question then became, How best to teach? How best to fulfill this commandment?

The answer: To engage and to reward. And to keep the focus on the student – the child. For Pesach is a holiday of children. And it is right that it is so. Our Egyptian servitude was made more painful for its cruelty to our children.

“And he said, When you deliver the Hebrew women look at the birthstool; if it is a boy, kill him.” With these words, Pharaoh sought to cut off our future by denying us a generation of children. He demanded that “every son that is born… be cast into the river.”

Why did Pharaoh cause such suffering for the Jewish people? For no other reason than we grew. We became numerous. We gave birth to children, in accordance with God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply.”

Pharaoh felt threatened by our numbers. “The children of Israel proliferated, swarmed, multiplied, and grew more and more.”

How great was Pharaoh’s hatred of the Jews and our children? How threatened did he feel? So threatened that the Midrash teaches us that when the Israelites fell short in fulfilling the prescribed quota of mortar and bricks, the children were used in their stead to fill in the foundation of the store cities built in their servitude. Another Midrash describes Pharaoh bathing in the blood of young children.

When redemption was finally at hand, children were once again at the forefront of this historical and religious drama. When Moses first confronted Pharaoh with the request to be free to go into the desert to worship, he proclaimed, “We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters.” In making this proclamation, he was giving voice to the ultimate purpose of our redemption, found in the central command of Pesach, “You will tell your son on that day, saying: It is because of this the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt…”

Judaism is a faith rooted in the past but which is always forward looking. Tradition loses meaning unless it is passed forward to the next generation. We do not look for individual redemption so much as communal salvation.

For that to happen, our children must thrive. They must go forward with a solid foundation in the godly lessons of our history. The Exodus from Egypt is rife with the significant role our children played in its historical narrative.

Perhaps Chad Gadya, in its guise of a nursery rhyme, is no different from the afikoman, one more in a series of games and songs and techniques to stimulate and motivate the interest and curiosity of the youngest among us on the Seder night.

Photo Essay: Passover Preparations in Israel

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish harvesting wheat with hand sickles in a field of Moshav Komemiut near the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Gat. The wheat will be stored for almost a year before being used to grind flour in order to make the Matzah Shemurah (unleavened bread) for the week-long Passover festival next year. Photo by Flash90

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men dressed up with traditional holiday clothes making matzah by hand, a traditional unleavened bread eaten during the Jewish holiday of Passover, just few hours before the "Seder" starts. Jews are forbidden to eat leavened foodstuffs during the Passover holiday. The week-long festival commemorates the exodus of the ancient Hebrews from Egypt. Photo by Flash90

 

Israeli soldiers prepare food packages at a distribution center for needy in Lud on April 03, 2012, ahead of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Photo by Flash90

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) (R),and Head of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky stand with newly arrived Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia as they attend a rehersal of a Passover holiday dinner (known as a "seder"), organized by the Jewish Agency and IFCJ at an immigrant's centre in Mevasseret Zion, near Jerusalem April 02, 2012. Photo by Flash90

Western Wall workers remove thousands of handwritten notes placed between the stones of the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site in the Old City of Jerusalem. The operation is carried out twice each year: before the Passover festival and at the Jewish New Year in the fall. Photo by Flash90

Arab dry cleaners prepare Jewish prayer shawls for the holiday in Jerusalem. Photo by Yishai Fleisher

Rabbi Avi Elbaz dunks a new Pesach Seder plate in the ritual bath, preparing for use on the holiday. French Hill, Jerusalem. Photo by Yishai Fleisher

Yishai Fleisher shows off a Matzah after manning the oven of a Matzah bakery in Beit El, Israel.

‘Living in De Nile’

Friday, March 30th, 2012

I love Pesach. Really, I do. Even with the stress and preparation associated with March Madness (I still have no idea why my father thinks it has anything to do with basketball), I enjoy it. Maybe it’s because of my mother’s spinach kugel, or the way I still love actively searching for the afikoman. Maybe it’s the Manischewitz brownie mix that gets more expensive every year. Maybe it’s singing “Who Knows One” as fast as possible, or maybe it’s the way my brother sneaks extra wine into the charoset when he thinks my mother isn’t looking. Maybe it’s the way you can find the entire Jewish population of Columbus in Graeter’s ice cream an hour after Pesach ends. Whatever the reason, I love Pesach.

I also love cleaning for Pesach. (Yes, you read that right). Every year some newsletter always addresses the fact that Pesach cleaning does not have to be spring cleaning, and every year almost everyone ignores it. I love the lack of clutter as much as the next girl, but believe me, I’ve seen households take it to a whole other level and not only wash the mattresses, but the walls too. I think it should be simple. Putting things back in their place. Donating the toys and clothes no longer used. Finding a drivers license from years past. The dust is gone, the whole house smells fresh, and you can now start to deal with the chametz.

But, in this case, the chametz isn’t the last stale cookie crumbs in your sock drawer or the M&M’s wedged in your sofa cushions. It’s your limitations. Chametz can be anything that prevents us from being the person that we know we can be. And during the year, it is so easy to become so enthralled with our own ego that we actually lose ourselves. We forget that the real present is not the wrapping paper at all, but the neshama inside.

This is where the matzah comes in. Matzah is more that just a cracker that we wave around at the seder (although, even I admit that after the first couple of bites, it really does become the “bread of affliction”). While yeast causes chametz to rise with it’s own self-importance, matzah remains flat and humble.

In order to achieve this level of humility, we need to take away the distractions. We can’t focus solely on our outside. We must cultivate our minds and perfect our souls. A person with this level of humility is not in constant competition with others, and although they realize that physical attributes and goals are important, they also know that they need to constantly work on their inner attributes, for it is those that make them truly unrivaled.

During the weeks leading up to Pesach, we must try to work on ourselves as well as our households, for in order to establish and maintain a good relationship with G-d, we must first establish one with ourselves. That’s why we have Pesach. By eliminating the chametz and making room for the matzah, we have the opportunity to recreate ourselves. Pesach is known as Chag HaAviv (The Holiday of Spring) for a reason. Think about it. Spring is a beautiful season. Everything that’s gloomy and lifeless during winter is renewed. From barren trees cherry blossoms begin to bloom. Daffodils shyly start to open their buds. And we, too, are given the chance to renew ourselves. Pesach breathes new life into us. We can recreate. Refresh. Renovate. Repair. And if once a year I had that opportunity, I would take it. Wouldn’t you?

Wishing you a chag kasher v’sameach!

Tzav: Holiness And Eating

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

The evil inclination likes to tempt us to indulge in material delights. It is important to know that these delights may have another purpose, too: kedushah (holiness).

As Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains, the fact that kohanim were commanded to consume the korbanos offered in the Temple reveals that eating itself has a highly spiritual function. When done in the right measure and with the right intentions, eating is very much an act of holiness and service of Hashem.

“In a holy place it shall be eaten, in the court of the Ohel Moed” (6:19).

Kadshe kadashim, the more sacred offerings, such as the chattas (and the asham – 7:6) are eaten only by kohanim and only in the Court of the Sanctuary.

Thus the Torah states, “It is holy of holies” here (6:18) and regarding the asham (7:6). The minchah also, as stated in 6:10-11, is holy of holies and is eaten by kohanim in the Court (6:9) of the Sanctuary. A very great principle is derived from this procedure: “The kohanim eat and (thereby) the owner gains atonement” (Pesachim 59b).

Actually, the atonement is completed at the sprinkling of the blood on the mizbeach; even the offering of the korban on the fire is an additional mitzvah, which if not fulfilled does not invalidate the korban. Yet the offering of the parts on the fire is indeed a very important part of the service, which has many details of laws and procedure.

Now we also learn that the eating on the part of the kohanim is one of the forms of offering the korban; and like the offerings on the fire, that which is eaten also enhances the quality of the atonement. When the kohen eats in the sacred precincts, he becomes an altar; and the physical pleasure of ingesting the sacred offering is compared to the fire on the mizbeach. Certainly, he should eat with holy intention. But he may not swallow pieces that are not chewed because achilah gasah (an abnormal manner of eating) is against Torah law. He must chew and enjoy the sacred food, and despite the unavoidable pleasure he adds the intention of the service of the offering to Hashem.

Let us not underestimate the value of Hashem’s teachings. The fact that we, “the nation of kohanim” (Shemos 1 9:6) eat matzah on Pesach night with appetite is not a blemish on our mitzvah; on the contrary, we are admonished to refrain from much food during the day in order to eat the matzah with more appetite (Pesachim 99b) “because it is an honor for the mitzvah” (RSHI). The body of the kohen is sacred enough to consume kadshei kadashim but the body of every Israelite is also endowed with such holiness that it may consume kadashim kalim such as shlamim and todah and similar sacrifices.

The Sages derived even more from this principle: “He that desires to pour wine-offerings on the altar, let him fill the throats of talmidei chachamim with wine” (Yoma 71a). We learn the extremely valuable principle that eating with proper intention is a service to Hashem, and may even be considered as a form of kedushah (Mesillas Yesharim Ch. 26). In this are two elements: 1) the holy Intention, 2) and the holiness of the body of the eater.

The karbanos of lesser degree (shlamim, todah, and maaser b’hemah), which all Israelites could eat, were however permissible to eat only in Jerusalem: “And you shall bring there your olos and your z’vachirn and your maasros…and you shall eat there before Hashem your G-d” (Devarim 12:5). Thus even when the Israelite eats of the korban he is performing a holy service and therefore it must be done before Hashem.

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.

For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/tzav-holiness-and-eating/2012/03/29/

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