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October 23, 2016 / 21 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘matzah’

The Passover Peacock

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

It was a few days before Passover when I first heard the horrific cackling. “What,” I asked family members, is that? It sounded just like the longtime leftist agitator Shulamit Aloni. But it wasn’t.

Soon thereafter my wife came running into the house.

“There is a peacock downstairs in the yard,” she proclaimed.

Hmmm, just in time for Passover, I said to myself.

Down I went to investigate. And there standing in our yard was a giant turkey, like something out of a Thanksgiving poster in a Walmart store.

We live not far from the Haifa zoo, and various critters, especially those in possession of wings, tend to escape the place in search of friendlier, quieter surroundings.

The zoo, you see, is rather noisy. Late at night throughout our neighborhood one can hear the elephants in the zoo making loud noises. And – how shall I put this delicately – the noises they are making are not from their mouths.

Zoology is not my wife’s strong point, so you will have to forgive her classification error in ornithology. But she had good reason for mistaking the turkey for a peacock. Years back we actually had a male peacock refugee – long blue peacock feathers and all – take refuge in our yard.

The kids were young back then and nicknamed the peacock “Notsi,” from the Hebrew word for feather, notz. The yard guest lost a feather, which we saved and still use to this day in the late-night search for any crumbs of chametz the night before the Passover Seder.

The kids discovered that peacocks really like Bamba, a peanut butter-tasting Israeli puffy snack. Bamba, by the way, is kosher for Sephardim during Passover, and it seems peacocks must be Sephardic because they love gobbling up Bamba even during Passover. We know, we fed it.

The newest “Notsi” was, however, an obnoxious and aggressive male turkey. The various cats on the street found themselves intimidated and chased down the block by the monster whenever they came to investigate and got too close.

No one quite knew what to do with the turkey. Being the only American around, I of course proposed fattening it up and trying to keep it around until the last week of November, when all Americans know just what the proper use for such yard guests should be.

The neighbors, however, cringed at the thought of the noisy gobbling lasting that long.

Meanwhile, the children all along the street were carrying plastic bags full of chametz out to the garbage containers. I invited them over to feed the scraps to our Passover turkey instead of dumping or burning them. I am sure it was the highlight of Passover for many of them, and for years they will remember feeding the beast far better than they will recall reading about Pharaoh in the Haggadah.

The Passover turkey did have some problems during the actual days of Passover, though. It was not crazy about matzah – not even egg matzah or French toast-style matzah.

Anyway, the parking situation near the zoo was horrendous during Passover, with some cars stopping as far away as the front of our building just to get to the zoo. But the lazier families halted their climb up the hill when they got to our yard. They let the kids chase and photograph the Passover turkey.

Alas, the turkey did not last very far into the counting of the Omer. One morning it was just gone, and I suspect one of the other critters that lives in the Haifa wadis or gorges came out one night and had its own snack. There are wild boars and huge porcupines down there.

There went my plans for Thanksgiving!

But all is not lost. I went for a climb up the Carmel today to get some serious coffee, and a few buildings up the hill from my own I heard a new but different cackle. It wasn’t Shulamit Aloni this time either. (She has never quite recovered, by the way, from letting Hansel and Gretel escape her clutches.)

This time it really was a peacock, the newest refugee from the zoo, though a female this time, meaning she did not have any of those glorious blue feathers. If she hangs around until Shavuos, I’ll let you know if she eats cheesecake.

Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

Steven Plaut

Stories For Pesach

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Shares In The Embarrassment

         Among the famous practitioners of our forefather Abraham’s virtue, hospitality, was Rav Akiva Eger. Naturally, on Pesach, it was “Let all who are hungry come and eat…’’ Once, at the Seder, a guest accidentally overturned his cup. As the red wine stained the fine white tablecloth and the guest’s face was suffused with embarrassment, Rav Akiva tipped the table slightly so that his own cup was overturned.

The Blood Libel

         The “Blood Libel,” which would usually crop up before Pesach, was generally denounced by governments and Popes, disproved on numerous occasions, and still brought tragedy to the Jews for nearly 1,000 years. From the massacre at Cordova in 1013 to the infamous Beilis trial in 1911, the blood of innocent Jews was shed as freely as the Pesach lamb was shed in the time of the Beis Hamikdash. May these innocent sacrifices serve as an atonement for us today and may God in His infinite mercy hasten our redemption.

Let us take a look at how a King of Poland, Stanislas August Poniatowski, dealt with such a case nearly 200 years ago.

         In 1787, a peasant of Olkusz (near Cracow) found a Christian girl in the forest. She told him that a Jew wanted to kill her. Since it was before Pesach, a ritual murder charge was immediately announced. A poor tailor by the name of Mordecai was arrested and tortured until he confessed. But the local landlord, a certain Stanislas of Wodzicki, was not satisfied. He wanted to have the leaders of the Jewish community tortured.

         It was at this point that the Jews of Cracow appealed to the King for help.

         “It was after the dance at the cloth-galleries,’’ Wodzicki wrote in his memoirs, “And I sit in my room, writing letters. Suddenly my uncle, Elias of Wodzicki comes in and says: ‘Dress, Sir Stanislas, and come along with me to the King!’

         “I replied that I would gladly fulfill the uncle’s desire, but that I was already introduced to the King.

         “‘It is not a matter of introduction,’ he answered, ‘but the devilish affair with the Jews. The King takes an interest in this matter and wants to discuss it with you.’

         “‘I understand and guess something is afoot,’” I say.

         “The uncle asks, ‘What do you guess?’

         “‘That the Jews have gotten to the King,’” I reply. The uncle remained silent.

         “I dressed and we drove to the palace. We waited a short time and then the door of a small room opened and the King entered and addressed me in this way:

         “I did not expect that you, after having learned and studied in foreign countries, should still give credence to such medieval stupidities as that the Jews use Christian blood for Easter. We find such accusations in the history of all countries, it is true, and Jews were condemned to terrible punishments. But our enlightened age knows that these victims of superstitions and prejudice were innocent. I would ask you, Sir, not to push this matter in the courts!’”

         Frightened at the King’s attitude, the landlord dropped the charges and another tragedy was averted.

Hides The Matzoh

         A Yishuvnik, an unlearned farmer, who kept a teacher for his children in his home during the winter, told the teacher, “Rav, I am going to withhold the payment I owe you, because I want you to remain here for the Pesach holiday to show me how to conduct a Seder.”

         Unable to help himself, the teacher reluctantly agreed. As they were sitting at the Seder and they came to Yachatz, where the middle matzah is broken in half and one portion is put away for the Afikomen, the teacher did just that. He broke that matzoh in half and placed one piece under the pillow.

         When the farmer saw what the teacher did, he exclaimed, “Shame on you! What do you mean by hiding half a matzah under the pillow? Do I begrudge you a piece of matzah? Eat with the best of health all you like. But to hide a piece of matzah, shame on you” (Dr. Yitzchak Unterman, in his book Lekoved Yom Tov).

Peas For Pesach

         The Rav of Bialostok, Rav Samuel Mohliver, used to supply Jewish soldiers, who were stationed near Bialostok, with kosher meals so that they need not be forced to eat non-kosher food from the army’s general kitchen. This was his particular mitzvah. One day before Pesach, the head of the Jewish Congregation visited him and explained that because of high prices it would be difficult to supply the Jewish soldiers with kosher Pesach meals. “In that case,’’ Rav Samuel told him. “I will call together a meeting of the Dayanim (Jewish Judges) and we will allow the use of peas for this Pesach.’’

         “Excellent, Rav,’’ the head of the congregation replied, “The L-rd shall give you long life for this. I was very worried how to supply the Jewish soldiers with wholesome meals. Now you have come up with an excellent solution, we will feed them peas.’’

         “Peas for the Jewish soldiers did you say? This will never happen in Biyalostok. You, I, and the entire city will eat peas for Pesach, but the soldiers, they will eat the best food available!’’ exclaimed the Gaon.

Rabbi Sholom Klass

How Much Marror Must One Eat?

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

In order to fulfill one’s obligation in the mitzvah of matzah, one must eat a k’zayis amount of matzah. This is because the Torah uses the wording of achilah (eating) when it commands the mitzvah of matzah. However, it is unclear how much marror must be eaten in order to fulfill one’s obligation in the mitzvah of marror. The Rush, in Arvei Pesachim, siman 25, says that the obligation is to eat a k’zayis of marror. The Rush says that the proof that we must eat this amount of marror is from the fact that the berachah that we make on the mitzvah of marror is “…al achilas marror,” and an achilah in halacha always constitutes eating a k’zayis amount.

The Shaagas Aryeh (siman 100) asks the following question on the Rush: There is a hekish that connects the mitzvah of matzah and marror. (It is this hekish that obligates women in the mitzvah of marror, for they would otherwise be exempt since it is a mitzvas assei she’hazman gramma). Based on that hekish we should learn that one must eat a k’zayis of marror, similar to the requirement of eating matzah. Why did the Rush prove that one must eat a k’zayis of marror only from the wording of the berachah? Why didn’t he prove it from this hekish?

Reb Chaim Soloveitchik (in his insights on Shas, known as his stencils) asks another question on the Rush. The Torah only considers something to have been eaten if it was a k’zayis amount. Even if the Torah does not use the word achilah, a k’zayis must still be eaten. We learn this from the prohibition to eat milk and meat together, whereby the Torah did not use the word achilah while writing the prohibition. Yet one will only transgress this prohibition when a k’zayis amount of the milk and meat mixture is eaten. So even if the Torah did not write the word achilah by the mitzvah of marror, we should still have to eat a k’zayis of marror since the mitzvah is to eat – and eating, by definition, is always at least a k’zayis amount. Why then did the Rush need to prove – from the wording of the berachah, and not from the fact that it is eaten – that one is required to eat a k’zayis of marror to fulfill his obligation?

Reb Chaim explains the source for the mitzvos of matzah and marror, and in doing so answers the abovementioned questions. He explains that there are two pesukim that discuss the mitzvah of matzah. One is “…al matzos u’merrorim yochluhu.” This pasuk refers to the mitzvah of eating the korban Pesach, and the Torah commands that the korban be eaten with matzah and marror. The second pasuk is “…ba’erev tochal matzos.” This pasuk is a separate commandment to eat matzah. The pasuk that refers to the mitzvah of eating the korban Pesach does not teach us that there is a separate mitzvah to eat matzah and marror; in fact the only obligation that is derived from that pasuk is to eat the korban Pesach. If not for the second pasuk (“ba’erev tochal matzos”) it would have sufficed to eat half a k’zayis of matzah, and half a k’zayis of marror together with the korban Pesach. The eating of the matzah and marror mentioned in this pasuk is only a precondition for fulfilling the mitzvah of korban Pesach. Since the eating of the matzah and marror are not separate mitzvos (as far as this pasuk is concerned) they do not require a k’zayis of each to be eaten.

Continuing his explanation, Reb Chaim says that we only find that there is a hekish between matzah and marror regarding the obligation to eat them with the korban Pesach. As mentioned above, that obligation is not a separate mitzvah and therefore does not require a k’zayis for each. The reason why the Rush could not have proven that one must eat a k’zayis of marror from the hekish between matzah and marror is because in the mitzvah of matzah to which marror is compared, there is no obligation to eat a k’zayis of matzah. The reason that one is required to eat a k’zayis of matzah is because of the other pasuk, “…ba’erev tochal matzos,” to which marror is not compared. Reb Chaim also explains that this too answers his question regarding basar v’chalav. For only when the actual mitzvah is to eat something or not to eat something does the Torah require a k’zayis. However, when the eating is not the actual mitzvah but rather a condition for another mitzvah (such as the obligation to eat marror together with the korban Pesach) we do not find that one must eat a k’zayis. Therefore the Rush was only able to bring a proof from the wording of the achilah berachah that we must eat a k’zayis of marror.

Rabbi Raphael Fuchs

A Taste of The Middle East

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

As an American of Sephardic heritage, I was raised on the mouth-watering delicious foods that define Middle Eastern fare. For as far back as I can remember the kitchen has been my comfort zone. Whipping up culinary creations to please the palates of an Ashkenazic husband, Sephardic kin, fussy kids, and guests who frequent our dinner table can be quite challenging, but at the same time tremendously satisfying.

Two all-around favorite appetizers – Laham Bajeen and Sambusak – are yummy Shabbat staples that can actually be enjoyed on Pesach as well, with some modification.


Laham Bajeen are flavorful mini pizza-like meat pies that are both tangy and sweet. They can be prepared beforehand as they freeze well in raw or cooked form. This recipe yields 24 pieces.



Frozen mini pizza dough (substitute round mini tea matzos on Pesach)

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 med onion grated and squeezed

1 6-oz. can tomato paste

1 tsp lemon juice

1 c tamrahandi sauce (purchase in any middle eastern grocery store)

1 tsp allspice

1½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

1/8 c sugar

Combine ground beef, onion, tomato paste, lemon juice, tamrahandi sauce and spices. Mix well.

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place dough (or matzah) rounds on sheet and top each with a tablespoon of the meat mixture, pressed firmly onto dough.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.


Sambusak can actually be enjoyed as a dairy appetizer by filling with a luscious cheese mix in place of meat.


Dough ingredients (for Pesach):

2 c matzah meal

¼ c cake meal

3 tbsp potato starch

3 tbsp oil

1 tbsp salt

cold water


Mix by hand with wet fingers; add water to mixture as needed to form dough. If the mixture becomes too wet, set aside to dry out a bit. If dough consistency is too dry, add water accordingly.


Meat filling:

1 lb. ground beef

1 onion

1 tsp salt

1 tsp allspice

Sautee chopped onion in 2-3 tbsp oil. Add ground beef and cook until browned. Drain liquid, add salt and allspice and mix well.


Cheese filling (for dairy use):

Beat one egg with a dash of dried mint and 1 tsp each of salt and black pepper; add 1 lb. grated mozzarella cheese and mix well.

Form little-larger-than-walnut size portions of dough, flattening each one in a circular shape. Spoon meat (or cheese mixture) on to each circle of dough and fold over into a half-moon shape, pressing moistened edges together.

Deep fry in oil until golden brown. (Ideal oil temperature: 350°)


Dough ingredients (not for Pesach):

2c flour

1c semolina flour

2 sticks margarine (at room temp)

1 tsp salt

½ c water

Mix by hand. Follow instructions for filling above, but instead of deep-frying, place on cookie sheet, brush lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired. Bake at 350° until golden brown (approximately 20 minutes). Yields 40 pieces.

Remember to fry them on Pesach and bake them for chametz. (The reverse for either one is not an option due to the nature of the dough.)


Eggplant Salad

This spicy eggplant salad – not of the garden-variety type – is another flavorful appetizer that can double as a dip or a side dish. Leave it on the table for the duration of dinner and don’t bank on any leftovers.



1 large eggplant, unpeeled and cubed

1 onion, diced

6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 6 oz can tomato paste

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp red pepper flakes


Sauté onions until translucent. Add garlic slices and cubed eggplant; cook for 7-10 minutes on medium heat. Add tomato paste, salt, pepper, pepper flakes, and about 1cup of water. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for about 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Another hot food item that’s an international palate pleaser and finds a place of prominence on our dinner table at festive occasions all year round: Dips. Seriously hot. No, no, not the over-the-counter variety. These are homemade and a big hit – with those who like it hot, that is.

If you plan to prepare one or more of them for the second days of Pesach, make sure to have enough matzah to go around to satisfy all the dippers at your table.

These are also great accompaniments to the various dishes on the Shabbat/Yom Tov table, fish, meat or vegetarian.




1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 3 oz can tomato paste

3 jalapeno peppers, diced

6 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tbsp olive oil

Camille Weiss

Chol Hamoed Survival Guide

Friday, April 6th, 2012

If you are anything like me, Chol Hamoed can be just the teeniest bit stressful. Okay, maybe very, very stressful. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.

Yes, you just spent a minimum of two to three, or more, weeks scouring every square inch of your humble abode, cooked up massive quantities of food in a minimum amount of time in pots, pans and appliances that you barely even recognize as yours, have spent countless hours washing endless streams of pots, pans, silverware and dishes and then Chol Hamoed rolls around. Despite the inevitable exhaustion that is oozing out of your every pore, your entire family wants you to not only prepare gourmet food but structure social activities that are fun, enticing and will make them the envy of everyone they know.

If you are anything like me you will try your best not to have a meltdown as you explain to your family members that with all the work you have done preparing for Pesach you have zero interest in being designated the family social director as well.

Take a deep breath and remind everyone, including yourself, that you don’t have a cape, you don’t have superpowers and you can’t possibly do everything, for everyone all at once. What your family is envisioning requires you to be in multiple places at once and requires an endless supply of money, which you probably don’t have, having just bought matzah, food for an eight day eating extravaganza and clothing for the entire family. So tell everyone to take a chill pill and remember that if they want to live in Fantasyland, they need to head down to Disney World. Because you can either prepare gourmet meals every day of Chol Hamoed or you can plan exciting activities to keep everyone entertained. You can’t possibly do both.

But that’s okay, because neither can anyone else. So just relax. You have worked so hard to get this far; it is finally time to enjoy a well-deserved break. Let’s start with the food. Go check your refrigerator. Got leftovers? Great. Then put them to good use.

Flake up leftover roast and serve it with a salad for supper one night. Dice up extra chicken and resurrect it as chicken salad or chicken potpie. (Skip the bottom crust. Trust me. No one needs all those extra calories this week.) Don’t have any leftovers? Cook up a pot of hot dogs or buy a package of cold cuts and remember that this just isn’t a week for dieting. Feel free to add some easy veggies to your menu: think bagged salad, grape tomatoes, mini sweet peppers (depending on your minhagim), or even a jar of pickles, all things that don’t require cutting up. Round out your meals with all those leftover kugel pieces and potatoes that are taking up valuable space in your fridge.

Try yogurt, leben, smoothies, fruit salad or even brownies for breakfast. Lunch choices can include tuna, eggs and if you eat gebrokts, matzah pizza or matzah brei. If you are planning a day trip, try serving a serious breakfast – say scrambled eggs, matzah and lots of sliced veggies – giving you the option of a lighter lunch which could consist of yogurt, string cheese, fruit, nuts or anything else that is easily totable. Feel free to freeze a few water bottles to take with you. Not only will they keep your perishables cold, but you will have drinks for the family as well.

Now that at least some of your meals have been taken care of, you can enjoy some quality time with your nearest and dearest. With this years’ long Chol Hamoed, there is ample time for lots of family fun, but as always, use your head and plan wisely. It is entirely possible that your teenagers may want to spend a day or two with their friends. Let them. It gives you the perfect opportunity to plan activities that are geared towards either older or younger family members. Check the weather sites and see what the forecast is for Chol Hamoed, taking advantages of the best weather for outdoor activities.

If your family enjoys the big outdoors then budget friendly opportunities abound. Try hiking, biking, rollerblading, or if the winds allow, kite flying at your local park. Stroll across the George Washington or Brooklyn Bridge. Pay a visit to the nearest (or not so near, if you are in the mood of traveling) botanical gardens and enjoy the most fascinating time of year as the trees start to leaf and the flowers start to bloom. (For those of you with springtime allergies, don’t even think about leaving the house without taking some form of allergy medicine.)

Sandy Eller

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.

Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen

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.

Rabbi Raphael Fuchs

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/why-dont-we-make-a-berachah-over-korech/2012/04/05/

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