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July 31, 2015 / 15 Av, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Ovadia Yosef’

Understand Israeli Elections – Here’s a Primer, Part 1

Friday, March 13th, 2015

The Israeli political system is radically different from the one in the United States. The most obvious differences are that Israel is a parliamentary system with more than 20 potential parties in the mix, unlike just the two standard American parties, the Democrats and the Republicans.

This year 26 parties are vying for positions in the upcoming vote, 11 of which are likely to pass the threshold requirement for becoming part of the next Knesset.

The first step of this year’s Israeli election to determine who makes it into the Knesset at all, then which parties will form the governing coalition, and finally, who will be the prime minister of the state of Israel, takes place next Tuesday, March 17.

The date was set by a formal meeting in early December, of all the then-current Knesset party leaders. Those leaders chose the date for the election to take place in just four months. While four months is a dramatically short campaign period by American standards, Israeli law permits only five months to elapse between the dissolution of one Knesset and the election for the next.

Election day is a big deal in Israel. Virtually everything, except the polling places, is closed. Free transportation is provided for any voter who needs it to reach their regular polling place.

On March 17,  all eligible voters – every Israeli citizen over 18 years of age – can vote. That includes Arabs, Muslims, Christians and Jews, men and women, able-bodied and those with disabilities. There is no voter registration system; every citizen is automatically registered once they turn 18. Nearly six million Israelis are eligible to vote in this year’s election.

MARCH 17: THE BALLOT BOX

Eligible Israeli voters go to polling places in their neighborhoods. There are more than 10,000 polling places throughout this tiny country. Most open at 7:00 a.m. and remain open until 10:00 p.m.

Turnout for Israeli elections has been declining for years, but it’s still well over 60 percent. In the U.S., turnout has been in the low-to mid 50 percent zone since the early 1970’s.

Before entering the voting booth, each voter is handed an envelope. Inside the booth is a tray, with different strips of paper. Each strip of paper includes the name and symbol of a party. The voter chooses the slip of paper which has the name and symbol of the party for whom they wish to vote, and puts that piece of paper in the envelope they were handed. After leaving the booth the voter places the envelope with their chosen party slip into the ballot box.

Israeli voters choose parties, not individual candidates, which, among other things, means their national representation is ideological, not geographic, and the vote is proportional, meaning the 120 Knesset seats are divvied up in proportion to each party’s percentage of the total vote. There is a minimum threshold for a party to meet before it can sit in the Knesset. That minimum is currently set at 3.25 percent of the total votes cast, which translates into four seats.

PHASE TWO: HORSE TRADING

Once the polling places close and the ballots are counted, the second phase of the Israeli election begins, the one frequently described as “horse trading.” In order to have the right to form a government and choose the prime minister, a group of parties needs to be able to control a majority of the Israeli Knesset, the single chamber Israeli legislature. The Knesset has 120 seats.

With so many parties competing, no single one has ever attained that magic number of 61 seats, and it is even likely that three or more parties need to agree to work together to form the ruling coalition. Therefore, parties which have been thrashing each other in public now start eying each other as potential dance partners, trying to figure out with whom they can create a functioning coalition to run the government.

This coalition building phase is a little bit like when, after a brutal primary in the U.S., the second place vote getter and the winner frequently kiss, make up, and agree to live with each other as their party’s candidate for president and vice president during the general election. But several different parties and lots of individual members of those parties are all added into the Israeli decision making mix. It isn’t easy.

But first let’s back up. How were the individuals on each party’s list chosen?

     PARTY LISTS

As soon as the Knesset is dissolved, either because it reached its four year expiration date, or because it is dispersed for some other reason (such as happened in the current case, when Prime Minister Netanyahu asked the Knesset to disperse and the Knesset unanimously agreed, on Dec. 8), the parties begin internal negotiations to determine who will be on their official “list,” and in what order. The higher up on the list one is, the greater the likelihood of actually making it into the Knesset.

There are various systems for determining who are included, and where they are placed, on each party’s list, including voting by the party leadership. Additional factors are taken into consideration, such as whether enough women are included, whether there are security experts represented, whether certain ethnic minorities will be included.

     PRIME MINISTER SELECTION

How does one of the party members then become the prime minister? Israel’s president, currently former Knesset member Ruby Rivlin, selects the member of Knesset believed to have the best chance of forming a viable coalition government, given the election results. This can take some time until the parties are able to align so that they can govern together.

Some of the horse trading here involves party leaders with high numbers demanding significant ministry positions in exchange for pledging their party’s support. Compare this to the ability of the U.S. president, once elected, then deciding who will become the various cabinet members.

This phase is incredibly complicated. For example, right now at least five different parties will be needed to join together to create a ruling coalition. And it is not as if just the top five vote-getting parties will join together, because of differences in ideology.

For example, the tiny far left Meretz party, which currently is polling at five seats, thought it would be able to create a power bloc by pairing up with the Joint Arab List. The Arab group dashed those hopes, claiming they would not join with “Zionists.”

Another complicating factor is that certain parties have claimed they will not join in a coalition with Netanyahu, and the Likud has ruled out creating a coalition with other parties, including the current frontrunner, the so-called “Zionist Union.” That party is a joining together of the center-left Labor party and Tzipi Livni and her entourage. Livni has changed parties so many times in the past few years most people just refer to this new party as Labor-Livni.

Once finally selected, the prime minister announces the formation of a new Knesset and the offices each minister will hold.

January 29 was the deadline for all parties to submit their lists of candidates. As of that date, the following parties had the following members in the following order (the parties are listed in terms of their most recent polling status):

ZIONIST UNION (1) Isaac Herzog (2) Tzipi Livni (3) Shelly Yachimovich (4) Stav Shaffir (5) Itzik Shmuly (6) Omer Bar-Lev (7) Hilik Bar (8) Amir Peretz (9) Merav Michaeli (10) Eitan Cabel (11) Manuel Trajtenberg (12) Erel Margalit (13) Mickey Rosenthal (14) Revital Swid (15) Danny Atar (16) Yoel Hassan (17) Zuhair Bahloul (18) Eitan Broshi (19) Michal Biran (20) Nachman Shai (21) Ksenia Svetlova (22) Ayelet Nahmias Verbin (23) Yossi Yona (24)Eyal Ben-Reuven (25) Yael Cohen-Paran. The left-center Zionist Union was forged by combining Labor and Tzipi Livni and her followers, has very recently been polling at between 20 and 24 seats.

LIKUD: (1) Benjamin Netanyahu (2) Gilad Erdan (3) Yuli Edelstein (4) Yisrael Katz (5) Miri Regev (6)Silvan Shalom (7) Moshe Ya’alon (8) Ze-ev Elkin (9) Danny Danon (10) Yariv Levin (11) Benny Begin (12) Tzachi Hanegbi (13) Yuval Steinitz (14) Gila Gamliel (15) Ophir Akunis (16) David Bitan (17) Haim Katz (18) Jackie Levy (19) Yoav Kish (20) Tzipi Hotovely (21) Dudu Amsalem (22) Miki Zohar (23) Dr. Anat Berko (24) Ayoob Kara (25) Nava Boker. Likud has been polling at between 26 and 20 seats, most recently declining.

YESH ATID (1) Yair Lapid (2) Shai Piron (3) Yael German (4) Meir Cohen (5) Yaakov Peri (6) Ofer Shelah (7) Haim Yalin (8) Karine Elharrar (9) Yoel Razvozov (10) Alize Lavie (11) Mickey Levy (12) Elazar Stern (13) Pnina Tamano-Shata (14) Boaz Toporovsky (15) Ruth Calderon. Yesh Atid focuses on social and economic issues and was brand new for the last elections. Yesh Atid has been polling at around 10 – 13 seats.

JOINT ARAB LIST (1) Aiman Uda (Hadash) (2) Masud Ganaim (Islamic Movement (3) Ahmad Tibi (UAL-Ta’al) (4) Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash (6) Abd al-Hakim Hajj Yahya (Islamic Movement) (7) Haneen Zoabi (Balad) (8) Dov Khenin (Hadash) (9) Taleb Abu Arar (Islamic Movement). The Joint Arab party has been polling between 11 and 13 seats.

BAYIT YEHUDI (1) Naftali Bennett (2) Uri Ariel (3) Ayelet Shaked (4) Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan(5) Nissan Slomiansky (6) Yinan Magal (7) Moti Yogev (8) Bezalel Smotrich (9) Shuli Mualem (10) Avi Wortzman (11) Nir Orbach (12) rabbi Avi Rontzki (13) Orit Struck (14) Anat Roth (15) Ronen Shoval. Bayit Yehudi, the religious Zionist party, has recently been polling between 10 and 14 seats.

KULANU (1) Moshe Kahlon (2) Yoav Galant (3) Eli Alalouf (4) Michael Oren (5) Rachel Azaria (6)Tali Ploskov (7) Dr. Yifat Shasha-Biton (8) Eli Cohen (9) Roy Folkman (10)Merav Ben-Ari. Kulanu is a brand new party created by its number one on the list. Kahlon is understood to have destroyed the cell phone monopoly in Israel. Kahlon has not ruled out joining with Likud or Zionist Union. His determination to be the next finance minister is well-known. Kulanu has been polling around 8 – 10 seats.

SHAS (1) Aryeh Deri (2) Yitzhak Cohen (3) Meshulam Nahari (4) Yakov Margi (5) David Azoulay (6) Yoav Ben-Tzur (7) Yitzhak Vaknin (8) Avraham Michaeli. Shas (the Sephardi Haredi party which has experienced severe upheaval since its leader, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef’s death in Oct. 2013) has been polling pretty consistently at 7 seats.

UNITED TORAH JUDAISM (1) Yaakov Litzman (2) Moshe Gafni (3) Meir Porush (4) Uri Maklev (5)Menachem Eliezer Moses (6) Israel Eichler (7) Yaakov Asher (8) Eliezer Sorotzkin. UTJ, the Ashkenazi charedi party, has recently been polling between 6 and 7 seats.

YISRAEL BEITEINU (1) Avigdor Lieberman (2) Orly Levy-Abekasis (3) Sofa Landver (4) Ilan Shohat (5) Sharon Gal (6) Hamad Amar (7) Robert Ilatov. Yisrael Beiteinu is identified with the Russian immigrants and is considered right wing, although it does not believe in annexing Judea and Samaria. It has been polling at 5 seats for quite some time.

MERETZ (1) Zehava Gal-on (2) Ilan Gilon (3) Issawi Frej (4) Michal Rozin (5) Tamar Zandberg (6) Mossi Raz (7) Gaby Lasky. Meretz, which is left on social and Arab-Israeli issues, has been polling pretty consistently at around 5 seats.

YACHAD (1) Eli Yishai (2) Yoni Chetboun (3) Michael Ayash (4) Baruch Marzel (5) Sasson Trebelsi. Yachad, only recently created as a split off from Shas, has been polling between 4 – 6 seats.

Other parties which are not expected to reach the threshold number of votes include the Green Party, the Green Leaf (legalize marijuana) Party, Rent with Honor Party, the Economics Party, a Charedi Women’s Party (called Ubezchutan) and even something called the Pirate Party. Gotta love Israelis.

JewishPress.com will post another primer once the elections reach the second phase: assembling the ruling coalition.

Shas Party Appoints New Spiritual Leader

Friday, April 18th, 2014

The Shas political party, founded and run by the late Rav Ovadia Yosef, has a appointed a new spiritual leader, according to a Galei Tzahal report.

The rabbi chosen to replace Harav Ovadia and be the new president of the party’s Council of Torah Sages is Rabbi Shalom Cohen.

Aryeh Deri is the political leader of the party. Deri displaced Eli Yishai, who was interim leader for the years that Deri was in jail, and until he was allowed to return to politics.

‘Amalek’ Comment More an Expression of Shas Despair than Hate

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Saturday night has been for years an opportunity for the Sephardi Haredi party Shas’ spiritual leader, Rav Ovadia Yosef, to make headlines with some outrageous statements. In fact, as the Israeli media began to carry those statements, making them the focal point of many a Sunday morning conversations (Sunday is Israel’s Monday).

Initially, those statements were mostly against the Arabs, most notably the Palestinians, most emphatically the late Chairman Yassir Arafat. But as of Israel’s most recent elections, during the campaign and especially as it was becoming clear that the Jewish Home national religious party was going to be inside the coalition government while the two Haredi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, were out—the great spiritual leader started frothing at the mouth cursing out his rivals.

He called them “Goyish Home,” he accused them of fighting and desecrating the Torah, he ridiculed their notion of being religious—how could they possibly be religious when they conspire, along with Yair Lapid’s burgeoning middle-class party Yesh Atid, to force thousands of yeshiva students into military conscription.

This past Saturday night, in Rav Ovadia’s synagogue in the Bucharim neighborhood in Jerusalem, a member of the Shas Council of Torah Sages, Rav Shalom Cohen, dean of the Porat Yosef yeshiva, compared the national religious in Israel, whose noted symbol are the knitted yarmulkes—kippot srugot—to Amalek.

Just before Purim, many divrei Torah are said about the true identity of Amalek. Some say it is a real nation, whose goal in history is to negate whatever it is Jews are doing, because Amalek are the enemies of God, while we are the children of God. They see Amalek in every great enemy of the Jews, culminating in the Nazis and Ahmadinejad. Others talk about the Amalek within us, that fascistic component of our personalities that has no problem stepping on others, brutally if need be, just to get its way.

In that context, Rav Cohen’s note was blood curdling. Whether he had had too much of the glass of havdala, or truly believes it, he made the following clever spiel: “It says God does war against Amalek. So long as Amalek exists, the throne—kess is not complete. KS is an acronym for Kippa Sruga—knitted yarmulke. When will the throne-kess be whole? When there’s no longer a kippa sruga… Are these really Jews?”

Haredi journalist Israel Gelis says Rav Cohen’s poor choice of words should not be taken seriously. It’s part of a particular culture where heated expressions are thrown out with little consideration of their impact. Gelis says that on Shabbat he ran into Rav Cohen at the Kotel, and the latter said to him with a huge smile: “Did you see the name of the chief of the tribe of Naftali (as in Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett)? It’s Achira (Num. 1:15),” literally “brother of evil.” And he was very pleased with himself, adds Gelis.

Those things shouldn’t be taken seriously. But the total failure of Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri to deliver on any of his promises, says Gelis, bears far more serious ramifications for the Haredi Sephardi party that relies on thousands of knitted yarmulke voters.

Having lost out in the coalition building wars to Bennett and Lapid, Deri has forged an alliance with leftist Meretz and the Arab parties, to the point where he is more likely to vote with them against the Zionist coalition government than not. His rival in the Shas leadership, deposed chairman Eli Yishai, is a regular secret visitor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chambers—so secret the entire Haredi world knows about it. Yishai has been a reliable, steady partner to Netanyahu and other secular, right-wing leaders. At this point he is waiting for his nemesis to sink deeper in the political mud.

Life in the opposition is murder on a party like Shas, which used to utilize its government ministries to favor its Sephardi sector. Now, unable to bring home the paella, Shas is standing to lose much of its support to the new powers that be in the ministries they used to control: Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home.

Add to that the fact that Maran Rav Ovadia Yosef is not getting any younger, and you’ll understand the Shas angst.

Eli Yishai to Not Run for Jerusalem Mayor

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

MK Eli Yishai, the former head of the Shas party has decided he will not be running for mayor of Jerusalem, according to a report in the Israeli, Chareidi La’Daat website.

Yishai was the political head of the Shas party until Shas’s spiritual leader, Rav Ovadia Yosef, kicked him out and replaced him with Aryeh Deri. Following the completion of Aryeh Deri’s prison sentence, Deri had a cooling-off period before he could return to the politics.

Upon Deri’s going to prison, Yishai replaced Deri for 13 years, during which time Yishai ran Shas as a responsible and effective political party.

Associates of Yishai said that he had been considering challenging incumbant mayor Nir Barkat for the position in the upcoming race, but in the end Yishai has decided he wants to remain working in the national politics, and still within the Shas party.

As the Minister of the Interior in former governments, Yishai earned the reputation of being an honest person and a politician who did his job well.

Currently no candidates have announced their decision to challenge Nir Barkat for position of mayor of Jerusalem.

Shas’s Attacks on the Jewish Home and Religious Equality

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate is working very hard to ensure that Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jews are all given equal treatment: Until recently, Conservative and Reform Jews had felt very alienated by the Israel Chief Rabbinate, but Orthodox Jews did not.

Recognizing the inherent unfairness in this, for the last few years, the Rabbinate has been taking dramatic steps to ensure that Orthodox Jews also feel just as alienated.

Jewish Week: Jerusalem — About 20 years ago, an infant girl (“Nina,” a pseudonym) from an Orthodox family underwent a conversion in New York that, by Orthodox American standards, was and still is beyond reproach.

The three converting rabbis, whose names The Jewish Week has withheld so as not to harm their reputations, are highly respected figures in the mainstream Orthodox Jewish world, according to Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, president of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA).

But that hasn’t stopped Israel’s Chief Rabbinate or Israel’s Ministry of Interior from questioning the conversion, evidently because it took place in a synagogue-based beit din (rabbinical court) that did not meet on a regular basis, and not in an external beit din dedicated solely to conversions, The Jewish Week has learned.

Read more of the world class treatment the Israel Chief Rabbinate in thisarticle by the Jewish Week.

None of this should be surprising especially in light of the blistering attacks from Shas on the “Jewish Home” (Religious Zionist party) before the elections by R’ Ovadya Yosef:

“They call them the ‘Jewish Home’ but this is not a home for Jews; it is a home of goyim [gentiles],” Yosef said. “They want to uproot the Torah, to institute civil marriage. It’s forbidden to vote for them. These are religious people? Anyone who votes for them denies the Torah.”

“They are all wicked, haters of Torah and mitzvot. They want to institute public transportation on Shabbat,” Yosef charged. “A Jew who wants to marry won’t have to go to the rabbinate — have you heard? How can they call themselves religious? How can we be complicit in this?” (Times of Israel)

Shas is so proud of these statements, that the official Shas party channel on youtube publicized the video (sorry it’s only in Hebrew).

And then, in case some misguided soul thinks this was only pre-election nonsense, the Shas party newspaper “Yom L’Yom” attacked the Jewish Home party:

Translation: The man with the kipa the size of an eye personifies how his kipa is the size of a “half shekel coin.”  The agreement he is working hard on creating with the chairman of the new-old hatred party [Yesh Atid party] shows that “something new is happening here [ “something new is happening” was the campaign slogan of the Jewish Home party]. Something Reform. Something “Goyish.” “Remember what Amalek did to you” which tried to weaken the Torah — this is an eternal concept.  Also in Israel. G-d forbid,  a new “Jewish Home” is being created.  Those who wish to weaken the Torah aren’t part of a “Jewish Home” — it is a house of “Goyim.”

The Torah and Judaism survived for thousands of years before the Shas party, and will continue to survive and flourish even if the Shas party is not a member of the government.  In fact, based on the situation above, Torah will probably flourish more with Shas out of the government, and hopefully the Chief Rabbinate will revert back to a Rabbinate for all of Israel, with tolerance and justice for all.

And until R’ Ovadya Yosef publicly apologizes for lambasting the “Jewish Home,” the “Jewish Home” party should ignore Shas completely.

Editor’s Note: Shas co-chairman Eli Yishai called Jewish Home MK Uri Ariel to apologize about the attack in the publication, but Yosef has made no apology for his remarks.

Visit The Muqata.

Shas Spiritual Leader Yosef: Jewish Home is for ‘Goyim’

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Shas party spiritual leader and former Sephardic chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef is urging Israelis not to vote for the party headed by Naftali Bennett, the Bayit HaYehudi Jewish Home party, calling it not a home for Jews but a home for gentiles.

Rabbi Yosef slammed the party after Ayelet Shaked, fifth on the party’s list, indicated that she supports civil marriage in Israel. Bennett and his party have also vowed to ease the arduous conversion process, raising the ire of Shas and other Hareidi parties by questioning conversion’s placement under the exclusive jurisdiction of “ultra-Orthodox” groups and raising suspicion that corruption has tainted the system.

“They call them the ‘Jewish Home’, but this is not a home for Jews – it is a home of ‘goyim’ [gentiles],” Rabbi Yosef said. “They want to uproot Torah and institute civil marriage. One cannot vote for them… Anyone who votes for them denies the Torah”.

“They are all wicked people who hate Torah and its commandments,” he said.
Bennett called Rabbi Yosef an “important spiritual leader”, who is loved and respected, and said attacks by Rabbi Yosef and leaders from the post-nationalist and anti-religious parties show that the Jewish Home is “on the right path” to being a bridge between the diverse sectors of Israeli society.

Q & A: Al Achilat Matza (Conclusion)

Friday, May 9th, 2003

QUESTION: I have noticed that when we eat the matza at the Seder on Passover, we recite the blessing of Hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz, followed by Al achilat matza. Why don’t we say Al achilat matza when we eat matza during the remainder of Passover?

Moshe Jakobowitz
Brooklyn, NY


ANSWER: We began our discussion with Rambam’s comments regarding the eating of matza on the first night of Passover, when it is obligatory. The mitzva of eating matza, unlike maror, is independent of the paschal sacrifice and it is a biblical requirement even today. One of the explanations of ‘lechem oni,’ as matza is called, is bread of the poor. The poor have only broken pieces instead of whole loaves. At the Seder we bless Hamotzi on two whole matzot and a broken piece (from the middle matza that has been broken in two). It is the broken matza, which symbolizes the uniqueness of eating matza on this night, that requires the blessing of Al achilat matza.

* * *

The Gaon R. Ovadia Yosef, shlita, was asked the following question: “On whom do those who have a custom to recite the blessing of Al achilat matza (“Asher ki’deshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu al achilat matza – [G-d] who has sanctified us with His commands and commanded us to eat matza”) during the seven days of Passover [in Israel], in addition to the Hamotzi blessing, rely? Or might this be a beracha levatala [lit., a blessing said in vain with the mention of G-d’s name] and therefore we must abolish the custom” (Yechaveh Da’at Vol. 2:22).

Had R. Ovadia Yosef not been asked this question and included it in his responsa, I am sure that we would agree that this query is highly unusual, especially in light of all that we have discussed previously.

One may ask, to begin with, why this beracha is not recited each time, and the person who addressed the question to R. Ovadia Yosef has actually met people who do utter the blessing Al achilat matza on the entire seven days (eight in the Diaspora) of Passover, a very unusual custom.

In his answer, R. Yosef quotes the commentary of Rabbenu Zerachya HaLevi (known as the Ba’al Hama’or) at the end of Tractate Pesachim, who actually asks your question, and I assume your reasoning was the same as his: “There are those who ask, What is the reason that we do not utter the blessing Al achilat matza for the entire Passover, just as we say the blessing ‘Leishev basukka – to sit in the sukka’ for the entire seven-day period of Sukkot [even in the diaspora. The eighth day, however, is considered to be a separate holiday, a ‘regel bifnei atzmo,’ and we refer to it as Shemini Atzeret, a day on which we may, but are not
commanded, to sit in the sukka].”

The Ba’al Hama’or explains the reason for this question: “In the Gemara (Sukka 27a) we derive the mitzva to eat in the sukka from the mitzva to eat matza on Passover. [It says regarding Sukkot (Leviticus 23:39) ‘…on the fifteenth day of the month…’ and it states regarding Passover (Leviticus 23:6) ‘…on the fifteenth day of the month…’. Thus we derive that] Just as matza on the first night is a requirement (chova) and from then and on it is optional (reshut), so, too, on Sukkot the first night is a requirement and successive meals are optional. We conclude regarding both mitzvot that they are similar in that the first night is a requirement and from thereon the mitzva’s performance is optional.”

The Ba’al Hama’or continues: “We might say that [there is a difference, as] it is possible for a person to survive the duration of the other days of Passover without consuming matza by satisfying his needs with rice or millet [these are not consumed by Ashkenazim on Passover according to our custom; Sepharadim, however, do use them] or various types of fruit. But as
regards Sukkot, since a person cannot possibly go for three days without sleep, and he is obligated to sleep in the sukka and ‘go for a walk’ (i.e., spend his leisure time) there, as the Gemara expounds (infra 28b) from the verse (Leviticus 23:42), ‘Basukkot teshvu… – In
sukkot shall you dwell…’ ‘shall you dwell’ implies that just as you dwell in your normal abode, in the same manner shall you dwell in the sukka. Therefore one is required for the duration of this holiday to recite at all the festive meals the blessing of Leishev basukka.

R. Ovadia Yosef notes: “We surmise from the style of his question that there is a mitzva to eat matza on all seven days of Passover, similar to the requirement of sitting in the sukka, and that which the Gemara states that the first night is a requirement while afterwards is optional, this does not mean completely optional. Rather, this is similar to what Tosafot explain – s.v.
‘Ve’ha’amar Rav, tefillat arvit reshut’ (Yoma 87b). [The Gemara notes Rav’s statement that the Ma’ariv prayer is an optional prayer, which the Gemara finds to be contradictory to a previously stated halacha that one who prayed Ne’ila on Yom Kippur will thus have fulfilled his obligation of the Ma’ariv prayer that follows.] The rule that Ma’ariv is reshut applies only in
regard to allowing it to be superseded by a mitzva overet (lit., a mitzva whose time will pass by quickly, and one will not be able to accomplish it later on); but in ordinary circumstances we may not nullify its performance, as it was the Patriarch Jacob who instituted it and he did not institute it for naught, for it was created to correspond with the burning of remains of the burnt offerings and the fats, the ketoret ha’evarim vehapedarim, which lasted the entire evening. (Tosafot note the dispute in the Gemara – Berachot 26b – as to whether the Patriarchs established our daily prayers, or whether they were instituted only later as a replacement for the sacrifices, following the destruction of the Holy Temple. Even though the burning of the remains and fats is not a hindrance to the performance of the sacrificial reqirement, it is nevertheless a mitzva to burn them, and likewise the Ma’ariv prayer is a mitzva.

R. Ovadia Yosef thus leaves us with the impression that, indeed, one should utter the blessing Al achilat matza for the duration of Passover. However, he goes on to cite Sefer HaMichtam (Sukka 27a) and Orchot Chayyim (Hilchot Sukka 36), who both refer to R. Shakli. R. Shakli explains that the eating of matza is not for the sake of accomplishing the mitzva of eating (achilat matza); rather, since one is not allowed to eat chametz, one satisfies one’s hunger by eating matza. This is similar to one who eats the meat of a kosher animal – for surely he may not eat the meat of a non-kosher animal – and he does not specifically recite the (hypothetical) blessing, “asher ki’deshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu le’echol besar behema tehora – He (G-d) who has sanctified us with His commands and commanded us to eat the flesh of a kosher animal.”

R. Shakli then concludes: “However, as for sitting in the sukka, one does not do so to satisfy a personal need, but rather for the purpose of accomplishing the mitzva of eating in the sukka. Therefore he is required to utter the blessing Leishev basukka.

R. Yosef reasons that according to R. Shakli’s responsa there is no mitzva whatsoever to eat matza for the remainder of Passover, for it is just like one who eats kosher meat. R. Yosef refers to the Magen Avraham (Orach Chayyim 639), who also reasons similarly.

R. Yosef cites numerous other poskim who offer opinions on this matter. Notable is the Gaon R. Elijah of Vilna (HaGra), who took extra and loving care in the mitzva of eating matza all seven days of Passover, as the verse states, “Shiv’at yamim tochlu matzot.” We refer to it as reshut, or optional, only in comparison to the first day’s eating of matza which is obligatory
(chova); nevertheless, the eating of matza throughout Passover is a mitzvat aseh from the Torah.

The Gaon R. Isaac Palagi, notes R. Ovadia Yosef, discusses this in his Yafeh Lalev (vol. II 475:7). He states, “The Magen Avraham (Orach Chayyim 31:3) writes that according to those who say that we do not don tefillin on Chol HaMoed, the Intermediary Days of the festival [which are not considered a full-fledged Yom Tov not because of a prohibition regarding labor but rather because tefillin are considered an ot or a sign, for it states in Deuteronomy (6:8), ‘…u’keshartam le’ot al yadecha… – …you shall bind them as a sign on your hand…’] because these days are themselves considered an ot, a sign. On Passover [this is accomplished] by
eating matza, and on Sukkot by sitting in the sukka.”

It would thus seem, as R. Yosef observes, that the eating of matza is a requirement all seven days of Passover, just as the donning of tefillin on weekdays [which it seems to supersede]. Therefore it would follow that we bless Al achilat matza every day of the seven days of Passover [eight days in the Diaspora], just as we recite a blessing each time we sit in the sukka and as we do when we don the tefillin every day.

However, Orchot Chayyim and the Kol Bo as well as many Acharonim note numerous reasons explaining why we do not make such a blessing on matza for the remainder of Passover, and conclude that indeed one should not do so. R. Yosef also cites Tosafot (Menachot 36b) s.v. “yatz’u,” who state, “The [distinguishing] sign of Passover is abstaining from eating chametz.” There is a physical and notable difference on Passover that serves as a distinguishing sign (ot), but a positive command to eat matza is not what is inferred. It is,
rather, the negative command not to eat chametz that serves as a sign. Thus surely we should not say Al achilat matza.

Interestingly, the Chatam Sofer (whom R. Yosef does not refer to) states (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayyim 639): “The rule is ‘in sukkot you shall dwell seven days,’ which means that one dwells in one’s sukka as one does in the house, and only one who does not live in a house
all year long, such as a watchman in the fields (see Sukka 26a), would be exempt from sitting in the sukka. However, one who dwells in a house is required to sit in the sukka [and bless Lesheiv basukka]. We should say the same regarding [Passover, about which we know
that] ‘Seven days you shall eat matzot'; every day you are required to eat [and bless as well], but were it not for [what we learned in the Gemara, Pesachim 120a], “Six days shall you eat matzot…”

Thus it is clear to us – and R. Ovadia Yosef concludes similarly as well – that we do not recite the blessing Al achilat matza on the remaining days of Passover. R. Yosef points out that where this custom exists, it should be abolished.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/torah/q-a-al-achilat-matza-conclusion/2003/05/09/

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