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January 20, 2017 / 22 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Seder’

When A Goat Came To The Seder Table (Dayenu!)

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

By the time we sit down at the Seder table, many of us are bleary-eyed. But somehow, when it’s time to sing the traditional songs, we get a second wind and come back to life – which is perhaps why Dayenu, Chad Gadya and the other piyutim were added to the Haggadah shel Pesach many centuries ago.

A Work in Progress

Who knows 170? Or 860?

No, this isn’t a new version of Echad Mi Yodeya. But they are important dates along the way to creating the text of the haggadah that we’re familiar with today. While some scholars think the earliest text was created during the time of the Second Beis Hamikdash, others speculate it was written between the years 170 and 500, the time of the Tannaim and Amoraim. The earliest example of a still-existing text comes from the siddur of Rav Amram Gaon, who was a leader of the Jewish community of Sura, Babylonia, during the 9th century. The text fragment, which is thought to date to about 860, was found in the Cairo Geniza. Another fragment found in the Cairo Geniza was the haggadah included in the siddur of Rav Saadia Gaon, which was written several decades later.

It was only after the invention of the printing press in the 1480s that the text began to become standardized – a text that included the addition of several piyutim. When and why were certain songs included? That question is easier to ask than answer, as tracing the origins of the familiar piyutim found in our haggadot requires sleuthing skills similar to the ones needed to find the afikoman. But there are a few bread crumbs (or perhaps we should say matzah crumbs) to lead us back in time. And if they aren’t plentiful, there are enough – which leads us to Dayenu.



How many generations of Jewish children have enthusiastically sung out “Dayenu!” at the Seder table? All we can say for certain is, “A lot!”

Some scholars think the 15-stanza song of gratitude to Hashem dates back to before the Second Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because it ends on a triumphant note: the building of the Mikdash. If the poem had been penned soon after its destruction, surely it would have made note of that fact and looked forward to the time when the Beis Hamikdash would be rebuilt.

But there is no textual proof for such an early dating. So while the poem may have been written while the Temple still stood, the first time we find a written version of Dayenu is in Seder Rav Amram Gaon, another name for his siddur which was written in response to a request from a kehillah in Spain. Although the Rambam doesn’t mention Dayenu in his haggadah, Rashi does, and so we can assume the song was an integral part of the Seder in at least some communities by the 11th century.

What’s more, some kehillos have a special custom for Dayenu. If, for instance, you attend a Seder in Italy, you will likely find a green onion with a long stem placed by each person’s plate. When the chorus begins, each person picks up the onion and whips the wrist of the person sitting next to him or her. The Jews of Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq have a slightly different minhag: One person picks up a bunch of onions and whips his neighbor; the onions are then passed along until everyone at the table has had a chance to whip and be whipped.

What’s behind the ritual? Some say it’s to remind us of the miracle of being freed from the lash of oppression. Another explanation takes its cue from Bamidar 11:5, where the Israelites expressed a longing for the food they used to eat in Mitzrayim: fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, garlic and, of course, onions. Beating each other with onions reminds us not to yearn for Mitzrayim or forget that we were slaves there.

Libi Astaire

Q & A: Seder Requirements

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Question: What is the minimum amount of matzah a person must consume if he finds eating it difficult? Additionally how absolute is the requirement not to eat anything after the afikoman?



Answer: The Rambam (Hilchot Chametz U’Matzah 6:1) rules that it is a positive Biblical commandment to eat matzah on the evening of the 15th of Nissan, as the Torah states (Exodus 12:18), “Ba’erev tochlu matzot – In the evening you shall eat matzot.” The Rambam adds that this requirement applies everywhere (even outside the Land of Israel) and at all times (even when we are bereft of the Temple). It is, therefore, with great trepidation that one would consider leniency in this matter.

The Rambam states, quoting the Gemara (Pesachim 120a) that the obligation to eat matzah is restricted to the Seder. During the rest of the Yom Tov, eating matzah is optional. The amount we must eat at the Seder is a kezayit, the “size of an olive.” How do we calculate this measure in more exact terms?

The sons of Rabbi Avraham Blumenkrantz, zt”l, late rav of Bais Medrash Ateres Yisroel in Far Rockaway, NY, have perpetuated his legacy by annually updating their father’s work, Kovetz Hilchos Pesach (available in most Judaica stores and in many kosher supermarkets). This work includes a compendium of laws relevant to the holiday as well a list of products that may be used on Passover. The section dealing with the Seder includes a discussion on the measurements of kezayit and revi’it, which is relevant to the Seder obligations of eating matzah and maror and drinking the four cups. We now quote from this work with some minor emendations:


  1. Four Cups Of Wine

For Kiddush on both nights (both weeknights this year) the cup should hold at least 2.9 fluid ounces.

After Ga’al Yisrael – the cup should hold 2.9 fl. oz.

After Birkat HaMozon – the cup should hold 2.9 fl. oz.

After Hallel – the cup should hold 2.9 fl. oz.

It is suggested that the cup be able to hold more than the 2.9 fl. oz. required, to compensate for some spillage.

The wine should be consumed preferably in two swallows. There are some authorities who hold that the wine can be drunk in a span of two minutes, while other authorities allow up to nine minutes.


  1. Matzah

For Hamotzi and for the Afikoman, a piece measuring 7 x 6.5 inches is required.

For Korech, a piece measuring at least 7 x 4 inches is required.


Why Three Matztot?

The men of Kairouan asked Rav Sherira Gaon, “Why do we take three matzot on the night of Pesach – no more and no less?” He answered: There is an allusion to this number in the Torah, namely, the three se’ah measures of fine flour that Avraham told Sarah to knead to prepare “round cakes” for his guests (the angels who were visiting him), an incident that took place on Pesach. Others say that the number commemorates the “three mountains of the world,” Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov.

If, for health reasons, one cannot eat matzah, then shemura matzah meal (upon which Hamotzi will be recited) may be substituted as follows:

  1. For Hamotzi and Afikoman – a quantity of meal that can be compacted into a 1.5. fl. oz. vessel.
  2. For Korech – a quantity of meal that can be compacted into a 1.1 fl. oz. vessel.


  1. Maror
  1. If you use pure grated horseradish:
  2. For Maror – 1.1 fl. oz.
  3. For Korech – .7 fl. oz.


  1. If you use Romaine lettuce leaves:
  2. For Maror – enough leaves to cover an area of 8 x 10 inches.
  3. For Korech – the same.


  1. If you use Romaine lettuce stalks:
  2. For Maror – enough to cover an area of 3 x 5 inches.
  3. For Korech – the same.


The required quantity of matzah and maror should, in each case, be eaten in a span of two minutes according to some, or up to nine minutes according to others.

Before the beginning of the holiday, it is advisable to measure a jigger to find out its fluid ounces’ content. Then, at the Seder, one can pack the jigger with enough of the matzah meal and grated horseradish needed to meet the required quantities.

Below, you will find the explanation of how the above measurements were derived. Before we begin the computations, we will quote four laws cited in the Shulchan Aruch:

  1. The size of a “cup” for the four cups of wine at the Seder is a revi’it.
  2. A revi’it is the quantity of water displaced by a middle or average sized egg and a half (1 1/2 eggs).
  3. The quantity of matzah and maror needed to perform the mitzvot of matzah and maror is a kezayit.

Note: According to the method of the Chazon Ish, zt”l, a kezayit is 1.2 fl. oz. based on the calculation that a kezayit is equivalent to 1/3 of an egg – and 1.6-1.8 fl. oz. based on the calculation that a kezayit is equivalent to 1/2 an egg. According to the method of Rav Chayyim Na’eh, zt”l, it varies from 1.1 fl. oz. (the stringent opinion) to .6 fl. oz. (the lenient opinion). At the outset (lechat’chila) the kezayit quantity of matzah should be eaten all at once, without interruption. After the event (bedi’avad), if eating the matzah did not last more than the time required to consume half a loaf (kedei achilat peras), he has fulfilled his obligation. What is considered kedei achilat peras? At the outset, not more than two minutes, but definitely not longer than nine minutes. See Responsa Chatam Sofer chelek 6 siman 16 as well as a number of other responsa.

Now let us do the computations. We have three different methods of measuring a revi’it:

  1. through the water displacement of eggs (by experimentation);
  2. through thumbs; and
  3. through “stricter” thumbs.
  4. through eggs:

The water displacement experiment was done with what is commercially known as a “large” egg. This egg was assumed to be the “average” egg referred to by our Sages for two reasons:

  1. a) The “large” egg is the middle-sized egg in the five sizes of eggs commercially sold today (small, medium, large, extra-large, jumbo).
  2. b) The large egg is the average egg consumed in the world. After this decision was made, we realized that “large” eggs are not all the same; there is a minimum weight and maximum weight requirement that eggs must satisfy to be categorized as “large.”

The volume of an average “large” egg displaces 1.93 fl. oz. of water, while the maximum weight “large” egg displaces 2.2 fl. oz. Therefore, an egg and a half (which is a revi’it) is equal to 2.9 fl. oz. and 3.3 fl. oz., respectively.


  1. Through Thumbs:

In Pesachim 109, the Sages teach us that a revi’it fills up a cup of two thumbs by two thumbs by 2.7 thumbs (2 x 2 x 2.7 thumbs).

1 thumb = 1/24 of an amah.

1 amah = 21.25 inches (according to Igrot Moshe 136).

In order to be “sure” we must add half a thumb to the amah, which is equal to .4427 inches.


A “sure” amah = 21.6927 inches. Accordingly,

1 “sure” thumb = .90386 inches;

2 “sure” thumbs = 1.80772 inches;

2.7 “sure” thumbs = 2.44042 inches. Therefore,

the volume of 2 x 2 x 2.7 thumbs = 7.97484 cubic inches = revi’it.

Now, to find how many fluid ounces we get in a cup of 7.97484 cubic inches, we must work with gallons. We know that

1 gallon equals 231 cubic inches and holds 128 fluid ounces. Dividing 231 by 128, we find that

1 fl. oz. = 1.804 cu. in. Therefore, dividing 7.97484 by 1.804, we find that 7.97484 cu. in. hold 4.42 fl. oz.


  1. Through “Stricter” Thumbs:

A “strict” amah = 23 inches (Igrot Moshe 136). (To this amah we do not have to add half a thumb as we did before because this measure by itself is a strict measurement.)

1 thumb = 1/24 amah = 1/24th of 23 in. = .95834 inches.

2 thumbs = 1.91668 inches.

2.7 thumbs = 2.56752 inches. Therefore a cup measuring 2 x 2 x 2.7 thumbs is equal to 9.50569 cubic inches.

Going through the same calculations as in (1) above, we find that 9.50569 cu. in. hold 5.27 fl. oz.

We conclude that a revi’it = 5.27 fluid ounces.

Based upon the above information, we can now calculate the measure of a kezayit. Remember, the Sages disagree concerning the definition of a kezayit. Some say it is equal to 1/2 an average egg, and others say it is equal to 1/3 of an average egg.

revi’it = (a) 2.9 fl. oz., (b) 3.3 fl. oz., (c) 4.42 fl. oz., (d) 5.27 fl. oz.

revi’it = 1 1/2 eggs.

Thus, if a kezayit is equivalent to 1/2 an egg, then it is:

(a) .97 fl. oz., (b) 1.1. fl. oz., (c) 1.47 fl. oz., (d) 1.75 fl. oz.

If a kezayit is equivalent to 1/3 of an egg, then it is:

(a) .65 fl. oz., (b) .7 fl. oz., (c) .98 fl. oz., (d) 1.16 fl. oz.

Now that we have shown the computations, let us show how to apply them.

  1. a) Since Kiddush on Friday night is D’Oraita, we would use [only then] the middle revi’it (4.42 fl. oz.). Since the other Kiddushim and the Four Cups on Pesach are DeRabbanan, it is enough to use the revi’it of 2.9 fl. oz.

(b) Since the kezayit of matzah is D’Oraita, we should use the kezayit of 1.47 fl. oz. The chumra of two zeitim of matzah mentioned in Orach Chayyim (ch. 475) can be fulfilled by eating the 1.47 fl. oz. because this quantity is equal to two zeitim of .7 fl. oz. each, or 1.4 fl. oz.

Let us explain how to find how many fluid ounces are contained in each matzah. A pound (1 lb.) of matzah meal will fill a vessel which holds approximately 31 fluid ounces. Therefore we determine the number of matzot per pound, and divide 31 fluid ounces by that number. This will indicate how many fluid ounces are contained in one matzah. We will then know how much of a matzah must be eaten for a kezayit.

(c) For the matzah of Korech, which is DeRabbanan, a kezayit of 1.1 fl. oz. is permissible or, when necessary, even one equaling .7 fl. oz. is permitted.

(d) Matzah for the Afikoman – the same as for “matzah” – see (b) above.

(e) For maror, a kezayit equal to 1.1 fl. oz. is used.

(f ) For maror for Korech, a kezayit equal to .7 fl. oz. is used.

The above computations will provide you with a clearer understanding of the halachic discussion regarding whether our eggs have become smaller, or our thumbs larger than the average egg and thumb in the days of our Sages.


Interesting to Note:

  1. The cup of the Chofetz Chaim held 5 fluid ounces, while the cup of R. Yisrael Salanter held 4.1 fluid ounces. The Chazon Ish opined that a cup should not hold less than 5.07 fl. oz., while the Chofetz Chaim held that the cup should not hold less than 4 fluid ounces.

The cup that the Satmar Rebbe (Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum zt”l) used for Kiddush was 4.75 fl. oz., while for Havdala he used a cup of 2.5 fl. oz.

  1. We mentioned above that the Talmud teaches us that 1 kezayit = 1/2 a betzah, and revi’it = 1 1/2 betzah.

The Rambam reckons this Talmudic betzah as the volume of 18 “drams” of water, the dram being a standard measure in his time, and this value is quoted and used in practice by the Shulchan Aruch and later authorities, down to the present day, including the Ben Ish Chai. The “dram” referred to is equivalent to slightly more than three metric grams. Hence, since the volume of a gram of water is exactly one cubic centimeter, it follows that

1 kezayit = 28 cc (.9 fl. oz.)

1 betzah = 57 cc (1.9 fl. oz.)

1 revi’it = 86cc (2.9 fl. oz.) –and these are the traditional measurements.

However, some of the later authorities (e.g. Noda biYehuda 408:1) performed their own experiments using the original Talmudic guidelines, and felt forced to the conclusion that the betzah referred to must have been double the size of an average egg in their days. The implication of their results is that during the 800-odd years since the Rambam, the “dram” did not remain a standard measure but became smaller; hence the apparent discrepancy between his measures and those of the Talmud. According to this theory:

1 kezayit = 48cc (1 1/2 fl. oz.)

1 betzah = 96cc (3 fl. oz.)

1 revi’it = 145cc (4 1/2 fl. oz.).

These are known colloquially as “the Chazon Ish measurements,” after the great Torah giant of the first half of this century who was a leading exponent of this theory.

Although these new measurements are not the generally accepted custom and, indeed, there are authorities who challenge the validity of the proof altogether (the Chatam Sofer, R. Chayyim Na’eh), the great R. Yisrael Meir HaCohen, author of the Mishnah Berurah, has suggested that where there is a question of fulfilling or not fulfilling an original Torah command (as opposed to a Rabbinical one) – in an absolute sense – it is worthwhile taking account of these alternative measurements, if possible.

* * * * *

Concerning your question about eating after the afikoman: At the Passover meal of old, when the Korban Pesach offering was brought to the Temple, no food was eaten after the meal so that the taste of the paschal sacrifice would linger. Today, when we don’t offer the paschal sacrifice, we eat the Afikoman instead, and the same halacha applies. We don’t eat anything after it so that its taste lingers.

Rashi and the Rashbam (s.v. “Ein maftirin”) rule that it is the afikoman which constitutes the obligatory matzah of Pesach, and therefore we should really not say the blessing of “al achilat matzah” until the end of the meal. We don’t wait, though, because we are satiated by the matzah we eat in the course of the meal.

The Mordechai (on Pesachim 119b) writes that the blessing “al achilat matzah” was not said in earlier times until the afikoman but suggests that is because in those times the matzah eaten during the meal was matzah ashira, a lighter, fruit-based matzah, which is not as satiating as regular matzah.

The Mordechai argues that we are not as careful as our ancestors, and we might attain a full degree of satiation even with this lighter product, and so we say the blessing earlier.

The Chayei Adam (Hilchot Pesach 126:7), quoting the Rema (Orach Chayim 462), cautions that in “our lands” we do not use this type of fruit-based matzah (which includes our egg matzah) except in the case of an ailing person (who, following medical and halachic advice, must eat only this kind of matzah).

It seems clear that eating matzah ashira, lit. “rich matzah,” is not in the spirit of the requirement to eat lechem oni, bread of affliction, on Pesach. Even when it is permitted, one cannot fulfill one’s two-kezayit obligation with it.

However, if medically one has no choice, one should do whatever one must and not feel guilty about not meeting the required shiurim. Rather, one should carefully heed one’s doctor’s advice, as the Torah (Deuteronomy 4:15) warns us: “V’nishmartem me’od l’nafshoteichem – You shall greatly take heed of your souls.”

The Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chayim 462:5) is very strict in regards to eating matzah ashira, permitting it only for those who are ill. He decries (what he saw in his time as becoming a pervasive custom of) people breaking an age-old minhag Yisrael and urges us not to do so.

He concludes by stating that those who are careful about this matter will merit all the good that is hidden for the righteous in Gan Eden.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

The Safer Seder Announcement

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

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Photo of the Day

Hundreds at Bangkok Chabad Passover Seder

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

More than 400 people sang their way through the Haggadah on the first night of Passover at the first seder held this year at the Chabad House of Bangkok, Thailand.

Dozens of children ascended special stage set up in the hall where the seder was held in order to sing the traditional “Ma Nishtana” – the Four Questions that launch the story explaining the reason for the celebration of Passover.

For those with slim budgets, the Chabad of Bangkok website stated clearly that everyone was welcome regardless of ability to pay. “Please contact the Rabbi in confidence if the charge is beyond your means,” the statement on Chabad’s “JewishThailand.com” site advised. “‘All who are hungry may come and eat’ is the theme of Passover and it will be our pleasure to host you regardless of financial ability.”

A seder for the second night was made available with the Kantor Family according to the announcement, sponsored by the Jewish Association of Thailand. “No charge but please RSVP,” the notice read.

Hebrew-language Passover seders were conducted in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ko Samui and Phuket.

Hana Levi Julian

President Obama’s Passover Statement

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

The following is President Obama’s statement on Passover (April 14, 2014).

As he has in the past, the President held an official Passover Seder at the White House.

Michelle and I send our warmest greetings to all those celebrating Passover in the United States, in Israel, and around the world.

On Tuesday, just as we have every year of my presidency, my family will join the millions taking part in the ancient tradition of the Seder. We will enjoy the company of friends and loved ones, retell a timeless story, and give thanks for the freedom we are so blessed to enjoy.

Yet even as we celebrate, our prayers will be with the people of Overland Park, Kansas and the family and friends of the three innocent people who were killed when a gunman, just one day before Passover, opened fire at a Jewish community center and retirement home on Sunday. As Americans, we will continue to stand united against this kind of terrible violence, which has no place in our society. We will continue to come together across faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism, that can lead to hatred and violence. And we will never lose faith that compassion and justice will ultimately triumph over hate and fear.

For that is one of the great lessons of the Exodus. The tale of the Hebrew slaves and their flight from Egypt carries the hope and promise that the Jewish people have held in their hearts for thousands of years, and it is has inspired countless generations in their own struggles for freedom around the globe.

In America, the Passover story has always had special meaning. We come from different places and diverse backgrounds, but we are bound together by a journey from bondage to liberty enshrined in our founding documents and continued in each generation. As we were so painfully reminded on Sunday, our world is still in need of repair, but the story of the Exodus teaches us that with patience, determination, and abundant faith, a brighter future is possible.

Chag Sameach.

Jewish Press News Briefs

New Study: Nearly Every Israeli will Eat Matza and Keep Kosher on Pesach Eve

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

90% of Israeli Jews will participate in a Passover Seder, 80% of self-defined secular Jews said they believe in God, according to a study done by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

While 55% said they would make sure to only eat kosher during the entire holiday, nearly all said they would make sure to eat Matzah and only kosher food on Pesach night.

Those are some pretty good numbers.

Jewish Press News Briefs

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