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:
- 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.
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:
- For Hamotzi and Afikoman – a quantity of meal that can be compacted into a 1.5. fl. oz. vessel.
- For Korech – a quantity of meal that can be compacted into a 1.1 fl. oz. vessel.
- If you use pure grated horseradish:
- For Maror – 1.1 fl. oz.
- For Korech – .7 fl. oz.
- If you use Romaine lettuce leaves:
- For Maror – enough leaves to cover an area of 8 x 10 inches.
- For Korech – the same.
- If you use Romaine lettuce stalks:
- For Maror – enough to cover an area of 3 x 5 inches.
- 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:
- The size of a “cup” for the four cups of wine at the Seder is a revi’it.
- A revi’it is the quantity of water displaced by a middle or average sized egg and a half (1 1/2 eggs).
- 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:
- through the water displacement of eggs (by experimentation);
- through thumbs; and
- through “stricter” thumbs.
- 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:
- a) The “large” egg is the middle-sized egg in the five sizes of eggs commercially sold today (small, medium, large, extra-large, jumbo).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
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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