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Question: I have two questions: 1) Why does each person recite Kiddush at the Seder when only the head of the household does so the rest of the year? 2) Why do we eat an egg at the Seder?

S. Schwartz



Answer: The late chief rabbi of Jerusalem, HaRav Zvi Pesach Frank, zt”l, discusses your first question at great length in his Mikra’ei Kodesh (vol. II, siman 29). He quotes the Mishnah (Pesachim 99b): “They should give him not less than four cups [of wine]…” Tosafot (ad loc., s.v. “Lo yifchatu…”) notes that the words “give him” seems to indicate that charity fund overseers must only provide the heads of households with enough wine for four cups on Seder night. Presumably, he will fulfill the four cups obligation of all those present just he fulfills their Kiddush obligation the rest of the year.

Tosafot, though, quotes a baraita (ibid. 108b) which states: “all are obligated to drink the four cups – men, women, and children.” Tosafot discusses the matter further, noting that possibly only listening to the blessings over the four cups is required. He concludes, though, that we should be stringent and every person should drink four cups at the Seder.

Rav Frank quotes the Maharal of Prague (Gevurot Hashem, ch. 48), who writes, “I do not understand [this reasoning] for how can there be a question of absolving others from the obligation of the four cups? Just as one cannot fulfill another person’s matzah and maror obligation, one cannot fulfill their four cups obligation. It is an obligation incumbent upon [each] person.”

The Maharal further notes that the halachot of making Kiddush for others should have no bearing on the halachot of drinking the four cups on behalf of others. The main purpose of Kiddush on Shabbat is sanctifying the day; we happen to do so over a cup of wine. That’s why only the head of the household needs to drink from it. At the Seder, however, drinking four cups is the main objective (with a separate obligation affixed to each cup – such as Kiddush or relating the Exodus story).

Rav Frank suggests that Tosafot may mean that one of the members of the household recites the blessings over the four cups for the purpose of pirsumei nisa (publicizing the miracle) as is the case with lighting Chanukah candles. Support for this interpretation can be found in the Magid Mishneh (Hilchot Chanukah 4:12):

“The Rambam’s statement – that a person has to borrow money or sell his garment to acquire oil and wicks for the Chanukah lights even if [he is so poor that] he does not have anything to eat and subsists on charity – was probably derived from his ruling in Hilchot Chametz U’Matzah (7:7) that even a poor person who subsists on charity should not be allocated less wine than is necessary for four cups. The reason for the rule is the commandment of pirsumei nisa.”

Rav Frank adds that for Chanukah lights it is sufficient for one person to fulfill the obligation of “publicizing the miracle” for the entire household. There are individual obligations on the household members; rather, the obligation is on the house itself. And like for such mitzvot as lighting Shabbat candles and affixing a mezuzah, the principle of “shome’a ke’oneh” is operational – that is, by listening and responding to a blessing, one fulfills one’s obligation (see Rambam, Hilchot Berachot 1:10,11).

How, then, are we to explain the statement (Pesachim 108a), “R. Yehoshua b. Levi said, Women are subject to the obligation of the four cups since they too were included in that miracle?” We cannot say that pirsumei nisa is the only reason we drink the four cups. Therefore, we must say that two distinct mitzvot are at play here: publicizing the miracle, for which shome’a ke’oneh is operational, and drinking the four cups of wine, which was instituted to symbolize freedom (Pesachim 117b).

Now let’s consider the passage in the Gemara (op. cit. 108b) that states that a person has discharged his duty to drink four cups of wine even if he gave them to the members of his household to drink: “R. Nachman b. Yitzhak said, ‘Provided that he drank the greater part of each cup.’” The household members obviously did not drink the sufficient measure of wine (a revi’it – unless we assume we are talking of raw wine which, when diluted, would yield the specified measure). Perhaps we can say, though, that the principle of shome’a ke’oneh is operational as long as they tasted the wine.

Tosafot nonetheless concludes that we should act stringently and every person should drink four cups of wine, each containing a full measure. But why the need for stringency if, as implied by R. Nachman b. Yitzhak, merely tasting is sufficient to fulfill one’s obligation?

To answer this question, we must quote the Mishnah, which states (Kiddushin 41a): “A man can betroth [a woman] by himself or through his agent. A woman may become betrothed through herself or through her agent.” The Gemara asks: If an agent suffices, why specify “himself” and “herself”? (Tosafot, ad loc., argues that we cannot say that the text is written in the form of “lo zo af zo – not only this but also this” because we are talking about the same case, not a series of cases.)

The Gemara answers that it is more meritorious to fulfill this mitzvah directly. The same rule applies to other mitzvot too. Thus, R. Safra would personally singe the head of an animal (a Shabbat delicacy) although a servant could have prepared it for him. Raba would salt a fish (for Shabbat) although someone else could have done it for him.

(The Korban Netanel [to the Rosh, ad loc.] notes that a woman does not have the obligation to “be fruitful and multiply.” He answers, though, that she is a mesayea l’mitzvah – a helper in the mitzvah.”)

So while it’s true that women may not, in theory, have to drink a revi’it of all four cups, practically they do so because they were included in the miracle (Pesachim 108b; ad loc., Rashbam, s.v. “she’af hen hayu be’oto haness”) and the principle that it is more meritorious to do a mitzvah directly.

(See Tosafot, Sukkah [38a s.v. “Mi she’haya eved…”] which discuss a man having his obligation fulfilled by a woman at the Seder, as well as Tosafot [infra, op cit s.v. “Be’emet”] who quotes the Ba’al Halachot Gedolot ruling that a woman cannot read the Megillah to fulfill a man’s obligation.)

In reference to your question regarding eating an egg at the Seder: The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 473:4) states, “The following are set before the head of the household: A ke’arah upon which are placed…maror, charoset, karpas, salt water, and two cooked foods, one serving as a remembrance of the Paschal sacrifice and the other as a remembrance of the festival sacrifice. For this purpose, our custom is to use meat [for the former] and an egg for the latter.”

The Rema (infra., Orach Chayim 476:2) states, “It is a custom in certain locales to eat eggs at the Seder as a sign of mourning. It seems to me that the reason is because the evening of Tisha B’Av is always fixed in place to be the same [day of the week – see Ba’er Heitev and Mishnah Berurah ad loc.] as the evening of Pesach. Another reason is that it serves as a reminder of the destruction [of the Temple and subsequent dispersal of our people] because [prior to then] they would offer the Paschal sacrifice…”

The Mishnah Berurah (supra, Orach Chayim 473:32) notes that although a person cannot eat roasted meat at the Seder (because it represents the Korban Pesach), he may eat a roasted egg because it represents the korban chagigah. (We, of course, generally boil the eggs.)

In Biur Ha’Gra (ad. loc.), the Vina Gaon notes that the Torah hints to recalling the destruction of the Temple during the Seder meal by stating “al matzot u’merorim yochluhu – with matzot and maror shall they eat it” (Numbers 9:11). The maror metaphorically refers to the bitterness of the destruction of the Temple.

The Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chayyim 476:12) states, “It is important to understand that the eggs eaten at the meal are only a remembrance [whereas] common folk think it is a mitzvah to eat them. They fill themselves [improperly on eggs] such that they wind up eating the afikoman on a full stomach.”

By properly keeping all mitzvot of the Seder, may we speedily merit the coming of Melech HaMoshiach and our return to Jerusalem where we will once again offer up the Paschal sacrifice and celebrate with great joy.

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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.