The Laws of Afikomen and the Possibility of Fulfilling Mitzvot Conditionally

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon

The laws of Afikoman

and the possibility of fulfilling mitzvot conditionally

 

By Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon

Translated by David Strauss

 

 

A) WHy do we eat the Afikoman?

 

            The Mishna in Pesachim 119b states: "One may not eat desert [afikoman] after the Paschal sacrifice." During the time of the Temple, the mitzva was to eat the Paschal sacrifice together with matza at the end of the meal. The Mishna means to say that after eating this matza one is forbidden to eat anything else.

 

            Today, when there is no Temple or Paschal sacrifice, the Rishonim disagree as to which of the matzot eaten at the Seder is the matza with which we fulfill the biblical mitzva of eating matza.

 

            Rashi, ad loc., writes (s.v. ein):

 

One may not eat desert after the Paschal sacrifice – one must eat matza at the end of the meal as a remembrance of the matza that was eaten together with the Paschal sacrifice. This is the broken matza that we eat at the end in fulfillment of the obligation of matza.

 

            On the face of it, Rashi's comment is self-contradictory. On the one hand, he argues that the matza of the afikoman is only "a remembrance of the matza that was eaten together with the Paschal sacrifice," while on the other hand, he writes that this is the matza with which we fulfill the biblical mitzva of eating matza ("in fulfillment of the obligation of matza"). If the matza is merely a "remembrance," how is it a fulfillment of an obligation? The Acharonim had difficulty with Rashi's wording, but the simple understanding of his position seems to be that the matza of afikoman is indeed the obligatory matza that would be eaten together with the Paschal sacrifice. Today, however, since there is no Paschal sacrifice, it should have been possible to eat it already at the beginning of the meal. The reason that we eat it at the end of the meal is so that it may serve as a "remembrance" – a reminder that during the time of the Temple the obligatory matza would be eaten at the end of the meal. In other words, it is with the matza of afikoman that we fulfill the biblical obligation of eating matza, as was customary during the time of the Temple, despite the fact that in our circumstances, when there is no Paschal sacrifice, we could have eaten the matza earlier.

 

            If the obligatory matza is the matza of afikoman, why do we recite the blessing "al akhilat matza" over the first matza eaten on the night of the Seder, rather than over this matza? Rashi himself addresses this question and answers:

 

Perforce we recite the blessing "al akhilat matza" over the first [matza], even though it is not eaten in fulfillment of an obligation… for once he has filled his belly with it, how can he then recite a blessing… Therefore, he recites both blessings at the beginning, and then later eats matza at the end without a blessing.

 

            In other words, it is inconceivable that a person should eat matza throughout the Seder, without reciting the blessing over the fulfillment of the mitzva of eating matza. Therefore, we are accustomed to recite the blessing over the first matza eaten at the Seder, and not over the obligatory matza – the matza of afikoman.

 

            Tosafot (ad loc., s.v. ba-acharona) note that according to Rashi, "one should look for sufganim (a sort of cracker) to eat at the beginning so that he be able to recite the blessing 'al akhilat matza' at the end."  In other words, it is preferable to eat matza ashira during the meal, over which the blessing of "al akhilat matza" is not recited, so that one will be able to recite that blessing over the obligatory matza of afikoman.

 

            The Rosh (ch. 10, no. 34) cites the position of Rashi, and asks:

 

According to this, it seems that one should eat with it [= the afikoman] maror and charoset, since it serves as a remembrance of the matza eaten together with the Paschal sacrifice in a sandwich, and it is fitting that the "al akhilat matza" blessing be recited over it!

 

            Rashi himself writes: "But not maror, because it is not obligatory." Today the eating of maror is only a rabbinic obligation, and therefore it need not necessarily be eaten together with the matza of afikoman. In contrast, the Manhig writes, apparently in the wake of the view of Rashi, that one should eat maror, not only with the first matza, but with the matza of afikoman as well.

 

            At all events, the Rosh (ch. 10, no. 34) disagrees with the position of Rashi:

 

It seems to me that that matza [= afikoman] is not eaten in fulfillment of [the biblical] obligation, but rather we eat it as a remembrance of the Paschal sacrifice that was eaten in a state of satiety at the end.

 

            According to the Rosh, the matza of afikoman serves merely as a remembrance of the Paschal sacrifice, and is not the obligatory matza. The aforementioned Tosafot cite a third position:

 

[The reason we eat the matza of afikoman is] that it is good to eat it in a state of satiety and that the taste of matza should remain in his mouth… But the primary mitzva is the first [matza].

 

            According to Tosafot, the matza eaten at the end of the meal does not serve as a remembrance of anything, not of the Paschal sacrifice, and not of the matza eaten with that offering. Chazal enacted a special regulation to eat the matza at the end of the meal, in order that the taste of the matza should remain in a person's mouth for the rest of the night. The Maharal (Gevurot Ha-Shem, ch. 63) explains the three positions at great length, and in the end decides in favor of the position of Tosafot.

 

            To summarize, we have seen three positions regarding the afikoman:

 

1)         Rashi and Rashbam: The afikoman is the matza with which we fulfill the biblical obligation of eating matza, which during the time of the Temple was eaten along with the Paschal sacrifice.

 

2)         Rosh: The afikoman serves as a remembrance of the Paschal sacrifice.

 

3)         Tosafot, Maharal: The afikoman is an independent rabbinic mitzva, enacted in order to ensure that the taste of matza remains in one's mouth.

 

There are many practical differences between the various positions.

 

i)          Talking between the "al akhilat matza" blessing and the eating of the afikoman. According to Rashi, an interesting question arises: Why should we be permitted to talk between the "al akhilat matza" and the end of the meal, when the blessing must apply to the matza eaten at the end of the meal? Indeed, the Shela rules that it is fitting to refrain from talking from the beginning of the meal until the eating of the afikoman. Most of us, however, do not conduct ourselves in this manner.

 

ii)         Why do we eat two olive-sized portions of matza? The Maharil writes that for the afikoman one should eat two olive-sized portions of matza, and not one olive-sized portion, as is the case with all other mitzvot involving eating. He explains that this is necessary in order to demonstrate how cherished is the mitzva of eating matza. The Bach on the Tur (Orach Chayyim 473, 11) questions this reason, and writes:

 

It seems that the reason is that it is fitting to be stringent and eat afikoman in the amount of two olives, in keeping with the explanation of the Rashbam: one in remembrance of the Paschal sacrifice and one in remembrance of the matza eaten along with the Paschal sacrifice… And not for the reason stated by the Maharil, as a demonstration of how we cherish the mitzva… For these reasons have no foundation.

 

            In other words, according to the Rosh's explanation, that the afikoman serves as a remembrance of the eating during the time of the Temple, we do not know whether it is a remembrance of the Paschal sacrifice itself or a remembrance of the matza that was eaten along with it. Therefore, one should eat two olive-sized portions in order to discharge one's obligation at all events. It should be noted that this explanation is also difficult, because one could eat a single olive-sized portion, and have in mind two reasons. Nevertheless, the Halakha has been decided that lekhatchila one should eat two olive-sized portions of matza for afikoman, and if this is difficult, one may be lenient and eat only a single olive-sized portion.

 

iii)        Is it necessary to eat an olive-sized portion of matza for the afikoman? If the eating of the afikoman constitutes the fulfillment of a positive biblical precept, one must surely eat an olive-sized portion of the matza. Even if the afikoman constitutes a remembrance of the Paschal sacrifice (or of the matza eaten along with it) – there is room to require the eating of at least an olive-sized portion, in remembrance of the Paschal sacrifice. In contrast, the author of the Chinukh writes that a person can discharge his obligation regarding the afikoman with less than an olive-sized portion. This position fits in well with the view of Tosafot that the afikoman is eaten only so that the taste of matza should remain in a person's mouth.

 

B) "One may not eat desert [afikoman] after the Paschal sacrifice."

 

            The Mishna in Pesachim 119b states that "One may not eat desert [afikoman] after the Paschal sacrifice" – it is forbidden to eat anything after the matza of afikoman.[1] The Gemara explains that the reason for this prohibition is that the taste of matza should remain in a person's mouth. Thus also rules the Rambam (Hilkhot Chametz u-Matza 8:9):

 

And at the end he eats of the meat of the Paschal sacrifice, even an olive-sized portion, and afterwards he may not eat anything else whatsoever. In our time, he eats an olive-sized portion of matza, and afterwards he may not eat anything else, so that this be the conclusion of his meal, and the taste of the meat of the Paschal sacrifice or of the matza remain in his mouth, their eating being a mitzva.

 

            On the face of it, inasmuch as the Gemara already explained why it is forbidden to eat anything after the afikoman, there is no room to try to find additional reasons for the prohibition. Nevertheless, we find Rishonim who disagree with the reason recorded in the Gemara and offer other rationales for the prohibition.

 

How could these Rishonim disagree with the Gemara? Apparently, these Rishonim understood the words of the Gemara as a "sign" rather than as a "reason." The Rambam understood the Gemara's words as a "reason" – the substantive reason that one is forbidden to eat anything after the afikoman. According to him, there is a substantive need that the taste of the matza remain in the person's mouth, and this need constitutes the reason for the prohibition against eating after the afikoman. In contrast, most Rishonim understood that there is no such need, and the fact that the taste of the afikoman remains in a person's mouth is merely a "sign" that eating anything else after the afikoman is forbidden. The taste remaining in the mouth is a result of the prohibition, not its objective. Thus, the door is opened for these Rishonim to explain why it is forbidden to eat anything else after the afikoman.

 

            The Ramban in his Milchamot argues that the reason for the prohibition is "that the Paschal sacrifice should be eaten in a state of satiety." The Paschal sacrifice must be eaten when a person is full, and therefore it must be eaten at the end of the meal. As we said, according to him, the fact that the taste of the matza remains in a person's mouth is merely a by-product of the true reason for the prohibition against eating anything after the afikoman – so that the Paschal sacrifice be eaten in a state of satiety.

 

            The Ba'al ha-Ma'or offers a different reason for the prohibition to eat anything else after the afikoman: "So that he not miss out on the reading of Hallel." During the time of the Temple, those who arrived in Jerusalem for the festival had to eat the Paschal sacrifice within the walls of the city, and thus the city was exceedingly crowded. Therefore, immediately after eating the Paschal sacrifice, many people would ascend to the rooftops for the reading of Hallel. Chazal enacted that one may not eat anything else after the afikoman in order that the taste of the sacrifice remain in a person's mouth, and thus the people – after finding their way to the rooftops – would not forget to recite Hallel.

 

            We find a fourth reason for the prohibition of eating anything else after the afikoman in the Meiri: such eating would appear as a sign of disrespect to the afikoman. We shall see below the important ramifications of the differences between the various reasons.

 

C) How Late may one eat the afikoman?

 

            Two talmudic passages, Berakhot 9a and Pesachim 120b, cite the dispute between R. Akiva and R. Eliezer b. Azarya regarding the end of the time for eating the Paschal offering. According to R. Eliezer b. Azarya, the Paschal offering may be eaten until midnight – the time of haste of Egypt (when the Egyptians pressed the Israelites to leave). According to R. Akiva, the Paschal offering may be eaten until dawn – the time of haste of Israel (when the Israelites actually left). Is this dispute relevant also to the question regarding the time to eat matza? Rava (Pesachim 120b) asserts that indeed the aforementioned dispute affects this issue as well: According to R. Eliezer b. Azarya, the matza of afikoman must not be eaten after midnight, whereas according to R. Akiva, it may be eaten until dawn.

 

            The halakhic authorities disagree about how to rule on this issue. On the one hand, the law follows the anonymous Mishna, which in this case supports the position of R. Eliezer b. Azarya; on the other hand, the law follows R. Akiva in his disagreements with his fellow colleagues. The Ramban and the Ba'al ha-Ma'or rule in accordance with R. Akiva, whereas R. Chananel rules in accordance with R. Eliezer b. Azarya. The Shulchan Arukh rules that "a person should be careful to eat [the afikoman] before midnight." The plain meaning of his ruling is that he is stringent, though it is possible that he rules like the Rosh, that the care required here is in order to distance a person from sin. Moreover, it is possible that he means that lekhatchila one should be careful about the matter (see Responsa Minchat Yitzchak, vol. 9, no. 48). The reason is that there are various reasons to be lenient: Perhaps the law is in accordance with R. Akiva; even if it is in accordance with R. Eliezer b. Azarya, he may only be talking about the time to eat the Paschal sacrifice and not about the time to eat matza; and even if his words were stated with respect to matza as well perhaps they refer not to the afikoman, but to the matza with which a person fulfills his obligation of eating matza, and as was stated above, this might not be the afikoman, but rather the first matza eaten at the Seder.

 

            We all know that people often drag out the reading of the Hagada with words of Torah, and we know that one may not eat anything after having partaken of the afikoman - "one may not eat desert [afikoman] after the Paschal sacrifice." Thus, it is possible that if people are meticulous about eating the afikoman before midnight, they may not eat a satisfying meal or engage in lengthy discussions about the Hagada! The Avnei Nezer (Orach Chayyim, no. 381) dealt with this problem and proposed a solution: If a person sees that it is close to midnight, he should take a piece of matza and make the following stipulation: If the law is in accordance with R. Eliezer b. Azarya, then let this matza be the afikoman. According to his opinion, after midnight the time to eat the afikoman has already passed, and thus one is permitted to eat other foods. And if the law is in accordance with R. Akiva, then this matza should not be the afikoman, and thus he is permitted to continue eating. In this manner a person can eat of the matza, wait a short time until midnight has passed, continue his meal, and at the end eat another afikoman (following the view of R. Akiva).

 

            Despite the beauty and elegance of this ingenious proposal, it raises a number of difficulties.

 

I.              According to R. Eliezer b. Azarya, is one permitted to eat after midnight?

 

The first difficulty emerges from the words of R. Moshe Feinstein in his Responsa Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chayyim, V, no. 38, that perhaps R. Eliezer b. Azarya maintains that one is forbidden to eat other things even after midnight, despite the fact that the time for eating the afikoman has already passed, because the taste of the afikoman is supposed to remain in a person's mouth until the morning.[2]

 

In the course of his discussion, the Avnei Nezer does in fact relate to the question raised by the Iggerot Moshe. The Gemara in Pesachim 120b states that according to R. Eliezer b. Azarya, the eating of the afikoman serves as a remembrance of the smiting of the firstborns of Egypt, which took place at midnight. In the wake of this Gemara, the Avnei Nezer asks: Why according to R. Eliezer ben Azarya is it permissible to eat the afikoman even before midnight? Surely God passed over Egypt at exactly midnight, and so it would seem that one should eat the afikoman at exactly that time! He answers that there is no need to eat the afikoman at midnight, but only that at midnight a person should have the taste of afikoman in his mouth, and in that way we remember the smiting of the firstborns. According to this explanation, R. Moshe Feinstein's question falls away: According to R. Eliezer b. Azarya, the essence of the mitzva is that at midnight the taste of the matza should be in a person's mouth, and thus, there should be no prohibition against further eating the rest of the night, after the taste of the matza was felt at midnight.

 

II.            Why is it forbidden to eat anything else after the afikoman?

 

In light of the Avnei Nezer's explanation, another difficulty arises. As we saw earlier, the Rishonim disagree as to why one is forbidden to eat anything else after the afikoman. The Avnei Nezer's explanation fit in well with the reason explicitly stated in the Gemara (which is also the reason offered by the Rambam) – that the taste of the matza should remain in a person's mouth. According to the Avnei Nezer, the taste of the matza must be perceptible at exactly midnight, and there is nothing to prevent a person from continuing to eat after the taste of matza was felt at midnight.

 

However, according to the reasons offered by the other Rishonim, the Avnei Nezer's explanation is not valid. If one must eat the afikoman in a state of satiety, as argued by the Ramban, it is clear that one may not eat anything after the afikoman even after midnight. Also according to the view that eating after the afikoman is forbidden so that one not forget to recite the Hallel (as argued by the Ba'al ha-Ma'or) – there is no stipulation that will allow a person to eat after midnight. Also according to the rationale offered by the Meiri, that eating after the afikoman appears as a slight to the afikoman, it would appear that there is no room for the novel proposal of the Avnei Nezer, though perhaps one can argue that if a stipulation is made at the outset, there is no slight to the afikoman.

 

III.           Does the time of the paschal sacrifice end at midnight?

 

Another point that may be problematic for the Avnei Nezer emerges from the Tosefta in Pesachim that states that even according to R. Eliezer b. Azarya – who maintains that it is forbidden to eat the Paschal sacrifice after midnight – the sacrifice does not turn into notar ("leftover") until the morning. How can it be that from midnight until dawn the sacrifice is forbidden to be eaten, but it is not yet considered notar? R. Chayyim of Brisk related to this question, and explained that indeed the mitzva of eating the sacrifice ends at midnight, but the time of the mitzva of the sacrifice – the time during which it is defined as a "Paschal sacrifice" – continues until morning.

 

According to this explanation, it is difficult to accept the Avnei Nezer's solution, for if the mitzva fundamentally continues until morning, it is reasonable to assume that the taste of the matza must remain in a person's mouth until that time, and not only until midnight. The Or Same'ach, however, answers the question in a different manner than did R. Chayyim. He argues that the Paschal sacrifice constitutes at one and the same a peace offering, and it is on account of the element of its being a peace-offering that it is not considered notar until the morning. According to this explanation, it is possible that one may eat after midnight (according to R. Eliezer b. Azarya), for already at that time it is no longer a Paschal sacrifice, but only a peace-offering.

 

IV.          According to R. Akiva, may one eat the paschal sacrifice until morning?

 

Thus far, we have assumed that according to R. Akiva, one is permitted to eat the Paschal sacrifice until morning, and thus one can stipulate that if the law is in accordance with R. Akiva, we will continue to eat even after midnight. The Rosh rules that lekhatchila the afikoman should be eaten before midnight, and only bedi'eved may it be eaten until morning. Thus, according to him, one should not make use of the Avnei Nezer's solution, for if we utilize his stipulation we will miss out on the ideal performance of the mitzva, according to R. Akiva.

 

D) Is it possible to attach conditions to mitzvot?

 

            Let us now consider another question that arises from the words of the Avnei Nezer: Is it at all possible to perform a mitzva and stipulate that if X, then the mitzva shall be fulfilled, but if Y, the mitzva shall not be fulfilled?

 

            We first encounter such a solution in the words of the Abudraham (p. 242), which relate to a person who recites the evening service early, and is concerned that he will forget to count the omer after nightfall. Such a person cannot count the omer with a blessing, but if he counts now without a blessing, he will not be able to count again later at night with a blessing. Thus, Abudraham suggests that he count the omer without a blessing, and stipulate that if he remembers to count later, his first counting should not be regarded, and he can then count again with a blessing. The Magen Avraham had difficulty with the words of the Abudraham; he argues that they are correct only according to the view that the fulfillment of mitzvot requires intention. If the fulfillment of mitzvot does not require intention, the stipulation will not help, for even if the person has no intention to fulfill the mitzva (if in the end he remembers to count again at night) – he has already discharged his obligation. At all events, there are Rishonim who accepted the position of the Abudraham, and according to them, stipulations can be attached to the fulfillment of mitzvot.

 

            We are accustomed on Rosh Hashana to blow TaSHRaT and then TaSHaT because of the uncertainty regarding the nature of a teru'a. It seems that it should be possible to blow TaSHRaT, shevarim, teki'a, and stipulate that the teki'a in the middle should be associated either with the shevarim-teru'a that precedes it or with the shevarim that follows it, in accordance with the true teru'a that the Torah has commanded. The Bet Yosef (590), in fact, maintains that such a stipulation is permissible, but he cites the position of R. Eliyahu Mizrachi that such an arrangement is impossible, because the fulfillment of mitzvot requires intention, and one must have in mind either the teki'a of the shevarim-teru'a or the teki'a of the shevarim. The Bet Yosef disagrees, and maintains that such a stipulation is possible, and that the teki'a will be effective with respect to the correct teru'a.

 

            Another example of a condition attached to the fulfillment of a mitzva is brought by the Rema. The Rema (46:9) rules that it is preferable to recite "Barukh shem kevod malkhuto le'olam va'ed" following the Shema recited along with the reading of the sacrificial rite in the morning, so that if he does not reach Shema during its designated time, he will have fulfilled his obligation with what he recited earlier. R. Akiva Eiger (ad loc) and Shulchan Arukh ha-Rav explain that a stipulation should be made in order not to miss out on reciting the Shema later in the framework of its blessings. Therefore, when he recites the Shema the first time, he should stipulate that if he fails to reach the Shema in its designated time, the Shema that he recites with the reading of the sacrificial rite should count for him. But if he reaches the Shema in its designated time, only the second reading (with the blessings) should count.

 

            Many other halakhic authorities address the issue of stipulations attached to the fulfillment of mitzvot. Thus, for example, Responsa Sho'el u-Meishiv (4th ed., III, no. 127), relates to a person who hears havdala in the synagogue, but does not know whether or not the members of his household have already made havdala. He proposes that the person stipulate that if his family members already recited havdala, then he should discharge his obligation with the havdala in the synagogue, but if they did not already recite havdala, then his intention is not to discharge his obligation with that havdala, but rather with the havdala that he will recite for his family at home. Responsa Chazon Nachum (no. 32) records a similar stipulation regarding kiddush (in places where kiddush is recited in the synagogue). Another example transpired in the yeshiva when a question arose regarding the fitness of machine spun tzitzit threads. I proposed at the time that whoever has machine spun tzitzit threads should stipulate that if the threads are unfit, then he gives the garment to his friend as a gift and borrows it from him, a borrowed garment being exempt from tzitzit.

 

            Responsa Oneg Yom Tov (nos. 2-3) disagrees about the various examples cited above, arguing that it is impossible to attach conditions to the fulfillment of mitzvot. He adduces proof for his position from the talmudic passage dealing with conditions attached to chalitza, which establishes that such conditions are not effective, "for anything which does not lend itself to agency, does not lend itself to conditions." Since it is impossible to fulfill the aforementioned mitzvot through an agent - a person must count the omer himself, wear the tzitzit himself, and hear havdala himself - it is similarly impossible for him to attach conditions to their fulfillment. However, the Tosafot in Ketubot 74a had difficulty understanding this principle – what is the connection between conditions and agency? The Oneg Yom Tov explains that if a certain action cannot be performed by way of an agent, it means that the action is intimately connected to the person himself, and therefore it cannot be subject to conditions. As soon as the person performs the act of the mitzva, he is so connected to it that it is impossible for the act not to be valid.

 

            In addition to the two positions cited above, a third view is found among the Rishonim - that of R. Eliyahu Mizrachi which we saw earlier - which argues that a condition attached to a mitzva invalidates the fulfillment of the mitzva, even if in the end the condition is fulfilled. There are then three positions regarding conditions attached to the fulfillment of mitzvot:

 

1)       According to Abudraham and the Bet Yosef, a condition attached to the fulfillment of mitzvot is valid.

 

2)       According to the Mizrachi, such a condition is ineffective, and it invalidates the fulfillment of the mitzva, even if the condition is fulfilled.

 

3)       According to the Oneg Yom Tov, such a condition is ineffective. If a person attaches a condition to the fulfillment of a mitzva, he discharges his obligation with respect to that mitzva, irrespective of whether or not the condition has been fulfilled.

 

How will Abudraham and the Bet Yosef explain the Gemara that we saw, according to which "anything which does not lend itself to agency, does not lend itself to conditions." The Ramban (Bava Batra 126b) writes that this rule was only stated regarding interpersonal mitzvot, like chalitza, but not with respect to mitzvot between man and God, like the eating of afikoman. The Ramban's position may be understood in light of the aforementioned Tosafot: If it is impossible to appoint an agent to perform an interpersonal mitzva, it means that the fulfillment of the mitzva does not belong to the person, but rather is dependent upon others. For example: A person cannot appoint an agent to perform chalitza, which proves that the fulfillment of the mitzva is not dependent exclusively upon him. In contrast, the fulfillment of a mitzva between man and God is always dependent upon the person himself and upon him alone, for there is no other person in the picture. Therefore, even if for some reason it is impossible to appoint an agent to fulfill a particular mitzva – this does not negatively impact upon a person's control of the mitzva, and he can therefore attach conditions to its fulfillment.

 

The Oneg Yom Tov did not accept the position of the Ramban, but rather he asserted that it is totally impossible to attach conditions to the fulfillment of mitzvot. It stands to reason that he understood the rule recorded in the Gemara in an entirely different manner: In order to be possible to perform a mitzva by way of an agent, a distinction must be made between the act of the mitzva and its fulfillment – the agent performs the act of the mitzva, but the fulfillment is ascribed to the principle. Therefore, if it is impossible to perform a particular mitzva by way of an agent – it means that it is impossible to distinguish between the act of the mitzva and its fulfillment, and the mitzva can only be ascribed to the person who performs the act of the mitzva. It may, therefore, be argued that regarding such mitzvot, the act and fulfillment of which are intimately connected, it is impossible to attach conditions, for as soon as the act of the mitzva is performed, the mitzva is immediately fulfilled.

 

One of the serious controversies in the history of Halakha erupted when the halakhic authorities in France allowed conditions to be attached to a woman's betrothal. It was established that it is possible to betroth a woman and stipulate that the kiddushin will be annulled in the future if a certain condition is fulfilled. One of the arguments raised against this novel position was that even if it is possible to attach conditions to kiddushin, no condition may be attached to nisu'in, "for a person does not make his cohabitation an act of fornication." According to what we have said, we can explain that it is impossible to separate between the act of nisu'in and its validity, because nisu'in is a reality. The cohabitation is both the act of the mitzva and its validity, and so it is impossible to engage in cohabitation and stipulate that in certain circumstances it not be regarded as a marital act, but rather as fornication.

 

Similarly, it may be argued that it is impossible to attach conditions to the counting of the omer, to havdala, or to kiddush. The Torah wanted a person to perform the act of these mitzvot himself, and did not allow him to perform them through an agent, and thus when the act of the mitzva is performed, the mitzva is immediately fulfilled, and conditions can not be attached to it.

 

Let us explain this matter further. Take the counting of the omer as an example. The counting of the omer has no meaning without intention to engage in that count. As long as a person intends to count the omer, he fulfills the mitzva. There is no room for stipulations, that if such-and-such transpires, it should be a mitzva, but if not, it should not be a mitzva. For if a person has intended to count the omer, that is its fulfillment, and there is no way to distinguish between the fulfillment of a mitzva and its validity (this is reality, not an act and its result).

 

This principle becomes even more sharpened in the context of the mitzva of reciting the Shema (as was explained by R. Blumenzweig, shlita, who accepts the principle mentioned above): When a person reads the Shema, he immediately accepts upon himself the yoke of heaven. It is impossible for a person to stipulate that if he manages to reach the Shema in its designated time, he does not wish to accept upon himself the yoke of heaven at this time, but only later. The mitzva of reading the Shema is not composed of an act of mitzva and its validity; it is impossible to distinguish between the reading of the verses and the acceptance of the yoke of Heaven.

 

It should be noted that even if we agree with the Oneg Yom Tov, we can still utilize the proposal mentioned earlier regarding tzitzit. For that proposal does not involve a condition attached to mitzvot, but rather a condition regarding modes of transaction – in certain circumstances, I transfer ownership to a third party. In the realm of transactions, there is no problem attaching stipulations (for there it is possible to distinguish between the act of the transaction and its validity). Thus, there is no difficulty asserting that if the tzitzit are disqualified, the garment should be viewed as having been given away as a gift to another person.

 

E) THe Halakha

 

It is accepted in the Torah world that R. Velvel Soloveitchik praised the proposal of the Avnei Nezer, but pointed out to him that his condition is superfluous. It is permissible to eat one matza before midnight, and another matza at the end of the meal, without making any stipulations. If the objective is (as argued by the Avnei Nezer) that the taste of matza should be in his mouth at midnight – then it should suffice to eat a small amount of matza a few minutes before midnight (according to R. Eliezer b. Azarya), and then one can continue eating after midnight. The other problems that we mentioned are not resolved by R. Velvel's proposal, but a person who does not make the stipulation is in no worse state than a person makes the stipulation. There is, however, one point regarding which the solution offered by the Avnei Nezer is preferable. The Ramban explained that a person should not drink any more after having drunk the four cups, so as not to appear as if he were adding to the cups, and as if he were counted on two different Paschal sacrifices. According to R. Velvel, he really appears as if he were eating of two Paschal sacrifices, for he eats afikomen twice (the Acharonim disagree about this principle, whether it is permissible to eat the afikomen twice).

 

Practically speaking, many great authorities – including the Netziv and the Chatam Sofer – were not meticulous about eating the afikomen before midnight. Therefore, if it is impossible, and most importantly, if it will cause grief – it stands to reason that one may be lenient and eat the afikomen after midnight or use the proposal suggested by the Avnei Nezer.

 

It is related that the Ridbaz, who disagreed with R. Kook regarding the allowance to sell the land of Israel during the sabbatical year, once arrived in Volozhin to celebrate the festival of Pesach. On the night of the Seder, he was hosted in the house of the Bet ha-Levi, who was exceedingly meticulous regarding the mitzvot. The Bet ha-Levi was stringent about reciting the evening service in accordance with the time of Rabbenu Tam, and therefore he arrived home very late. And because he dragged out the Maggid section of the Hagada, when the mealtime arrived, he found himself in a great rush. Because of his meticulous attitude regarding the possibility of chametz, and his concern that a small portion of the dough in the matza may not have been properly baked, he was meticulous to bake his matzot very well, to the point that they would be burnt. Thus, the matzot that were brought to the table were all burnt. He, of course, distributed matza and maror in large quantities to all the members of his household. Immediately afterwards, when he realized that there was no time to eat the meal, he gave out a large portion of matza for the afikoman, and everybody continued talking about the exodus from Egypt the entire night. At the end of the night, after dawn had arrived, the Bet ha-Levi sighed and said: "Who knows whether we fulfilled the mitzvot of matza and maror in proper manner."

 

The next night, the second night of the Seder in the Diaspora, the Ridbaz was the guest of the Netziv. The Netziv quickly completed the evening service at nightfall, arrived home early, and when it came time for motzi matza, crisp and tasty matzot were served. In the Netziv's house they had time to read the Hagada, to enjoy the meal, and also to eat the afikoman on time. At the end of the night, the Netziv sighed and said: "How many mitzvot have we fulfilled today: matza, maror, magid…." The Ridbaz said: "I was a guest in the home of two of the greatest Torah authorities, and each one experienced the night of the Seder in an entirely different manner." From here we may conclude that there are different paths in the service of God, and that it is unnecessary for all to take the same road (provided, of course, that one remains faithful to the rulings of Halakha).

 

(This is the summary of a shiur kelali delivered in the Yeshiva in 2005.)

 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] Of course, the term afikoman is used today in a borrowed sense. The Mishna means that that one may not eat afikoman – a desert – after the Paschal sacrifice. Today we refer to the matza eaten at the end of the meal as the afikoman, because that is our last course.

 

[2] The words of R. Feinstein imply that it was difficult for him to rely on logical argument against the custom of generations: We know that people have always felt pressured on the Seder night as midnight approached; how then is it possible to propose a solution that contradicts ancient custom? Needless to say, R. Feinstein often proposes novel ideas that are not found in the earlier sources.