Arvei Pesachim #23: 114a

  • Rav Yair Kahn

Gemora Pesachim

Yeshivat Har Etzion




by Rav Yair Kahn



114b - Mitzvot Tzerikhot Kavana



According to Reish Lakish, if one ate maror during the seder night without intention for the mitzva, he has not fulfilled his obligation. Therefore, in the case of the mishna, where a vegetable which qualifies as maror was eaten as karpas, it is necessary to eat maror again in order to fulfill his basic obligation. This position is supported by a beraita ascribed to R. Yossi. However, the gemara quotes a beraita with the conflicting opinion that the mitzva of maror can be fulfilled even without intention.


The Rif rules in accordance with the position taken by Reish Lakish that "mitzvot tzerikhot kavana" (mitzvot require intention). Furthermore, the gemara in Rosh Hashana (28a) compares unintentional eating of matza with hearing a shofar without intending to fulfill the obligation of shofar on Rosh HaShana. This implies that the rule is extended to cover mitzvot in general. As a rule, according to the Rif, the fulfillment of mitzvot is dependent upon intention. In adopting this position, the Rif is forced to reject the conflicting opinions quoted both in our sugya, as well as the gemara in Rosh Hashana.


Rav Zerachya Halevi, the Ba'al Ha-Ma'or, disagrees with the Rif's conclusion. He claims that only R. Yossi maintains the position that intention is a critical factor. Since the only tannaitic support for Reish Lakish is R. Yossi, his opinion should be rejected in light of the conflicting opinions. Consequently, Rav Zerachya arrives at the opposite conclusion, that mitzvot in general can be fulfilled unintentionally.


The Ra'avad basically agrees with the Rif that the fulfillment of mitzvot in general requires intention. Nevertheless, he accepts the ruling of Reish Lakish regarding the mitzva of maror. He distinguishes between most mitzvot and maror, where the obligation is TO EAT. Since when eating one personally and physically enjoys what one is doing (has hana'a), the problem of lack of intention is overcome. In order to appreciate this distinction, let us briefly glance at the halakha which the Ra'avad quotes in this context – "MIT'ASEK."


Mit'asek refers to an incidental violation of a prohibition where there was no intention of performing the forbidden act. [For instance, one who intends on lifting something on Shabbat, and inadvertently uproots grass.] One who commits a transgression by mit'asek is not liable, not even to bring a korban chatat (nornally brought for shogeg). By applying mit'asek to mitzvot, it is clear that the Ra'avad understands that mit'asek is not merely mitigating circumstances which remove culpability. Such an understanding would limit mit'asek to cases which involve punishment. The extention to mitzvot, evidently, is rooted in viewing mit'asek as a general rule governing the halakhic definition of human action. Only an act which was performed intentionally can be related to the performer. An incidental by-product of an intended act is not ascribed to the doer. The action has not been performed by a conscious actor. Accordingly, mit'asek would affect all categories which are concerned with human performance, whether mitzva or aveira.


However, there is one exception to the rule of mit'asek. If one, while involved in a primary act, incidentally eats prohibited food, he is culpable. The reason given is that eating is different - "she-ken neheneh" - the performer achieved personal physical pleasure. Based upon our definition of mit'asek, we may suggest that the attainment of personal physical pleasure can overcome the lack of relatedness between the doer and the incidental act. The personal pleasure relates the act of even incidental eating to the individual.


The Ra'avad applies the same reasoning to mitzvot. If one lacks intention to perform the act of the mitzva, although he did the mitzva incidentally, it is not defined as his act. Therefore, mitzvot in general require intention. However, the mitzvot of matza and maror can be fulfilled, even unintentionally, by virtue of the relatedness attained through the physical pleasure involved in eating.


Tosafot (115a s.v. Matkif) agree with the Rif that our sugya concludes that mitzvot require intention. Nevertheless, when contrasting our sugya to the gemara in Rosh Hashana, they imply a parallel distinction to that of the Ra'avad, namely the mitzvot of matza and maror can be fulfilled without kavana, while shofar requires kavana. However, in contradistinction to the Ra'avad, according to Tosafot, the exceptional case is shofar which necessitates more kavana than is usually needed.


According to Tosafot, there is a basic distinction between regular mitzvot, and those which are categorized as tefilla. With respect to standard mitzvot, the essence of the mitzva is THE ACT. Therefore, one can readily entertain the position that intention is not critical, since in any case, the act was performed. However, regarding mitzvot catalogued as tefilla, the mitzva does not exhaust itself in the mere physical performance. With respect to tefilla, the intention is an integral part of the mitzva itself. Since Tosafot classify the mitzva of shofar as a non-verbal form of tefilla, they conclude that without intention the mitzva of shofar cannot be fulfilled.



115a: Matkif La Rav Chisda


Rav Huna, who delayed the birkat ha-mitzva ("al achilat maror") until the eating of maror after the matza, seems to agree with the position of Reish Lakish that mitzvot require intention. Therefore, despite eating maror earlier instead of karpas, the mitzva is not fulfilled then, and the birkat ha-mitzva should not be recited. Only after eating the matza, when one intends to fulfil the mitzva, is the berakha recited.


Rav Chisda, who disagrees, can be explained according to the dissenting view that mitzvot do not require intention. Accordingly, the mitzva of maror is fulfilled when he initially eats the maror instead of karpas. Therefore, Rav Chisda demands that the berakha be recited immediately when the maror is eaten the first time.


This interpretation of Rav Chisda will force us to rule according to the view that mitzvot LO tzerikhot kavana, since the gemara explicitly accepts Rav Chisda's position. However, we already noted that many Rishonim rule in accordance with Reish Lakish that mitzvot DO require intention.


The Ramban addresses this problem, and forwards an alternate interpretation of Rav Chisda. Accordingly, Rav Chisda agrees that mitzvot require intention. Therefore, if one ate maror instead of karpas and did not recite the birkat ha-mitzva, he is fully justified in reciting this berakha later when eating the maror after the matza. However, Rav Chisda argues that it is preferable to recite the birkat ha-mitzva when eating the maror for the first time. Reciting the berakha will itself inspire intention, and transform the initial eating of the maror to an intentional and legitimate mitzva performance. Therefore, although he maintains that mitzvot tzerikhot kavana, Rav Chisda rules that the mitzva of maror should be fulfilled when eating the maror for the first time, even though this is not the usual place for the fulfillment of the mitzva of maror.


Tosafot (s.v. Matkif) go one step further. They claim that since Rav Chisda agrees that mitzvot require intention, the mitzva of maror is NOT fulfilled when eating the maror in place of karpas. Nevertheless, the berakha should be recited immediately. As an example, they bring the mitzva of shofar, where the berakha is recited when blowing the shofar before musaf, although the main fulfillment of shofar occurs later when blowing the shofar within the Shemona Esrei (al seder ha-berakhot). Apparently, Tosafot conclude, once the birkat ha-mitzva is followed immediately by an incomplete form of the mitzva, it can relate to the subsequent completion, despite the time gap. (See Tosafot 120a s.. Ba-acharona.)


It should be noted that the comparison to shofar is inaccurate. According to Tosafot, tekiya al seder ha-berakhot, as part of the Shemona Esrei, is a fulfillment of the mitzva of shofar. [This is consistent with Tosafot's view of shofar as a form of tefilla.] Nevertheless, there is no question that the mitzva on a basic level is fulfilled even without the berakhot of musaf (see Rosh Hashana 34b). Therefore, it is reasonable that one can recite the birkat ha-mitzva before the initial stage. However, regarding maror, since Rav Chisda agrees that mitzvot tzerikhot kavana, there is no fulfillment of the mitzva whatsoever when eating maror in place of karpas. Therefore, the ability to recite the berakha immediately in the case of maror cannot be supported from the shofar case.


Apparently, Tosafot understand that the lack of intention when performing a mitzva does not undermine the ma'aseh ha-mitzva – the mitzva act. Rather it is only a condition necessary for the "kiyum" - fulfillment - of the mitzva, while the mitzva performance remains intact. Tosafot, therefore, interpret Rav Chisda as preferring the birkat ha-mitzva prior to the initial ma'aseh ha-mitzva, despite the lack of kiyum.


The example of shofar is introduced in order to prove an additional point. Normally, birkot ha-mitzva must be recited immediately prior to the mitzva - "over la-asiyatan." From this halakha we may have thought that a "hefsek" - break - severs the berakha from the ensuing mitzva, and the berakha cannot relate to subsequent acts. From the case of shofar, Tosafot show that immediacy is required only to give legitimacy and meaning to the berakha itself. A berakha left dangling lacks significance. If, however, the berakha is followed immediately by the mitzva it is meaningful, and can effect the subsequent completion of the mitzva despite the intermittent hefsek.


Tosafot then apply this idea to our case of maror. Since the berakha "al akhilat maror" is followed by a bona fide mitzva performance (the ma'aseh ha-mitzva without intention), it is a legitimate and meaningful statement, despite the lack of kiyum. Therefore, this berakha can relate to the subsequent fulfillment of the mitzva despite the ensuing hefsek between karpas and the second eating of maror after the matza.





1. 114b "Amar Reish Lakish ... mai mitzva," Tosafot 115a s.v. Ve-hadar.

2. Rambam Hilkhot Chametz U-matza 8:2, Hagahot Maimoniot #4, Rosh siman 25 [till "meihem kezayit"].

3. 114a Rashbam s.v. Metabel, Tosafot s.v. Metabel.

4. 114b Rashi s.v. Pshita.



1. What is the reason for the institution of karpas?

2. How much karpas should one eat? Why?

3. In what is the karpas dipped?

4. Is the eating of maror covered by the birkat ha-motzi? If not, which birkat ha-nehenin recited on the seder night does cover the maror?





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