Arvei Pesachim #26: 115b

  • Rav Yair Kahn

Gemora Pesachim

Yeshivat Har Etzion



by Rav Yair Kahn





Ta'am Maror


At first glance, the gemara seems to demand that maror actually be tasted. This would suggest that the mitzva of maror is not defined only in terms of a formal act of eating, but includes recreating the bitterness of slavery as well. Therefore, one should not expose the maror to charoset for a significant period of time, lest the bitterness of the maror be compromised. Furthermore, the gemara later rules that if one swallowed maror without tasting it at all, he did not fulfill the maror obligation.


However, this formulation of the mitzva of maror is problematic. In general, there is a distinction between the formal performance of a mitzva (ma'ase ha-mitzva) and the experiential fulfillment (kiyum ha-mitzva). Regarding maror, the gemara has already established that "mitzvot lo tzerikhot kavana"(114b). This implies that the experience of slavery is not inherent to the mitzva. We can explain that the requirement mentioned in our gemara to taste the maror does not reflect a demand for the experiential component per se. Nevertheless, the performance of the mitzva of maror is not defined as a dry act of eating, but rather the type of eating which lends itself to the potential of the experience of slavery. Therefore, tasting the maror was integrated into the performance of the mitzva itself.


This expansion of the mitzva beyond its formal categories is not limited to maror. In fact, it may be typical of the mitzvot of the seder night in general. This stems from the fact that the seder night focuses on the re-experience of yetziat mitzrayim. This experience is effected through the mitzvot of the seder night, which reflect the various stages of the slavery-redemption drama. The drinking of the four cups of wine, for instance, was instituted as an expression of freedom. Therefore, it is quite possible that merely drinking wine without some form of expressing freedom, would fall short of the requirement. (See shiur # 20.)


Similarly, we find that, according to certain commentators, the mitzva of matza does not exhaust itself in the formal act of eating. Tosafot and the Rosh indicate that heseiba (reclining) was instituted as an integral part of the mitzva of matza itself. Consequently, if matza were eaten without heseiba, the mitzva of matza would not be fulfilled. Evidently, the mitzva of matza includes eating in a manner that reflects the redemption. (See shiur # 19.)


A parenthetical comment of the Ramban (Milchamot Hashem, beginning of Berakhot) goes even further in this direction. The Ramban there suggests a novel interpretation of the famous statement of Rabban Gamliel (Pesachim 116a) "Whoever did not recite these three things did not fulfill his obligation, and these are: pesach matza and maror..." Rabban Gamliel requires one to state explicitly the symbolism of these three mitzvot, so basic to the seder night. The Ramban explained Rabban Gamliel's ruling as a qualification of the mizvot to eat these items. Accordingly, if one did not elucidate the symbolism of matza, he did not completely fulfill the requirement of eating matza. Clearly, the Ramban did not view the mitzva of eating matza only as a formal category, but considered appreciating the symbolism an important aspect of the mitzva as well.


[It should be noted that, according to the Ramban, failing to recite the explanation does not completely disqualify the mitzva. However, not tasting the maror, or lack of heseiba while eating the matza (according to the Rosh), invalidate the mitzva. Perhaps this is because tasting or heseiba, which are performed while eating, can be integrated into the actual mitzva performance. Verbal explanation, on the other hand, is a preliminary stage introducing the mitzva, and therefore was not halakhically defined as part of the mitzva itself.]



Bala Matza Yatza


Our gemara seems to lead to two conclusions. Firstly, swallowing is halakhically categorized as eating. Secondly, regarding matza, there is no additional requirement that demands tasting. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that according to the Rashbam, it is definitely preferable to actually taste the matza.


Our second conclusion must be evaluated in light of a seemingly contradictory gemara in Berakhot (38b), which discusses whether the process of cooking alters the status of an item, thereby effecting its berakha. The gemara there attempts to demonstrate the significance of cooking based on the halakha that one cannot fulfill the obligation of eating matza once it has been cooked. The sugya there proceeds to deflect this proof, claiming that cooked matza is disqualified on the grounds that there is a special requirement to retain the TASTE of matza (and not because cooking transfers the status of food). At first glance, the gemara in Berakhot directly contradicts our sugya, which disregards the need to taste the matza. In fact, the Me'iri suggests that the Rif omitted our sugya BECAUSE he maintained that one IS required to actually taste the matza, and swallowing the matza is not sufficient.


Most Rishonim, however, accepted our gemara at face value, and apparently distinguished between the gemara in Berakhot and our sugya. One possible distinction is that the sugya in Berakhot focuses on the definition of the object. Is this object considered matza or not? Initially, the gemara thought that the cooking process re-defines the status of foods in general. Therefore, cooked matza, which is not considered baked, loses its status of matza. The gemara subsequently modified this formulation, and suggested that, in general, cooking does not alter status. However, regarding matza there is a special requirement that it have the taste of matza. Therefore, any matza that undergoes change which alters its taste is not the type of object with which the mitzva can be fulfilled. [This is especially reasonable according to the Rashbam that optimally one should taste the matza. Therefore, the object, in order to be sanctioned, must enable the optimal performance of the mitzva.]


In our sugya, the matza itself, as an object (cheftza), has retained the appropriate taste. However, the person (gavra) who swallowed the matza failed to taste it. There is no deficiency in the object, which is therefore acceptable. As far as the performance of the mitzva of matza is concerned, tasting the matza, although preferred, is not indispensable.



Bala Maror


We have suggested that the mitzva of maror demands the normal act of eating as defined by the halakha, with the additional requirement of tasting the bitterness of the herbs. Accordingly, the mitzva of maror would conform to the standard norms of "akhila," which demand eating the amount of a kezayit within the period of akhilat pras (see 114b).


However, the Rosh (siman 25) suggests that the mitzva of maror does not require a full kezayit. The only reason a kezayit is in fact necessary is because our sages formulated the BERAKHA as "al AKHILAT maror", which thereby obligates "akhila." Evidently, the Rosh maintained that the act of akhila is not required with respect to maror. In fact, the Torah never demands the eating of maror independently, but views it as supplementary to the korban pesach - "al matzot u-merorim yokhluhu."


Perhaps, the mitzva of maror, due to its auxiliary role, is defined as te'ima (tasting), as opposed to akhila (eating). This is in contrast to the mitzva of matza which is defined as akhila and not as te'ima. Normally, when eating, one performs both te'ima and akhila. However, there are certain examples where only one of the two is performed:

1) Beli'a (swallowing) is a case of akhila without te'ima. Therefore, it suffices for matza, which requires akhila, but not for maror, which demands te'ima.

2) Less than a kezayit is an example of te'ima which is not categorized as akhila. Hence, in contradistincto matza, the basic mitzva of maror can be fulfilled with less than a kezayit.



Karkho Be-siv


Apparently, karkho be-siv (enveloping an item and then swallowing it) is defined as neither te’ima nor akhila. Therefore, not only is maror, which demands taste, disqualified, but the mitzva of matza is forfeited as well. Rashi explains that since the matza was totally enveloped, it is considered as not having been in his mouth. Although the matza entered his system, since it was not EATEN, it is similar to being nourished intravenously, which is not categorized as akhila.


Many poskim limit this halakha to a situation where the food was enveloped by a non-food item. However, if one type of food was surrounded by another type, the act of akhila would relate to both. Therefore, in the case where one swallowed matza and maror simultaneously, the mitzva of matza is fulfilled even if the maror prevented any direct contact with the matza. (See Rashbam s.v. Bala maror.) This limitation is based on the rule that min be-mino eino chotzetz (objects of the same type do not constitute a partition).


The Lechem Mishne (Hilkhot Chametz U-matza 6:2) argues that the mitzva of matza would not be fulfilled even if the matza were enveloped in some other food. However, he agrees that maror does not constitute a separation. The exception of maror, according to him, is because maror is related to matza since there is a mitzva to eat both on the seder night. However, other food items, unrelated to matza in this regard, would form a separation.


Both of the opinions, however, agree that karkho be-siv describes a situation whereby the object which has been enveloped is considered as though it had not passed through the subject's mouth. The Ran offers a different explanation for this halakha. According to him, karkho be-siv is not "derekh akhila" - the normal method of eating. Wrapping food in another object is so sharp a deviation from normative eating that the halakha did not categorize it as akhila. In fact, based upon the Ran, I would suggest continuity regarding our sugya. After establishing that swallowing, which is not so stark an aberration, IS halakhically categorized as akhila, the gemara proceeds to set the limits of halakhic akhila by excluding enveloping.


Since the explanation of Rashi is based on separation, it is clear that the halakha of karkho be-siv is limited to cases of complete insulation. However, according to the Ran, where deviation from the norm is the critical factor, karkho be-siv does not necessarily refer to insular envelopment.


1. 115b "Amar Rav Simi ... dvarim harbei".

2. Tosafot s.v. matza, Rashbam s.v. lifnei.

3. Rashbam s.v. ve'ein, gemara 116b "amar Rava ... kodshim bachutz".

4. Commentary of the Rach, Rashi 36a s.v. she'onim, tosafot 114a s.v. heivi'u lifanav.


1. Why must matza be placed in front of all those present according to tosafot?

2. The Shibolei Haleket requires karpas and two tavshilin in front of all the seder participants. Can the explanation of tosafot explain this opinion?

3. How can you explain the custom quoted by the Rashbam, to remove the meat from the seder plate before it is lifted?

4. What are the various interpretations of “dvarim harbei”?






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