Arvei Pesachim #27: 115b

  • Rav Yair Kahn

Gemora Pesachim

Yeshivat Har Etzion


SHIUR #27 115b

by Rav Yair Kahn




Matza Lifnei Kol Echad


On a regular Shabbat and Yom Tov, the challot are placed only in front of one individual, who recites the berakha and then shares the challa with all those present. However, on Pesach, according to Rav Simi, a separate piece of matza should be placed in front of each individual. Apparently, there is some unique aspect of the seder night which generates this additional demand.


Tosafot (s.v. Matza) seem to suggest a distinction between a birkat ha-nehenin (a blessing prior to gaining benefit from an object) and a birkat ha-mitzva (a blessing before performing a mitzva). On a regular Shabbat and Yom Tov, the only berakha recited over the challa is a birkat ha-nehenin. However, on the seder night, a birkat ha-mitzva is recited over the matza as well. Apparently, the mitzva performance must IMMEDIATELY follow the birkat ha-mitzva, while that same level of immediacy is not required between a birkat ha-nehenin and eating. Therefore, Rav Simi demanded that matza be placed in front of each individual specifically on the seder night, so that the berakha on the mitzva of eating matza will be immediately followed by eating, without any interruption. However, on a normal Shabbat, the time interval after the birkat ha-nehenin during which the challa is passed around to the participants in the meal is not a problem.


The aforementioned distinction is evidently rooted in the halakha of "over la'asiyatan," which demands that a birkat ha-mitzva be recited immediately before performing the mitzva. (See Sukka 39a Tosafot s.v. Over.) However, concerning birkot ha-nehenin, there is no positive requirement of immediacy. Rather, there is a negative demand to avoid hefsek (a break) which would prevent the berakha from relating to this particular eating. Speech or actions which do not constitute a hefsek are allowed following a birkat ha-nehenin (Berakhot 40a).


One understanding of birkat ha-mitzva is that it functions similarly to birkat ha-nehenin. Both berakhot are required as a "matir" (permission) to permit the ensuing act of eating or worship. (See Pesachim shiur #13.) Based on this understanding, we would also expect correspondence regarding the type of connection required between the berakha and the act. If it is sufficient to avoid hefsek when dealing with birkot ha-nehenin, we should be able to assume the same regarding birkot ha-mitzva. Since this is not the case, we would have to suggest that a birkat ha-mitzva contains some extra element not found in birkat ha-nehenin. This element generates the immediacy of "over la'asiyatan" which is unique to birkot ha-mitzva. One possibility is that the berakha is not only a prerequisite for doing a mitzva (as is the case with birkhat ha-nehenin), but in addition, actually defines the act as a mitzva.


According to Tosafot, each participant must have immediate access to matza. Therefore, the specific seating arrangement is relevant. However, the Rashbam (s.v. Matza lifnei) comments that Rav Simi's requirement that matza and maror be placed before everyone does not apply today. He claims that this was only demanded in Talmudic times, when it was customary for everyone to have his own separate table or tray. Consequently, for the European style of eating, which has only one large table around which everyone eats, it is not required. If the problem is the time needed to pass around the matza, then the arrangement of the table should not make a difference. Evidently, the Rashbam had a different understanding than Tosafot of Rav Simi's halakha.


According to the Rashbam, it could be that Rav Simi's requirement, which is unique to the seder night, is rooted in the halakha that the hagadda be recited in the presence of matza and maror. We read in the hagadda: "Perhaps it (the story of the exodus) should be recited during the day? From the words "ba'avur zeh" we derive that it should be recited only in the presence of matza and maror (which is limited to the night)." There are those who understood that this passage confines sipur yetziat mitzrayim to a certain time-frame - "when matza and maror are normally in your presence;" i.e., the seder night. Accordingly, there is no requirement for the actual presence of matza and maror. However, the Rashbam apparently understood that this passage expresses a demand for the physical presence of matza and maror at the seder table. (See shiur # 1.) Therefore, Rav Simi required that each independent table be equipped with matza and maror. However, with the switch to big European tables, the presence of matza and maror on the table, before the leader of the seder, is sufficient, since it is considered in the presence of all those seated at that table.



If Rav Simi's halakha is based on birkat ha-mitzva (as Tosafot explain), it would have to be limited to the items mentioned explicitly in the gemara, namely matza, maror and charoset. However, the Shibolei Haleket extended this halakha to include the entire seder plate. Accordingly, Rav Simi would have insisted that karpas and the two tavshilin also be placed before everyone along with the matza and maror. Since we do not recite birkat ha-mitzva over these items, this opinion cannot be explained in accordance with Tosafot. However, if we adopt the approach we suggested for the Rashbam, it is possible to demand the presence of all items of the seder plate while reciting the hagadda. After all, karpas and the two tavshilin also have symbolic significance.



Ve-ein Okrin Et Ha-shulchan


Removing the table or tray in the time of the gemara (when Babylonian custom was prevalent) is accomplished in modern times by distancing the seder plate (see Rashbam s.v. Ve-ein). The reason offered by the gemara for this odd practice is to generate curiosity among the children, in order to spark their inquisitive minds. According to Tosafot, there is no more than a technical relationship between the two halves of Rav Simi's statement. The first part is concerned with berakha requirements, while the second part relates to considerations regarding sipur yetziat mitzrayim. On the other hand, according to the approach we suggested based upon the Rashbam, Rav Simi is concerned only with sipur yetziat mitzrayim. Nevertheless, he distinguishes between the need to recite the hagadda in the presence of matza, which would be necessary on each and every table, and the shinuyim (strange practices) which can be performed by the leader of the seder alone, since it is the actions of the leader which prompts the response of the children.


Both the Rashbam and Tosafot quote an interesting custom of lifting the seder plate instead of removing it. In addition, the meat should be removed from the seder plate before lifting it. The Rashbam questions this custom, claiming that lifting is insufficient in order to intrigue the youngster. The child's curiosity is generated by the removal of food from the table at a point when it would normally have been eaten. Furthermore, he argues, the requirement to remove the meat when lifting the seder plate is based on a later sugya (116b), and is limited to the proclamation of the purpose of the paschal lamb. Only during this announcement, when it may appear as if the meat is being sanctified as a korban, must one remove the meat. The lifting of the plate referred to in our sugya, on the other hand, is only in order to stir interest, and in no way indicates sanctification. Therefore, there is no reason to remove the meat.


We can suggest that this custom interpreted lifting the plate as more than a mere "shinui" (unusual act). It could be seen as a further fulfillment of reciting the hagadda in the presence of the matza and maror themselves. Matza is referred to as "Lechem she-onim alav devarim harbeh" - the bread over which one discusses many things. "Va-amartem zevach pesach" (the , "And you shall SAY, it is a paschal sacrifice....") indicates a similar relationship regarding the korban pesach (see Tosafot 116a s.v. va-amartem). Accordingly, the hagadda must be recited over these three items. Therefore, lifting and NOT removing the plate is the appropriate action. Furthermore, one should remove the meat so as not to appear to be reciting the hagadda over the meat as well, thus implicitly awarding it the status of the paschal lamb.

At first glance, this approach appears to contradict our sugya, which explains the removal of the table as a method of generating the child's interest. We could explain that lifting the seder plate is basically a fulfillment of reciting the hagadda over the matza and maror. Our gemara, on the other hand, understands that the child's curiosity is aroused by the TIMING of lifting the plate, or the fact that the entire tray was lifted and not just the matza and maror. This approach, then, is indicative of an intrinsic connection between sipur yetziat mitzrayim and the mitzvot of eating the matza and maror. It is not sufficient to eat these items. One must actually discuss their symbolism while recounting the events that occurred in Mitzrayim.


Thus far, we have suggested that the necessity to place matza and maror in front of each individual is based on the requirement to recite the hagadda over these items. Moreover, we interpreted the lifting of the seder plate as rooted in a similar halakha. Therefore, we must question why only the reciter of the hagadda lifts his seder plate according to Rav Simi. Based upon our suggestion, Rav Huna's dissenting opinion (in our sugya), which compares these two halakhot, appears much more reasonable.


In order to explain Rav Simi's opinion, I would suggest a distinction between these two halakhot in spite of their similarity. Placing the matza and maror on every table is a function of the obligation of sipur yetziat mitzrayim, which should be fulfilled while the matza and maror are in one's presence. Therefore, there is no reason to limit this requirement to the reciter of the hagadda. Every one of the participants is equally involved in the fulfillment of sipur yetziat mitzrayim, and hence should be armed with these items. Lifting the plate, on the other hand, is not a stipulation of the the actual action (the maaseh ha-mitzva) by which one fulfills sippur yitziat Mitzrayim. Rather, it is an independent requirement which demands that the hagadda be recited in the context of pesach matza and maror. This can be accomplished as long as the one who actually recites the hagadda establishes the reference to these items. Therefore, only the one who actually recites the hagadda for all those present is obligated to lift the seder plate while recounting the events of yetziat mitzrayim.



Lechem She-onim Alav Devarim Harbeh

Rashi (36a s.v. She-onim) explains: "Many things are recited - namely, Hallel and the Haggada." Rabbenu Chananel (115b), on the other hand, limits the scope of the halakha: "It refers to the words 'This matza which we eat...'" (see also Tosafot 114a s.v. Heivi'u lefanav). It would seem that these two interpretations of Shmuel's halakha are contingent upon the basic question we raised above: - is it necessary to recite the whole Haggada in the presence of the matza, or is one required to reveal the matza only when reciting the words 'This matza...'?


Thus, we have seen two basic approaches:

1. Recital of the story of exodus from Egypt (sipur yetziat mitzrayim) is a separate mitzva not related directly to the pesach, matza and maror.

2. There is an intrinsic link between sipur yetziat mitzrayim and pesach, matza, and maror. It appears that the fulfillment of the mitzva of sipur yetziat mitzrayim is complete only in the actual presence of the pesach, matza, and maror.


Sources for next week:

1. 115b "Davar acheir ... (116a) tavlin le'mitzva".

2. Rambam, Hilchot Chametz U'matza 8:6.

3. Rashi 116a s.v. Af; Tosafot s.v. Ma.

4. Tosafot, Brakhot 39b s.v. Hakol.

5. Rashi 115b s.v. Tzarikh; Tosafot s.v. Kapa.

6. The Rambam's commentary to the mishna with reference to charoset.



1. When do we divide the matza? How does our custom differ from the Rambam's opinion?

2. How many matzot are required for the seder according to the Rambam? According to tosafot?

3. Does the halacha of "lechem mishna" apply on Yom Tov? If so, does it apply on the seder night as well?

4. What are the various interpretations of "kapa"? How does charoset remove this problem?






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