Arvei Pesachim #29: 116b

  • Rav Yair Kahn

Gemora Pesachim

Yeshivat Har Etzion







by Rav Yair Kahn




Mishna: Mazgu Lo Kos Sheni


The mishna inserts the pouring of the second cup of wine prior to the child's questions ("ma nishtana"). Rashi (s.v. Ve-kan) explains that pouring an additional cup of wine at this juncture (after kiddush, yet before eating) is an odd practice instituted to impress the curious mind of the youngster. This of course leads to the questions which follow.


However, one may suggest another approach based upon our understanding of the "arba kosot" (four cups of wine). In general, the significance of a kos shel berakha focuses upon that which is recited over it. Drinking the wine has only secondary importance; it is the means through which the preceding text or berakha is emphasized. Regarding the "arba kosot", however, there is independent significance to drinking the wine as a gesture of freedom. Nevertheless, it is quite possible that each of the four cups also functions as a standard kos shel berakha (see shiur #20). Consequently, they were instituted with respect to specific texts. This is clearly the case regarding the first cup (kiddush). If we adopt this possibility regarding all of the four cups, then we must clarify which text relates to each of the kosot. Our focus, for now, is specifically on the second cup.


The Rambam (Hilkhot Chametz U-matza 7:10) states explicitly that the second cup is recited over the haggada. Based on this, it is necessary that the cup be filled prior to "ma nishtana", which signals the beginning of the haggada.


Rashi, who offers a different explanation for the pouring of the cup before "ma nishtana," may reject this understanding of the arba kosot. Therefore, shinui was the only explanation available to him. Alternately, Rashi may agree that there are certain texts recited over each of the the arba kosot. However, Rashi may argue that the text to be recited over the second kos is the first part of the hallel and not the haggada. In fact, this could explain the common custom of raising the kos while reciting this section of the hallel, although the kos is ignored during most of the haggada. (See Si'ach Ha-Grid pg. 20.)



Matchil Bi-gnut


There is a debate between Rav and Shmuel whether the "gnut" (disgrace) refers to the enslavement of the children of Israel in Egypt ("avadim hayinu"), or the polytheism which preceded Avraham's discovery of HaShem ("mi-tchila ovdei avodat gilulim"). At first glance, the position of Shmuel that one should begin with the enslavement seems the obvious choice. Why did Rav depart from such a straightforward interpretation? Moreover, what is the relationship between the idolatry of Avraham's ancestors and sippur yetziat mitzrayim?


The solution to this problem can be found in Hilkhot Avodat Kokhavim. The Rambam begins these halakhot with a brief account of the history and development of polytheism, and the return of the Jewish people to faith in Hashem. In the third section, he describes how Avraham, a child of idol worshippers, was personally involved in avoda zara ("mi-tchila ovdei avodat gilulim hayu avoteinu"). Nevertheless, Avraham eventually realized the absurdity of polytheism and embarked upon a new path of absolute faith in Hashem. The Rambam continues to describe the development of the community of faith, until he reaches the children of Ya'akov: "And it kept expanding with the children of Ya'akov and those that joined them, and thereby developed in the world a nation that is aware of Hashem." At this point, the Rambam introduces Mitzrayim:

Until Yisrael spent a long time in Mitzrayim and they learnt their ways and to worship idols like them ... and the root planted by Avraham was almost destroyed as the children of Ya'akov returned to the errors and absurdities of the world. However, due to Hashem's love for us, and in order to heed his oath to Avraham our father, He designated Moshe as master of all prophets and sent him...


What the Rambam describes is another story relating to the events of yetziat Mitzrayim, a story of freedom from spiritual bondage and the regaining of faith in Hashem. This story began when Avraham was a young child, living in the house of his father Terach, an idol worshipper. It concludes with the revelation experienced through the ten plagues in general, and makat bekhorot in particular. Thereafter, the children of Israel are permitted to leave Mitzrayim in order to worship Hashem in the wilderness.


The halakha accepts both Rav and Shmuel (see Rambam Hilkhot Chametz U-matza 7:4). Therefore, the haggada includes both the story of bondage and political freedom, as well as the tale of apostasy and faith regained. Thus, the nation that was born during yetziat mitzrayim is defined both politically as well as religiously, and the faith-community became a reality.



Patratan Mi-lomar Ma Nishtana


Taken at face value, the response of Daru, Rav Nachman's servant, substituted for the "ma nishtana." In the previous sugya (115b), there was an additional situation which alleviated the need to recite the ma nishtana. When Abaye questioned why the table (seder plate) was being removed prior to the meal, Raba responded "patratan mi-lomar ma nishtana."


However, some commentators did not adopt this interpretation of these sugyot. Tosafot (115b s.v. Kedei) claim that Abaye, sparked by the removal of the table, actually continued to ask all the questions relevant to the seder night. Had he only questioned the removal of the table, the obligation to recite ma nishtana would have remained unfulfilled. This interpretation is problematic, since it transforms Raba's exclamation into a trivial and therefore unnecessary remark.


The Rashbam (116a s.v. Patach), in a puzzling interpretation, explains our gemara as follows: After the response of Daru, Rav Nachman exclaimed "you have alleviated our obligation of ma nishtana." He then proceeded to recite "avadim hayinu", FOLLOWING THE QUESTIONS OF THE CHILD. Apparently, according to the Rashbam the obligation of the child to ask the four questions was not alleviated. According to this explanation of our sugya, Rav Nachman's exclamation appears totally meaningless.


Before attempting to explain how the Rashbam's interpretation understands the statement of Rav Nachman, it is significant to note that this strange interpretation was not applied by the Rashbam in the previous sugya. Why was the Rashbam (as opposed to Tosafot) willing to accept that Abaye's comment could substitute for ma nishtana, while Daru's statement could not?


The answer is obvious. The Rashbam understood the obligation of ma nishtana as being rooted in the requirement for a question-and-answer format for the haggada (derekh she'eila u-teshuva). Therefore, although Daru supplied the participants at the seder with the personal insights of a slave, he nonetheless was not moved to query the odd practices of the seder night. He did not ask any question parallel to the ma nishtana, and did not fulfill the requirement of reciting the haggada in a she'eila u-teshuva format. Abaye, on the other hand, perplexed by the strange removal of the table, asked ma nishtana; why on this night are we removing the table before eating. Therefore, the specific requirement of the ma nishtana was alleviated, and the haggada could be continued as a response to Abaye's question. Hence, the Rashbam accepted the straightforward interpretation of the sugya on 115b, that Abaye's question replaced the ma nishtana, but avoided a parallel explanation of our sugya, regarding the statement of Daru.


Nevertheless, as we noted, it is very difficult to read the Rashbam into our sugya. Perhaps we can suggest a solution based on the Rambam's unique formulation of the ma nishtana obligation. The Rambam mentions ma nishtana in Hilkhot Chametz U-matza in two separate places. In the first (7:3), while discussing the mitzva of sippur yetziat mitzray, he mentions the necessity to incite the child to ask ma nishtana. Later, when reviewing the entire seder (8:2), he writes "and here the child asks, AND THE RECITER SAYS ma nishtana." In other words, ma nishtana is not limited to the questions asked by the child. It is also part of the text of the haggada. It is not only questions, but an exclamation as well: "How different is this night!"


Based on this, we can suggest that although Daru's statement could not substitute for the QUESTION of the child, as we explained above, nevertheless it could replace the EXCLAMATION of ma nishtana, which expresses appreciation of the uniqueness of this night. Following Daru's candid statement regarding the personal feeling of a freed slave, this appreciation was so obvious that the STATEMENT ma nishtana became superfluous. However, it was still necessary to have the child ask the questions of ma nishtana, according to the Rashbam, to implement the interactive aspect of the haggada. Only then could "patach ve-amar avadim hayinu," which clearly refers to the reciter, follow. However, this does not appear in the gemara on 115b, since Abaye's query replaced only the question of the child, but did not substitute for the exclamation of ma nishtana.


Tosafot argue that Abaye's question did not replace the question of ma nishtana. Apparently, Tosafot did not view derekh she'eila u-teshuva as merely a format issue. According to Tosafot, questioning per se is not sufficient. The content of the questions must revolve around the symbols of sippur yetziat mitzrayim. Therefore, asking about the removal of the table is not sufficient. One must ask about the matza and the maror. The curiosity of the child must be aroused, so that he is interested in the meaning of these symbols. The questions are merely a tool used to inspire the child and develop an appreciation of the events of yetziat mitzrayim. Therefore, although questioning the removal of the table does not substitute for the ma nishtana requirement, Daru's statement, which goes to the heart of the experience of the seder night, alleviates the need to begin the story with questions.


Sources for next week's shiur:

1. 116a second mishna, 116b gemara until "hu d'ata."

2. Rambam Hilkhot Chametz U-matza 7:5, Maharsha Chiddushei Agadot s.v. kol.

3. Rambam Hilkhot Chametz U-matza 7:6.

4. Rambam Hilkhot Chametz U-matza 7:1, Chinukh mitzva 21.



1. What are the two possible interpretations of Rabban Gamliel's statement?

2. How does the Rambam's version of "bekhol dor va-dor" differ from that of our mishna? What is the significance of this difference?

3. Is Hallel an integral part of sippur yetziat Mitzrayim?

4. When should the matza and maror be lifted?

5. Can sippur yetziat Mitzrayim be a biblical requirement nowadays if matza is only rabbinic?






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