Arvei Pesachim #34: 119b - 120a

  • Rav Yair Kahn

Gemora Pesachim

Yeshivat Har Etzion





by Rav Yair Kahn





119b Aval Lefanav Mitzva Levarekh


Abaye based the need for a berakha before reciting Hallel on the general halakha requiring a berakha immediately preceding any mitzva performance. This comparison is indicative that the berakha before Hallel is categorized as a standard birkat ha-mitzva.


In last week's shiur we noted the position of the Ran, who proved that a berakha is required BEFORE Hallel of the seder night based on the fact that a birkat ha-shir is required FOLLOWING Hallel. If we assume that the berakha before Hallel functions only as a birkat ha-mitzva, then there is no relationship between these two berakhot. Birkot ha-mitzva are recited prior to any mitzva performance ("over la'asiyatan"); whereas the birkat ha-shir, which follows the Hallel, is basically praise. It is therefore difficult to comprehend how the Ran linked the two.


Moreover, Tosafot in Sukka (44b s.v. Kan) claim that a berakha rishona is required even in cases where reading the Hallel is only a minhag, such as on Rosh Chodesh. However, Tosafot agree that there is no birkat ha-mitzva recited before performing a minhag, since there is neither a biblical nor rabbinic obligation involved. Again, it appears that regarding the berakha before Hallel, we are not dealing with a birkat ha-mitzva.


In order to explain why we recite a berakha rishona before Hallel of minhag, Tosafot compare the berakha preceding Hallel to the berakha of keri'at ha-Torah. The Brisker Rav (Hilkhot Berakhot 11:16) explained that the berakha before keri'at ha-Torah is not a birkat ha-mitzva which is generated by the obligation to read the Torah. Rather, this berakha is required any time one reads portions of "kitvei ha-kodesh" - the Holy Scriptures, even when there is no mitzva involved. (Normally, this relates to public reading from a scroll, but it could possibly refer to any time the Scriptures are read.) Evidently, the berakha recited before reading kitvei ha-kodesh is not required only as a birkat ha-mitzva. Therefore, the status of the obligation of Hallel (biblical, rabbinic or custom) is inconsequential. As part of Scripture, the Hallel itself requires a preceding berakha, and perhaps this mandates a berakha acharona as well.


In last week's shiur, we also mentioned that Rav Hai Gaon maintains that there is no berakha rishona for Hallel on the seder night since this Hallel is categorized as shira. According to this definition of Hallel, the specific text and status as Scripture is not critical and therefore a berakha rishona is not obligated (see shiur #31). However, if the Hallel is categorized as keri'a, then the focus is on Hallel as a segment of kitvei ha-kodesh, which requires a berakha rishona.


This understanding, although appealing, appears to clash with our sugya, which applies "over la'asiyatan" (a halakha particular to birkot ha-mitzva) to the berakha before Hallel. Perhaps this berakha has a dual function. It is required both as a birkat ha-mitzva, and as a berakha relating to kitvei ha-kodesh as well. Therefore, the berakha was formulated in the format of a standard birkat ha-mitzva ("asher kideshanu be-mitzvotav ve-tzivanu..."). Nevertheless, it can be recited even in situations where there is no mitzva involved (minhag). Our sugya deals with the PLACEMENT of the berakha prior to reciting the Hallel. Therefore, our gemara is focused on the birkat ha-mitzva element, which demands immediacy between the berakha and the mitzva. Nonetheless, our sugya does not explicitly negate the contention that the berakha before Hallel functions also as a berakha before kitvei ha-kodesh.



Mai Afikoman


The term "afikoman" refers to dessert, which is prohibited following the korban pesach. (Nowadays, this expression is commonly used to refer to the kezayit of matza that we eat at the end of the meal.) The mishna mentions the prohibition but offers no explanation. Rav connects this prohibition with the injunction against eating the korban pesach in two separate groups. [To prevent any of the korban pesach from being left over, people would group together around a korban. Once one had joined a specific group, one was committed to it.] Therefore, one may not eat anything if he joins a second group (see Rashbam s.v. Amar Rav). However, Rav's explanation does not explain our understanding of this halakha, which bans eating dessert even if one remains with his original group. Aside from Rav, no explicit reference is made regarding the reason for this prohibition, with the exception of a vague reference to retaining taste. Due to the silence of our gemara regarding this point, the Rishonim offered various explanations.


Some Rishonim (see Ramban) linked the issur of afikoman with the requirement to eat the korban pesach "al ha-sova" (on a full stomach - see Rambam Hilkhot Korban Pesach 8:3). This requirement was instituted (according to the Talmud Yerushalmi 6:4) so that the korban pesach would be eaten calmly, to ensure that no bones be broken in the process (cf. Shemot 12:46). By forbidding any food following the korban, people would tend to eat their main meal beforehand. However, this reason is limited to the korban pesach, and at first glance cannot explain Shemuel's extension to matza (see Tosafot 120a s.v. Maftirin). Nevertheless, the Ramban adopted this approach, and explained the inclusion of matza based on the idea of "zekher le-mikdash" (in commemoration of what used to be done in the temple). The Ba'al Ha-ma'or quoted a suggestion that the halakha of al ha-sova is to ensure that the Hallel be recited when satiated. Accordingly, the shift to matza is a smoother one. It is reasonable that all these variations of the al ha-sova explanation would consider the ban on afikoman in effect until the morning.


The Ba'al Ha-ma'or himself notes that the gemara stresses the taste of the korban pesach or matza, which must linger. Therefore, he suggests the following argument: Since it is permitted to continue the seder in a different location after completing the korban pesach, there is a danger of neglecting the Hallel which follows the meal. However, by retaining the taste of the korban pesach, one will remember to recite the Hallel. Accordingly, he allows one to eat or drink after reciting the Hallel.


The Orchot Chaim quotes an interesting variation: The lingering taste is needed in order to continue sippur yetziat Mitzrayim. This is based on the idea that sippur yetziat Mitzrayim requires the presence of pesach, matza and maror. After the meal, the lingering taste of the matza and pesach serve as that presence with respect to the hallel. His understanding assumes that Hallel is an integral part of sippur yetziat Mitzrayim (see shiur #30).


The Rambam (Hilkhot Chametz U-matza 8:9) also focussed on the necessity to retain the taste of the korban pesach. However, he viewed this as an independent requirement, without attempting to reduce it to secondary status. Accordingly, one must complete the meal with the taste of the mitzva (korban pesach or matza) fresh in his mouth. This approach has the additional advantage of accommodating for the shift from korban pesach during the temple era to matza nowadays, since today matza is the only mitzva whose taste must linger.

Based on this understanding, the Avnei Nezer claimed that the requirement of retaining the taste of the mitzva does not extend beyond the parameters of the mitzva. Since, according to R. Eliezer ben Azaria, the mitzva of matza is only until chatzot (midnight), eating after chatzot is therefore permitted. This conclusion led to an original solution to relieve the pressure of completing the afikoman before chatzot (in deference to those who rule according to R. Eliezer ben Azaria). He maintained that one could eat an afikoman before chatzot, stipulating that it is considered an afikoman only if we agree with R. Eliezer. He could then continue his meal after chatzot. However, he should eat an additional afikoman at the conclusion of the meal to cover the opinion of R. Akiva that the time-frame for matza lasts the entire night. Clearly this option is unavailable if the prohibition of eating after the afikoman continues all night regardless of the time-frame of the mitzva.



Temarim U-kelayot


It appears from our sugya, that R. Yochanan disagrees with Shemuel. However, the parameters of their disagreement are vague. The Ramban explained that Shemuel limited the issur of afikoman to certain favorite foods, upon which people tended to satiate themselves. R. Yochanan, on the other hand, broadened the category to include any food, even dates and nuts.


Theoretically, one could connect this debate with the reason for the prohibition of afikoman. If this halakha comes to prevent eating the korban pesach on an empty stomach, it is sufficient to prohibit foods which are filling. However, if this halakha is concerned that the taste of the korban pesach linger, the expansion to all foods is sensible.


Although our sugya mentions only eating, there are certain commentators who expand the issur of afikoman to include beverages (see shiur #32). This extension is reasonable only if the purpose of the halakha of afikoman is so that the taste of the korban pesach should linger. Tosafot (117b s.v. Revi'i) quote the opinion of Rav Yosef Tov-Elem that even water should be avoided. However, this seems to add unnecessary restrictions to the halakha of afikoman.


From the Rambam (Hilkhot Chametz U-matza 8:9-10) it appears that tasting anything, including water, is prohibited until birkat ha-mazon. However, following birkat ha-mazon, water is permitted. This distinction seems to be based on the Rambam's understanding of the halakha of afikoman. Accordingly the meal must end with the mitzva. Therefore, the halakha was more stringent regarding the completion of the meal, and demanded total abstention. However, with respect to the rest of the night, the halakha was only concerned that the taste of the mitzva lingers, and therefore permitted water.





Rashbam s.v. Ein Maftirin


Following Rashi, the Rashbam maintains that the mitzva of matza is fulfilled with the matza eaten at the end of the meal (afikoman in the contemporary sense of the word). Nevertheless, the birkat ha-mitzva is recited when partaking of the matza at the beginning of the meal. This is based on Rav Chisda's ruling (115a) that requires the birkat ha-mitzva before performing the mitzva act (ma'aseh mitzva - in this case, the first time we eat the matza), even though the fulfillment of the mitzva (kiyum mitzva) will not occur till later, when the afikoman is eaten. (See shiur #23.)


The Rosh (siman 34) argues that the mitzva is fulfilled at the initial eating of the matza. Therefore, if one had only one kezayit of "shmura matza," according to the Rosh it should be eaten immediately; whereas Rashi would save this matza for the end of the meal.


This debate is based on different understandings of the application of the halakha of afikoman to matza. The Rosh maintains that the matza is eaten at the end as a commemoration of the korban pesach. Clearly, this approach would award the afikoman no more than a memorial status. Hence, the basic mitzva is fulfilled with the matza eaten at the beginning. Rashi and the Rashbam, however, claimed that the afikoman commemorated the matza eaten together with the korban pesach, which was eaten at the end of the meal. With this matza, one fulfilled his obligation during the time of the temple. Therefore, in commemoration of those days, we fulfill the mitzva of matza, now as then, with the afikoman.



Sources and questions for next week's shiur:



1. 120a "Amar Rava ... kav'o chova."

2. Rambam Hilkhot Chametz U-matza 7:12, Smak mitzva 220.

3. Rambam Sefer Ha-mitzvot mitzva 56, 158.

4. Ibn Ezra Shemot 12:15, Ba'al Ha-ma'or (26b in the pages of the Rif) "Ve-yesh she'sho'alim ..."



1. Is a shiur kezayit necessary in order to fulfill the biblical requirement of maror?

2. What does the verse "ba-erev tokhlu matzot" teach us according to Rava?

3. According to Rav Acha bar Yaakov, should matza be counted as a separate mitzva?

4. Is there any significance to eating matza after the first night of Pesach?





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