Today we will continue our discussion of the controversial proposal of the Avnei Neizer (O.C. 381) for those who find themselves unable to reach the afikoman stage of the seder before chatzot (halakhic midnight), as Halakha requires (Shulchan Arukh O.C. 477:1). The crux of the Avnei Neizer’s theory is that the prohibition against eating after eating the afikoman extends only until the final time for eating the afikoman. Therefore, although we should endeavor to follow the stringent view of Rabbi Elazar, who requires eating the afikoman before chatzot, we may resume eating after chatzot according to this opinion. The Avnei Neizer thus proposes eating the afikoman just before chatzot, and then resuming eating after chatzot and eating after the meal another piece of matza as the afikoman to satisfy the view permitting eating the afikoman after chatzot.
Later Acharonim noted that this premise is contradicted by the reasons given by the Rishonim for the prohibition against eating after eating the korban pesach. For example, the Ramban, in his Milchamot Hashem (Pesachim 26b in the Rif), writes that this prohibition serves to ensure that the korban pesach would be eaten “al ha-sova,” in a condition of satiation. The Gemara (Pesachim 69b-70a) establishes that the korban pesach should be eaten at the end of one’s meal, as it must be eaten “al ha-sova,” and for this reason, the other sacrifice brought on Pesach – the korban chagiga – would be eaten first, before the pesach sacrifice. The Ramban opines that the prohibition against eating after eating the korban pesach serves as a safeguard to ensure that people will make a point of eating to satiation before partaking of the korban pesach. According to this explanation, there is no reason to assume that Rabbi Elazar would permit eating after chatzot. Since the prohibition is intended to ensure that people eat before partaking of the pesach sacrifice, it stands to reason that it applies throughout the night, as otherwise people might allow themselves to eat the korban pesach first and then eat other foods later.
A different explanation of this law is offered by the Ba’al Ha-ma’or, who suggests that the Sages forbade eating after eating the korban pesach as a means of ensuring that the people would not forget to recite Hallel. The Ba’al Ha-ma’or writes that given the crowding in Jerusalem on the night of Pesach, people would go to upper floors of buildings after eating the korban pesach (which needed to be done on ground level) where they would continue the seder with the recitation of Hallel, so that others could use the space on the ground. Chazal were concerned that people might forget to recite Hallel after leaving the place where they ate the sacrifice, and so they enacted a prohibition against eating so that the taste of the sacrifice would remain in people’s mouths as a reminder of the obligation to recite Hallel. According to this reason, too, there is no reason for this prohibition not to extend beyond chatzot, as the Hallel obligation presumably applies throughout the night even according to Rabbi Elazar.
It stands to reason, however, that the Avnei Neizer was well aware of these explanations given for the prohibition, and knowingly disputed them. As we saw earlier this week, the Avnei Neizer postulated his theory to answer the question of why Rabbi Elazar does not require eating the meat of the korban pesach at the moment of chatzot. Rabbi Elazar’s position is derived from the Torah’s command to eat the sacrifice “ba-layla ha-zeh” (“on this night” – Shemot 12:8), a term which is used several verses later (12:12) in reference to the plague of the firstborn, which took place precisely at midnight. Seemingly, this inference should require eating the sacrifice at chatzot, not before chatzot. The Avnei Neizer thus suggested that for this reason the Sages required avoiding further eating after partaking of the korban pesach, as the lingering taste of the sacrifice in a person’s mouth at chatzot allows him to be considered as though he eats at chatzot. This marks a completely different understanding of the prohibition against eating after the korban pesach, which the Avnei Neizer advanced to resolve what otherwise seems as a serious flaw in Rabbi Elazar’s rationale. Hence, there is no sense in challenging the Avnei Neizer’s theory based on the earlier explanations given for the prohibition against eating other foods after eating the korban pesach, as he knowingly rejected those explanations in favor of his novel theory which seeks to explain Rabbi Elazar’s reasoning.