SALT - Sunday, 16 Nissan 5779 - April 21, 2019

  • Rav David Silverberg
            Yesterday, we noted the position famously attributed to the Vilna Gaon (Ma’aseh Rav (185) that although there is no obligation to eat matza on Pesach after the first night, nevertheless, one fulfills a mitzva by doing so.  The Torah (Shemot 12:15) writes, “You shall eat matza seven days,” and thus despite the fact that the Gemara interprets this command as optional, it nevertheless constitutes a mitzva.  As we saw yesterday, this issue appears to be subject to debate among the Rishonim who gave different reasons for why no berakha is recited over the consumption of matza after the first night of Pesach.
            Rav Asher Weiss further noted that this question seems to have been debated by the Tosafists, in their discussion of the issue of wearing tefillin on Chol Ha-mo’ed.  The Gemara in Masekhet Menachot (36b) famously establishes that tefillin are not worn on Shabbat or Yom Tov, since the purpose of tefillin is to serve as an “ot” (“sign”) of our relationship with God, and Shabbat and Yom Tov are themselves a sign of this relationship.  Tosafot assert that Chol Ha-mo’ed resembles Yom Tov in this regard, and tefillin are not worn on these interim days of Pesach and Sukkot.  In Masekhet Menachot, Tosafot explain that Chol Ha-mo’ed resembles Yom Tov with respect to tefillin because “there is a ‘sign’ on Pesach, that it is forbidden to eat chametz, and on Sukkot, that one is obligated to reside in a sukka.”  The “sign” during the interim days of Pesach, Tosafot write, is the chametz prohibition.  This formulation also appears in Tosafot’s comments to Masekhet Eiruvin (96a).  By contrast, in Masekhet Mo’ed Katan (19a), Tosafot write that there is a “sign” on Chol Ha-mo’ed “since one eats matza and resides in a sukka.”  In this context, Tosafot speak not of merely avoiding chametz during Chol Ha-mo’ed Pesach, but rather of eating matza, which, in their view, serves as a “sign” of our relationship with God.  Possibly, the different formulations in these two passages reflect different opinions regarding the status of eating matza beyond the first night of Pesach.  Tosafot in Mo’ed Katan seem to suggest that eating matza even after the first night constitutes a mitzva, even if it is not obligatory, thus serving as a “sign” of our covenant with God.   In the other contexts, however, Tosafot mention specifically avoiding chametz during Chol Ha-mo’ed, and not eating matza, seemingly because there is no mitzva involved in eating matza beyond the first night.  Apparently, the Tosafists debated the question of whether one fulfills a mitzva by eating matza beyond the first night of Pesach.
            One could argue, though, that in Masekhet Mo’ed Katan, too, Tosafot’s intent is that one avoids chametz by eating matza as opposed to leavened bread, but not that the consumption of matza actually fulfills a mitzva.  The point Tosafot is making is that Chol Ha-mo’ed Pesach, like the first and last days of Pesach, are clearly special and distinct, as evidenced by the food eaten due to the prohibition of chametz.  It thus does not necessarily follow that Tosafot viewed eating matza as a mitzva beyond the first night.