Yesterday, we noted the Gemara’s discussion in Masekhet Pesachim (28b) regarding the chametz prohibitions that apply before and after Pesach – the prohibition against eating chametz the afternoon of Erev Pesach, and the prohibition against eating after Pesach chametz that had been owned by a Jew on Pesach. Rabbi Shimon, as we saw, understood that the Torah prohibition of chametz is linked to the mitzva of eating matza, and thus the Torah prohibition applies only when there is a requirement to eat matza – meaning, on Pesach itself. The prohibitions which apply before and after Pesach, according to Rabbi Shimon, were enacted by Chazal. Rabbi Shimon stated: “At the time when one is commanded to go ahead and eat matza, he is commanded not to eat chametz; at the time when he is not commanded to go ahead and eat matza, he is not commanded to eat chametz.”
As we discussed, the Penei Yehoshua noted that Rabbi Shimon here seems to speak of eating matza on Pesach as a mitzva which applies for all seven days – despite the Gemara’s comment later in Masekhet Pesachim (120a) that eating matza is obligatory only on the first night of Pesach, and optional the rest of the holiday. The Penei Yehoshua suggests that Rabbi Shimon may have felt that although eating matza during the rest of Pesach is not obligatory, it nevertheless fulfills a mitzva (a position famously attributed to the Vilna Gaon).
However, the Penei Yehoshua then proceeds to propose a different – and bolder – possibility, suggesting that Rabbi Shimon held a different opinion regarding the status of eating matza after the first night of Pesach. As opposed to the Gemara’s conclusion that eating matza beyond the first night is optional, Rabbi Shimon may have maintained that one is obligated to eat matza all seven days of Pesach – as his remark “go ahead and eat matza” strongly indicates.
The Penei Yehoshua substantiates this theory by noting the source of the Gemara’s conclusion that eating matza is obligatory only on the first night. Although the Torah in several contexts seems to require eating matza all seven days (Shemot 12:15, Vayikra 23:6, Devarim 16:3), in one place it requires eating matza only for six days (Devarim 16:8). The Gemara explains that when the Torah in that verse excludes the seventh day from the obligation to eat matza, it effectively excludes all seven days, the exception being the first night (based on Shemot 12:18). And when the Torah speaks of eating matza for seven days, it actually refers to refraining from chametz, but not to an actual obligation to eat matza.
Accordingly, the Penei Yehoshua writes, we can understand why Rabbi Shimon did not subscribe to this view. The Sifrei (to Devarim 16:8) cites Rabbi Shimon as offering a different approach to reconciling the different verses that speak of the requirement to eat matza. Rabbi Shimon explained that the verses which mention eating matza for seven days refer to matza produced from the previous season’s grain harvest. The grain of the current year’s harvest, by contrast, becomes permissible for consumption only on the second day of Pesach – the 16th of Nissan – as the Torah instructs in Sefer Vayikra (23:14). Therefore, the Torah in one place speaks of eating matza for six days – referring to the current year’s grain, which is permissible for consumption for only six of the seven days of Pesach. Rabbi Shimon reconciled the different verses without reinterpreting them as referring to the optional consumption of chametz – implying that he accepted the straightforward reading of the text, whereby there is a Biblical requirement to eat matza on each of the seven days of Pesach. Consistent with his view, the Penei Yehoshua explained, Rabbi Shimon states in Masekhet Pesachim that the seven-day prohibition against eating chametz is linked to the seven-day requirement to eat matza.
It should be noted, however, that according to some versions of the Sifrei – including that of the Vilna Gaon – the author of the relevant passage in the Sifrei is not the same Rabbi Shimon (Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai), but rather Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar (a disciple of Rabbi Meir). According to this version, of course, we cannot necessarily point to a connection between the passage in the Sifrei and Rabbi Shimon’s remark in the Gemara.