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This chapter contains fifteen sections: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15


Section 1Edit

Though the Shabbath and Festivals are usually begun earlier in the day than called for, due to the maxim ‘add from the mundane to the holy’, (and one is even able to sanctify the day (recite ‘Kiddush’) and eat the festive meal while it is yet day,) on Pesach it is not so, as it is written: “...and eat the meat on this night...”. This implies that actual nightfall is required. In addition, the consumption of Matza is connected to the consumption of the Pesach sacrifice (which takes place at night) (Tur), as it is written: “...with matza and maror it (the sacrifice) should be eaten”.

This is in fact what is taught in the Mishna in ‘Arvei Pesachim’, that one should not eat until nightfall. This means to say that in this regard Pesach is not similar to Shabbos and Festivals (Tosfos there). We have also learnt the same in the Tosefta: “Regarding Pesach, Matza and Maror - their mitzva is at nightfall.”

Therefore, the cup of kiddush, which is one of the four cups drunk at the seder, as well as the other vegetables that are eaten, the various practices designed to cause the children to inquire after them, and the recitation of the Haggadah all take place at the time one can eat Matzah and Morror (Beis Yosef in the name of the Terumous HaDeshen). Furthermore, the Kiddush recited is on behalf of the Matzah to be eaten, as iKiddush is always on behalf of a meal, and since the Matzah requires nightfall so does the Kiddush (Taz, comment 1).

Section 2Edit

In any event, the table should be set while it is yet day, in the manner of free people, who have the leisure to have their table set well before eating. In addition, the table should be prepared in order to be able to eat at nightfall, so that the children should be able to be involved and not fall asleep. Even if one is studying in the beis midrash it is a mitzvah for him to rise and prepare the for the seder.

So Rabbi Akivah has stated, that in his days "...there was never an announcement that the time arrived to leave the beis midrash, except of the eve of Pesach...in order that the children should not fall asleep (Gemara Pesachim 109.1). In addition, Rabbi Eliezer adds that "one 'snatches' (hurries through) the mitzvos (commandments) on the night of pesach, so that the children should not fall asleep. Rabbi Akivah even used to give roasted kernels [?] and nuts to the children on Pesach night, to forestall sleep so that they might ask questions.

The reason for all this is that we see that the Torah placed great emphasis on childrens' questions on this night, as is written many times "When your son will ask you...". Verily, the whole command of retelling the story of the Exodus is structured after the manner of children asking a father who responds. Though this method the pure faith of the religion is transmitted. Therefore they engaged in all the actions above, so that the children would be alert and not asleep at the time of the seder. This is an obligation upon ourselves as well.

Regarding 'snatching' miztvos, Rashi and the Rashbam explain the meaning to be that either one eats quickly or 'snatches' the seder plate by raising it up. The Rambam, in chapter 7 of the Laws of Pesach, explains: "The matzah is snatched from the hand [???]”, (see there).

(This is the source of the custom for the children's snatching the 'afikomen' piece from under the pillow. See ??? comment 2)

Section 3Edit

One should set his table with beautiful dishes and silverware, according to his ability. Though it is good all year round to limit the use of beautiful dishes somewhat as a remembrance of the destruction of the Temple, nevertheless on the night of Pesach all that can be symbolic of experiencing freedom is displayed. Even if one is holding utensils of silver as securty for a loan, if the owner does not mind one may place them on his table on the night of Pesach.

This is the reason that the sages required leaning at the meal on pesach, for such was the practice of the all independent men in their day, to eat while reclining, on pillows and such, in a noble manner. Therefore one should prepare his place while it is yet day with all that is required to allow him to recline as one who is free.

Note that the Tur writes in the name of the Ravyah that since our countries have no custom to recline it is not a requirement (see there). However, the overwhelming majority of Rabbinic authorities do not agree with him. In fact, in my humble opinion it appears that since it is a mitzvah to make changes to what is customary on this night, as the Rambam states in the seventh chapter - that one should change what is commonly done so that the children will see and ask - there can be no greater change then to recline, for we are demonstrating something which is completely uncommon.

A proof to this can be seen from the Mishna on 116.1, concerning the Haggadah text ‘Ma Nishtana’. The Mishnah makes no mention of reclining, though in our text that is one of the questions. The reason is that in the era of the Mishna there was nothing odd about reclining, and a child would not be drawn to ask about it. Nowadays, a child would ask on this practice. Therefore the law is as the majority of the legal authorities, who require reclining.

Section 4Edit

Another clear proof for reclining can be gleaned from the Mishna that begins the chpater of ‘Arvei Pesachim’, we were learn that even the poorest among the Jewish people should not eat unless reclining. The intent here is: Do not say that since he is poor and does not accustom himself to recline it is not required. Rather he must recline, and the same law applies to us as well.

Out teacher the Rema writes (in section 2), that even a poor person who does not possess a pillow should recline on a bench. This means to say he should at any rate recline in any manner that he can find, even on a bench, where he can place some clothing or other object to recline upon. The point here is that he cannot fulfill the mitzvah without reclining.

(The Bach writes that a mourner does not recline, rejecting the words of the [WHO?] and the Keneses HaGedolah. However, the Taz and the Magen Avraham do quote their position. In our communities the custom is for a mourner to recline, though not in an ostentatious way with an abundance of pillows. In regards to wearing a ‘Kittel’ there are differing opinions, and one may do as he pleases. Attend to the sources and you will find it so).

Section 5Edit

When one reclines he should be positioned sideways, not leaning on his front or back, for that is not called reclining. Only leaning to the side was considered a honorable position. One should not lean to his right, only his left, for leaning to the right is dangerous, as the foodpipe is on the right of one’s body, and the windpipe on the left, and when one leans to the right the epiglottis slides off the windpipe by itself. This creates a choking hazard, as food swallowed can enter the windpipe. This is why the custom of the nobility was to lean on the left. In fact, reclining on the right is not even called ‘reclining’ (Gemara Pesachim 108.1, see there - investigation will yield this conclusion).

Know that when reclining there is no difference between people who are right or left-handed. Even though a left-handed person uses his hands in a way which is opposite those who are right-handed, internal organs are situated the same for all people. Therefore a left-handed person must lean to the left (and if needed he can lean against his neighbor).

Section 6Edit

Our sages state (in Pesachim 108.1):

”A married woman need not recline. If she is a woman of importance and stature, she must recline.”

The Rashbam attributes the basic ruling to a woman who has the serving role while her husband leads the seder, while a ‘woman of stature’ is one whose status is more significant than her husband (and would not be in a service role). It follows that a woman who has no husband is required to recline. Also, if her husband is not in the home at that time she is required to recline.

Contrasting the above, the Shiltos (Parshas Tzav) writes: “A woman is not required to recline, as it is not the custom of women to act in such a manner. (see there) This then would apply to all women, as his phrase is “a woman” and not “a woman with her husband”. So it is in the Rif as well. Their ruling is based on the fact that it was not the custom of women to recline on their side. If the woman is one of stature, wealth, or beauty, as the ‘woman of stature’ mentioned in the chapter ‘Ein Ma’ameedim’ (Gemara Pesachim 25.2) who was wont to recline when in the presence of others, she would be required to recline. Nowadays women are not found to recline in any social situation, and as a result women do not recline during the seder either.

Our teacher the Rema writes in section 4 that “all our women are considered ‘women of stature’ and therefore are required to recline. The reason why they do not is that we rely on the position of the Ravyah, who argues that in our day there is no reason to recline.” Until here is his quote, which he sourced from the Mordechai.

In my humble opinion it is difficult to state such a position, for why don’t men also rely on the Ravyah and refrain from reclining? Furthermore, his opinion is an individual dissent. Rather it seems more reasonable that the law rests on the Shiltos and the Rif according to their reading of Talmudic text. In any case, ‘stature’ is not a term that should be considered commonplace, and even if a woman were of stature, it is unusual for her to put on airs over this.

Section 7Edit

A son by his father - he is required to recline even if the father is also his primary teacher, for it can be assumed that the father does not mind, unless it is known to be otherwise. A student by his teacher is not required to recline, since the fear of your teacher should be as the fear of Heaven, and he should not recline before him, for it seems as though he is assuming a position of authority in his presence. He should not recline even if he is before a teacher who is not his primary teacher, though if this teacher gives him permission he may recline. The student is allowed to refuse to recline if he feels it is inappropriate. For his own part, this teacher is not required to offer permission for it is a fact that the way of the Torah is for a student to demonstrate respect for his teacher. If one is sitting with a venerable sage of distinction he should not recline as well, for this sage has the same status as his primary teacher and he is required to show him the proper respect.

Obviously, this is all when they are both eating at one table. If they eat at separate tables, even in the same room, the student is required to recline, for this will not appear as putting on airs in front of his teacher. A waiter too is required to recline when he eats and drinks, even though he is acting in a servile function at this meal. (The Kesef Mishna in the chapter seven explains that the reason is because of the legal idiom “one who aquires a Jewish servant has aquired himself a master” (see there). It seems like this reason is meant to counter the fact that he is beholden to his employer and should therefore be exempt. Still, I don’t understand how the two are comparable. Is a waiter any different than any other paid worker, who is required to recline, as we see in the Gemara Pesachim? Exemptions to reclining are only found in regard to teachers of Torah, and not in other teacher/student employer/employee relationships. This needs study...) [NOT SURE ABOUT THIS]

Section 8Edit

It has been written by some that one who reclines when not required is termed, in derogatoy fashion, a ‘commoner’, as such usage is found in the Yirushalmi in the first chapter of Shabbos (Magen Avraham, comment 6 in the name of the Rashal and Taz). Some question this, for we find that one can adopt any number of various stringencies in religious practice, and why then should this be seen in a negative light? The answer could be that while it is certainly acceptable to adopt stringent behavior, it is viewed negatively in this case even when his Rabbinical teacher granted permission to recline, for he should not be acting in a way that diminishes his teacher’s honor even when he has permission to do so. This would apply in other similar situations as well. (for example an ‘Avel’ - one in his halachic period of mourning over a dead relative, according to the opinion that obviates reclining, would also be seen as dishonoring the dead.)

Section 9Edit

If one is required to recline, all eating or drinking not done while reclining does not fulfill any obligation that requires eating or drinking at the seder. One would have to redress this by eating or drinking again while reclining. Our teacher the Rema has written in section 7 that:

“some state that since the Ravyah has ruled as a minority opinion that reclining is not required nowadays, one who has not reclined may rely on this opinion post-facto to allow that his eating and drinking has fulfilled the necessary obligations. It appears to me that if one has drunk the third or fourth cup of wine without reclining he does not need to re-drink these cups with reclining, for that would appear as if one was adding to the obligation of drinking four cups of wine. However, if one has not reclined for the first two cups he does need to drink again without a blessing. The correct law at the outset is for one to recline during the entire meal.”

Until here is the quote.

Post facto, it is acceptable if one only reclined while eating the olive-size [a standard talmudic measurement for food] portion of matza after its blessing (‘Hamotze’), as well as for the ‘Afikomen’ portion and while drinking each of the four cups. Additionally, from the words of the Rambam in the seventh chapter: “...if he reclines during his other eating and drinking it is praiseworthy...” it is implicit that this is not required as a matter of law, and is simply a praiseworthy practice. (See Chok Yaakov in comment 15, concerning the the position of the Mahari [ruling 152], that the olive-size portion of matza eaten for ‘Hamotzee’ [one of two such portions] does not require reclining. His intent is to explain the law of eating “two ‘kizayis’-sized pieces” for the obligation of Matza, mentioned in chapter 475 (see there). To me it does not seem so, and the phrase “a ‘kizayis’ of matza” found here is merely to point out that the basic law only requires one such amount [and is in no way limiting reclining to only one of the two]. Attend to the sources and you will find it so.)

Section 10Edit

Note that the concern over adding cups of wine to the last two, which appears to be adding to the requirement, does not apply to the first cups, where one may add, as has been previously mentioned.

Even so, nowadays, when we do not have the custom to add cups to the first two, one does not re-drink the first two cups (should he not recline), for it also appears to be adding to the requirement (Magen Avraham, comment 7). However, the Rosh writes that since the first cups were drunk incorrectly (without reclining) it is clear that they are not considered part of four, and what he is re-drinking counts towards fulfilling his obligation (see there). There is also an opinion that states regarding all the cups that one need not re-drink if he did not recline (Bach in chapter 479, and [WHO] in comment 14).

This last opinion appears to be the accepted law, as the Talmud in Pesachim (108.1) sets the law of reclining only for two of the four cups. As there is doubt over which of the four this applies to, reclining is required for all, though this means that for each cup the obligation has the status of a rabbinical doubt, which allows one to be lenient for any of them should he not recline.

It further appears to me that our teacher the Rema believes this to be the main reason for not re-drinking, and not because of reliance on the minority opinion or due to concern over appearing to add on to the number of required cups. He further understood that extra cups between the first two do not even have the additional concern [of appearance] and are permitted as a matter of law, so how can it hurt for him to re-drink [for reclining purposes] at that point? As far as we are concerned, it is only because the current custom that we ourselves refrain from this, as I have written.

There is also an opinion that suggests that one should bear in mind at the beginning of the seder to re-drink the first two cups if he forgets to recline, so that in that event he may re-drink without a blessing (Magen Avraham).

Section 11Edit

One is required to drink the four cups of wine according to the order established by the sages:

  • This first over ‘Kiddush’
  • The second after the Haggadah
  • The third after ‘Birchas Hamazone’ (Grace after Meals)
  • The fourth after ‘Hallel’

If one drank all four cups at once, one after the other, he has not fulfilled the requirement of the four cups. The same would seem to be true if one drank two out of order, for example two immediately after the ‘Kiddush’. This would only fulfill the requirement of ‘Kiddush’, and he would still have to drink ‘the second cup’ after the Haggadah.

It appears to me that one who drinks a cup during the recitation of the Haggadah has fulfilled this cup’s requirement even though he has done so before the blessing ‘That we were redeemed...” at the conclusion of the Haggadah portion. This is because the omission of blessings do not prevent one from having fulfilling his obligation, and the recitation of the Haggadah itself really has no set amount, so it can always be said that he drank ‘after the Haggadah’. However, if one drank in the middle of ‘Hallel’ or ‘Birchas Hamazone’ he has not fulfilled the requirement since the Rabbis have enacted those cups after the entire ‘Birchas Hamazone’ and the entire ‘Hallel’.

Furthermore, it appears to me that if failed to drink the cups at their appropriate time, for example he did not drink a cup over ‘Kiddush’, he may drink that cup later, for there is no other way to remedy this situation, and the same would apply for all the cups (so it seems in my humble understanding).

Section 12Edit

The minimum amount of wine per cup should be a ‘Reviis’, which was an amount measured after the wine was diluted (in past generations, wine was preserved as a concentrate and a small amount was diluted with water before meals). Nowadays our wine is not concentrated and diluting has no relevance to us.

The actual measurement of a ‘Reviis’ is an amount of liquid that would fill the volume of an area of two finger-widths squared (width by depth), with a height of two and a half plus one fifth thumb-widths (Tur). This is the same volume as filling one and a half eggs with water. Some of the great legal authorities have cautioned that this amount should be doubled nowadays because the average egg has decreased in size from what it was in past generations, and many of those who are particular with their mitzvah performance have this custom. However, we have already explained before in chapter 168, section 13 (and in Yoreh Deah, chapter 324) that it is not so (attend to those sources closely).

This is also much to dispute concerning the use of raisin wine (as it is found among us). Attend to what I have written previously in chapter 204, section 15, as well as chapter 272, section 7, where I found merit for those who use it. Either way, what choice do we have in our countries when other types of wine are impossible to come by? Even when actual wine is brought from afar, it is often available at prices that few can afford, and with many attendant questions surrounding its ‘kashrus’, as is well known.

If one cannot find any available wine, one may use honey wine, also called mead, for the four cups.

Section 13Edit

One is required to drink all, or at least the majority, of each cup. If the cup used holds many ‘Reviis’, many people can fulfill their obligation through it according to the number of ‘Reviis’ it contains, though they would not meet the requirement if the cup only contained enough for a majority ‘Reviis’ for each person. The reason for this is that each person needs to start with the proper amount, which is a ‘Reviis’, even though they may fulfill their obligation with only drinking a majority of it.

There is a dissenting opinion that stipulates that a large cup, even if it holds many ‘Reviis’, can only be used for one person, who must drink at least a majority of that cup as is. This appears to be the settled law, for it is the opinion of the Ramban and the Mordechai (see the Beis Yosef).

One needs to drink the required amount of wine at one time, or at the very least without any significant delay, which should be about as long as it usually takes one to drink a ‘Reviis’. If one drank the wine in the time termed ‘kdai achilas pras’ [Lit: ‘the time to eat half a loaf’, perhaps the time it takes to eat 8 olive sized pieces of bread or the time span of 3 to 9 minutes, see here], his obligation is fulfilled post facto. If, however, one interrupted for a period longer than this he has not fulfilled the law and he needs to drink another cup. Less this this span of time, though, is acceptable.

(The Magen Avraham writes in comment 11 that even waiting in excess of a ‘Reviis’-drinking-time during each of the first two cups will require one to re-drink (see there). However, in my humble opinion it seems that the settled law is not as the Rambam, as I have written in chapter 612, and one would not be required to re-drink (see there).)

Section 14Edit

One who cannot drink wine because he finds it repulsive or somewhat damaging to his health is obligated to force himself to fulfill the mitzvah of the four cups, unless he is actually in ill health. In proof of this we find that sages in the Mishna and Talmud who found wine very difficult to drink forced themselves to fulfill the mitzvah of the four cups.

It is a mitzvah to use red wine, (unless the white wine one has is superior), as it is written: “Do not gaze at the deep redness of wine...” (Mishlei, 23,31). One has also fulfilled his obligation with cooked wine or spiced and sweetened wine (Heb. ‘Kunditon’). In our communities this wine is not common.

Even the poor who are supported by charity should sell their clothing, borrow money or rent themselves out for labor to afford wine for the four cups. They should take donated wine from the charity fund, if possible. If a poor man can only obtain four cups in total for both nights he should use them all for the first seder night. The reason for this is that we now use a mathematical calendar and therefore know that the first night of Pesach is the actual night for this mitzvah (Magen Avraham in comment 14). Although one is urged strongly to buy wine in any circumstance, candles for the house take precedence if they are needed for peace in the home (Heb ‘Shalom Bayis’), as I have written in Chapter 263.

Section 15Edit

Women are likewise obligated in the mitzvah of the four cups, and in all mitzos that apply on this night, such as eating matzah, maror and the reading of the haggadah. If they are not able to read for themselves they should hear it from another, for it is written “You shall not eat it [the Pesach sacrifice] with leavened bread, for seven days you shall eat it with matzah...”, that is, whomever the prohibition of leavened bread applies to also has the obligation to eat matzah, and women are a group that the prohibition of leaven applies to, for regarding prohibitive commandments women have the same status as men. Therefore they are also enjoined to eat matzah, even though this is a positive commandment that is time-dependent, [which they would normally be exempt from.]

Following this line of reasoning, women would also be obligated to eat marror and the Pesach sacrifice, since the Torah verse connects them to the command to eat matzah: “...with matzah and marror you shall eat it [the Pesach sacrifice]...”. Now even though marror is merely a Rabbinic law in this day and age, whenever a Rabbinic law is enacted it is structured to follow the particulars of the Torah law that it is in place of. Therefore women would be obligated to eat marror as well as observe the other mitzvos of this night, which are all considered parts of one unit whole. There is a further reason as well for the womens’ obligation: It is known that our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt in the merit of the righteous women of that generation, so it should be obvious that they are obligated in the mitzvos of the night, which are all about the redemption from Egypt.

Therefore a cup must be provided for each member of the household, whether male of female. It is also a mitzvah to give a cup to children that have reached an age where they can be educated. “Reaching the age of education” is defined as five or six years old (Chok Yaakov, comment 27). However, if the children were not given a cup it does not prevent performing the seder (see there). Children may be given a small cup (see Taz), and they need not drink but a little.

Our teacher the Rema has written (in section 15) that one should not use a cup that has a narrow opening like a ‘kluk’ glass since it prevents one from drinking a ‘Reviis’ amount in one swallow. Incidentally, when choosing a cup for ‘Birchas Hamazone’ (grace after meals) one should not use this type of glass either (see previous chapter 183), and the same applies to the cup used for ‘Kiddush’. Until here is his words. Regarding children - there is no objection to using this cup [I THINK THAT IS THE MEANING]

Although many areas of the religion generally do not entail a direct command on the religious education of daughters, on this night daughters should be included in the education process, for the fundamentals of religious faith depend on the account of the exodus.

It is a mitzvah to give parched grain and nuts to the young children, so that they will see the change from the norm and ask why. This is important, for Torah itself has made a point of predicating the mitzvos of this night on childrens’ questions, as I have written in section 2.