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114a mishna

  • Rav Ezra Bick

            Today, as promised, we are starting directly with the text. We shall begin with the mishna at the bottom of 114a, which begins with the words "heivi'u lifanav."


The accompanying webpage –

has the following:

1. Webscan of the page of the Talmud (114a), with the sections we are studying marked.

2. A glossary of the Aramaic terms found in today's shiur.

3. A translation of Tosafot s.v. "mitabel"


            First, since we are starting from the middle of the chapter, we have to position ourselves. The tenth chapter of Pesachim deals with the seder night, and the mishnayot (that is the plural of mishna) are generally narrative; that is, they describe sequentially the order of the seder. The previous mishna dealt with kiddush, which is the first element in the seder. Our mishna picks up the narrative immediately after kiddush.

            The mishna is rather terse and cryptic, and a simple reading without elucidation is nearly incomprehensible. The elucidation is provided firstly by Rashi, who endeavors to fill in the gaps in such a way that the mishna can be smoothly read. In other words, we are going to read, not the mishna, but "the mishna with Rashi." While there are occasional extended comments in Rashi, most of his commentary consists of running extensions of the text, often no more than a few words seamlessly added to fill in the gaps in our understanding. The first two words of the mishna illustrate this well.

            The first four words of the mishna form a complete sentence. Read them now.

            Literally translated, it reads, "They brought before him, he dips with lettuce."

  1. What

The most obvious problem derives from the missing object of the verb "brought." What is brought before him?

            Now look in Rashi. Your first problem is to find the place in Rashi. In this case, that is made easier by the fact that we are at the beginning of a mishna, and the abbreviation "MATNI" which marks the mishna in the gemara appears in large letters in Rashi as well. Since there are two mishnayot on this page, we have to make sure we are at the second one.

            The bold print in Rashi is the citation from the talmudic text to which Rashi's comment refers. (Older editions of the Talmud did not use bold print to distinguish the citation from the comment, making it more difficult to find the comment you were looking for.) We find Rashi's first comment on our mishna:

            Heivi'u lifanav – yerakot

            They brought before him – vegetables.

            Rashi provides the missing direct object for the verb brought. You are meant to read the comment without a break where I placed the hyphen (and where in the printed text there is a single period). This is followed directly by the opening citation of the second comment:

            Mitabel bechazeret

            He dips with lettuce.

            Taken together and read as one, by adding one word, Rashi makes the meaning of the first line of the mishna clear. "They brought vegetables before him; he dips with lettuce."

B. How

            Grammatically and syntactically, this sentence is well formed. But what does it mean that he "dips with lettuce?" Now read the second comment of Rashi (s.v. "mitabel"). [s.v. stands for "sub verbo", "under the word." In Hebrew, the reference of a citation is called "dibbur hamatchil"].

            What is Rashi's explanation of the term "he dips with lettuce?"

            My literal translation of Rashi:        

He dips with lettuce - This is the language of the gemara, as was cited earlier (107b), "The attendant dips with the entrails;" for all of their eating was in the manner of dipping.

            Question (no. 1): So, what according to Rashi, is done with the lettuce ? You have three minutes to answer……         


            If you answered, one eats the lettuce, you are correct. Rashi is explaining, based on his quote of a similar usage, that the verb "to dip" is synonymous with "to eat," since in those times all eating was done by dipping the food in some sort of a condiment. More exactly, in our case "to dip" means "to eat by dipping;" in other words, it is a contraction.

            There is an ambiguity in the word "with" in the phrase "he dips with lettuce." I deliberately used the preposition "with" in order to preserve the ambiguity of the Hebrew ("mitabel b'chazeret"). This could mean that he dips IN lettuce, or it could mean he dips the lettuce; i.e., he dips the lettuce in something else. Since it is hard to imagine dipping IN lettuce, the second reading is clearly correct, and the same is true of the citation of Rashi concerning the attendant who is eating meat, dipping the entrails into a condiment.

            Now take a look at the Tosafot (s.v. "mitabel") [Tosafot is in the left column. "Mitabel" is the fifth tosafot on the page]. The main topic of the Tosafot is a comment of the Rashbam that we have not yet seen, but the Tosafot opens with an explanation of the mishna, perhaps because Rashi was not completely clear. Tosafot writes:

Mitabel b'chazeret (He dips with lettuce) - In other words, he eats lettuce by dipping, like the attendant who dips with the entrails.

C. In what

            But now, since we know that the lettuce is what is being dipped, the question arises - in what? In what condiment should the lettuce be dipped? The mishna has "neglected" to tell us.

            For the answer to this question look in the Rashbam. [Again, the Rashbam is found in the right column, BENEATH Rashi]. You have to find the Rashbam's comment to the mishna, just as we did with Rashi. Now read the first two comments of the Rashbam. You will immediately recognize that they are parallel to Rashi's first two comments. The Rashbam has a tendency, even where he is basically repeating Rashi's comment, to expand the original, and this is well illustrated in the first comment.

            Rashbam (s.v. "heivi'u"):

            Heivi'u lifanav - yerakot…

            They brought before him - vegetables after he made the blessing on the wine.

            Compare this to Rashi's parallel comment. The Rashbam adds a small comment to position the mishna within the sequence of the seder, which is what I did in the third paragraph of this shiur.

            But now, let us look at the second Rashbam, where the addition is more significant. First read it yourselves and note which part is quoted from Rashi and where the addition begins.

            Rashbam (s.v. "mitabel")

He dips with lettuce - This is the language of the gemara, as was cited earlier (107b), "The attendant dips with the entrails;" for all of their eating was in the manner of dipping.

This is a word-for-word quote of Rashi. Now the Rashbam adds:

And this dipping is not in charoset, since it is written subsequently, "they brought before him matza, lettuce, and charoset," so apparently it has not yet been brought. And this lettuce is not necessarily (lettuce); rather, if there is no other vegetable, he dips with lettuce and eats.

            This additional comment has two parts. First, the Rashbam tells us that the dipping is not in charoset - but he does not tell us what it IS in. Secondly, he tells us that the lettuce is not necessarily lettuce, but can be any vegetable.

            Actually, this is not really an addition, but a reaction to Rashi. Rashi has a third comment, to which the second half of the second comment of the Rashbam is parallel. Rashi (s.v. "mitabel bichazeret" - there are two comments with the same opening words. This is the second one):

He dips with lettuce - in other words, if there is no other vegetable, he dips the lettuce in charoset and eats.

Question (no. 2): What is the connection between the two parts of the Rashbam's comment? Try and answer before reading on.


            Hint - and question (no. 3): Is the Rashbam's proof from the continuation of the mishna ("they brought before him matza, lettuce, and charoset") persuasive? Since Rashi does, in fact, rule that this dipping is in charoset, there obviously must be some way of answering the Rashbam's proof.


            Question (no. 4): In retrospect, Rashi's (and the Rashbam's) reading of the mishna seems to make no sense. "They brought before him vegetables, he dips the lettuce." What are the vegetables and what is the lettuce?

If this were a "real" shiur, I would be content to sit back and wait for you to answer this question. Since there are 346 students in the "room," this could take some time. Our discussion in email is necessarily somewhat less lively. But I suggest you try and formalize - out loud if necessary - your explanation for this Rashbam. Explain it to me, or to your chavruta if you have one.


            The answer to these three questions is basically one. The mishna has two parts. "They brought before him (something), he dips with lettuce." Then, "They brought before him matza, lettuce, and charoset." The lack of a direct object for the first "bringing" is all the more glaring, since the second bringing not only has a direct object, but it seems to include all the objects we know are necessary for the mitzvot of the seder.

            Rashi's one-word answer to this question is "vegetables." The object dipped in this first part of the mishna is non-specific; it can be any vegetable. Why does the mishna then say that he dips with lettuce. Rashi (in the third comment) and the Rashbam (in the latter part of the second comment) answer that "lettuce" is merely a suggestion. Since he must prepare lettuce for "chazeret;" i.e., the bitter herb which will be eaten later after the matza, it is possible that he will not have any other vegetable. In this case, he may use the lettuce for the first dipping (which we call "karpas" - I shall use this name for now on).

            The Rashbam claims that since charoset will be brought to the table in the next part of the mishna, it cannot be the condiment for the dipping in the first part of the mishna. But, you should ask, how can this be true, since "lettuce" is also brought only in the next part of the mishna, so how can it be the object dipped in the first part. The Rashbam's answer is that in fact you do not need to dip lettuce in the first part; the "lettuce" there was "not necessarily (lav davka)" lettuce. The mishna is listing when you HAVE TO bring the objects to the seder table, and the time when you have to bring lettuce is AFTER the karpas dipping, before we begin to recite the haggada. The same is true for charoset, so obviously, the karpas dipping need not be in charoset. However, the mishna wishes to tell us that you may use lettuce as an example of "vegetables" for karpas, and hence, it writes, in an unusual formulation, "they brought before him…, he dips with lettuce."

            For this reason, the Rashbam changed the order of Rashi's comment. Rashi first writes that "lettuce" is not necessarily lettuce, and then adds, almost parenthetically, that the lettuce is dipped IN CHAROSET. The Rashbam first rejects the latter position, denying that charoset should be used, bringing the proof from the subsequent order of the mishna, and then adds that "lettuce" is not necessarily lettuce. The latter comment, although lifted from Rashi, serves in the Rashbam to answer the claim that the order of the mishna cannot be used as a proof that charoset is not present in the beginning, since it would also imply that lettuce is not present. The Rashbam answers that the mention of lettuce in the second part of the mishna does not contradict the lettuce in the first part, since the first lettuce "is not necessarily lettuce," while the second is the formal requirement of lettuce for the bitter herbs. However, one may infer that there cannot be a formal requirement for any of the ingredients of the second "bringing" before the second stage, which includes (bitter herb) lettuce, matza, and charoset. Hence, charoset is not the condiment for karpas.

            Rashi apparently feels that since charoset and perhaps lettuce are used twice, the mishna can write that you bring them twice. The fact that they are brought in the latter part does not exclude them from being brought, even unmentioned, in the first part.

            And so, we have our first "machloket" (disagreement). Rashi holds that karpas is dipped in charoset, while the Rashbam disagrees.

            Advanced assignment: Learn the Tosafot (s.v. "mitabel" - a translation appears on the lesson webpage). Tosafot's opinion is somewhat of a compromise. If lettuce is used for karpas, it should be dipped in charoset; if other vegetables are used, they are dipped in vinegar or saltwater.

            Before we conclude, let us at least finish the first sentence of the mishna - which we have, amazingly enough, not yet done.

They brought before him (vegetables), he dips with lettuce, until he reaches the "parperet hapat."

            What is "parperet hapat?" "Pat" means bread, presumably matza in this case, but what is "parperet?" Follow the standard procedure - look first for the Rashi.

            Rashi (s.v. "ad"):

Until he reaches the parperet hapat - before he reaches that lettuce which he eats after the matza, on which he makes the blessing "to eat bitter herbs." The first dipping is so that the children should perceive and question, for it is unusual for people to eat vegetables before the meal.

            Rashi apparently interprets the word "parperet" to mean something secondary. "Parperet hapat" means something eaten after the bread/matza, which, in the case of the seder night, is the maror, the bitter herbs. This is even clearer in the parallel Rashbam (you should be getting into the habit by now - read Rashi, and immediately compare it to the Rashbam), who writes,

Until he reaches the parperet hapat - before he reaches that lettuce which he eats after the matza, on which he makes the blessing "to eat bitter herbs," as is written, "On matzot and bitter herbs" - first matza and then bitter herbs.

            The Rashbam stresses the order, apparently because that is the explanation for the term "parperet." Tosafot (s.v. "ad") has a slightly different explanation:

"Parperet" is the name for the bitter herbs eaten after the matza. Parperet, that is, an appetizer that arouse eating, as in the phrase "parperaot lichokhma" (Pirkei Avot 3,18), for vegetables arouse the heart for eating. The fact that maror is called parperet is a hint by the mishna that matza is eaten before maror.

That is all for today. Next week, we shall finish the mishna and begin the gemara.