116a-b - Rabban Gamliel

  • Rav Ezra Bick

Since last week, we learned an entire mishna with all the attendant gemara, we are once again starting a new mishna. We are at the bottom of 116a, the mishna beginning "Rabban Gamliel…."


The webpage for this week's shiur is at:



and includes both a scan of the printed daf and a typed and translated version.


Aside from the webscan of the original printed daf, the webpage includes a typed version of the Hebrew- Aramaic with a matching translation. It is HIGHLY recommended that you try and learn the daf in the original, together with the shiur (unless you cannot read Hebrew). Part of learning gemara for any one, on any level, is the process of deciphering the text, and you should be trying to take part in that process.


The mishna: (If you can, you should either read the original with the Rashbam, or the typed version with translation. We are reading the first nine lines.)


Rabban Gamliel would say: Whoever did not say these three things on Pesach has not fulfilled his obligation. And these are they: Pesach, matza, and maror.

Pesach, for God skipped over the houses of our ancestors in Egypt [as is written, "And you shall say, it is a pesach sacrifice to God, who skipped over etc."].


Matza, for our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt [as is written, "And they baked the dough that they had taken out of Egypt etc."].

Maror, for the Egyptians bittered the lives of our ancestors in Egypt [as is written, "And they bittered their lives etc."].


This is a long mishna, so let us take a break here. Like the previous mishna, this one is also recited as part of the haggada, though here the language of the mishna is clearly halakhic.


            What did Rabban Gamliel require? He says that one must say "three things," and this is followed by a list of three things - "pesach, matza, and maror." This sounds very strange. Does Rabban Gamliel require that we recite three words?


The Rashbam writes:


Shelosha devarim halalu

These three things - which he explains their reasons.


            In other words, the Rashbam explains that "saying three things" means explaining the reasons for the three things. This, in fact, is the continuation of the mishna, which proceeds to explain the reasons for the three mitzvot of pesach, matza, and maror.


            Looking in the Rashbam, you see that the original version ("girsa") was "shelo pireish ta'aman" (which he did NOT explain their reasons). In fact, this is not a different explanation at all. The correction ("pireish" instead of "lo pireish") is unnecessary. As we have seen in previous cases, the Rashbam (and Rashi) are meant to be read together with the talmudic citation. In this case, you have to read the entire sentence in the mishna. Reading the two together, we have, "Whoever did NOT say these three things - did NOT explain their reasons - on Pesach has not fulfilled his obligation."


The next question is, what does it mean that one has "not fulfilled his obligation"? Which obligation?


            One possibility is that this refers to a new obligation. In other words, the mishna is saying that there is an obligation to recite the reasons for the pesach, matza, and maror. If you do not, you have not fulfilled one's obligation on the seder night. An obligation to recite a text on the seder night is presumably part of the mitzva of "sippur yetziat mitzrayim," the obligation to recite the haggada and tell the story of the exodus.


This is a rather convoluted way to say that you have to recite the reasons. Nonetheless, many commentators explain Rabban Gamliel in this manner. The alternative is to say that one has not fulfilled the obligation of matza if one does not recite the reason for matza, and the same for pesach and maror. These commentators apparently do not agree that it is possible that one does not fulfill the commandment to EAT matza if one does not recite an accompanying explanation. It makes sense that there could be an ADDITIONAL obligation to recite a text, but not, according to this logic, that the Torah obligations of eating pesach, matza, and maror themselves are dependent on this recitation.


            The Ramban explains that "has not fulfilled his obligation" does not mean that he has not fulfilled his obligation, but that he has not fulfilled his obligation fully, in the best manner. Accordingly, the recitation IS a part of the mitzva of eating pesach, matza. and maror, but not a necessary condition. There is a minimal manner of fulfilling the obligation, which would require only eating, and a preferred manner, in which the eatings are accompanied by the explication of the reasons for each. This explanation involves a non-literal reading of the mishna, but logically succeeds in locating the obligation of Rabban Gamliel in familiar Torah obligation.




Let us return to the mishna. For each of the three mitzvot, the mishna gives a reason, followed by a verse. The verse is in brackets in the printed editions of the Talmud. The reason is that it was not found in earlier editions. It is also not found in printed editions of the Mishna (which is printed as a separate book) to this day, nor is it in most manuscripts. It is found in the haggada, and that might have been the source of the expanded girsa in our present Talmud texts.


It is apparent, though, that the Tosafot did have the verse in the text of the mishna. Tosafot (s.v. "va- amartem" - the Tosafot is found on 116a, although it refers to a text on 116b. Manipulating the printed page so that all the commentaries follow exactly the central text is no small feat in pre-computer days, and the printers did not always succeed.) has a comment on the words "va-amartem zevach pesach" ("and you shall say, it is a pesach sacrifice"), so obviously he had those words in the mishna. Those words appear with the brackets in the printed edition.


[The Tosafot can be seen at http://www.gush.net/talmud/15tos.htm ]


Va-amartem zevach pesach hu

"And you shall say, it is a pesach sacrifice" - This means, by speaking (saying), that he is required to say, "this pesach that we eat." Matza and maror are (textually) equated with pesach, and (therefore) he must also say "this matza" and "this maror."


[Note: In the haggada, the full text of the citation of Rabban Gamliel reads: "This pesach that we eat, for what reason? For God skipped...." This is the girsa that Tosafot is quoting. In the printed Talmud, even including the part in brackets, the text is shorter: "Pesach, for God skipped...." The version in the haggada is preserving the form of question-and-answer, which, as we have seen previously, is an essential form of the haggada.


[Secondly, Tosafot quotes the line about the pesach sacrifice as "this pesach that we eat." This is the form that the corresponding lines have for matza and maror, but in our haggadas the line for pesach reads, "This pesach that our fathers would eat when the Temple was in existence."]


            Tosafot is using the first verse, that dealing with the pesach sacrifice, to discover the source of Rabban Gamliel's requirement. The verse states explicitly that one should state - "It is a pesach sacrifice to God, who skipped over our houses when he smote Egypt, and he saved our houses." Since matza and maror are equated with the pesach sacrifice, a corresponding obligation is derived for them as well. The verses quoted for matza and maror explicate a reason without stating explicitly that one should recite the reason. Hence, Tosafot claims that the obligation for matza and maror is derived from the more explicit one of pesach.




            Let us now immediately see the gemara to this part of the mishna. (Notice that this is what the Rashbam has done). Skip down to the beginning of the gemara.


Rava said: One must say, "And He took us out of there."


For those who do not recognize the verse, the Rashbam explains:


Tzarich she-yomar

One must say - this verse, "And he took us out of there," for he must show himself as though he came out of Egypt, for we as well were redeemed by God.


The verse in question is found in Devarim (6,23). It reads, "And He took us out of there, in order to bring us and give us the land which He promised to our fathers." The verse is describing what a father should answer his son who asks about the pesach. The people who hear Moshe's answer were not personally part of the exodus, and the future listeners are surely not in that category. Nonetheless, the verse says that one should say, "And He took US out of there." The Rashbam explains that this is the idea behind Rava's ruling. In the haggada, one not only recounts ancient history, one includes himself in it. He "must show himself as though he came out of Egypt, for we as well were redeemed by God." In fact, in the haggada, the recitation of this verse is preceded by an explicit explanation - Not only were our ancestors redeemed by God, but we too were redeemed with them."


            Where is this verse recited in the haggada? If you look in your haggada, you will see that it is immediately after the statement of Rabban Gamliel. In other words, Rava's statement is taken as a comment on Rabban Gamliel. When you say the three things of Rabban Gamliel, you must say "And He took us out of there."




Continuing in the gemara -


Rava said: One must lift matza, and one must lift maror. One does not need to lift the meat, and what's more, it looks as though he is eating kodashim (the meat of a sacrifice) outside (of the Temple precincts).


            When does one lift the matza and maror (but not the meat), and why? Let us look in the Rashbam.


Tzarich le-hagbia

One must lift - when he says "this matza that we eat, this maror that we eat," in order to show them to the participants in the meal, so that the mitzva be endeared in their eyes. So (is written) in the responsa of the Geonim, that what is written "one must lift" refers to the "this matza" of the haggada.



Meat - of the two cooked foods. He does not need to lift it when saying "the pesach which our fathers would eat" and he should not lift the meat which is in remembrance of the pesach.


H"G (initials of "hachi garsinan")

Thus we should read - One does not need to lift the meat, and what's more, it looks as though he is sanctifying his animal. One does not need to lift, since he cannot say "this pesach." And what is more, if he would lift it would look as though he were sanctifying a live animal for the pesach.


            The Rashbam locates the lifting as accompanying the recitation of the reasons required by Rabban Gamliel (which is why the statement in the gemara accompanies this mishna). The text of the mishna according to the Rashbam is "THIS matza" and "THIS maror" (the word "this" is not in our version of the mishna, as I pointed out above when discussing the Tosafot). Rava says that you should physically show the object when explaining it. The Rashbam says that this is in order to increase the love of the mitzva in the seder participants. In other words, the recitation of the three reasons is not primarily informative but demonstrative. This makes a lot of sense if we view the entire seder as experiential, an attempt to recreate and relive the exodus. For this reason, eating matza is accompanied by an explanation of what the experience symbolizes, and the whole thing is graphically depicted, in a manner which increases the emotional involvement of the participants.


The pesach, a sacrifice, presents a special problem, since we do not actually have it in the times after the destruction of the Temple. One might have imagined that the original requirement of Rabban Gamliel might be waived in regard to the pesach. But that is not the conclusion of the gemara. Rather, we say (using the version that the Rashbam has mentioned, which is that found in the haggada as well) "This pesach which our fathers would eat when the Temple was in existence." (We have previously seen the remembrance to the sacrificial eating of Hillel - korech). However, even though the meat of the "two cooked foods" is in remembrance of the pesach sacrifice (as the gemara stated on 114b), it is not actually a sacrifice. Therefore you do not need to raise it. In fact, you should not lift it. Our version of the text claims that this would look like you were eating sacrificial meat afterwards when you ate the meat (since you had said "this pesach" when raising it). It is prohibited to eat sacrificial meat outside of Jerusalem. The Rashbam changed the girsa, so that it is clear that lifting the meat appears to indicate that it is sanctified. The problem with having sanctified meat is not explicated according to this girsa, but there really is no need. There are multiple prohibitions involved in eating sanctified meat today.



A short extract from the shiur of Rav Kahn.



by Rav Yair Kahn

            According to the Rambam (Hilkhot Chametz U-matza 7:5), the explanations of these mitzvot, which are focal points of the seder night, comprise an integral part of sippur yetziat Mitzrayim (recounting the exodus). It is not enough to simply recount the story of the exodus and the related miracles, one must integrate a discussion of these mitzvot as well.

            The Ramban (Nachmanides, not Maimonides) (Milchamot Hashem, beginning of Berakhot), on the other hand, explains that Rabban Gamliel's law does not refer to the mitzva of sippur yetziat Mitzrayim, but rather to the mitzva of EATING the pesach, matza and maror. He interprets the phrase "does not fulfill" merely as the optimal mode of fulfillment. Therefore, if one forgets to mention these sentences, he does not have to repeat his consumption of pesach, matza, and maror. From this we can deduce that the Ramban viewed R. Gamliel's law as qualifying the mitzva of eating and not a fulfillment of "sippur." This interpretation assumes that the mitzva of eating pesach, matza and maror is not limited to the physical performance of eating, but includes understanding and appreciating these mitzvot.

            According to the Rambam, the primary mitzva is telling the story. The discussion of the mitzvot is an important part of the content of the tale. However, the idea suggested by the Rambam that pesach, matza, and maror require an appreciation of their meaning and not just physical acts of eating, leads us to another approach regarding the intrinsic connection between sippur yetziat Mitzrayim and pesach, matza, and maror. This view maintains that the primary mitzva is eating the matza; reciting the story of yetziat Mitzrayim is a secondary, complementary act. This also seems to be the position the Ramban takes in his comments on the Rambam's Sefer Ha-mitzvot. The Ramban discusses whether the blessings on the Torah (birkat ha-Torah) should be counted as a separate mitzva to the requirement of actually learning Torah. He states: "It is clear from what I have said that this blessing is of biblical origin, and one should not count them (learning Torah, and reciting the blessing on Torah) as one mitzva. So too, the bringing of the first fruits (bikkurim) is not counted as one mitzva along with the recital of mikra bikkurim; also retelling the story of yetziat Mitzrayim (should not be counted together) with the eating of the pesach sacrifice."

            The Ramban claims that the relationship of sippur yetziat Mitzrayim to eating the pesach is analogous to the relationship of the blessing on the Torah to its actual learning, as well as the reciting of parshat bikkurim with the actual delivering of the first fruits to the Temple. It would seem from the Ramban's formulation that the principal mitzva is the action of eating the pesach, bringing the fruit and learning Torah, while the reciting of the story (similar to the blessings and parshat bikkurim) plays an ancillary role.

            There exist, then, two approaches in defining the relationship between the mitzva of sippur yetziat Mitzrayim and that of pesach, matza, and maror: 1. Part of reciting the story (perhaps its primary aspect) is to explain the mitzvot of the seder night and their objectives. Essentially, one is required to recall the story of yetziat Mitzrayim through the prism of the symbolism of pesach, matza, and maror. The fundamental component is the story, where the pesach, matza, and maror, play leading roles.

2. The principal mitzva is the eating of the pesach, matza, and maror, whereas the recital of the story of yetziat Mitzrayim plays a subordinate role. In order to fully appreciate the mitzvot of eating, one must understand their true significance.