Arvei Pesachim #21: 109a

  • Rav Yair Kahn

Gemora Pesachim

Yeshivat Har Etzion



SHIUR #21: 109a She-Lo Yishnu

by Rav Yair Kahn


On the seder night, great emphasis is placed on involving the children. In our sugya, a variety of suggestions are made, all with the common goal of "kedei she-lo yishnu ve-yish'alu - so that they should not fall asleep but rather should ask questions." Nevertheless, it is strange that the main tactic used to arouse the interest of the child is not mentioned in our sugya. According to most Rishonim, "karpas" was instituted solely for the purpose of arousing the child's interest (see 114b). Kiddush is recited like on any Yom Tov. We continue the usual process and wash hands. At this point, instead of eating bread, we dip the karpas into salt water, to arouse the curiosity of the child. We take the bread (matza), break it and then, oddly, remove the food from the table. At this point, we expect the child to question the puzzling activities of the seder night (hence, "ma nishtana," see 115b). Why were karpas and the removal of the food not mentioned in our sugya?


According to some Rishonim, the removal of the food IS addressed. "Chotfin," according to the first interpretation in Rashi, refers to the lifting of the seder plate (analogous to the removal of the food) from the table, which generates the ma nishtana. Furthermore, the Rambam lumps both sugyot into one halakha (7:3), indicating that there is no distinction between them. They all form one category of intentional alterations instituted into the seder night, which are puzzling to the child, and therefore ignite his curiousity and fire his imagination and interest.


Other Rishonim distinguish between the two sugyot. The second (and main) interpretation in Rashi for "chotfin" is to rush the seder so that the children will not fall asleep (see also Ra'avad 7:3). The Rashbam explains "chotfin" as preventing the children from eating their full so that they will remain awake. According to these interpretations, it seems that our sugya lists the tactics to keep the child awake and alert. Therefore, R. Akiva would send the children to bed in the afternoon (according to Rashi). The goal reached in our sugya is "she-lo yishnu." The purpose is so that they be alert to everything that subsequently takes place, and ve-yishalu. However, the provocative tactics which generate the questions of the child, and express the uniqueness of the seder night, are mentioned in the later sugya.


Ve-Samachta be-Chagekha


The gemara mentions a variety of ways to fulfill the mitzva of simchat Yom Tov. Simchat Yom Tov was expresseded differently during the time of the Beit Ha-mikdash than it is today. Men, women and children each attain simchat Yom Tov in distinct ways. According to Tosafot (Mo'ed Katan 14b s.v. Aseh), on the biblical level, the mitzva of simcha is only by partaking of the shalmei simcha (a sacrifice one is obligated to offer during the "shalosh regalim"). The alternate options mentioned in our sugya are rabbinic institutions. However, it appears from the Rambam (Hilkhot Yom Tov 6:17), that all the options mentioned in our sugya are of biblical origin. Rav Soloveitchik zt"l proved from this that the mitzva of simchat Yom Tov does not obligate any specific action. Rather, it demands a certain inner feeling and state of mind. The actions are the means to this end, and therefore, there is flexibility to the manner in which this state is attained. It is dependent on the situation and the specific individual.


Based on this, Rav Soloveitchik explained why Yom Tov suspends mourning (the seven-day period of mourning ends at the commencement of a festival, even if only one day has been observed). After all, on the technical level, there is no tension between the prohibitions which apply to a mourner, and the fulfilling of the obligation of simchat Yom Tov. For instance, on Yom Tov one is obligated to drink wine, which is permitted to a mourner. The Rav explained that the contradiction is on the inner experiential level. One cannot experience the joy of Yom Tov while simultaneously feeling the despondency and grief of a mourner. Furthermore, the Rav argued that feeling of simcha on Yom Tov is based on the experience of the encounter with Hashem which is at the root of the shalosh regalim. Therefore, during the period of the Beit Ha-mikdash, the primary method of fulfilling the mitzva of simcha was through partaking of the shalmei simcha. A korban shelamim is characterized as a sacrifice of which all parties - Hashem, the owners, and the kohanim - partake, and thus it expresses the covenant between Hashem and the children of Israel. This experience which is the essence of the obligation of simchat Yom Tov, is incommensurate with the essence of aveilut, which is rooted in the tragic feeling of alienation from life and from Hashem.


[See Shiurim Le-zecher Abba Mari vol. 2 pp. 184-195]


The shiur of a revi'it


The gemara calculates the shiur of a revi'it, based on the shiur of a mikveh. Some background information will simplify the calculation:

Volume measurements: 1) 1 mikveh = 40 se'a = 240 kav = 960 lug = 3840 revi'it.

Linear measurements: 2) 1 ama (forearm) = 6 tefach (fist) = 24 etzba (finger).


The gemara begins with an equation through which we determine the relationship of the volume measurement system with the linear one:

1 mikveh = 1 x 1 x 3 ama or 3 cubic ama.

Converting into cubic etzba, based on the fact that an ama = 24 etzba, this translates into 24 x 24 x 72 etzba or 41472 cu etzba. A revi'it, as we noted, is a mikveh divided by 3840 or 10.8 cu etzba which is exactly 2 x 2 x 2.7 etzba.




We shall be skipping the aggadata of the next 5 pages. The second half of Arvei Pesachim, dealing with the order of the seder night, begins on 114a.



1. 114a The first mishna and ensuing gemara, Tosafot s.v. "d'amar."

2. Second mishna, Tosafot s.v. "heivi'u."

3. 114b gemara "Mai shnei tavshilin ... u'bishula."

4. Tosafot s.v. "shnei," "echad."



1. Which position seems more logical, that of Beit Hillel or that of Beit Shammai? How could you explain the conflicting opinion?

2. Is a divine indication a legitimate factor within the Halachic process?

3. What do the two tavshilin commemorate? What are the significant factors in determining what items should be used?






To receive this Gemorah shiur every week, write to:

With the message:

 [email protected]

Subscribe yhe-Pesachim


This shiur is provided courtesy of the Virtual Beit Midrash, the premier source of online courses on Torah and Judaism - 14 different courses on all levels, for all backgrounds.

Make Jewish learning part of your week on a regular basis - enroll in the
Virtual Beit Midrash

(c) Yeshivat Har Etzion2002 All rights reserved to Yeshivat Har Etzion

Yeshivat Har Etzion
Alon Shvut, Israel, 90433
[email protected]