The Chagiga of the Fourteenth of Nissan: Covenant and Community

  • Dr. Alan Jotkowitz
In memory of Pinhas ben Shalom (Paul) Cymbalista z”l
Niftar 20 Nissan 5752. Dedicated by his family.
These Pesach Shiurim are dedicated in memory of Sidney Gontownik z"l,
brother of Jerry Gontownik, on the occasion of Sidney's upcoming eleventh Yahrzeit,
on the 24th of Nissan. May his memory be for a blessing.
The Gontownik Family
Dedicated in memory of HaRav HaGaon R. Chaim Heller zt"l,
whose yahrzeit falls on the 14th of Nissan, by Vivian S. Singer.
In addition to the regular korban chagiga (festive sacrifice) brought on the first day of Pesach as on every holiday, the Mishna in Pesachim (69b) teaches that under certain circumstances, a korban chagiga would be brought on the 14th of Nissan as well:
When does one bring a chagiga with the [korban pesach]? When [the pesach] is brought on a weekday, in a state of tahara (purity), and the number of Pesachim is small (mu’at).[1] But when [the pesach] is brought on Shabbat, in a great quantity (merubeh),[2] or in a state of tum’a (impurity), we do not bring a chagiga with it. A chagiga may be brought from the flock, from the cattle, from the sheep, or from the goats, from male or female animals; and it may be eaten for two days and one night.
The Gemara (70a) infers from the fact that one does not bring a korban chagiga if the 14th of Nissan is Shabbat, or if one is in a state of tum’a, that it is not an obligatory korban. Why bring this chagiga at all, if it is not obligatory? The Gemara quotes a baraita to explain:
The chagiga that accompanies the pesach is eaten first, so that the pesach will be eaten in a state of satiation [al hasova].
The implication from this Gemara is that the chagiga of the 14th is a Rabbinic enactment, instituted for the purpose of ensuring that each person would eat enough to be full when eating the korban pesach. The Midrash Halakha (Sifrei Devarim 129), however, implies that the chagiga of the 14th is included in the Torah’s command:
"…of the flock and of the herd" [Devarim 16:2]. “Of the flock” – for the pesach sacrifice; “and of the herd” – for the chagiga offering."
The Rambam, apparently referencing both the Gemara and the Sifrei, writes:
When we offer the pesach in the first month, we sacrifice thanksgiving offerings (shlamim) together with it on the 14th… and this is what is known as the “chagiga of the 14th, about which it is written in the Torah, “You shall offer a Pesach unto the Lord your God, of the flock and of the herd.” When do we bring this chagiga together with it? When it falls on a weekday, and in purity, and in a small quantity. But if the 14th falls on Shabbat, or when the pesach is brought in a state of [national] impurity, or if the pesach sacrifices are large in volume, then we do not bring a chagiga offering together with it; the pesach alone is offered. The chagiga of the 14th is voluntary and not obligatory. (Laws of the pesach Sacrifice 10:12-13)
The obvious question is: Why is this chagiga voluntary, despite the Sifrei’s Torah source for it and in contrast to the obligatory chagiga of every other holiday?
Korban and Covenant
In order to answer this question, we have to understand the nature of the 14th of Nissan and what we are celebrating – namely, the covenant between God and the Jewish People. The whole korban pesach ceremony represents a rejection of Egyptian culture and beliefs, as Shemot Rabba (16, 3) states:
“Draw and take for yourselves sheep” [Shemot 12:21] – as it is written, “All who worship idols shall be shamed” (Tehillim 97:7). When the Holy One, blessed be He, told Moshe to slaughter the pesach sacrifice, Moshe said: Master of the world – how can I do this thing? How can You not know that sheep are the gods of the Egyptians? As it is written, “Shall we then offer up the god [literally, 'the abomination'] of the Egyptians before their eyes, without having them stone us?” (Shemot 8:22). The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to him: By your life, Israel will not leave here until they have slaughtered the gods of the Egyptians before their eyes, that I may make known to them that their gods are worth nothing…[3]
Once they had demonstrated their rejection of Egypt’s gods by slaughtering the korban pesach, the Jewish People could then accept the yoke of Heaven and enter into a covenant with God. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, zt"l, writes regarding this covenant:
It means that until the people had signified their consent, the revelation could not proceed. There is no legitimate government without the consent of the governed, even if the governor is Creator of heaven and earth. I know of few more radical ideas anywhere. To be sure, there were sages in the Talmudic period who questioned whether the acceptance of the covenant at Sinai was completely free. However, at the heart of Judaism is the idea – way ahead of its time, and not always fully realised – that the free God desires the free worship of free human beings. God, said the rabbis, does not act tyrannically with His creatures.[4]
The korban pesach is one of only two positive mitzvot for which non-performance is punished with karet, being cut off from the Jewish people; the other is brit mila. Both of these mitzvot represent the covenant with God, and bringing the korban pesach each year represents renewal of that eternal covenant.
Now it becomes obvious why the korban chagiga of the day is voluntary. The korban pesach represents renewing the covenant; attaching an optional second korban to it lends a voluntary aspect to that renewal. Every year, the Jewish People accept God's sovereignty voluntarily; so, too, they bring the chagiga of the 14th voluntarily. And that is perhaps why the Rambam emphasizes the point that the korban "is voluntary and not obligatory."
Covenant without Korban
Are there any echoes of this yearly voluntary acceptance of the covenant in a time when we are no longer able to bring korbanot?
 The Mishna (50a) states:
In a place where the people have the custom to do work (melakha) on erev Pesach until midday, one may work; in a place where they have the custom not to do work, one may not work.
After midday, everyone agrees work is forbidden: some say the prohibition is biblical, because it is the time of the sacrificing of the korban pesach (Tosafot 50a s.v. makom shenahgu, based on the Yerushalmi); others are of the opinion that work is prohibited only on a Rabbinic level, so people will have time to prepare for the holiday (Rashi 50a. s.v. shelo la’asot).
Before midday, work depends on custom; Chazal left it up to the people to decide the character of the day. Is the day of the renewal of the covenant, even in the absence of the korban pesach, a holiday or a regular workday?
The Rambam writes:
After midday on Pesach afternoon, a person who works at that time should be placed under a ban of ostracism. Needless to say, if he was not placed under a ban of ostracism, he should be given stripes for rebelliousness. For the 14th of Nissan differs from the day preceding other holidays, because at that time the chagiga is brought and the pesach is slaughtered. Therefore, the performance of labor on the 14th of Nissan is forbidden by Rabbinical decree, as on Chol Ha-Mo'ed. [The rulings pertaining to the 14th of Nissan] are, however, more lenient than [those pertaining to] Chol Ha-Mo'ed. Moreover, it is forbidden to perform labor on [the 14th of Nissan] only from midday onward, for this is the time when the sacrifice is offered. From sunrise until noon, [the practice] depends on [local] custom. In places where it is customary to perform labor, one may. In places where it is not customary to perform labor, one may not. (Laws of the Holidays 8:17-18)
The Rambam explicitly ties abstention from work to the korban chagiga, even though the korban is only voluntary, and leaves the parameters of the prohibition up to local custom. During the times of the Temple, it was up to the Jewish People to decide whether or not to celebrate the 14th of Nissan as a holiday by bringing an extra korban; after the destruction of the Temple, it remained in the people’s jurisdiction to determine the nature of the day by abstaining from or permitting work.[5]
The Pesach and the Chagiga
The Gemara notes that Ben Teima disagrees with the Mishna above, and has a different perspective on the chagiga of the 14th:
Ben Teima says: the chagiga that is brought along with the pesach [on the 14th] is similar to the pesach and [like the korban pesach] may be eaten only for a single day and the following night. (Pesachim 70a)
The Gemara questions Ben Teima’s comparison to korban pesach with a series of questions. Does the chagiga have to be eaten roasted like the pesach? Does the chagiga have to be a one-year-old male sheep or goat like the pesach? Does the prohibition of "breaking a bone" while eating likewise apply to the chagiga?
In the final analysis, the Gemara determines that all three halakhot do in fact apply to the chagiga of the 14th. Why, then, did the Gemara need to analyze each question independently? Couldn’t it have offered just one affirmative answer?
In order to answer this question, we need a deeper understanding of the mitzva of korban pesach. Unlike other korbanot, the korban pesach involves two separate mitzvot: the sacrificing of the korban and the eating of the korban. The Bet Halevi explains (volume 1, chapter 2) that in the case of a regular korban, there is no personal obligation to eat the meat; rather, the sacrificial process demands that the meat be eaten. That requirement relates to the meat itself and does not have to be fulfilled by any particular individual; it is a chovat cheftza, obligation regarding an object, i.e., the meat. The korban pesach, on the other hand, includes a chovat gavra – an obligation upon each person – to eat the korban.[6]
Understanding the distinction between these two mitzvot of the korban pesach provides a framework within which we can analyze its details. The prohibition of breaking the bones is clearly related to the mitzva of eating the korban pesach. As the Sefer Hachinuch explains (mitzva 16), sons of kings do not eat like dogs, gnawing and breaking the bones. The type of animal used for the korban, however, is related to the mitzva of sacrificing the korban pesach; as discussed above, we sacrifice a sheep to symbolize the slaughtering of the Egyptian gods.
What about the mitzva to roast the korban pesach? Is that related to sacrificing the korban or to eating it? On the surface, it might seem to relate to the eating of the korban: as the Sefer Hachinuch explains (mitzva 7), we eat roasted meat on Pesach night because it is "the way of the sons of kings and the officers to eat roasted meat, because it is good and tasty."
However, there is a suggestion in the Sifrei in Parashat Re’eh that the roasting of the korban pesach, like other aspects of the service, must be done lishma – purely for the sake of the mitzva – rather than for any personal benefit. This requirement would indicate that the roasting relates to the sacrifice rather than to the eating of the korban. (Rav Zolty, zt"l, offers other proofs for this contention.)[7]
Perhaps both aspects, the sacrificing as well as the eating, are expressed in the mitzva to roast the korban pesach.
With this analysis, we can understand why the Gemara highlights all three details in questioning whether the chagiga is truly comparable to the korban pesach. The question of breaking the bones addresses whether the chagiga shares the eating aspect of the korban pesach; the question of the identity of the korban probes whether it also shares the sacrificial laws; and the discussion of roasting emphasizes that according to Ben Teima, the chagiga shares both aspects with the pesach.
Taking all this into account, we have a new understanding of the chagiga of the 14th: While the Tana of our Mishna treated the pesach and chagiga as two separate korbanot, Ben Teima sees the chagiga as an expansion of the korban pesach that assumes the same laws with regard to both the sacrificial procedure and the eating of the korban.[8]
Chagiga and Community
Why, then, according to Ben Teima, do we bring a chagiga of the 14th at all?
Rashi explains our original Mishna differently from the Rambam (whose understanding was assumed above). In his view, we bring the chagiga of the 14th when the pesach is insufficient to satiate all those who registered – i.e., when we expand the number of people with whom we are celebrating the holiday, so that there is not enough meat in the korban pesach to satisfy them all. Through the chagiga, our personal holiday is transformed into a communal one. After all, on the 14th of Nissan, not only did we each make a covenant with God but we also became the nation of Israel. This beginning of peoplehood is worthy of being celebrated as a community, and the chagiga of the 14th enables us to do so while still fulfilling the requirement to eat the korban pesach in a state of satiation.[9]
As Rav Soloveitchik, zt”l, explains:
Interestingly, the symbol of redemption in the Torah is the korban pesah, the paschal offering, which is a very strange sacrifice. The concept of havura, community, is completely non-existent regarding other offerings: shelamim, hatat, ola, and asham. Pesah has been linked up by the Torah with havura to such an extent that one sage is of the opinion that an individual cannot offer the paschal lamb; only a group may do so (Pesahim 91a). The pesah differs from all other sacrifices because it is a symbol of herut, freedom. The Torah calls the paschal lamb, “seh le-veit avot, seh la-bayit, a lamb according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a household” (Ex. 12:3), because freedom expresses itself in the realm of bayit, of community, of being together. Bayit is a new category which was revealed to the Jews as they gained their freedom.
The Rav also writes:
A new fellowship was formed around the paschal lamb; a new community sprang into existence. Being together, living with each other, sharing something many possess in common was made possible by the ceremonial of the paschal lamb. The Halakha coined the term havura with reference to the group gathering together for this ceremonial.[10]
These ideas of covenant and community may explain why there are two mitzvot related to the korban pesach. The mitzva to sacrifice the pesach commemorates the covenant between God and the Jewish People, and the mitzva to eat calls on us to celebrate with our fellow Jews the birth of a new nation.[11] And these two aspects might also be present in the chagiga of the 14th. The korban is voluntary because acceptance of the covenant is voluntary – but the Jewish People chose to bring it, in order to celebrate the holiday together as a community and not as individuals.
At no time in recent memory has the importance of community been more apparent than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to factors beyond our control, we live in a time when the number of pesachim is small. And when it is most needed, we all sorely miss the love and support that our communities provide. However, our Pesach seder is also a celebration of hope. At the end of our sedarim, we will joyfully proclaim, “Next year in Jerusalem!” We look forward to celebrating with our extended family and community, together in health, marking the renewal of our eternal covenant with the One in Heaven and the solidarity and unity of the Jewish People.

[1] Translated in accordance with Rambam’s commentary on the Mishna (6:3).
[2] According to Rambam’s commentary; see previous note. Presumably, the reason for this limitation is that the high numbers of Pesachim would make additional Chagigot too onerous for the Kohanim. See below for another explanation of the terms mu’at and merubeh.
[3] For further discussion of the idea of the korban pesach as a representation of the covenant between God and the Jewish People, see Rav Yonatan Grossman's essay available at
[5] As stated, Rashi (50a s.v. shelo la’asot) maintains that the reason for the prohibition of work on erev Pesach is so that one will not forget to burn one’s chametz or to bring the korban pesach. Other Rishonim, based on the Yerushalmi (Pesachim 4:1 and 4:6), maintain that the day of the bringing of the korban pesach is itself a holiday. For further discussion of this issue, see the article by Rabbi Yair Kahn available at
[6] For further discussion, see the article by Rabbi Moshe Taragin available at
[7] Mishnat Ya’avetz, Orach Chaim 24. I first learned this source from Rabbi Shalom Rosner.
[8] The argument between the Tana of the Mishna and Ben Teima, regarding whether the chagiga of the 14th is an independent korban or an extension of the korban pesach, might be reflected in two other disagreements: (1) Rabbi Yishmael maintains that the beracha on the korban pesach also covers the chagiga of the 14th, while Rabbi Akiva disagrees; see the Mishna in Pesachim 120a. (2) Is the chagiga of the 14th sacrificed at the time of the korban pesach, after the daily Korban Tamid of Mincha? For further discussion, see the Tosafot Rid (Pesachim 69b), who maintains that the chagiga is sacrificed after the Tamid, and the Mishneh Lamelekh, Laws of the Vessels of the Sanctuary 6:9, for an extended discussion of the matter. It is interesting to note that even according to the Tana of our Mishna, one aspect of the pesach might be reflected in the chagiga of the 14th: The Tzlach maintains that everyone agrees the prohibition of "breaking the bones" applies to the chagiga, because that halakha is related to the eating of the korban rather than to the sacrificing of the korban. There is also a discussion of whether semikha [leaning], nesachim [libations], and waving of the breast and thigh – obligatory for a korban shelamim – apply to the chagiga of the 14th. See Pesachim 96b with Rashi and Meiri ad loc. And see Rashi (Pesachim 89b s.v. v’al chagigato) regarding applying the unique law of registering for the korban pesach to the chagiga of the 14th as well.
[9] There is an interesting suggestion (see Rashi, Shemot 12:48) that a new convert brings a korban pesach even if it is not Pesach, perhaps to mark the dual aspects of conversion: establishing a covenant with God and becoming part of the Jewish People.
[10] Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Festival of Freedom: Essays on Pesah and the Haggadah, eds. Joel B. Wolowelsky and Reuven Ziegler (Jersey City, 2006), pp. 43, 23.
[11] For further discussion of this point, see the article by Rabbi Yair Kahn available at