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Priorities in Eating Matza at the Seder

  • Rav Shlomo Levy


Under normal circumstances we eat matza four times on the Seder night:
1. Ha-Motzi;
2. Matza - immediately after Ha-motzi;
3. Koreikh - together with maror;
4. Tzafun - Afikoman , after the meal before birkat ha-mazon.
Each of these requires eating a ke-zayit (the size of an olive) of matza (though some are accustomed to eat two for the afikoman, see below).
If a person has only one ke-zayit of matza or only one ke-zayit of matza shemura (specially watched matza - see below), at which point in the seder should he eat it?
Although, thank God, this question does not come up so frequently nowadays (though bad planning might result in having too little matza shemura for four ke-zeitim for all of the participants of the seder), the discussion it sparks enriches our understanding of the mitzva of eating matza on the seder night.
Now that we are not able to offer the korban Pesach (paschal lamb sacrifice), "Says Rava, 'Matza is today [still] obligated biblically, but maror is obligated only rabbinically'" (Pesachim 108a). The gemara explains that since the mitzva of eating maror is derived from the verse, "Eat [the korban Pesach] with matzot and maror" (Bemidbar 9:11), the obligation to eat maror is biblically tied to the mitzva of eating the korban Pesach. It follows that when one does not bring the korban Pesach there is no biblical obligation to eat maror. However, the Torah commands us twice to eat matza: once in conjunction with the korban, and once independently. The verse "Eat matzot at night" (Shemot 12:18) commands us to eat matzot on Pesach night even when no Pesach sacrifice is brought. Even though the gemara records Rav Acha bar Yaakov's dissenting opinion that matza is also only a rabbinic obligation today, the Rif and other Rishonim rule in accordance with Rava that matza is today a biblical obligation.
The Torah attaches a number of conditions to the mitzva of matza - it must not be cooked, its dough must not be rich (kneaded with fruit juices), etc. One of these conditions is, "You should watch the matzot" (U-shemartem et ha-matzot) (Shemot 12:17). The Halakha understands this in two ways:
1. the matzot should be specially guarded against becoming chametz;
2. the matzot should be made for the sake of the mitzva of eating matza at the Seder.
The Rishonim disagree about the stage of production from which the matzot must be watched. The Shulchan Arukh (OC 453:4) rules that:
"It is best that the wheat used for the matzot of the mitzva be guarded so that no water falls on it from the time it is harvested. At least [it should be watched] from the time it is ground [into flour]. Under extenuating circumstances, it is permissible to buy flour from the marketplace [and bake matzot with it]."
Therefore, on the seder night, many are accustomed to use matza that has been watched from the time of harvesting. Minimally, one may fulfill the mitzva by using matza baked with flour that has not been specially watched, provided it is guarded [against becoming chametz] from the time of kneading and that it is made in order to fulfill the mitzva of matza. It is plausible that matza that is not "shemura" was also not baked for the sake of fulfilling the mitzva of matza. We will therefore relate to it as matza that one cannot use to fulfill his obligation on the seder night. If one has only such matza, then he may use it at the seder, but should refrain from making the blessing "Al akhilat matza" over it.
The problem we described above - when to eat the one ke-zayit of matza shemura (if that is all one has) - is really limited to deciding between only two of the four options we presented.
A. "Ha-motzi," where the mitzva of matza is not being fulfilled, can certainly be made over regular matza.
B. Koreikh also would not require shemura matza today. Because we do not eat a korban Pesach at the seder, koreikh is only, as we say in the Hagada, a remembrance of the times when the Temple was standing. Even Hillel, who, when the Temple was standing, would eat the Pesach sacrifice, matza, and maror together, would agree that today one fulfills the mitzvot of maror and matza by eating each one separately.
The two live options are the second ke-zayit, over which we pronounce "Al akhilat matza" and the ke-zayit of AFIKOMAN.
The Rishonim dispute whether we fulfill the mitzva of matza through "matza" or "afikoman." The Rif (Pesachim 27a in the Alfas) writes, "Where one has only ... one ke-zayit ... AT THE END he makes a blessing over a ke-zayit of matza shemura." According to the Rif, the person in such a predicament should say the blessing "Al akhilat matza" over the ke-zayit of afikoman, because that is where he essentially fulfills the mitzva of eating matza.
The Rosh (Pesachim #35) argues that:
"Now that the obligation to eat matza only stems from 'You should eat matzot at night,' one should not delay the blessing over matza. It is better to eat matza earlier while he still has an appetite."
In other words, one should eat the ke-zayit of matza shemura right at the beginning of the meal and make the blessing "Al akhilat matza" over it.
At first glance, they seem to be arguing about which of the two following options is preferable:
1. to gain the added fulfillment of eating afikoman made of matza shemura - justifying delaying the biblical mitzva;
2. or to achieve a higher level of fulfilling the biblical mitzva, namely, eating while one has the greatest appetite - even if it means foregoing an afikoman made of matza shemura.
I would suggest another analysis of their argument. Perhaps they are arguing about what the function of the afikoman is. The Rashbam (Pesachim 119b) explains that the afikoman we eat today is a remembrance of the matza eaten with the Pesach sacrifice. He says that it is through this matza that we fulfill our obligation. The Rosh, however, sees the afikoman as commemorating the korban Pesach itself, which is eaten at the end of the meal when we are already full.
The Rosh and the Rashbam might also argue about what was done when the korban Pesach was offered. According to the Rashbam, they would eat one ke-zayit of matza with the korban Pesach. With this one ke-zayit they fulfilled both verses, "Eat matzot at night" and "Eat [the korban Pesach] with matzot and maror." Because the korban Pesach had to be eaten at the end of the meal when people were full, they delayed the mitzva of matza. Therefore we now also delay the mitzva of matza until the end of the meal if we must eat only one ke-zayit of matza.
The Rosh might hold that even in the times of the Temple they ate two ke-zeitim of matza, one at the beginning of the meal and one with the korban. Nowadays we also eat one at the beginning of the meal and one commemorating the korban. Even if they did not eat two ke-zeitim then, now that we have no korban Pesach, there is no reason to delay the fulfillment of the mitzva of matza.
The Rashbam saw a difficulty with his own position, but resolved it. If the mitzva of matza is really fulfilled at the end of the seder with the eating of the afikoman, why do we make "Al akhilat matza" at the beginning of the meal? He answers by drawing an analogy to maror.
Ordinarily, one fulfills the obligation of "karpas" by dipping a normal vegetable in salt water and pronouncing "Borei peri ha-adama" over it. Later, one uses a bitter vegetable for maror, reciting only "Al akhilat maror." If one has only bitter herbs, what should he do? Rav Huna (Pesachim 114a) says that he should first eat some with the intention of fulfilling karpas, reciting only "Borei peri ha-adama." Later he should eat more bitter herbs with the intention of fulfilling the mitzva of maror, reciting "Al akhilat maror." Rav Chisda counters, "He first fillshis stomach with it and only then makes the blessing ['al akhilat maror'] over it!?" Therefore, says Rav Chisda, he should first fulfill karpas by saying "Borei peri ha-adama" and "Al akhilat maror" and eating the bitter vegetable dipped in salt water, and later fulfill maror by again eating bitter herbs, but without reciting any additional blessings.
The Rashbam's position on matza is analogous to Rav Chisda's approach to maror. the Seder meal must open with "Ha-motzi," so we eat matza at this point. However, it would be inappropriate to eat it without reciting "Al akhilat matza." We therefore recite "Ha-motzi" and "Al akhilat matza" at the beginning of the seder even though we only truly fulfill the mitzva of matza at the end of the night with the afikoman.
The Rashbam must see Rav Chisda as taking a radical position. A more moderate approach, such as that of the Ran, understands that according to Rav Chisda one fulfills the mitzva of maror when he first dips it and eats it for karpas. Later on (when he eats it after Ha-motzi) he is not fulfilling the mitzva, just symbolically preserving the normal order of the seder. The Rashbam, on the other hand, must understand Rav Chisda in accordance with Tosafot's explanation. Rav Chisda, according to them, holds that "One fulfills the main mitzva of maror with the SECOND dipping ...." This is striking, making a berakha over a mitzva (at "karpas") but fulfilling it only later on (at "maror"). Eating maror right after reciting the blessings is perceived as the beginning of the mitzva, and it is fulfilled in stages, finished later after Ha-motzi. We must understand that the mitzva has begun now, because otherwise the berakha would not be considered adjacent to the mitzva; yet, Tosafot clearly perceive it as being primarily fulfilled later on. The Rashbam, by drawing the analogy between matza and maror, is taking the line of the Tosafot, for he believes that the mitzva of matza is really fulfilled later on with the afikoman.
The Rosh might follow the Ran's approach, or he might say that there is no reason to delay the mitzva of matza until the end of the seder.
This might be at the heart of the argument between the Rif and the Rosh that we quoted above. According to the Rosh, the mitzva of matza is fulfilled at the beginning of the seder, and the afikoman is eaten later only to commemorate the korban Pesach. Therefore when there is no extra ke-zayit for afikoman it is preferable to eat matza at the beginning of the meal and fulfill the mitzva right away. The Rif, though, might understand what we normally follow the Rashbam, and therefore when one only has one ke-zayit of matza he should only eat it at the end when he really fulfills the mitzva.
A. The Rosh and the Rashbam argue about the function of the afikoman - whether it commemorates the korban Pesach or the matza eaten with it. There are therefore those who eat two ke-zeitim for afikoman, one commemorating the korban and one for the matza eaten with it. The Rashbam sees one who only eats one ke-zayit for afikoman as completing his mitzva of matza. The Shulchan Arukh seems to follow the Rosh.
B. The Rif's and the Rosh's argument about whether one eats one ke-zayit at the beginning or at the end of the seder night is very likely dependent on the same issue - whether one normally fulfills the mitzva of matza at the end of the seder or at its beginning.
The Shulchan Arukh (OC 482:1) rules like the Rif, that if a person has only one ke-zayit of matza shemura he should first make Ha-motzi over normal matza and save the matza shemura for afikoman. He recites "Al akhilat matza" before eating the afikoman and does not eat anything afterwards in order to preserve the taste of matza in his mouth. There are Acharonim who say that one should also do koreikh with normal matza, but the Shulchan Arukh (as explained by the Mishna Berura) seems to believe that it should only be done with matza shemura; therefore, when one doesn't have four ke-zeitim of matza shemura, he should skip koreikh altogether.




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