SALT - Thursday, 13 Nissan 5778 - March 29, 2018

  • Rav David Silverberg
En honor de mi señora madre María Ocotlán hija de Candelaria, que beezrat Hashem tennga pronta refuá shelemá.
(In honor of my mother, María Ocotlán, daughter of Candelaria, who beezrat Hashem) will have a prompt refuá shelemá. - her daughter)
            The Shulchan Arukh (O.C. 477:1) famously rules that one should ensure (“yehei zahir”) to eat the afikoman – the piece of matza eaten at the end of the seder in commemoration of the pesach sacrifice – before chatzot (halakhic midnight).  The background to this ruling is the Gemara’s discussion in Masekhet Pesachim (120b) regarding the consumption of the pesach sacrifice.  Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya maintained that the mitzva to eat the meat of the sacrifice may be fulfilled only until chatzot, based on the command, “Ve-akhelu et ha-basar ba-layla ha-zeh” – “They shall eat the meat on this night” (Shemot 12:8).  The word “ba-layla” is also used several verses later (12:12) in reference to the plague of the firstborn, which took place at chatzot (“Va-yehi ba-chatzi ha-layla” – Shemot 12:29), leading Rabbi Elazar to conclude that the meat of the sacrifice must be eaten by chatzot.  Rabbi Akiva disagreed, claiming that the command to eat the pesach sacrifice “on this night” is intended to teach that it may not be eaten the following day.  According to Rabbi Akiva, then, the obligation to eat the korban pesach may be fulfilled throughout the night.  The Gemara cites Rava as commenting that this debate affects the observance of Pesach even nowadays, when we eat afikoman in commemoration of the korban pesach.  According to Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya, Rava states, one must ensure to eat the afikoman before chatzot.
            The Shulchan Arukh’s ruling – “One should be careful to eat it before chatzot” – reflects the view of some Rishonim that Rabbi Elazar’s position is accepted as Halakha.  Although we generally follow Rabbi Akiva’s rulings in his disputes with individual colleagues, several passages in the Mishna and Gemara appear to presume Rabbi Elazar’s view, suggesting that his is the accepted position.  Others, however, followed Rabbi Akiva’s view.  (See Bei’ur Halakha who summarizes the various opinions among the Rishonim on the matter.)  In light of the different views that exist, the Shulchan Arukh rules that one should endeavor to eat the afikoman before chatzot.
            Due to the length of most traditional sedarim, this requirement often poses a problem, as many people prolong the reading of maggid with extensive discussion, and then enjoy an elaborate, multicourse meal.  Rav Avraham Borenstein of Sochatchov, in his Avnei Neizer (O.C. 381), offered a famous, controversial solution to this problem, one which resulted in an entire literature of debate and discussion.  The Avnei Neizer’s proposal is based upon his novel approach to explain Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya’s position.  As we noted, Rabbi Elazar understood that the Torah’s command to eat the pesach sacrifice “on this night” refers to midnight, the time when the plague of the firstborn struck the Egyptians.  However, the Avnei Neizer asks, if this is true, then why does Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya not require eating the pesach sacrifice precisely at chatzot?  Why does he consider chatzot – the moment of the plague of the firstborn – as the deadline for fulfilling the mitzva, rather than the time when the mitzva must be fulfilled?
            The answer to this question, the Avnei Neizer’s contends, is found in the well-known rule of “ein maftirin achar ha-pesach afikoman,” which is established by the Mishna (Pesachim 119b) and forbids eating after eating the korban pesach.  The Gemara indicates that the purpose of this prohibition is to ensure that the taste of the sacrifice remains in one’s mouth after the seder.  The Avnei Neizer explains that according to Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya, the Torah could not require eating the korban pesach at the precise moment of chatzot, as this would be impractical, and so it instead required partaking of the sacrifice sometime before chatzot and then having the taste in one’s mouth until chatzot.  The taste in the mouth in a sense marks the continuation of the act of eating, such that one can be considered as though he eats the sacrifice at the precise moment of chatzot.
            This theory led the Avnei Neizer to the conclusion that according to Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya, the prohibition against eating after partaking of the korban pesach extends only until the moment of chatzot.  After chatzot, it is entirely permissible to eat.  This is relevant nowadays, as well, in light of the fact that Halakha forbids eating after eating the afikoman, just as it was forbidden to eat after partaking of the korban pesach (Shulchan Arukh, O.C. 478:1).  According to the view requiring eating the afikoman before chatzot, it would be permissible to eat other food after chatzot.
            On this basis, the Avnei Neizer proposed an ingenious solution for those who fear they will be unable to eat the afikoman before chatzot.  Several minutes before chatzot, they should interrupt their meal, take a piece of matza, and stipulate that this piece should be considered the afikoman according to the view that the afikoman must be eaten before chatzot.  After eating the matza, they should wait until after chatzot and then resume their meal.  Then, after the meal, they should eat an additional piece of matza, stipulating that it should be considered the afikoman according to Rabbi Akiva’s position, allowing eating the afikoman even after chatzot.  This way, the mitzva is certainly fulfilled.  Since the deadline for eating the afikoman is also the final time when eating after the afikoman is forbidden, one can satisfy the stringent view of Rabbi Elazar by eating the afikoman just before chatzot and then resuming the meal after chatzot.  Rabbi Akiva’s view is then satisfied by partaking of the afikoman after the meal.
            Tomorrow we will iy”H explore this topic further.