Sunday, March 7, 2021

Pesachim 101 - New place, new blessing

When people go to the synagogue on Friday night, they often hear a Kiddush there, even though they will repeat it at home. What is the purpose of that? The one who said the Kiddush and drank the wine did the mitzvah for them - so they do not have to repeat the Kiddush. If so, why do they repeat it at home nevertheless? - For the kids to hear it as well. 

Some say that the Kiddush must be in the same place where the meal will be, or else it is not a Kiddush at all. If so, what is the purpose of the Kiddush in the synagogue? - Sometimes, there will be guests in the synagogue who will stay and eat there, and it is for them.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Pesachim 100 - Continue the meal

Normally, one should emphasize the beginning of Shabbat or Holiday by not eating before the evening meal - to get the full enjoyment of it. But what if one started a meal much earlier, and it extended up to the evening meal time, and the Shabbat or Holiday has started? - One covers the meal with a cloth and recites the Kiddush. Then he continues the meal, but now it is also in honor of Shabbat.

In the earlier days, when people were served individual tables with the dishes, they were not brought to the guests before the Kiddush. However, it once happened that Rabbah bar Rav Huna was a guest at the Exilarch house for Shabbat. They brought him a table earlier than the Kiddush was said. He followed the above idea: covered the table and pronounced the Kiddush. Now he could join the festivities.

Art: Lunch Table by John Singer Sargent

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Pesachim 99 - No eating till evening

In the afternoon before the Seder, one should not eat until night (and Seder) comes. What is the purpose of this rule? He cannot eat anything anyway! If it is chametz that he wants to eat, it is already prohibited in the second half-day before Passover. And if it is matzah, then it is already prohibited because one should not eat matzah the day before Seder - to welcome its taste at the Seder. Guess? The answer is that one should not eat egg matzah (called rich matzah) or too many vegetables. 

Even the poorest among the Jews should eat while reclining, imitating rich and free people. Some say that he should recline during the first two wine cups while discussing being a slave, and some - that he should recline during the last two wine cups while discussing becoming free. To fulfill both views, he reclines for all four cups.

All should have four cups of wine. Even the poorest person supplied with the communal charity has to be provided with four cups of wine.

Art:  Young Wine Taster by Philippe Mercier

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Pesachim 98 - A lost sheep

If one's Passover sheep became intermingled with offerings of other types (such as guilt-offering and burnt-offering), we now have a problem. Since different offerings have different laws, we cannot bring any of the animals because we don't know which is which. The solution? - Let them all graze until they develop a blemish, and sell them, and use that money to buy each type of sacrifice in the mix. Each new sacrifice must cost as much as the most expensive one in the original mix.

Another problem: a group of people lost their Passover sheep. They made one of them a messenger to find it. He found it and slaughtered it for them. But they, being afraid that he won't find the animal, got another one and slaughtered it. Which one do they eat now?

The answer: if he slaughtered his first, then it is the group's offering, and all eat from it. If they slaughtered theirs first, they eat the new one, but the messenger eats the original one because he slaughtered it for himself. What if they do not know which one was slaughtered first? He still eats his, but they cannot eat any because they do not know which one is theirs. However, since one of the two is definitely theirs - it's just that they don't know which - they fulfilled the mitzvah and do not bring it on Second Passover.

Now there is a whole group of attempts to rectify this situation by making all kinds of conditions, but none works in all life situations. The conclusion is that it is better to be silent and not fix it with all kinds of clauses.

Art: A shepherd with his flock by Anton Mauve

Monday, March 1, 2021

Pesachim 97 - The sheep goes to graze

The Passover offering slaughtered for the Seder must be a male animal, a sheep or a goat, in its first year. What happens when one designates a female animal or a male that is older than a year? The animal is a sacrifice but is not a fit for its designated purpose. Therefore, it is sent to graze in the pasture until it gets a blemish. Then it is sold, and the money is used to buy a replacement, which the owner then brings as a peace offering.

What if someone designated a lamb and then died? The offering goes as an inheritance to his son. If the son was not registered to eat this offering, he cannot eat it this year, but he also cannot eat it the next year because by then, the lamb will be over a year old! Therefore, the son will later bring this animal as a peace offering.

Art: Grazing sheep by Carleton Wiggins

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Pesachim 96 - The very first Seder

The very first Seder happened in Egypt on the eve of the Exodus. How was it different from the Seder that occurred every subsequent year?

First, one had to designate the sheep to be eaten at the Seder early, three days in advance. There was a special procedure of sprinkling its blood on the lintel and the two doorposts using a hyssop bundle. In Egypt, this was to distinguish between the Jewish homes and the Egyptian homes, which would not apply to subsequent years.

The first Seder was conducted in haste, dressed and ready to go. Anybody who has been at the Seder nowadays knows that "whoever prolongs it is praiseworthy."

Art: Sheep and chickens in a barn  Eugene Verboeckhoven

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Pesachim 95 - Compare first and second Passover

The second Passover is one's second chance. It happens a month after the Passover, and its laws are somewhat relaxed. On the first Passover, he cannot eat chametz, cannot own it, and cannot benefit from it. On the second one, one can happily own both chametz and matzah at the same time.

There is also a difference in prayer: the first Passover celebrates the miracle, and one recites the Hallel as giving thanks. But on the second one, it is a chance to make it up, not a celebration of what happened earlier. Surely, they say the Hallel while bringing the sacrifice on both occasions.

The cooking instructions on the second Passover are the same: the meat is roasted and is eaten with matzah and better herbs. Here too, the sacrifice is brought even on Shabbat.

Art: The Basket of Bread by Salvador Dali