TALMUD. The 4th Massekhet – Pesahim

An Introduction to the Tractate

And this day shall be to you for a memorial, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall keep it as a feast by an ordinance forever. Seven days shall you eat matzot, yet on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel. And on the first day there shall be a sacred convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a sacred convocation to you; no kind of labor shall be done on them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done for you.

(Exodus 12:14-16)

 

Matzot shall be eaten seven days; and no leavened bread shall be seen with you, neither shall there be leaven seen with you, in all your borders.

(Exodus 13:7)

 

Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year; you shall take it from the sheep, or from the goats. And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall slaughter it in the afternoon…And they shall eat the meat on that night, roast with fire, and matzot; with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat it not raw, nor boiled in water; but roast it with fire, its head with its legs and with its inner parts.

(Exodus 12:5-6, 8-9)

 

Observe the month of aviv, and keep the Passover to the Lord your God; for in the month of aviv the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. You shall therefore sacrifice the Paschal offering to the Lord your God, of the flock and the herd, in the place that the Lord shall choose to rest His name there. You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shall you eat matzot with it, the bread of affliction; for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste, that you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life.

(Deuteronomy 16:1-3)

 

Speak to the people of Israel, saying: If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean due to a dead body, or is on a journey far away, he shall still keep the Passover to the Lord. The fourteenth day of the second month at evening they shall keep it, and eat it with matzot and bitter herbs. They shall leave none of it to the morning, not break any bone of it; according to all the ordinances of the Passover they shall keep it. But the man who is clean, and is not on a journey, and refrains from keeping the Passover, that same soul shall be cut off from among his people; because he brought not the offering of the Lord in its appointed season, that man shall bear his sin.

(Numbers 9:10-13)

 

The Torah actually describes two distinct Festivals collectively referred to as Passover, although they are often thought of as a single holiday. First is the festival of Pesah, referring specifically to the Festival surrounding the Paschal lamb, which is offered on the afternoon of the fourteenth day of Nisan and consumed later that night. This parallels the events immediately preceding the exodus from Egypt. Distinct from this is the festival of Matzot, the weeklong Festival beginning on the fifteenth of Nisan and characterized by the prohibitions against consuming or possessing leaven throughout the week, and the obligation to eat matza on the first night. This commemorates the actual exodus. There is a confluence of these two Festivals on the evening of the fifteenth, when the Paschal lamb is eaten and the festival of Passover begins.

 

Tractate Pesahim, which deals with both Festivals, is classically divided into two sections. The first, tractate Pesah Rishon, discusses the laws of the festival of Matzot, including the prohibition of leaven, its elimination from one’s possession, and the mitzva to consume matza. The second, tractate Pesah Sheni, deals with the festival of Pesah and the laws of the Paschal lamb. Some suggest that it is for this reason that the tractate as a whole is entitled Pesahim, the plural of Pesah, since it includes within it these two tractates of Pesah.

 

The tractate also deals with two Pesahim in a different sense. Ideally, the Paschal lamb is to be offered on the fourteenth of Nisan and consumed later that night. However, those who are unable to do so have a second opportunity a month later, on the fourteenth of Iyyar and later that night. The first opportunity is called Pesah Rishon, the first Passover, and the second is called Pesah Sheni, the second Passover.

 

As stated, the festival of Matzot is characterized by the prohibition against eating or possessing leaven. Remarkably, the reason for this prohibition is neither explained by the Torah nor discussed in the Gemara. It is instructive, however, that a similar prohibition of leaven also applies to the sacrificial rite; namely, that no leaven may be offered on the altar. Instead, all grain-based offerings are unleavened. This may indicate that the exclusive consumption of unleavened produce achieves elements of purity and sanctity.

 

The Torah states the prohibitions concerning leaven only in general terms but never defines precisely what is intended: Which types of food can become leavened, what is the precise definition of being leavened, and does the prohibition apply to items that will not be eaten? Similarly, the prohibition against possessing leaven necessitates that it be removed from one’s home. However, the many practical implications of this are not explained by the Torah. When and how should the leaven be removed from one’s possession? Obviously, throughout the year leaven is constantly found in the home. Which areas of the home need to be checked? In what manner and to what extent? The prohibition against leaven includes both eating it and deriving benefit from it. What is included in this prohibition? This question itself raises more general issues regarding other prohibited foods and items from which one is not allowed to gain benefit. All these topics are discussed in the first section of the tractate, Pesah Rishon.

 

The second section of the tractate, Pesah Sheni, provides a detailed discussion of all aspects of the rite of the Paschal lamb and the Temple service surrounding it. This section closely resembles tractates within the order of Kodashim, which deals with the sacrificial rite. The style of the Gemara’s analysis of the sacrificial rite differs significantly from that employed by the Gemara in other areas. Heavy emphasis is placed on hermeneutics, and references to halakhot given to Moses at Sinai are more prominent. Principles derived in one area of the Temple service are not always immediately applied to another, as each aspect of the service maintains an independent identity.

 

Owing to the great sanctity of the offerings, there is a plethora of rules that apply to every stage of their rites. Significantly, and unlike most other mitzvot, emphasis is placed not only on the correct physical performance of the rite but also on the intentions of those involved. Improper intent can even, at times, entirely disqualify an offering.

 

The Paschal lamb is, in one regard, just one of the many different offerings sacrificed in the Temple. As such, all the halakhot that apply to regular offerings apply to a Paschal lamb. For example, the sacrifice of all offerings comprises four sacrificial rites, all indispensable: The animal is slaughtered, its blood is collected in a holy vessel, it is carried to the altar, and then the blood is sprinkled upon the altar. Each of these rites must be performed correctly, and failure to do so can disqualify the offering. In addition, the many types of offerings are grouped into different subcategories, each with its own halakhot. The Paschal lamb is included within various subcategories, which provide a second level of halakhot that must be followed.

 

However, there are many halakhot that are unique to the Paschal lamb. For most offerings, the consumption of its meat, whether by the priests or by those bringing the offering, is of minor importance. Even if an offering might never be consumed, it may still be permissible to bring it. Not so for the Paschal lamb. The consumption of its meat by those bringing it is one of its central purposes, and a Paschal lamb that will not be eaten may not be brought at all. There are therefore numerous laws pertaining to its preparation and consumption. This includes the way it is roasted, the need for those who wish to partake of it to be registered into a group beforehand, and the manner in which it is eaten.

 

The Paschal lambs that were offered by the children of Israel in Egypt provide a paradigm for the Paschal lambs that are to be offered each year throughout the generations. Accordingly, many of the laws of the Paschal lamb parallel those that were given to the children of Israel in Egypt. In this way the Paschal lamb is able to serve as a remembrance of the exodus from Egypt throughout the generations.

 

The tractate is structured chronologically, beginning with the required preparations before the Festival begins, including the elimination of leaven from one’s possession. It then proceeds to discuss the offering of the Paschal lamb on the fourteenth of Nisan, and concludes with the details of the Seder night on the fifteenth. In the first few chapters of the tractate, incidental to the discussion of the elimination of leaven from one’s possession, it provides a more general discussion of the nature of the prohibitions pertaining to leavened bread.

 

 

 

This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

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120 Responses to TALMUD. The 4th Massekhet – Pesahim

  1. Pesahim 102a-b – Bundling of mitzvot

    As we have already learned (see Pesahim 100), Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Yosei differ on how to deal with a situation where a Friday afternoon meal continues into Shabbat. According to Rabbi Yehuda you must end your meal in order to stop and welcome Shabbat; Rabbi Yosei rules that you can continue your meal.

    The discussion on our daf (page) relates to the cups of wine that must be drunk to close the meal and to welcome the Shabbat. According to the baraita we will need two separate cups of wine, a ruling explained by Rav Nahman bar Yitzhak as stemming from the principle ein osin mitzvot havilot havilot – that we do not perform mitzvot “in bundles.” The idea is that every mitzvah deserves its own focus, and if we try to perform several mitzvot with the same cup of wine it will be impossible to focus on each mitzvah separately. A similar idea is ein me’arvin simha be-simha – that we do not combine two joyous occasions (e.g. to have a wedding during Pesah or Sukkot), because each one deserves its own focus.

    The Gemara distinguishes between a case where we want to combine Kiddush together with birkat ha-Mazon (Grace after meals), when this rule would apply, and a case where we need to combine Kiddush and havdalah (the separation service after Shabbat or Yom Tov), like when one of the holidays (Pesah, Shavu’ot or Sukkot) falls out on Saturday night and we need to make havdalah to commemorate the end of Shabbat and Kiddush to usher in the holiday. In such a case, the Gemara rules that it would be appropriate to use one cup for both ceremonies, since Kiddush ve-havdalah hada milta he – the ceremonies of Kiddush and havdalah are one and the same, while Kiddush and birkat ha-Mazon are two different things.

    In explanation of this statement, some rishonim argue that Kiddush and havdalah are similar in that they introduce a meal, while birkat ha-Mazon ends the meal. Others point out that havdalah contains an aspect of Kiddush in that it serves to emphasize the uniqueness of Shabbat in distinguishing between Shabbat and the weekday. Another suggestion that is raised is that, in this case, Kiddush and havdalah are actually dependent on one another, since the holiday cannot begin until Shabbat ends. When we announce that Shabbat is over, we effectively welcome the holiday; when we welcome the holiday we are calling for an end to Shabbat. Birkat ha-mazon has no such relationship with Kiddush at all.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  2. Pesahim 103a-b – Combining Kiddush with havdalah

    As we learned in the last daf (page), when Yom Tov begins on Saturday night we combine the havdalah that ends Shabbat with the Kiddush that begins Yom Tov over a single cup of wine. The discussion on our daf deals with the order of the various berakhot that will make up this combination of Kiddush and havdalah. When will the blessing be made over the wine? Over the candle? Over the spices?

    There are certain basic differences of opinion that form the basis for the variety of opinions that we find regarding this issue. Among the disagreements are the following:
    •Which should be recited first – Kiddush or havdalah?
    •What is the relationship between the wine and the mitzvah of Kiddush (i.e. does the blessing over the wine come before or after the Kiddush)?
    •When should the blessing over the candle be made? Can it only be made after havdalah, or, perhaps, it can be made beforehand?

    It is the combination of these positions that give us a wide variety of opinions about appropriate behavior in this situation.

    Rabbi Yehuda explains a disagreement between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel on this subject as relating to the order of the blessings made over the candle and the spices during havdalah. According to Beit Shammai we first make the blessing over the candle. According to Beit Hillel we first make the blessing over the spices. One explanation for the different positions is that Beit Shammai believes that one derives benefit from light at the moment that the candle is lit. Furthermore, the sense of sight is more essential and important that the sense of smell. Beit Hillel, on the other hand, perceives the sense of smell to be similar to taste, in that both of them involve a sensation based on a substance entering the body. With this understanding, it makes sense to connect the blessing over the spices (smell) with the blessing over the wine (taste).

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  3. Pesahim 104a-b – Distinctions between holy and profane

    The standard text of havdalah includes not only a statement formally acknowledging that Shabbat or Yom Tov has ended, but also a series of distinctions – of things that stand in contrast to one another. This tradition stems from the statement of Rabbi Elazar quoting Rabbi Oshaya that at least three such distinctions are to be included in the havdalah blessing, but no more than seven. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi comments that ideally the model of the havdalah blessing should be distinctions made in the Torah itself.

    Although the Gemara does include examples of Biblical distinctions (e.g. between holy and profane, between light and darkness, between Shabbat – the day of rest – and the six working days of the week), it is interesting that one of the most basic statements in the Torah is left out. In Shmot 26:33, the Torah teaches that when building the Mishkan, there is a parohet that separates between the Holy and the Holy-of-Holies. Some argue that the parohet is a man-made object that divided the Mishkan. In havdalah we are searching for distinctions that were developed by God himself. Others point out that the separation of the parohet no longer exists, as opposed to the other examples, which are eternal. Perhaps the simplest explanation is the one put forward by the Me’iri, who argues that the statement of distinction made when a Yom Tov falls out immediately after Shabbat – bein kodesh le-kodesh (“between holy and holy”) – stems from the separation of the parohet in the Mishkan, which is the source for the concept of distinguishing between two levels of holiness.

    This discussion notwithstanding, the Gemara quotes Rabbi Yohanan as saying:

    The son of sacred ones recites only one distinction, but the people were accustomed to recite three distinctions. The Gemara asks: Who is this person called the son of sacred ones? The Gemara answers: Rabbi Menahem bar Simai. And why did they call him the son of sacred ones? Because he would not look at the forms on coins [zuz].

    Many of the coins minted by the Greeks and Romans included images of actual idols, which would, therefore, make them forbidden like any manifestation of avodah zarah. It should be noted, however, that the images of Greek and Roman kings that appeared on the coins also were problematic in that the kings often presented themselves as gods – at least to the provincial folk.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  4. Pesahim 105a-b – Establishing Shabbat

    As we have learned before, if someone is eating a meal on Friday and the meal extends into Shabbat, we do not need to end the meal entirely; rather we can cover the bread and make Kiddush. Our Gemara discusses the case of someone who is eating the third Shabbat meal and it extends after Shabbat is over. To clarify these halakhot, the Gemara tells a story about such cases and the behavior of the Sages when faced with these circumstances.

    Rav Hananya bar Shelemya and other students of Rav were sitting at a meal on Shabbat eve shortly before nightfall, and Rav Hamnuna the Elder was standing over them to serve them. They said to him: Go and see if the day of Shabbat has become sanctified through nightfall. If so, we will interrupt our meal by removing the tables and establish its continuation as the meal for Shabbat. Rav Hamnuna the Elder said to them: You do not need to do this, as Shabbat establishes itself. Whatever you eat after nightfall is automatically considered a Shabbat meal, even without any specific action that designates it as such.

    They all thought that this same rule would apply to the end of Shabbat, as well, but when it came to late afternoon on Shabbat, Rav Amram told them that Shabbat establishes itself with regard to Kiddush, but not with regard to havdalah.

    There are several approaches to the rule introduced by Rav Hamnuna the Elder, that “Shabbat establishes itself.” The Ba’al ha-Ma’or (Rav Zerahia ha-Levi) explains that they had sent Rav Hamnuna the Elder to check whether sundown had taken place, and he responded that Shabbat would not actually begin until the stars came out. The Rif argues that it was already dark and they asked whether the stars had come out. Rav Hamnuna the Elder told them that they had missed their opportunity to accept Shabbat, since Shabbat already had begun and had imposed itself on everyone, whether they had chosen to acknowledge it in their Kiddush or not.

    As far as the halakhah is concerned, the Shulhan Arukh (Orah Hayyim 271:4) rules that a Friday afternoon meal can be turned into a Shabbat meal by covering the bread and making Kiddush. With regard to havdalah, once Shabbat ends nothing can be eaten until after havdalah is made. If, however, someone was already in the middle of a Shabbat meal the common practice is to finish the meal, although there are opinions that, once it is totally dark outside, a person should end his meal (Orah Hayyim 299:1).

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  5. Pesahim 106a-b – The great kiddush

    From the passage (Shmot 20:7) “Remember the day of Shabbat to sanctify it,” our Gemara learns that we are obligated to sanctify Shabbat by making kiddush not only at night, but during the day, as well. Rav Yehuda comments that the Shabbat morning kiddush consists solely of the blessing over wine – Borei pri ha-gafen.

    The Gemara relates that Rav Ashi happened to come to the city of Mehoza. The Sages of Mehoza said to him on Shabbat day: Will the Master recite for us the great kiddush? And they immediately brought him a cup of wine. Rav Ashi was unsure what they meant by the term great kiddush and wondered if the residents of Mehoza included other matters in their kiddush. He thought: What is this great kiddush to which they refer? He said to himself: Since with regard to all the blessings that require a cup of wine, one first recites the blessing: Who creates the fruit of the vine, I will start with that blessing. He recited: Who creates the fruit of the vine, and lengthened it to see if they were expecting an additional blessing. He saw a particular elder bending over his cup and drinking, and he realized that this was the end of the great kiddush. He read the following verse about himself: “The wise man, his eyes are in his head” (Kohelet 2:14), as he was alert enough to discern the expectations of the local residents.

    One very straightforward question raised with regard to kiddush on Shabbat morning is why the simple blessing of Borei pri ha-gafen should be considered kiddush at all. It appears to be simply a berakhah that is typically made over a cup of wine. The Mekhtam suggests that since drinking a cup of wine is a requirement specifically on Shabbat morning, it honors the Shabbat and, as such, is considered to be kiddush. The Tosafot Ri”d adds that during the week someone can choose to include wine in his meal or refrain from doing so. Since the cup of wine opens the meal on Shabbat, it is appropriate to begin with kiddush.

    The expression Kiddusha Rabbah – the great kiddush – for a blessing that simply consists of Borei pri ha-gafen seems a bit odd. Rashi and the Rashbam explain that it refers to the fact that Borei pri ha-gafen is a much more common blessing than kiddush, which is said only once a week, so it is said with greater frequency. According to Rabbenu Yehonatan it receives that title because of the role that this blessing plays in honoring the Shabbat. The Mekhtam suggests that it is lashon Sagi Nahor – an expression used by the Talmud to suggest the opposite of its simple meaning. Since we do not want to “belittle” this very simple blessing we switch its name to “the great kiddush.”

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  6. Pesahim 107a-b – The wine of the land

    One of the concerns of the Gemara on our daf (page) is whether kiddush and havdalah must be done with a cup of wine, or if other alcoholic beverages might be substituted for the wine. The idea that certain religious ceremonies are to be accompanied by wine is not only based on the tradition in the Land of Israel during Talmudic times, but is also evident in the connection between many religious ceremonies and the Temple service. The only libation on the Temple altar was wine (with the notable exception of water during Sukkot), and the songs that accompanied the service were sung while the wine was poured. No other drink – no matter how outstanding – can be compared to this. The idea of substituting other drinks, referred to in the Gemara as Hamar Medinah – “the wine of this land” – stems from the following story, related on our daf:

    The Gemara relates that the Mar Yanuka, the younger Mar, and Mar Kashisha, the elder Mar, both sons of Rav Hisda, said to Rav Ashi: Once Ameimar happened to come to our place and we did not have wine for havdala. We brought him beer and he did not recite havdala, and he passed the night fasting, as it is prohibited to eat before havdala. The next day we exerted ourselves and brought him wine, and he recited havdala and tasted some food. The next year he again happened to come to our place. Once again we did not have wine and we brought him beer. He said: If so, if it is so difficult to obtain wine in your place, beer is the wine of the province [Hamar Medinah]. He recited havdala over the beer and tasted some food.

    The Gemara derives three rules from this story:

    1.Even after making havdalah during the evening prayers, one must make it again accompanied by a cup of wine (or its equivalent)
    2.One cannot eat before making havdalah on the cup
    3.Someone who did not make havdalah on Saturday night can make it later on during the week.

    This issue of wine vs. other drinks is open to discussion even today. The Shulhan Arukh (Orah Hayyim 272:9) quotes a difference of opinion on the halakhah. One opinion allows the use of Hamar Medinah for kiddush; others permit the use of bread if no wine is available. With regard to havdalah, if wine is not readily available Hamar Medinah can be used, but bread cannot (Orah Hayyim 296:2).

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  7. Pesahim 108a-b – Women at the Seder

    What role do women play at the Seder?

    Generally speaking, women are not obligated in Mitzvot aseh she-hazman geramah – positive commandments that are dependent on time. Thus, women are not obligated to sit in a Sukkah on Sukkot, nor are they obligated to wear tzizit or to lay tefillin, which are only done during the day. Based on this principle, we would anticipate that women would not be obligated in the mitzvot of Seder night.

    Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi teaches that women are obligated in the four cups of wine at the Seder , she’af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes – that they were involved in the miracle of the Exodus. There is a difference of opinion regarding this teaching. According to the Rashi and the Rashbam the Jewish women in Egypt played a crucial role in the miracle, similar to the role played by Esther in the Purim story, where we also apply this rule and obligate women in the mitzvot of Purim. Others argue that they had a greater level of suffering in Egypt, because of the decree that the first-born would be drowned, which affected the mothers more than it did the fathers. According to Tosafot, it is enough to say that women were part of the miracle in order to obligate them, even if their role was no greater than that of the men.

    Another mitzva of the Seder night is eating in a reclining position. Here the Gemara rules that a woman does not recline when in the presence of her husband, but if she is an important woman, then she does.

    According to the Mekhtam, this rule is based on the fact that most women do not recline, so it is not considered an expression of freedom for them to do so. An important woman, who does make a habit of reclining, is obligated to show her freedom by eating in that position. The Nemukei Yosef explains this rule by arguing that most women who work in the kitchen and are involved in preparing the meal cannot ignore a certain aspect of servitude in their routine. An important woman, who has servants who do her bidding, can see herself as a free woman who can recline.

    It is important to note that the Rema in his gloss to the Shulhan Arukh (Orah Hayyim 472:4) comments that in our day and age, all of the women in our community are considered important, and theoretically are obligated to recline at the Seder. Since, however, eating in a reclining position is no longer considered an indication of freedom, many do not choose to do so.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  8. Pesahim 109a-b – So the children will ask

    Seder night is an opportunity for parents to tell the Exodus story to their children (see Shmot 13:8). If the children fall asleep, then the opportunity will be lost, so the Gemara on our daf (page) tells us what the different Sages did in order to keep their children awake and participating (see Shmot 13:14).

    Rabbi Yehuda argues that children will not enjoy the wine, so they should be kept awake by the distribution of nuts and roasted grain, which, in fact, was the custom that Rabbi Akiva followed at the Seder. Rabbi Eliezer suggested that a good method to keep the children from sleeping is hotfin matzot (literally to “grab the matzot”) during the Seder.

    Several explanations are given for the custom of hotfin matzot. Some say that is means that we should hurry through the Seder and try to get to the meal when the matzot are eaten as quickly as possible so that the children will not go to sleep before they have an opportunity to ask questions. Others say that this means that we would grab matzot from the children if they begin to eat them towards the beginning of the Seder, lest the children feel that they have already eaten their meal and can go to bed. Another explanation is that the matzah (and, indeed, the entire table) is removed before it is eaten in order to make the inquisitive child ask why the food is being taken away before the meal was eaten. Rabbenu Yehonatan argues that the Gemara is recommending making a game out of the matzot, and grabbing them from one another so that the children will be drawn in to the festivities. According to the Rambam it is the adults who play such games, and the joy and happiness of the celebratory meal shows the extent to which they cherish the mitzvah, as well as fascinating the children with the unusual behavior, leading them to stay awake and ask questions.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  9. Pesahim 110a-b – Danger in pairs

    The Me’iri points out that during Talmudic times there were popular beliefs in destructive forces, amulets, etc. – ideas that today would be considered superstition. As long as these beliefs did not involve Avodah Zarah or actual witchcraft, the Sages made no attempt to convince the people that they were untrue. This was certainly true in cases where these beliefs were so strong that the psychological belief would cause a physiological reaction to a given circumstance. The Gemara’s formulation of this appears at the end of the discussion here, which recognizes that those who are concerned about such things should be concerned, but those who are not particular about them do not need to worry.

    One of these beliefs was the danger of zugot – that is to say, that doing things in pairs was hazardous. This concern leads to a question being raised about the Seder night. How can the Sages obligate participants to drink four cups of wine, when doing so would be involving oneself in zugot?

    Rav Nahman said that the verse said: “It was a night of watching to the Lord” (Shmot 12:42), which indicates that Passover night is a night that remains guarded from demons and harmful spirits of all kinds. Therefore, there is no cause for concern about this form of danger on this particular night.

    Rava said a different answer: The cup of blessing for Grace after Meals on Passover night is used in the performance of an additional mitzva and is not simply an expression of freedom. Therefore, it combines with the other cups for the good, i.e., to fulfill the mitzva to drink four cups, and it does not combine for the bad.

    The lengthy discussion of zugot in our Gemara includes a conversation between Rav Pappa and Yosef the Demon [Shida] about the respective dangers of one set of zugot (two) and two sets of zugot (four).

    The identity of Yosef Shida, who appears in a number of stories throughout the Gemara, is not clear. Rashi brings two possible explanations, one which sees him as a person who was an expert in shedim (demons) and the occult, while the second suggests that he was, himself, a demon with whom the Sages developed a relationship to the extent that they discussed issues of shedim with him. Either one of these explanations can be supported by the various stories about shedim that appear in the Gemara.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  10. Pesahim 111a-b – More on magic and destructive forces

    As noted on yesterday’s daf (page) , our Gemara is in the midst of a lengthy discussion about magic and destructive forces – ideas that were popular during the Talmudic age that were not actively discouraged by the Sages if they were “harmless” in the sense that they did not involve idol worship or forbidden activities.

    It appears that at least some of these popular beliefs were based on experience and diagnosis that were not fully understood centuries before microscopic germs had been seen through a lens. Thus, the Gemara informs us that the creature who is responsible for food is called “Nakid” (perhaps a play on the word naki – clean), while the creature responsible for poverty is called “Naval,” and that a house where crumbs are left on the floor is visited by Naval, while a house where proper care is taken with food is visited by Nakid. As the Arukh points out, the Gemara is not only “introducing” us to metaphysical forces that lurk in the house, but is also teaching basic rules of cleanliness. Homes where basic rules of sanitation are kept will be “ruled” by the Lord of Food, while places where hygiene is lacking and food is not treated in a clean, respectful manner will be governed by the Lord of Poverty.

    Other recommendations made by the Gemara on our daf include Rav Yosef’s admonition about activities that lead to a loss of vision (note that Rav Yosef, himself, was blind). The first such activity is combing hair when it is dry. This may refer to a brief period of vision loss when vigorous combing – particularly of dry hair that is stuck together – may affect the scalp and create a nerve reflex that may cause partial loss of sight for a short time. The second activity that he mentions is drinking in a manner that he call “tif tif.” This may refer to someone who drinks the dregs of a wine barrel, where the alcohol level is higher than normal. The high alcohol level may cause a slight poisoning that can lead to partial blindness. Rav Yosef’s final recommendation is to avoid putting on shoes when your feet are still wet. This, too, may be explained by suggesting that rheumatic damage can affect the optic nerve, causing visual disorders.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  11. Pesahim 112a-b – Accepting charity to fulfill the mitzva of the four cups

    In the Mishnah (99b) we learned that even a poor person should be sure to have four cups of wine to drink, even if it means accepting it from the charity kitchen.

    The Gemara on our daf (page) asks why the Mishnah needs to teach us that someone should take money from charity to fulfill the mitzva of drinking four cups. Isn’t it obvious that if someone needs to fulfill a mitzva that he should accept money from charity?

    The Gemara answers: The mishna is necessary only to teach that this halakha applies even according to the opinion of Rabbi Akiva, who said: Make your Shabbat like an ordinary weekday and do not be beholden to other beings. If one is unable to honor Shabbat without financial help from others, it is better for him to save money and eat his Shabbat meals as he would on a weekday rather than rely on other people. Here, in the case of the four cups, Rabbi Akiva concedes that it is appropriate for a poor person to request assistance from the community, due to the obligation to publicize the miracle.

    Having presented Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, the Gemara quotes a series of statements that Rabbi Akiva taught his son Rabbi Yehoshua, the final one being the rule of avoiding charity even if it affects your Shabbat. Among them are:

    Do not sit at the high point of a city when you are learning Torah –
    The Seder ha-Dorot interprets this as an admonition to avoid learning Torah in a place where there are throngs of people. Torah should be studied in the quiet and privacy of home or the Bet Midrash (house of study).

    Do not live in a city whose leaders are Torah scholars –
    The ben Yehoyada explains that the leader of the city is obligated to constantly remind the townsfolk of their misdemeanors, so they generally do not like him. Were he a Talmid Hakham, the people would likely share the hatred that they had for him to other Torah scholars, as well.

    Do not enter your home suddenly, and certainly you should not enter a neighbor’s home without warning –
    In Massekhet Derekh Eretz this rule is supported by the passage in Sefer Bereshit (3:9) in which we find that God Himself “stood” at the entrance to the Garden of Eden and called out to Adam when he needed to admonish him about having eaten from the Etz ha-Da’at (Tree of Knowledge).

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  12. Pesahim 113a-b – One who is despised by God

    The Gemara often makes use of a statement of aggadah to segue to a broader discussion of non-halakhic matters. The teachings of Rabbi Akiva to his son, which appeared on yesterday’s daf (page), lead the Gemara to quote from a collection of statements made by individual Sages to their children, many of them referring to issues of a mystical and, on occasion, personal, nature.

    One list that is presented tells us about three people who are loved by God, and three that are despised by Him.

    The people who God loves include –
    A person who does not get angry
    A person who does not get drunk
    Someone who is willing to concede his position

    The people who God despises are –
    Someone whose speech does not express his true feelings
    Someone who withholds testimony on behalf of his fellow that he knows
    A single individual who comes to testify about a sexual matter

    The Maharsha points out that all of these cases – both the positive list and the negative one – are people whose actions and behaviors affect his relationship with his fellow man, teaching us that someone who gets along with others is loved by God and someone who does not get along with others is hated by Him.

    The Gemara gives an example of the last case of someone despised by God.

    This is like that incident where Tuveya sinned with immorality, and Zigud came alone to testify about him before Rav Pappa. Rav Pappa instructed that Zigud be lashed. Zigud said to him: Tuveya sinned and Zigud is lashed, an objection that became a popular saying. He said to him: Yes, as it is written: “One witness shall not rise up against a man” (Devarim 19:15), and you testified against him alone. You have merely given him a bad reputation.

    The problem with a person testifying on his own is that Jewish law does not accept the testimony of a single witness, except in monetary cases where the testimony of a single witness will lead to a ruling that the accused must take an oath that he does not owe the money. In other cases, where the court cannot act based on the single witness, it is simply slander to tell stories about another (see Shulhan Arukh, Hoshen Mishpat 28:1).

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  13. Pesahim 114a-b – Double dip

    The Mishnah on our daf (page) discusses one of the famous “four questions” of the Seder. Here we learn about the first of the two “dippings,” this one is what we call karpas, that is dipped in salt water. The second “dipping” is, of course, the maror, the bitter herbs that are dipped in haroset.

    The example that the Gemara uses as the vegetable for karpas is hazeret, a type of bitter herb that can also be used for the maror. The fact that you could, potentially, eat this herb at the beginning of the Seder as an appetizer and then later in the meal as the fulfillment of the mitzvah of maror, leads Reish Lakish to conclude that mitzvot tzerihot kavvanah – that in order to fulfill a commandment you must have intention to do so (otherwise there would be no need to eat the maror a second time – you would have already fulfilled the mitzvah, albeit a little early on, at the beginning of the Seder).

    The Gemara rejects this contention: From where do you know that this is the case? Perhaps I can say that actually mitzvot do not require intent. And that which you said, why do I need two dippings, perhaps the reason is so that there should be a conspicuous distinction for the children, which will cause them to inquire into the difference between this night and all others.

    The Tosafot Yom Tov explains the oddity in the “double dip” by pointing out that wealthy people eat vegetables during the meal as an appetizer, while poor people eat them before the meal so that they will fill themselves up. Thus, eating vegetables both before and during the meal should provoke questions.

    With regard to the question of mitzvot tzerihot kavvanah, the Maharam Halava points out that the discussion is whether a person needs to be aware that he is doing a mitzvah. No one would obligate a person to think about the deep meaning of the mitzvah in order to fulfill it. Rav Hai Ga’on rules that although the conclusion of the Gemara seems to be that a person does not need to have intent in order to fulfill mitzvot, nevertheless a person should do his best to have intent, and he should strive to focus in on the performance of the mitzvah to the best of his ability. In fact we find many short prayers that have been established to be said before the performance of a mitzvah in order to encourage as high a level of intent as possible.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  14. Pesahim 115ab – Fulfilling two mitzvot together

    When we sit down to the seder, among the most important mitzvot that we fulfill is eating matza and maror. Our tradition is to first make the appropriate blessings (ha-motzi and al akhilat matzah) on the matza, then to make the blessing on the maror (al akhilat maror – the blessing of bori pri ha-adamah having already been recited on the karpas – see the discussion on the last daf [page]), and finally to make a sandwich from them together, reminding us of Hillel’s tradition during Temple times.

    This tradition is based on the conclusion of our Gemara, which points out that Hillel was of the opinion that ein mitzvot mevatlot zo et zo – that two mitzvot done together do not negate one another. That is to say, that the commandment to eat matza (or maror) does not need to be done on its own and can be done in conjunction with another commandment. Hillel argues that this is the intention of the passage (Bamidbar 9:11) al matzot u-merarim yokhluhu – that the Passover sacrifice will be eaten together with the matza and the maror.

    The Arukh points out that this will only be true if both of the commandments being fulfilled at the same time are on the same level – that they are both Biblical commands. If, however, one of them was on a lower level (for example, if one of them was only a Rabbinic obligation), then it is likely that we would rule that they could not be done together. Since the accepted halakha is that since the destruction of the Temple – with the korban Pesah no longer being sacrificed – maror is only a Rabbinic obligation, we can no longer eat matza and maror together. Thus we first eat them separately and only afterwards eat them together as a remembrance of what Hillel did in the time of the Mikdash.

    This point is actually made in the Gemara itself, where Hillel is quoted as saying that in our day eating matza is a Biblical command while eating maror is only Rabbinic, so the two cannot be eaten together.

    Rav Ya’akov Emden points out that that this Hillel quoted by the Gemara does not appear to be Hillel ha-Zaken, Shammai’s contemporary, head of the Sanhedrin, who lived during the time of the Temple. More likely it is his descendant, one of the last nessi’im of the Jewish community in Israel, who established the set calendar that is still used to our day.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  15. Pesahim 116a-b – Moving on to Maggid

    The main part of the Maggid section of the Haggadah is described in the Mishnayot on our daf (page). Its key components include:

    •The four questions (Mah nishtanah)
    •Begin with disgrace but conclude with glory (mat’hil be-genut u-messayem be-shevah)
    •Tell the story based on the passage in Devarim 26:5-9 (Arami oved avi)
    •The need to explain the role of Pesah, Matza and Maror
    •The inclusion of Hallel in the story

    With regard to the questions, ideally the child is supposed to be drawn to ask questions by our behavior at the seder meal.

    The Nemukei Yosef says that it is the second cup of wine poured that should elicit questions: If we just made Kiddush, why are we bringing a second cup, which appears to be preparation for birkat ha-mazon, if we haven’t yet eaten the meal?! According to the Tosafot Rid, it is the karpas that should get the children’s attention: Why are we skipping ha-motzi over bread tonight and going straight to the vegetables instead?

    It was taught in the mishna that the father begins his answer with disgrace and concludes with glory. The Gemara asks: What is the meaning of the term: With disgrace? Rav said that one should begin by saying: At first our forefathers were idol worshippers, before concluding with words of glory. And Shmuel said: The disgrace with which one should begin his answer is: We were slaves.

    The Maharal writes in his Gevurot HaShem that their disagreement is over which of these should be considered the greatest generosity of God towards the Jewish people. Was it, as Rav understands, the spiritual redemption, or was it, as Shmuel believes, the physical redemption that we celebrate on this night?

    Although Hallel is a central part of the seder, it is only the conclusion of the maggid section. Some commentaries say that we do not say a blessing over Hallel during the seder, because it is divided into two parts. Rav Hai Ga’on suggests that it is not recited as praise, but as a song that accompanies the seder, so no berakhah is made. According to the Massekhet Sofrim, we are obligated to say Hallel in the synagogue as part of our prayers before we begin the seder. The berakhah is made on that recitation of the Hallel, so there is no need to make a blessing over it again at the seder.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  16. Pesahim 117a-b – The fifth cup

    The Mishnah on our daf (page) concludes the discussion of the seder with the last two of the four cups. The Mishnah teaches that the third cup accompanies the grace after meals, and the fourth cup accompanies the completion of Hallel. The Mishnah also teaches that no other wine can be drunk between these last two cups.

    The Jerusalem Talmud explains the prohibition against drinking between these cups of wine as stemming from a concern lest the participants in the seder become drunk, for drinking before the meal or during the meal is not as intoxicating as wine drunk after the meal without any other food. The Ge’onim simply explain that this is connected to the general prohibition against eating anything after the afikoman – the last matza eaten at the end of the seder – aside from what is expressly commanded by the Sages. The Ra’avad argues that drinking more wine toward the end of the seder would have the effect of hiding the unique four cups that we drink on this night. In order to emphasize the celebration of the miracle of the Exodus through these four cups (see Pesahim 99), we cannot add to them.

    It is interesting to note that there are variant readings of this Mishnah, one of which suggests that there is a fifth cup on which Hallel ha-Gadol (see full explanation on daf 118) is recited. This was, apparently, the version of the Mishnah that appeared before the Rif and Rabbenu Hananel, who rule that there is a mitzvah to drink a fifth cup, as well. Even the Rambam, who rules that there is no obligation to drink a fifth cup, allows one to do so.

    It appears that this disagreement is the source for our Kos shel Eliyahu, which is poured towards the end of the seder, but is not drunk. Tradition has it that it is left for the prophet Eliyahu who visits every Jewish home on the seder night, foreshadowing the ultimate redemption..

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  17. Pesahim 118a-b – Praising God

    Aside from the standard Hallel (Tehillim 113-118) that is recited during the seder, we also are instructed by the baraita on our daf (page) to say Hallel ha-Gadol. Although there is a disagreement recorded in the Gemara regarding which psalms make up Hallel ha-Gadol, we follow the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda who says that it is the whole of Tehillim 136.

    Tehillim 136 encompasses 26 praises of God from the time of creation through the Jewish People entering the Land of Israel. Having introduced Hallel ha-Gadol as part of the praise said during the seder, the question is raised why we usually choose to recite the standard Hallel instead. The Gemara points out five unique areas that are focused on in the standard Hallel which make it appropriate:
    •Exodus from Egypt (114:1)
    •Splitting of the Red Sea (114:3)
    •Giving of the Torah (114:4)
    •Resurrecting the dead (116:9)
    •The pangs of the Messiah (115:1)

    The discussion of Hallel leads to further aggadic discussions of these chapters in Tehillim, concluding with a number of teachings that Rabbi Yishmael b’Rabbi Yosei quoted in the name of his father. One of them was an analysis of Tehillim 117, which describes how all the nations of the world praise God because of what He did on behalf of the Jewish people. The question is obvious – why should the nations of the world praise God because of what he did for us? Rabbi Yosei taught that the intention of the passage is to say that we should watch the nations of the world praise God when He does something for them, and learn how much we are obligated to praise Him since His generosity to us was even greater.

    Rabbi Yosei’s teachings about related issues are also brought in the Gemara. Based on the passage in Tehillim (68:30) we see that, in the future, Egypt will want to bring an offering to the Messiah, who is not sure whether to accept it from them. God commands (68:32) him to accept it in recognition of the fact that the Jewish people lived peacefully in Egypt for many years before slavery began.

    Seeing this, Kush also expresses a desire to bring an offering to the Messiah (ibid), and again, God commands him to accept it.

    Rome, on the other hand (68:31) wants to join the show of respect, as well. God rejects their request, however. Rabbi Hiyya bar Abba quotes Rabbi Yohanan as explaining the passage to mean that the offering of wild bulls (Rome), whose actions are all written in one quill, cannot be accepted.

    Rashi and the Rashbam understand the reference to a single quill as meaning that they always intend evil for the Jewish people. Some of the Ge’onim explain this expression to mean that the activities of this nation can be summed up in a clear, straightforward manner. Others explain that every nation has two angels, one of whom records the positive attributes of the nation, while the other records all of its negative attributes. Rome is described as having only one angel – the evil one – writing down its history.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  18. Pesahim 119a-b – After eating the korban

    The answer that we give to the “wise son” at the seder is ein maftirin ahar ha-pesah afikoman – that we do not eat any dessert after the Passover sacrifice is eaten. This phrase appears in the Mishnah on our daf (page), and with it we close the Mishnah’s discussion of the seder night (in fact, the answer being given to the “wise son” most probably means that he should be taught all of the halakhot in the Mishnah that deal with the seder, up to and including this Mishnah).

    Although the intent of this halakhah is clear, the language of the Mishnah is somewhat obscure. Clearly eating after the korban Pesah is consumed is forbidden; according to the Me’iri, this is so that it will be eaten al ha’sovah – as the final ka-zayit (olive-sized portion) of a filling meal. The word maftirin is understood by the Bartenura to mean “to open” or “begin” – as in peter rekhem (see Shemot 13:2) – meaning in our context to begin eating something else after the korban. Rashi and the Rashbam interpret it as “to end” – that the meal should not end with something else, but only with the sacrifice.

    The Gemara itself asks what an afikoman is and quotes:
    •Rav, who holds that it means you cannot leave your group and go to another after the korban was eaten,
    •Shmuel, who says that you cannot have the usual delicacies at the end of a meal (what we would call dessert), and
    •Rabbi Yohanan who says that it includes dates or nuts that are eaten with the meal.

    Suggestions abound for a definition of the term afikoman. The Mekhtam suggests that it is an abbreviation of two words:
    •according to Rav, afiku mani (“remove the utensils”)
    •according to Shmuel, afiku mini (“bring out dessert”)

    The Yerushalmi brings an opinion that it means music that is played at the end of a festive meal, leading to the conclusion of some rishonim that even speaking should be limited after the eating of the Pesah.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  19. Pesahim 120a-b – Eating before midnight

    The last Mishnayot in Massekhet Pesahim return to the discussion of the korban Pesah itself, within the context of eating it at the seder. The Mishnah on our daf (page) teaches that if all of the people fell asleep, then their korban Pesah cannot be eaten – explained in the Yerushalmi as due to the fact that people need to be thinking about the sacrifice, something that they cannot have been doing if they were asleep. Furthermore, according to the Mishnah, if the korban is not eaten by midnight it becomes notar – leftover – and cannot be eaten.

    The Gemara identifies the position that the korban Pesah must be eaten by midnight with Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya, who understands the command to eat the sacrifice ba-layla ha-zeh (Shemot 12:8) to mean the same time that God traveled through Egypt for Makat Bekhorot, the last of the plagues, which took place at midnight ba-layla ha-zeh (see 12:12). Rabbi Akiva disagrees with this reading of the pasuk (verse) and argues that it can be eaten throughout the night, reasoning that ba-layla simply teaches us that it is a unique korban that can only be eaten at night and not on the following day.

    The Jerusalem Talmud suggests that even Rabbi Akiva agrees that as a Rabbinic ordinance – in order to avoid the possibility of eating the korban past its time – the korban Pesah must be consumed by midnight. Based on this understanding of Rabbi Akiva, the Mishnah that declares the Passover sacrifice to be notar after midnight can be Rabbi Akiva’s position, as well, just on a Rabbinic level.

    The Shulhan Arukh (Orah Hayyim 477:1) recommends that we finish the last matza – the afikoman – at our seder before midnight as the matza today represents the korban Pesah that we can no longer bring. The Rema (ibid) goes so far as to suggest that Hallel should also be completed before midnight, since it accompanied the sacrifice during the times of the Temple.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

  20. Pesahim 121a-b – Redeeming the firstborn

    The very last Mishnah in the massekhet deals with the various blessings made when eating the sacrifices at the seder during the Temple period. Can the general berakhah on the korban hagigah brought for the holiday cover the korban Pesah, as well, or does each need its own berakhah? According to the Mishnah, this question is debated by Rabbi Yishma’el, who believes that one may cover the other, and Rabbi Akiva, who believes that, under all circumstances, each will need its own berakhah.

    From this discussion the Gemara segues to a question about pidyon ha-ben – redeeming the first-born.

    Rabbi Simlai attended a redemption of the firstborn son. The celebrants raised a dilemma before him with regard to the blessings. First they noted that it is obvious that the blessing over the redemption of a first born son, which is: Who sanctified us with His mitzvot and commanded us over the redemption of the firstborn son, is certainly recited by the father of the son, as he is the one obligated to redeem his son. However with regard to the second blessing: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has given us life [sheheheyanu], sustained us, and brought us to this time, does the priest recite this blessing, or does the father of the son recite it?

    The Gemara concludes that the question was presented to the scholars in the Bet Midrash and they ruled that the father makes both berakhot.

    The Nemukei Yosef explains the question as follows: On the one hand, the father who is performing the mitzva is doing it with some financial outlay, so perhaps the kohen should say it, since his participation involves only benefit to himself. On the other hand, in this case the father is enjoying something that goes well beyond the performance of a mitzva. Since the pidyon ha-ben takes place only after 30 days, when we are certain that the baby has reached a level that he will not be considered a nefel (stillborn), there is certainly an additional element of joy for the father.

    The Rashash comments on this Gemara that really both parties should be saying she-heheyanu, each for their own reason. The Gemara’s question is which of them has a greater level of obligation, so that he should say it on behalf of both participants.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

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