The Mitzvah of Duchening (Birchas Kohanim)

In Parshas Naso, the Torah teaches about the beautiful mitzvah of Birchas Kohanim, wherein the kohanim are commanded to bless the people of Israel. This mitzvah is usually referred to by Ashkenazic Jews as “duchening” and by Sefardic Jews as Birchat Kohanim, or occasionally as Nesiyat Kapayim, which refers to the raising of hands that […]

This Is the Way We Salt Our Meat

Question “When I shopped in Israel, I noticed that all the chickens were split open. I like to roast my chicken whole and stuff the inside, but you can’t do this once the chicken is split open. When I asked the butcher for an explanation, he told me that all the mehadrin hechsherim split the […]

Shaving and Haircuts during the Three Weeks

Question #1: Bushy presenter “My company sent me out of town to meet a new client, and I forgot to have my hair cut before Shiva Asar BeTamuz. May I have the bushier parts trimmed? Does it make a difference if I use a non-Jewish barber? May I shave?” Question #2: Mixed shavers “My son […]

This Is the Way We Wash Our Hands

Question #1: Cup after restroom? “Do I need to use a cup when I wash upon leaving the restroom?” Question #2: Netilah review “Could you please review the basic laws of netilas yadayim?” Question #3: Lost count “Why do we wash our hands sometimes once, sometimes twice and sometimes three times?” Answer: Parshas Chukas tells […]

Shidduchim and Lashon Hara

This week’s parsha teaches about Miriam speaking loshon hora about her brother, thus providing an opportunity to discuss the questions about Shidduchim and Loshon Hora. How should one ask and answer shidduch-related questions? Question #1: “Someone called me inquiring about a neighbor for shidduchim purposes. From years of dealing with this boy, I know that […]

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

This week’s reading is either Acharei Mos/Kedoshim or Emor depending on whether you are in Chutz La’aretz or in Eretz Yisrael. Either way, Kohanim figure significantly in the parsha – thus… Between a Rock and a Hard Place Question #1: May a Mechalel Shabbos Duchen? “The only kohen in our shul operates his business on […]

Starting Shabbos Early

Question #1: Asking for help “If I accepted Shabbos early, may I ask my neighbor, who is beginning Shabbos at the regular time, to turn on a light?” Question #2: Very early Shabbos “How early can I begin Shabbos?” Question #3: 18 versus 20 “Some communities schedule candle lighting 18 minutes before sunset on Friday, […]

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When Klal Yisrael Is Out of Sync

Vector parchment with a pen and ink. Icon for recordsQuestion #1: Why don’t the Israelis let us catch up?

I received the following question via e-mail:

“Why do the communities of Eretz Yisrael wait until Behar and Bechukosai to separate the parshiyos in order that Chutz La’aretz and Eretz Yisrael read the same parshiyos, when they could actually separate parshi’os much earlier, either by reading Tazria and Metzora on separate weeks or by separating Acharei Mos from Kedoshim?”

Question #2: Searching for a Missing Parsha

“I am studying in a yeshivah in Eretz Yisrael, and visiting my parents for Pesach. I know that I will miss one of the parshi’os, and possibly two, when I return to Yeshivah. How can I make up the missing kerias hatorah?”

Question #3: To and Fro

“After Pesach, I will be making a short visit to Eretz Yisrael. As a result, I will be missing one parsha, and then hearing a different reading twice: first in Eretz Yisrael, and then a second time upon my return. Which parsha do I review each week shenayim mikra ve’echad Targum?

Introduction:

The Jerusalem audience is waiting impatiently for the special guest speaker. The scheduled time comes and goes, and the organizer is also wondering why the speaker did not apprise him of a delay. Finally, he begins making phone calls and discovers that the speaker is still in Brooklyn!

What happened? Well… arrangements had been made for the speaker to speak on Wednesday of parshas Acharei. Both sides confirmed the date on their calendars — but neither side realized that they were not talking about the same date!

Why did this happen?

This year, the Eighth Day of Pesach, Acharon shel Pesach, fell on Shabbos. In Chutz La’aretz, where this day was Yom Tov, the special Torah reading was Aseir te’aseir, whereas in Eretz Yisrael, where Pesach is only seven days long, this Shabbos was after Pesach (although the house was still chametz-free!), and the reading was parshas Shmini, which is always the first reading after Pesach in a common (non-leap) year.[i] On the subsequent Shabbos, the Jews of Eretz Yisrael were already reading parshas Tazria-Metzora, whereas outside Eretz Yisrael, the reading was parshas Shmini, since for them it was the first Shabbos after Pesach. This continues for another four weeks, with Chutz La’aretz consistently being a week “behind” Eretz Yisrael. Thus, in Jerusalem, the Wednesday of Acharei Mos-Kedoshim was April 25th, or the 3rd of Iyar, which was the date that the audience assembled to hear its guest lecturer. However, in Chutz La’aretz, the Wednesday of Acharei Mos-Kedoshim was a week later, on the 10th of Iyar or May 2nd. The lecturer is leaving motza’ei Shabbos for a week in Eretz Yisrael, and had made certain to leave the evening of May 2nd free for the Jerusalem speaking engagement.

This phenomenon, whereby the readings of Eretz Yisrael and Chutz La’aretz are a week apart, continues until Shabbos, the 27th of Iyar, May 19th. On that Shabbos, in Chutz La’aretz parshi’os Behar and Bechukosai are read together, whereas in Eretz Yisrael these two parshi’os are separated and read on two different weeks. Behar is read in Eretz Yisrael the week earlier, the 20th of Iyar, and Bechukosai, only, on the 27th.

The ramifications of these practices affect not only speakers missing their engagements and writers living in Eretz Yisrael whose parsha columns are published in Chutz La’aretz. Anyone traveling to Eretz Yisrael will miss a parsha on his trip there, and anyone traveling from Eretz Yisrael to Chutz La’aretz during this time period will hear the same parsha on two consecutive Shabbosos.

There are halachic questions that result from this phenomenon. Is this traveler required to make up the missed parsha, and, if so, how? During which week does he review the parsha shenayim mikra ve’echad Targum? If he will be hearing a repeated parsha, is he required to review the parsha again on the consecutive week? These are some of the questions that result from this occurrence.

The three-month separation

We should note that when Acharon shel Pesach falls on Shabbos in a common year, the length of time that Eretz Yisrael and Chutz La’aretz are reading different parshi’os is for only six weeks – the first six Shabbosos of the Omer. However, when Acharon shel Pesach falls on Shabbos in a leap year, the difference between the reading in Eretz Yisrael and in Chutz La’aretz is a far longer period of time — over three months — until the Shabbos of Matos-Masei, immediately before Shabbos Chazon. This last occurred in 5755, and the next occasion is fast approaching, since it will happen again in the Hebrew year 5776 – next year.

Why don’t the Israelis let us catch up?

At this point, we will answer the first question asked above:

“Why do the communities of Eretz Yisrael wait until Behar and Bechukosai to separate the parshi’os in order that Chutz La’aretz and Eretz Yisrael read the same parshi’os, when they could actually separate them much earlier, either by reading Tazria and Metzora on separate weeks or by separating Acharei Mos from Kedoshim?”

The truth is that the question, as phrased, assumes that one community’s custom should depend on what is done elsewhere, which is not an accurate assumption. In earlier generations, each community followed certain established halachic rules, but within the parameters of those rules, each town arranged the readings as it chose. Thus, someone who traveled from one community to another could discover that he missed a parsha or repeated one, even when he did not necessarily travel a great distance.

For example, at one point, some communities in Syria never combined the parshi’os of Chukas and Balak, but in years when it was necessary to combine parshi’os in the middle of Bamidbar, they combined Korach with Chukas instead, and left Balak to be read alone on the subsequent Shabbos. Someone spending Shabbos in a neighboring community, or even just arriving for a brief stay that included a Monday or a Thursday, would discover that he heard a different reading than he would have at home. When this occurred on Shabbos, he would now have the questions we mentioned above. For example, if he spent one Shabbos in a community that read only Korach (as is accepted today), he might spend the next Shabbos in a community that is reading only Balak, because they read Chukas the previous week together with Korach. The result is that our traveler missed hearing parshas Chukas that year.

Today, the circumstance of different communities reading different parshi’os occurs only when Acharon shel Pesach or the second day of Shevuos falls on Shabbos. This is because, with the course of time, all of the communities in Eretz Yisrael have unified to follow one established minhag, and those in Chutz La’aretz have accepted one common practice.

When do we have doubles?

I mentioned above that there are certain established halachic rules, but within the parameters of those rules, each town arranged the readings as it chose. What are the reasons for these rules that affect certain parshi’os’ being doubled?

Although initially there were two customs in Klal Yisrael, one in which the Torah was completed every year and a second in which it was completed every three+ years, it became the accepted practice for all communities to read through the entire Torah every year, concluding the year’s readings on Simchas Torah, and then beginning the cycle anew. However, our years do not all have the same numbers of Shabbosos on which we read the consecutive Torah readings. First, our years are not of equal length, since we have leap years that are a month longer. Second, since the number of days in a year does not divide evenly by seven, some years have an extra Shabbos that others do not have. In addition, some years have more Shabbosos that fall on Yom Tov, when we read something related to the Yom Tov, rather than proceeding in our reading through the Torah. Thus, there are many calculations necessary to figure out how many weeks in a given year we need to “double up” and read two parshi’os, in order to insure that we complete the cycle of parshi’os every year.

In addition, the Gemara established certain rules as to how the parshi’os should be spaced through the year. Ezra decreed that the Jews should read the curses of the Tochacha in Vayikra before Shevuos and those of Devarim before Rosh Hashanah. Why? In order to end the year together with its curses! [The Gemara then comments:] We well understand why we read the Tochacha of Devarim before Rosh Hashanah, because the year is ending; but why is that of Vayikra read before Shevuos? Is Shevuos the beginning of a year? Yes, Shevuos is the beginning of a new year, as the Mishnah explains that the world is judged on Shevuos for its fruit”.[ii]

We see from this Gemara that we must space out our parshi’os so that we read from the beginning of Bereishis, which we begin on Simchas Torah, until parshas Bechukosai at the end of Vayikra before Shevuos. We then space our parshi’os so that we complete the second Tochacha in parshas Ki Savo before Rosh Hashanah.

One week or two?

However, this Gemara does not seem to explain our practice. Neither of these parshi’os is ever read immediately before Shevuos or Rosh Hashanah. There is always at least one other Shabbos wedged between. In the case of the Tochacha of Parshas Ki Savo, the parsha after it, Netzavim, always has the distinction of being read on the Shabbos immediately before Rosh Hashanah. In the case of Bechukosai, Shevuos usually occurs after the next parsha, Bamidbar, but occasionally occurs a bit later, so that parshas Naso immediately precedes it.

Tosafos[iii] explains the Gemara to mean that the Tochacha should be read two weeks before each “New Year”, to allow a buffer week between the Tochacha and the beginning of the year. Thus, Ezra’s decree was that the two Tochachos should be read early enough so that there is another reading following them before the “year” is over.

The Levush explains that without the intervening Shabbos reading as a shield, the Satan could use the Tochacha as a means of accusing us on the judgment day.[iv] The intervening Shabbos when we read a different parsha prevents the Satan from his attempt at prosecuting, and, as a result, we can declare: End the year together with its curses!

Keep to the Schedule!

To make sure that we keep on this schedule through the year, a series of instructions were codified by the Abudraham, Tur and Shulchan Aruch.[v] One of these rules is that parshas Tzav should be read on Shabbos Hagadol in a common (non-leap) year.

Why choose parshas Tzav to coincide with Shabbos Hagadol? Because there is a similarity of theme – parshas Tzav discusses the koshering of vessels that is required after they were used to cook korbanos,[vi] which serves as a reminder that we must kasher our household utensils before Pesach.[vii] In a similar vein, the piyutim recited on Shabbos Hagadol include extensive discussion of the laws of koshering utensils for Pesach.

Thus, in order to complete the book of Vayikra in a common year, so that at least one Shabbos elapses before Shevuos, Tzav is read before Pesach, and then, in Chutz La’aretz we must double three readings, and in Eretz Yisrael, two. I have not seen any reason quoted why the practice of Eretz Yisrael was to double specifically TazriaMetzora and Acharei Mos-Kedoshim, but to read Behar and Bechukosai separately; the simple answer may be that the two sets of doubled parshi’os are much closer in theme than are Behar and Bechukosai.

The saga of the missing parsha

What should someone – who was in Chutz La’aretz for Pesach and knows that he will miss a parsha – do?

At this point, let us now look at the second question that was asked above: “I am studying in a yeshivah in Eretz Yisrael, and visiting my parents for Pesach. I know that I will miss one of the parshi’os, and possibly two, when I return to yeshivah. How can I make up the missing kerias hatorah?”

There is no halachic requirement for him to hear the missing parsha as a kerias hatorah,[viii] but he does have a requirement to review this parsha shenayim mikra ve’echad Targum, which we will discuss shortly. Nevertheless, it is fairly common to try to make up the missing reading. There are several opinions how to do this. One common method is to read, on the Shabbos mincha of the week before one leaves Chutz La’aretz, the entire coming week’s parsha rather than only until sheini, as we usually do.[ix]

E pluribus unum

We should note that there is a major difference in halachah if an individual missed the week’s reading, or if an entire tzibur missed the reading.  There is longstanding halachic literature ruling that, when an entire tzibur missed a week’s Torah reading, a situation that transpired occasionally due to flooding, warfare or other calamity, the tzibur would be required to make up the reading that was missed by reading a double parsha the following week.[x] The halachic authorities dispute what to do when making up the missed readings will require reading three or more parshi’os. Some authorities[xi] conclude that the tzibur is required to read all the missed readings, regardless of how many parshi’os were missed, whereas others rule that we never read more than two parshi’os.[xii] According to the latter approach, when a double parsha was slated to be read in the skipped week, one should not make up either of the missing parshi’os, since they would, in any event, not make up the entire missed reading.

Doubling differently

On a regular occasion when we double two parshi’os, we call up four people during the first parsha, and have the fourth person’s aliyah continue into the second parsha in order to combine the two parshi’os. We then call the last three people to aliyos during the second parsha. However, when reading two parshi’os because the previous parsha was missed, some authorities rule that the kohen, who is the first aliyah, should read the entire first parsha and the usual first aliyah of the second parsha.

Why give the kohen such a huge reading at the expense of the others?

The reason for dividing the aliyos of the parshi’os differently is because the second parsha is the required reading for the day, and we should call up all seven aliyos for the required reading.[xiii]

The contemporary authorities discuss whether one who is doubling up two parshi’os because they traveled from Chutz La’aretz to Eretz Yisrael should follow this last suggestion and read for the kohen the entire first parsha and then the usual first aliyah of the second parsha.[xiv]

How many parshi’os on the plane?

At this moment, let us examine our next question above, “After Pesach, I will be making a short visit to Eretz Yisrael. As a result, I will be missing one parsha, and then hearing a different parsha twice: first in Eretz Yisrael, and then a second time upon my return. Which parsha do I review each week shenayim mikra ve’echad Targum?”

Our Sages required each male to review the week’s parsha twice and study the Targum translation once, so that one understands the reading well. (Many authorities rule that one fulfills the Targum requirement today by studying Rashi’s commentary on the Torah.) This mitzvah is called shenayim mikra ve’echad Targum. Thus, our questioner is asking how he should fulfill this mitzvah during these weeks that he is traveling – does he follow the practice of Eretz Yisrael or of Chutz La’aretz. Furthermore, when he is going to hear the same parsha on consecutive weeks, does the mitzvah of shenayim mikra ve’echad Targum require him to read the same parsha fully on two successive weeks?

It appears that the week he travels to Eretz Yisrael he should review both readings: that of Chutz La’aretz, which he will miss hearing in shul, and that of Eretz Yisrael, which he will hear. This will help keep him occupied during the long flight. Since it is the earlier reading, he should read the Chutz La’aretz reading first, thereby reviewing the Torah in order.[xv] If he was unable to go through both parshi’os the first week, he should review whatever he missed afterwards.

However, someone who will be traveling from Eretz Yisrael to Chutz La’aretz and therefore hearing the same parsha on two successive weeks is not required to review the parsha two consecutive weeks.[xvi]

Conclusion

From all of the above, we see the importance that Chazal placed on the public reading of the Torah and of completing its cycle annually. It goes without saying that we should be concerned with being attentive to the words of the Torah as they are being read, and that the baal keriah should make certain to read them with great care.

[i] Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 428:4.

[ii] Megillah 31b.

[iii] ad loc.

[iv] Orach Chayim 428:4.

[v] Orach Chayim 428:4.

[vi] Vayikra 6:21.

[vii] Abudraham, quoted by Elyah Rabbah and Bi’ur Halachah, 428:4, s.v. Tzav.

[viii] Yom Tov Sheini Kehilchasah page 239, notes 40 and 41, quoting Rav Shelomoh Zalman Auerbach, Rav Elazer Shach, and disciples of Rav Moshe Feinstein in his name.

[ix] Yom Tov Sheini Kehilchasah, page 241.

[x] Rema, Orach Chayim 135:2, quoting Or Zarua.

[xi] Elyah Rabbah.

[xii] Magen Avraham, quoting Shu’t Maharam Mintz #85.

[xiii] Kaf Hachayim 135:5.

[xiv] See, for example, Yom Tov Sheini Kehilchasah.

[xv] See Shu’t Maharsham 1:213.

[xvi] Ketzos Hashulchan Chapter 72, footnote 3; Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah, Volume II, Chapter 42, footnote 224.

Magen Avos on Seder Night — Which Bracha Is First?

Many articles on various Pesach-related topics can be read or downloaded from the website RabbiKaganoff.com

You should be able to find them by checking the following search titles: Chol Hamoed, chometz, eruv tavshillin, duchen, family, hallel, kitniyos, korban pesach, matzoh, Pesach, wine, Yom Tov

If you do not go online or cannot locate them, please tell me which topics you would like and I’ll gladly e-mail them to you as attachments.

With my best wishes to all for a chag kosher vesomayach!

Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff

Magen Avos on Seder Night — Which Bracha Is First?

Question:

The gabbai of a local minyan calls with the following question: “I do not remember what we did the last time that Pesach began on Shabbos, but I need to know whether at night we say Hallel first or the bracha Magen Avos?”

Answer:

No doubt, many of our readers will assume that the gabbai is making a mistake — that we do not recite the bracha Magen Avos, also known as the bracha mei’ein sheva, when the first night of Pesach falls on Shabbos. However, as we will soon see, our gabbai may be well informed about the minhag in his community. A quiz question for the detectives among our readership is to figure out which community this is.

Seder on Shabbos?

The first day of Pesach falls on Shabbos on three of the fourteen schedules that our calendar year follows. It happens this year, and again in the years 5776, 5778, 5779 and 5782. After 5782, there will be a break for seven years until our Seder returns to Shabbos, but it will occur again three times in the subsequent eight years. (Our calendar does not allow the second day of Pesach to fall on Shabbos because this would cause the succeeding Hoshanah Rabbah to fall on Shabbos.)

The question raised by our gabbai reflects two different practices:  reciting the bracha mei’ein sheva on Seder night, which is not a common practice today, and reciting Hallel in shul on Seder night, which is practiced by Sefardim, Chassidim, and is almost universally followed in Eretz Yisrael. Before answering his question as to which one should be recited first, we need to study the sources of both practices.

What is the Bracha Mei’ein Sheva?

The bracha mei’ein sheva, literally, an abbreviation of the seven brachos, is recited after we conclude the Friday night Shemoneh Esrei, immediately after the congregation recites together the pesukim of Vayechulu. (Although, technically, the term Shemoneh Esrei is an inaccurate description of the Shabbos davening, since it has only seven, and not eighteen, brachos, I will still use the common term Shemoneh Esrei.) This bracha is called mei’ein sheva because it is a synopsis of the seven brachos that comprise the Shabbos tefillah. The gabbai above referred to the bracha as Magen Avos, which is a common colloquial way of referring to this bracha, based on its opening words.

Why did Chazal institute the Bracha Mei’ein Sheva?

In ancient times, the shullen were often located outside the towns in which people lived, and walking home from shul alone at night was dangerous. Chazal, therefore, instituted this bracha after davening, so that someone who arrived late and was lagging behind the tzibur in davening would not be left to walk home unescorted (Rashi, Shabbos 24b). The recital of the extra bracha delayed everyone’s departure, thus allowing time for the latecomer to complete davening (Mordechai, Shabbos #407; Ran; Meiri).

According to an alternative approach, the bracha mei’ein sheva is a form of repetition of the prayer. The individual who arrived late could listen to the chazzan’s recital of this bracha and thereby fulfill his responsibility to pray, even though the chazzan recited only one bracha, and the regular Shabbos tefillah is seven (Rav Natrunai Gaon, as explained by Gra, Orach Chayim 269:13).

Although our shullen are no longer located outside our cities, once Chazal established this bracha, we continue with the practice, just as, in the time of the Gemara, the bracha was recited even in places where a person could safely walk home from shul unaccompanied (Meiri, Pesachim 100b; Ran [on Rif, Pesachim 20a]; Ohr Zarua, Hilchos Erev Shabbos #20; Kolbo #11, 35).

Mei’ein Sheva instead of Kiddush

Yet another reason is presented why Chazal introduced mei’ein sheva. In ancient times, there were occasions when it was difficult to obtain wine, and mei’ein sheva was instituted as a substitute for reciting Kiddush Friday night over wine (Yerushalmi, Brachos 8:1 and Pesachim 10:2; this passage of Talmud Yerushalmi is quoted by Tosafos, Pesachim 106b s.v. Mekadeish).

Why do we not recite mei’ein sheva on weekdays?

If reciting mei’ein sheva was because of concern that returning from shul alone was unsafe, why did Chazal not introduce a similar prayer after weeknight maariv, so that a delayed individual was not placed in danger?

Some Rishonim explain that in the era when the shullen were located outside the cities, someone who was delayed on a weekday would not have attended shul, but would have come home directly and davened there. On Shabbos and Yom Tov, however, he would not have wanted to miss the davening in shul. On the other hand, other Rishonim (Rosh, Berachos 1:5; Tur, Orach Chayim 236) explain that the bracha of Yiru Eineinu, recited during weekday Maariv by Ashkenazim in chutz la’aretz, was instituted so that someone delayed for maariv not be left alone in shul.

Do we recite mei’ein sheva on Yom Tov?

The Gemara states that the prayer mei’ein sheva was instituted only on Friday evening, and not on Yom Tov evenings that did not fall on Fridays (Shabbos 24b). Why was mei’ein sheva not said on Yom Tov?

In the writings of the Rishonim, I found several answers to this question. One approach is that although the concern that someone may be left behind may have equally existed on Yom Tov, since the more common situation was on Shabbos, Chazal did not include Yom Tov in the takkanah (see Meiri, Shabbos 24b).

Another approach is that on Yom Tov eve, people arrived punctually for davening, and there was no concern about individuals remaining alone (Mordechai, Pesachim #611).

Based on the Yerushalmi that the reason for mei’ein sheva was because of the inavailability of wine, some later commentaries present a third reason why the takkanah was established only for Shabbos and not for Yom Tov. Since most authorities hold that Kiddush on Yom Tov is not required min haTorah (Maggid Mishnah, Hilchos Shabbos 29:18), Chazal did not create a takkanah to make sure that someone fulfill a mitzvah that is miderabbanan (Marei Kohen, Pesachim 117b).

Reciting mei’ein sheva when Yom Tov falls on Friday

Do we recite the bracha mei’ein sheva when Yom Tov falls on Friday? (This case actually happens at the end of this coming Yom Tov, since the Seventh Day of Pesach falls on Friday.) The reason for reciting mei’ein sheva on a regular Shabbos was because people would work late on Friday afternoon, and as a result would arrive late to shul Friday evening. However, when Friday was Yom Tov, there would be no reason for someone to be delayed. Nevertheless, the poskim rule that we should recite mei’ein sheva, even when Yom Tov falls on Friday, notwithstanding that the reason for the takkanah does not apply (Kolbo #52).

Thirteenth century zeal

Actually, the question regarding recital of mei’ein sheva when Yom Tov falls on Friday resulted in a very heated dispute during the era of the Rishonim. In the time of the Rivash, Rabbi Amram ben Meroam, a frequent correspondent of the Rivash, wrote him the following shaylah:

Reuven was the chazzan for the Friday night davening on a Shabbos that immediately followed Yom Tov. He began reciting mei’ein sheva, when Shimon reprimanded him, contending that one should not recite this bracha when Shabbos follows Yom Tov — since no one was working on Friday, the reason for the takkanah did not apply. Levi then got involved, saying that it is accepted that one does recite mei’ein sheva on Friday night following a Yom Tov. The shul then burst into a cacophony of voices, with Shimon’s and Reuven’s backers screaming at one another. Finally, Shimon shouted that Reuven was desecrating Hashem’s holy Name, since he was willing to recite a bracha in vain, and that if he did, Shimon would declare him to be in cherem, excommunicated! Reuven did recite the bracha mei’ein sheva, and a day later, opened his door to find Shimon and twenty of his backers there to notify him that he had been excommunicated! The Rivash was asked to rule whether Reuven was indeed in cherem because of Shimon’s declaration that he recited a bracha in vain, or, perhaps, Shimon should be placed in cherem for excommunicating someone without proper cause.

The Rivash ruled that Shimon was mistaken, and that one should recite mei’ein sheva when Shabbos follows Yom Tov. Therefore, he concluded that Reuven, who followed the correct halachah, could completely ignore the cherem placed on him. However, he also concluded that since Shimon thought he was acting correctly, we do not excommunicate Shimon for his actions (Shu’t HaRivash #34).

Yom Tov falls on Shabbos

When Yom Tov falls on Shabbos and we recite the bracha mei’ein sheva on Friday night, do we mention Yom Tov in the bracha mei’ein sheva?

The Gemara rules that when Yom Tov falls on Shabbos, the chazzan makes no mention of Yom Tov, since on Yom Tov we do not recite this bracha (Shabbos 24b).

Reciting mei’ein sheva on Shabbos Yom Kippur

Do we recite mei’ein sheva when Shabbos falls on Yom Kippur? Logically, there is a strong reason that we should not, since no one arrives that late to shul on Kol Nidrei night, and, furthermore, the many piyutim recited allow for ample time for someone to finish davening and not be left behind. Nevertheless, the poskim rule that we recite mei’ein sheva when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbos (Kolbo #70).

Mei’ein Sheva and Seder night

What is the halachah regarding reciting mei’ein sheva when Seder night falls on Shabbos?

In the context of a different issue, the Gemara (Pesachim 109b) refers to Pesach night as leil shimurim, the night in which we are protected from harm (see Maharsha ad loc.). This is based on the pasuk that concludes: He [Hashem] will not permit the destroyer to enter your homes (Shemos 12:42). For this reason, many Rishonim rule that there is no reason to recite the mei’ein sheva on Seder night, since even in the era when the shullen were located outside the cities, the individual who arrived late was not in any danger, since Hashem guards us this night (Tur, Orach Chayim 487, quoting Rabbeinu Nissim and the Baal HaItur; Shu’t HaRivash #34; Ritva, Rosh Hashanah 11b; Kolbo #35, 50; Meiri, Pesachim 109b and many others). (The Rabbeinu Nissim quoted here is Rabbeinu Nissim ben Yaakov of Kairouan, North Africa, who was a contemporary and correspondent of Rav Hai Gaon and is sometimes called Rav Nissim Gaon, and should not be confused with the much later Rabbeinu Nissim ben Reuven of Gerona and Barcelona, Spain, known predominantly as one of the main commentators on the Rif.)

The Tur cites no disputing opinion to this statement of Rabbeinu Nissim, although when the Beis Yosef discusses this halachah, he quotes the Abudraham, who cites a dispute about the practice and concludes that common practice is to recite mei’ein sheva on Seder night. This is curious, because the Abudraham lived in Spain, whereas his contemporary, the Tur, who lived in Spain at the same time, mentions only the practice of omitting mei’ein sheva on Seder night. Another early authority who reports that one should recite mei’ein sheva on Seder night is the Shibbolei HaLeket (#219).

Other reasons to omit mei’ein sheva

In addition to the reason mentioned by Rabbeinu Nissim to omit mei’ein sheva on Seder night, I also found several other reasons to explain why one should not recite it then:

(1) According to the opinion of the Yerushalmi that mei’ein sheva was instituted to guarantee that everyone fulfilled the mitzvah of Kiddush Friday night, some authorities note that on Seder night, everyone would have wine for Kiddush and the arba kosos, thus rendering the bracha unnececessary (Mar’ei Kohen, Pesachim 117b).

(2) Since no one is permitted to work erev Pesach afternoon, there is no reason to assume that someone would come to shul late on Seder night.

(3) Everyone comes to shul early on Seder night so that they can get home early and begin the Seder in a timely fashion.

(4) The prayer is delayed anyway Seder night, because of Hallel. (I found all three of these last reasons in the anthology Sefer HaTodaah.)

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 487:1), mentions only the practice of omitting mei’ein sheva on Seder night, which became the most common accepted practice. However, there are many places that do say mei’ein sheva on the first night of Pesach. For example, the old custom in many German communities was to recite mei’ein sheva on Seder night. Similarly, the Kaf HaChayim (487:22) quotes several prominent Sefardic authorities, including the Rashash and Rav Chayim Palachi, who recited mei’ein sheva on Seder night. The Kaf HaChayim furthermore quotes that the Sefardic minhag in Yerushalayim follows the practice of the Arizal, who recited mei’ein sheva on Seder night, although I found other sources quoting the Arizal as holding that one should not recite mei’ein sheva on Seder night (Shiyurei Bracha, Orach Chayim 642; Chazon Ovadiah, Pesach pages 231 and 235). The Kaf HaChayim quotes the Rashash as contending that, since the Gemara does not mention that Pesach should be treated differently because it is leil shimurim, one should recite mei’ein sheva on Seder night.

The question raised by these authorities is that there are several other occasions when the reasons for reciting mei’ein sheva do not apply, such as when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbos, or when Yom Tov fell on Friday, and yet universal accepted practice is to recite mei’ein sheva on these occasions.

This last argument is countered by the Radbaz, who contends that when the original takkanah was made concerning mei’ein sheva, Chazal specifically exempted Seder night because it is leil shimurim, but they did not exempt any of the other dates mentioned (Shu’t HaRadbaz 4:16).

As a matter of practice, many congregations that follow the old German customs indeed recite the bracha of mei’ein sheva on Seder night, but other Ashkenazi communities do not. Among Sefardi authorities, Rav Ovadyah Yosef (Shu’t Yabia Omer 2:OC:25; 4:OC:21; Chazon Ovadyah) feels very strongly that one should not recite mei’ein sheva on Seder night, whereas Rav Ben Zion Abba Shaul ruled that each congregation should follow its custom (Shu’t Or LaTzion, Volume 3 page 174).

Thus, we see that, although the prevalent practice is to omit mei’ein sheva on Seder night, there are communities that do recite it. Now let us explain the other part of the question: “Which comes first, Hallel or the bracha mei’ein sheva?

Hallel in shul on Seder night

In several places, Chazal mention reciting Hallel in shul on the first night of Pesach. Why recite Hallel in shul, if we are going to recite it anyway, as part of the Seder? Several explanations are presented for this practice:

(1) In Chazal’s times, there were no siddurim, and therefore the common people davened together with the chazzan or by listening to the chazzan’s prayer. (This is one reason why the chazzan is called a shaliach tzibur, which literally translates as the emissary of the community, since he indeed prayed on behalf of many individuals.) On the days that we are required to recite Hallel, these people listened and responded to the chazzan’s Hallel, thereby fulfilling their mitzvah. However, how could they fulfill the mitzvah of reciting Hallel on Seder night when they were home? They did so by reciting Hallel together with the chazzan in shul, before coming home (see Gra, Orach Chayim 487).

(2) A different approach contends that the community recited Hallel in shul the first night of Pesach in order to fulfill the mitzvah with a large group. Although one may recite Hallel by oneself, reciting it communally is a greater observance of the mitzvah.

Hallel in shul without a bracha

Neither of these two approaches necessarily assumes that Hallel on Seder night requires a bracha. Indeed, the Chazon Ish recited Hallel in shul Seder night without reciting a bracha beforehand, and there are congregations in Bnei Braq that follow this approach.

Hallel Seder night with a bracha

(3) A third approach contends that the primary reason for reciting Hallel in shul is to recite a bracha beforehand. These poskim contend that Hallel at the Seder would require a bracha, if it were not interrupted by the meal. To resolve this predicament, Hallel is recited twice, once in shul with a bracha and without interruption, and then a second time, during the Seder. This is the prevalent practice by Sefardim, Chassidim, and the most common approach followed in Eretz Yisrael today (see Gra, Orach Chayim 487).

Now, the quiz question: Of what type of community is our gabbai a member? One finds the practice of reciting mei’ein sheva Seder night only among two communities: some Sefardim and some German kehillos. The German kehillos do not recite Hallel in shul Seder night, but the Sefardim universally do. Thus, our gabbai‘s community is a Sefardic congregation that has the practice of reciting mei’ein sheva Seder night.

Halachic conclusion

Someone creating a new kehillah and establishing new customs should certainly not recite mei’ein sheva on Seder night, since this is the opinion of most Rishonim, and is followed by the Tur, the Shulchan Aruch and the vast majority of later authorities. In addition, the rules of safek bracha lehakeil imply not to recite a bracha when there is a question whether one should do so or not. Nevertheless, in a congregation or community where the practice is to recite mei’ein sheva Seder night, one should do so before Hallel.

Mizmor Lesodah, Parshas Tzav and Erev Pesach

 

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IFQuestion #1: Korban Todah or bensching Goimel?

“Which is the better way to thank Hashem for a personal salvation, by reciting birchas hagomeil, or by making a seudas hodaah?”

Question #2: Bringing home the bread!

“Why is the korban todah accompanied by so many loaves of bread and so much matzoh?”

Question #3: Mizmor Lesodah and Pesach

“I recently assumed a position teaching in a small town day school. Before Pesach, I mentioned that we do not recite Mizmor Lesodah on Erev and Chol Hamoed Pesach. One of the students afterwards told me that this is not his family minhag, but only Ashkenazi practice. Is he correct?”

Answer:

Although Chapter 100 of Tehillim is known by its opening words as Mizmor Lesodah, there actually are two different chapters of Tehillim, #100 and #107, that devote themselves to the thanksgiving acknowledgement of someone who has survived a major physical challenge. In Psalm 107, Dovid Hamelech describes four different types of treacherous predicaments: traveling through the desert, traveling overseas, illness, and imprisonment, in which a person would pray to Hashem for salvation. When the person survives the travails and thanks Hashem, the following passage reflects this thanks, Yodu lashem chasdo venifle’osav livnei adam, “they acknowledge thanks to Hashem for His kindness and His wondrous deeds for mankind.” These words are repeated four times, once after each of the situations is described.

The Gemara cites this Psalm as the source for many of the laws of birchas hagomeil, the brocha we recite when surviving these calamities. Actually, someone who survived these predicaments should offer a korban todah, which is described in parshas Tzav. The birchas hagomeil is recited in place of the korban todah that we cannot bring, since, unfortunately, our Beis Hamikdash lies in ruin (Rosh, Brachos 9:3; Tur, Orach Chayim 219).

What are the unusual features of the korban todah?

The korban todah is a specialized variety of shelamim, whose name means, according to the Toras Kohanim, that it creates peace in the world, since the owner, the kohen and the mizbeiach (the altar) all share in consuming it (quoted by Rashi, Vayikra 3:1). A shelamim, which was perhaps the most common korban in the Beis Hamikdash, was offered to express the desire to draw closer to Hashem from a sense that one lacks nothing in his physical life (see Commentary of Rav Hirsch, Vayikra 3:1).

The korban todah is offered following the general procedures and rules of a shelamim; however, it has several unique features. The first is that the korban itself is accompanied by a huge amount of bread, called korbanos mincha (plural, menachos), a total of forty loaves. Thirty of these comprise ten loaves each of three varieties of matzoh. However, the remaining ten loaves are highly unusual: first of all they are chometz, and this is the only instance of a private korban that includes chometz. (There is only one other korban any time that is chometz, and that is the two loaves offered by the community on Shavuos.) As a result, the korban todah could not be offered on Erev Pesach or on Pesach itself.

The chometz loaves are unusual in another way, in that each of them is three times the volume of the matzoh loaves (see Menachos 76b). Thus, the ten chometz loaves were, together, of equal size to the thirty matzohs.

Of the four varieties of mincha that accompany the korban todah, one of each type of loaf is given to the kohen to take home and consume together with his family and friends. The other 36 loaves are given to the offerer of the korban.

There is another unusual facet of the korban todah offering. Whereas a korban shelamim may be eaten until nightfall of the next day after it is offered, the korban todah must be eaten before the morning after it was offered, a much shorter period of time. Chazal further shortened the time it may be eaten — permitting it to be eaten only until halachic midnight — to assure that no one eat the korban when it is forbidden.

Thus, there are two ways in which the korban todah is treated differently from an ordinary shelamim: The todah is accompanied by an absolutely huge amount of bread, made from a total of twenty isronim of flour, which is twenty times the amount of flour that requires one to separate challah. Half of this bread is chometz and half matzoh, and it must be consumed within a very short period of time.

Why would the Torah “impose” these additional requirements on the offerer of the korban? Well, let us figure out what is he going to do. He has a significant amount of holy meat that must be eaten by midnight, and a huge amount of accompanying bread with the same restrictions. What will he do?

Presumably, he invites a large crowd to join him in his feast and thereby explains to them the reason for his repast. Thus, we increase the appreciation of others for the thanksgiving that Hashem has provided him. This now leads us directly into our discussion of the chapter of Tehillim that begins with the words Mizmor Lesodah.

Mizmor Lesodah

Whereas the above-mentioned Chapter 107 of Tehillim describes the background behind korban todah and birchas hagomeil, the 100th chapter of Tehillim, Mizmor Lesodah, represents the actual praise that the saved person recites. Although only five verses long, this psalm, one of the eleven written by Moshe Rabbeinu (see Rashi ad locum), captivates the emotion of a person who has just survived a major ordeal. The first verse expresses the need for everyone on Earth to recognize Hashem, certainly something that conveys the emotions of someone very recently saved from a major tribulation. The second verse shares the same passion, since it calls upon everyone to serve Hashem in gladness and to appear before Him in jubilation. The third sentence continues this idea. In it, the thankful person who has been saved calls on everyone to recognize that Hashem is the personal G-d of every individual, and that we are His people and the sheep of his pasture. He then calls on all to enter into Hashem’s gates and His courts, so that we can thank and bless Him. We should note that the gates of the Beis Hamikdash were meant for all of mankind, not only the Jewish People, as specifically included in Shlomoh Hamelech’s  prayer while inaugurating it (Melachim I 8:41-43).

The closing sentence is also very significant: “For Hashem is good, His kindness is forever, and our trust should be placed in Him in every future generation.” (We should note that the word olam in Tanach means “forever” and never means “world,” which is a meaning given to this word by Chazal. The most common Tanach word for “world” is teiveil; see, for example, Tehillim 19:5; 33:8; and 90:2; all of which are recited during the pesukei dezimra of Shabbos and 96:10, 13; 97:4; 98:7, which are part of kabbalas Shabbos.) The celebrant calls upon those he has assembled to spread the message that Hashem is the only Source of all good, and that we should recognize this at all times, not only in the extraordinary situations where we see the manifestation of His presence!

We can now understand better why the Mizmor Lesodah chapter of Tehillim is structured as it is. It provides the beneficiary of Hashem’s miracle with a drosha to present at the seudas hodaah that he makes with all the bread and meat that he does not want to go to waste — complete with encouragement to others to internalize our thanks to Hashem.

Clearly, then, this psalm was meant to be recited by the thankful person, and this is his invitation to others to join him as he thanks Hashem. The Avudraham notes that Hashem’s name appears four times in the psalm, corresponding to the four people who need to thank Him for their salvation.

Mizmor Lesodah on Shabbos

We find a dispute among early authorities whether one should recite Mizmor Lesodah on Shabbos (Shibbolei Haleket, quoted by Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 281). Why should this be?

Since the korban todah is a voluntary offering, it cannot be offered on Shabbos. The Tur mentions that established custom is to omit Mizmor Lesodah on Shabbos and Yom Tov, out of concern that when the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt, someone may mistakenly offer the korban todah on these days. On Shabbos, of course, it is prohibited to offer any korban other than the required daily tamid and the special Shabbos korbanos, whereas on Yom Tov one may offer only korbanos that are brought because of Yom Tov (Beitzah 19b).

The Tur does not agree that this is a valid reason to omit reciting Mizmor Lesodah on these days, contending that we need not be concerned that people will mistakenly offer a korban todah on Shabbos or Yom Tov (Orach Chayim, Chapter 51 and Chapter 281). Others explain that we recite Mizmor Lesodah to remind us of the korban todah, and since it was not offered on these days, there is no point in reciting it (see Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham 51:11). Perhaps this is done as an aspect of uneshalma parim sefaseinu (Hoshea 14:3), “may our lips replace the bulls (of offerings),” which is interpreted to mean that when we have no Beis Hamikdash, we recite passages that commemorate those offerings. For this reason, the custom developed among Ashkenazim to omit Mizmor Lesodah on days that the offering could not be brought in the Beis Hamikdash.

Mizmor Lesodah on Chol Hamoed Pesach

Since the korban todah contained chometz, it could not be offered on Pesach. Therefore,  Ashkenazim refrain from reciting Mizmor Lesodah is omitted on Chol Hamoed Pesach for the same reason that it is omitted on Shabbos.

Mizmor Lesodah on Erev Pesach

Ashkenazic custom is to omit Mizmor Lesodah on Erev Yom Kippur and on Erev Pesach. The korban todah and its breads can usually be eaten until the midnight after the day it was offered. However, were one to offer a korban todah early on Erev Yom Kippur or on Erev Pesach, its chometz may be eaten for only a few hours. Since one may not offer a korban whose time limit is curtailed, one may not offer korban todah on these days, and, following Ashkenazic practice, Mizmor Lesodah is omitted then, also. The common custom among Sefardim is to recite Mizmor Lesodah on Erev Yom Kippur, Erev Pesach and Chol Hamoed Pesach (Pri Chodosh 429:2; Kaf Hachayim 51:51-52).

With this background, I can now begin to address the third question raised above.

“I recently assumed a position teaching in a small town day school. Before Pesach, I mentioned that we do not recite Mizmor Lesodah on Erev and Chol Hamoed Pesach. One of the students afterwards told me that this is not his family minhag, but only Ashkenazi practice. Is he correct?”

Indeed, in this instance, the student is correct. Hopefully, the rebbe was not that badly embarrassed.

Mizmor Lesodah and our daily davening

In order to make sure that this thanks to Hashem takes place daily, the chapter of Mizmor Lesodah was introduced into our daily pesukei dezimra. We should remember that miracles happen to us daily, even when we do not realize it (quoted in name of Sefer Nehora; see also Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 281). Although it was not part of the original structure of the daily prayers established by the Anshei Keneses Hagedolah, long before the time of the Rishonim it was already common practice to include it as part of the daily recital of pesukei dezimra and to say it almost at the beginning. The importance of reciting this psalm should not be underestimated. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 51:9), states: One should recite Mizmor Lesodah with song, since eventually all songs will cease except for Mizmor Lesodah. This statement of Chazal is explained by Rav Hirsch (Commentary to Psalm 100) in the following manner: One day in the future, everything on Earth will be so ideal that there will be no reason to supplicate Hashem for changes. Even then, prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving will still be appropriate.

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