TalmuDigest

For the week ending 6 May 2006 / 8 Iyyar 5766

Pesachim 107 - 113

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll


  • On what beverage kiddush and havdalah can be made and how much of it has to be drunk
  • What is the cutoff time for eating on Erev Pesach and why?
  • The late dining king
  • Food and drink appetizers and the fasting Sage
  • Reclining at the Seder – when and who
  • The amount and quality of wine for the four cups
  • Keeping the children awake for the Seder
  • How to fulfill mitzvah of simcha (joy) on holiday – then and now
  • Measurement of reviit for cup of wine and water needed for mikveh
  • The supernatural danger of zugot (pairs), demons and witchcraft
  • Subsisting on Shabbat but accepting support on Pesach
  • Rabbi Akiva’s counsel to his son and his dialogue with a disciple in prison
  • Sagely advice on marriage, business, where to live and how to avoid harm
  • Those who win special favor in the eyes of G-d and those despised by G-d and man
  • Love and hate amongst men and animals

Who Fasts on Erev Pesach?

  • Pesachim 108a

A familiar scene in synagogues on the morning of Erev Pesach (the day preceding Pesach) is the gathering of men to participate in the siyum (completion) of a tractate of the Talmud, which is followed by the partaking of some food and drink.

The background for this is the custom for first-born males to fast on that day. This fast, whose source is Mesechta Sofrim 21:3, is in commemoration of the Jewish first-born being spared when G-d slew all the Egyptian first-born on the eve of the Exodus. Since this is only a custom, participation in a seudat mitzvah such as that which celebrates a siyum exempts the first-born from actually fasting.

Tosefot in our gemara refers to the custom of fasting in the process of analyzing what is reported about Rabbi Sheishet’s fasting the entire day of Erev Pesach. It was first suggested that his purpose in fasting was connected with a caution that might have been necessary in the time of the Beit Hamikdash. There is one opinion that although the Pesach sacrifice should not be slaughtered in the morning, if one does so it is considered a fulfillment of the mitzvah. One who wished to be extremely stringent would therefore refrain from eating from the beginning of the day in order to avoid forgetting his obligation to offer this sacrifice.

This approach is rejected in favor of the much simpler explanation that Rabbi Sheishet had such an extremely limited appetite that if he ate in the morning he would have no appetite at night for the matzah.

It has been suggested that this is the basis for the position of Rambam cited in our article on 99b that all people, even those with regular appetites, should refrain from overindulging in any form of food during the last quarter hour of Erev Pesach.

It may well be, points out Tosefot, that Rabbi Sheishet also did not actually fast but rather restrained himself from eating too much all day the way we restrain ourselves at the end of the day. There is, however, a possibility that he actually took upon himself a formal fast in order to be certain that he would not forget himself and spoil his appetite for the matzah at night.

What the Sages Say

“There are three people for whom G-d has a special love – one who does not lose his temper, one who does not get drunk and one who does not seek to get even with those who upset him.”

  • Anonymous Sages
    Pesachim
    113b

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