Arguably one of the most studied Mishnayos of one of the most studied Talmudic chapters plunges us straight into the grand finale of our Masechta- Perek “Arvei Pesachim” which focusses, among much else, on the Seder night itself.
We are told, in somewhat cryptic language whose precise wording varies from גירסא to גירסא that ערבי פסחים סמוך למנחה לא יאכל אדם עד שתחשך” ” (on the eves of Pesachim close to Mincha, a man may not eat until it gets dark.)
The related daf are filled with Amoraim and Rishonim discussing the intricacies of each word in this line, among them:
- The use of the plural form ערבי and פסחים as opposed to simply ערב פסח
- What type of eating is forbidden?
- What is it forbidden to eat?
- Which Mincha is being referred to?
- The meaning of the phrase סמוך למנחה
- The meaning of עד שתחשך
- The reason for this prohibition
- How this compares to ערב פסח and ערב יום-טוב in general
What is מוכרח in the Mishna is that there is a certain time close to Mincha time on Erev Pesach where a new prohibition against eating that has not existed until that time takes force.
Understanding the reason for this prohibition would be helpful in identifying what this prohibition refers to, but we are already subject to some rather tight constraints.
The Gemara itself (Pesachim 107a) entertains two possibilities as to the time and reason for the prohibition:
- close to מנחה גדולה in order not to miss the קרבן פסח.
- close to מנחה קטנה in order not to eat the מצה in a way defined as אכילה גסה (coarse or gluttonous eating)
It concludes that the prohibition only starts “close to “ מנחה קטנה and is for the sake of the mitzva of eating matza.
Whereas Tosfos proves from the laws of Yom-Kippur (Yoma 80b where one who eats אכילה גסה on Yom-Kippur is exempt from punishment) that אכילה גסה is not considered eating at all, Rashi focusses on the positive need to build up a תאוה (lust) or תיאבון (appetite) for the matza for the sake of הדור מצוה (beautifying the mitzva.)- The difference in language between Rashi on our daf and on 107b and between the understanding of Rashi and Tosfos is of course worthy of its own analysis.
Having established the time and reason for the prohibition, we now turn to what exactly is forbidden.
This cannot be referring to eating chametz, as we know from the first perek (Pesachim 4b) that this is already forbidden rabbinically from the fifth hour of the day.
As Tosfos points out,It also cannot be referring to מצה as eating מצה is forbidden the whole day before Pesach – This point is made extremely sharply in the Yerushalmi ( as quoted by Tosfos) that האוכל מצה בערב פסח כאלו בועל ארוסתו בבית חמיו – one who eats matza on pesach eve is like one who sleeps with his betrothed one while she is still in his father in law’s house (a comparison which of course needs its own clarification.)
On the other hand, snacks not involving bread are permitted all afternoon, as the Gemara(Pesachim 107b) states clearly- אבל מטבל הוא בנימי תרגימא (he may dip different types of snacks.)
If both chametz and non-chametz forms of bread are already forbidden prior to this time and non-bread snacks are permitted even after this time, then what is permitted until this time and prohibited from this time till dark?
Tosfos concludes that this prohibition has relatively limited scope and refers exclusively to מצה עשירה (rich matza.)
Though also subject to discussion, for the purposes of our discussion we shall assume that this is talking about egg-matza or matza made from fruit juice.
The prohibition of chametz does not apply to it as it is not chametz, and the prohibition of matza does not apply to it as it does not taste like regular מצה which needs to be made from only flour and water (or alternatively because one cannot fulfil the mitzva of matza with it.)
Yet the permission to “dip various type of snacks” even after סמוך למנחה also does not apply to מצה עשירה , as it is halachically considered bread and not a snack (another matter requiring further discussion and possibly relevant to the question of “Mezonos bread.”)
מצה עשירה is thus permitted before this time but forbidden thereafter.
Another possible less-limited interpretation of this prohibition could be that it applies to all foods that have not been forbidden until now, except for chametz and matza which are already forbidden.
We would then need to distinguish between “eating” which is forbidden and “טובל הוא בנימי תרגימא” which is permitted, focusing not on what is being eating but, on the manner and/or quantity involved.
“dipping” could refer to informal eating as in having a snack from time to time, which is permitted, and “eating” could refer to having a formal meal.
The distinction could also lie in the quantity, with “dipping” referring to small quantities and “eating” referring to larger quantities.
This appears to be the way the Rambam learns this prohibition, as he states (חמץ ומצה פרק ו הלכה ב)
וכן אסור לאכול ערב הפסח מקודם המנחה כמעט, כדי שיכנס לאכילת מצה בתאוה, אבל אוכל הוא מעט פירות או ירקות ולא ימלא כריסו מהן,
“ and similarly, it is forbidden to eat on Pesach eve a little bit before Mincha, in order to come into eating matza with an appetite, but one may eat a little fruit or vegetables but may not fill his stomach with them.”
The Rambam seems to distinguish between eating a lot, which is forbidden, and eating a little, which is permitted, but while he does not state precisely what may not be eaten, specifically gives fruit and vegetables as examples of what one may eat a little of- the omission of meat and fish certainly seems to require explanation, a point we might return to when we get to daf 107, Hashem willing.
The Gemara on our Mishna opens up by trying to explain how the prohibition on Erev Pesach is any different to any ערב שבת and ערב יום-טוב when it is also forbidden to eat from Mincha time according to Rabbi Yehuda (ostensibly also for reasons of appetite-building for the festive meal.)
After rejecting a second possible explanation, it concludes like the first suggestion of Rav Huna according to which Rabbi Yehuda indeed holds that the prohibition applies every ערב יום-טוב and ערב שבת, but the Mishna comes to teach us that even Rabbi Yosi who permits doing so, forbids it on ערב פסח because of the extra concern for matza.
This could be very significant as the halacha usually follows Rabbi Yossi against Rabbi Yehuda so the fact that he agrees with Rabbi Yehuda on ערב פסח could have great practical ramifications.
After further discussion, the Gemara concludes that even on Erev Pesach, Rabbi Yosi holds that if a meal was already started, one need not stop it- whether this is referring to when the meal was started before סמוך למחה or even if it was started illegally after סמוך למנחה , and whether the permission not to interrupt applies even after dark or just until dark, is the subject of further discussion.
Whereas the above debate can be very practical every year, this year is an example where it is virtually impossible to avoid.
Firstly, Purim fell on erev Shabbos, and the requirement to make a festive meal on Purim day clashes with the possible prohibition of eating a lot on ערב שבת, at least according to Rabbi Yehuda.
Even if we assume based on the conclusion of the Gemara and the general rule of psak that we do not follow Rabbi Yehuda on ערב שבת , and that this means that there is no limitation whatsoever of eating on ערב שבת (something which a further study of the issue will show is not so straightforward), there is no escaping this issue on erev Pesach, which this year falls on Shabbos!
The usual obligation to eat 3 meals containing halachik bread clashes with the prohibition of eating matza the whole day, chametz from the fifth hour, and even מצה עשירה from סמוך למנחה!
Assuming that one can fulfil the obligation to eat bread on Shabbos with מצה עשירה , the simplest solution would be to start one’s second shabbos meal very early (possibly straight after davening ותיקין ) and use bread, making sure to finish by the beginning of the 5’th hour.
One could then have the third meal before סמוך למנחה using מצה עשירה.
In practise, the practise of some Ashkenazim not to eat מצה עשירה on Pesach at all or even on erev pesach gets in the way of this solution and they are forced to fulfill the third meal with fruits and vegetables, as permitted in general by certain authorities, or to have both the second and third meal with real bread before the beginning of the fifth hour, a rather tricky but not impossible proposition which also compromises on the custom to have סעודה שלישית after מנחה גדולה .
For practical halacha, see O.C. 444 and the discussions in the poskim around it.
These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.