This source sheet contains a selection of Mishnayos culled from Mesechtas Pesachim, Zevachim and Menachos. The selections focus on three main public mitzvos associated with the holiday of Pesach. Specifically, the ceremonies and rituals associated with the Korban Pesach--a national and religious highlight during Temple times--Seder Night--which in addition to consuming the Korban Pesach, Matzoh and Maror includes the annual obligation to relive and retell the story of the Exodus to our children--and the Korban HaOmer--recognition of the start of the agricultural cycle.
This compendium is not meant as a comprehensive treatise nor will it cover every possible topic. Rather it serves as an introduction to the holiday and its ceremonies; providing an appreciation of its varied aspects as seen by the Rabbis who lived just prior to and after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. It hopefully touches upon many of the most prominent topics and the interested reader is urged to consult the many wonderful Seforim, books and, especially, Haggados, found in your local library to gain a fuller appreciation of the beauty that is the Torah.
Because I have sought to limit this to ceremonial aspects of the Holiday, I have, for now, left out a discussion of ridding oneself of Chametz, leavened products, on Pesach as that is mostly encountered prior to the start of the Holiday.
To assist the reader I have created three additional background source sheets. These contain additional materials which provide necessary background and expanded resources for the interested reader.
Background and additional materials relating to the Korban Pesach section may be found at https://www.sefaria.org/sheets/61230
Additional materials for the Arvei Pesachim section can be found at https://www.sefaria.org/sheets/62470
Additional materials for the Korban Omer section can be found at https://www.sefaria.org/sheets/62889
This running commentary is an amalgam of various commentaries, including my own. Text of the Mishna is from Sefaria. Translations and commentaries used include: Sefaria, R"AV, Tosfos Yom Tov, Peirush HaRamBam L'Mishnayos, Mishna im peirush Siyata D'ishmaya, Yochin uBoaz, Mishna Mefureshes; Mishna with commentary by Chanoch Albeck, Artscroll/Yad Avrohom, Mishnat Yomi by Rabbi Dr. Joshua Kulp, Mishnayos im Biur HaMishna, Mishnayos Tosfos Yom Tov HaMevuar, Mishnas Eretz Yisroel (Safrai), J. Tabory, Moadei Yisroel B'Tekufas HaMishna v'Hatalmud (Hebrew), M. Kasher, Haggadah Shleima (Hebrew), D. Goldschmidt, Haggadah Shel Pesach (Hebrew), Safrai, Haggadah of the Sages; Yaakov Nagen, Nishmat HaMishnah (Hebrew). Inspiration for this project comes, in part, from Mivchar Mishnayos (Hebrew) M. Bar-Yosef (Tel Aviv) (available on Hebrewbooks.org). All mistakes are my own. If you would like this sheet in pdf format or for any comments and/or questions, email me at [email protected]
The Korban Pesach
In describing the holiday of Pesach, the Torah describes what are essentially two holidays, Chag HaPesach and Chag HaMatzos. The former, is celebrated on the 14th of Nissan (i.e., what we call Erev Pesach) and its distinguishing Mitzvah is the bringing of the Korban Pesach. The later, begins on night of the 15th of Nissan when a person is obligated to eat the Korban Pesach alongside Matzoh and Marror as he retells the story of the Exodus from Egypt. This holiday last for seven days and requires, in addition to the affirmative Mitzvos, a person to rid his household of any Chametz. Obviously, these "Chagim" are intertwined in myriad ways and are essentially celebrated as one.
The original Korban Pesach was brought on the eve of the Jewish Nation's exodus from Egypt. The instructions for the first Korban were given to Moshe Rabbeinu on the first day of the month of Nissan. He is told to direct the nation to take a lamb on the 10th of Nissan and to slaughter it on the 14th. The Jews are then to take the blood and smear it on their doorposts--indicating the presence of an Israelite household. The Korban was not meant to be eaten alone. Instead, it was to hurriedly be eaten in groups as they anxiously awaited their imminent departure from Egypt. In subsequent years, the Jews were commanded to recall this seminal event in our Nation's history by likewise bringing a Korban Pesach and having a "Seder."
As we will learn, the Korban Pesach was meant as both an individual expression of gratitude and as a communal recognition of our collective heritage. This duality finds its expression in the rules governing its consumption. On the one hand, the focus on the parent/child dynamic speaks to the intimate nature of the evening and the need to create a personal narrative. On the other, the Torah appears encouraging of creating larger groups to share in consuming the Korban Pesach. But this too requires advance thoughtfulness as one cannot randomly join in a Chaburah.
The Korban Pesach, thanks to its national significance, is featured throughout Tanach--often as part of a covenant renewal or reaffirmation of the Jewish Nation's commitment to Torah and Mitzvos. Its prominence is further attested to in late Second Temple period writings noting the prevalent participation by the people in this Mitzvah.
The fifth chapter of Mesechtas Zevachim provides a comprehensive summary of animal Korbanos and their basic laws. Specifically, for each Korban the Mishnah lists some, or all, of the following:
- Its Holiness Level: the Torah has a holiness hierarchy for Korbonos. The two basic groups are Kodshim Kalim (the basic level of Kedusha) and Kodshei Kodshim (the higher level of Kedusha).
- Where in the Beis HaMikdash's courtyard (the "Azarah") must the animal be slaughtered;
- The nature of the its blood-sprinkling ceremony (i.e., where must the blood be sprinkled and how many times);
- Whether the Korban is consumed or fully burned on the Mizbeach or otherwise;
- If edible, where can the Korban be eaten, by whom and when?
The last three Mishnayos of the chapter describe the Korban Shelamim and four subsets of Korbanos that fall under its rubric:
- The Todah: Thanksgiving offering and the Nazir's Ram offering (their rules being identical)
- The Bechor: the first-born animal given to a Kohein, which absent a blemish, must be brought as a Korban;
- Ma'aser B'heima: one out of ten newborn animals are specially separated by their owner and used as Korbanos, and
- the Korban Pesach: the pascal lamb brought on the 14th of Nissan and eaten at the Seder Night meal.
The Korban Pesach is unique in that the rules regarding when it can be eaten, who can eat it and how it must be eaten are unique as well. They are succinctly listed in our Mishna. First, even though it has to be slaughtered during the day, it may only be eaten during a very limited window of time, between nightfall and midnight following its slaughter. Second, participation in the Korban requires forethought and planning and not randomness and carelessness. Therefore, only those people who join the group prior to the Korban being slaughtered may participate. Finally, it may only be roasted and cannot be cooked or eaten raw, you cannot break a bone and it must be eaten alongside Matzoh and Marror.
This Mishna will set the stage for our subsequent explorations in Mesechtas Pesachim as all the selected Mishnayos will deal with these unique aspects of the Korban Pesach.
- (a) הבכור. והמעשר. והפסח. קדשים קלים.
(b) שחיטתן בכל מקום בעזרה.
(c) ודמן טעון מתנה אחת. ובלבד שיתן כנגד היסוד.
- שינה באכילתן.
(a) הבכור נאכל לכהנים.
(b) והמעשר לכל אדם.
(c) ונאכלין בכל העיר לכל אדם. בכל מאכל. לשני ימים ולילה אחד.
- (a) הפסח אינו נאכל אלא בלילה.
(b) ואינו נאכל אלא עד חצות.
(c) ואינו נאכל אלא למנויו.
(d) ואינו נאכל אלא צלי:
- (a) [Each of] the Bechor, Ma'aser B'Heima and the Pesach [fall within the category of] Kodshim Kalim.
(b) their slaughtering may take place anywhere in the Azarah
(c) and their blood requires but a single application so long as it is applied near the base of the Mizbeach
- [However,] they differ in how they are consumed:
(a) the Bechor is eaten solely by Kohanim
(b) [whereas,] the Ma'aser [may be consumed] by all people
(c) both [the Bechor and Ma'aser] may be consumed (i) anywhere in Yerushalayim, (ii) by anyone (i.e., there is no need for a Chaburah), (iii) cooked in any fashion, and (iv) for two days and the intervening night.
- The Pesach, [however,] cannot be consumed except [under the following conditions]:
(a) During the evening following its slaughter;
(b) up until midnight;
(c) by the members of the prearranged group
(d) when roasted.
Question: This Mishna is included in Davening, where? Why are these particular Mishnayos included in our Tefillos?
The Korban Pesach as Reflected in Mishnayos Pesachim
As noted above, the Korban Pesach played an outsize role in the national story of the Jewish people. Tellingly, roughly half of Mesechtas Pesachim concerns itself with the Korban and the myriad details surrounding its sacrifice. We will focus our discussions on the following topics:
- The timing of the Korban Pesach ceremony
- Eligibility to Participate in the Korban Pesach
- The details of the Korban Pesach ceremony
- The unique nature of the Chabura (the prearranged group specifically identified to partake in the particular Korban Pesach)
The following mishnayos are a selection from Mesechtas Pesachim. We will not cover every Mishna related to these topics, but the sampling below will provide sufficient background for these topics. The interested reader is encouraged to further explore these topics and others such as the interplay between Shabbos and the Korban Pesach or the effect of communal impurity and the Korban Pesach.
Introduction to Mishna 5:1
Our Mishna (and the last part of Mishna 5:3) discusses when, on the 14th of Nissan, is the appropriate time to bring the Korban Pesach. As background, the Halachik day is broken down into two, twelve hour periods. Furthermore, the daylight period is broken down into twelve equal parts and, depending on the time of year and the total amount of sunlight hours, each Halachik hour can be more or less than sixty minutes. For our purposes, we will assume that our Mishna is talking about a case when there are exactly twelve hours of sunlight (6am to 6pm), making each Halachik hour exactly sixty minutes.
Each day, two sheep were sacrificed, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. These are called the Korban Tamid and they act as bookends in the Beis HaMikdash's service. No Korban may be brought prior to the morning Tamid and no Korban may be brought after the afternoon Tamid. Although the afternoon Tamid can be brought starting as early as 12:30 pm, they typically delayed bringing the afternoon Tamid until later in the day (2:30 pm) so that anyone needing to bring a Korban had ample time throughout the day to bring their sacrifice.
The Korban Pesach was the only exception. It was brought after the afternoon Tamid. To accommodate both the vast number of general Korbonos being brought and the numerous Korbanei Pesach needing to be slaughtered ahead of Yom Tov, they moved up the time of the afternoon Tamid by an hour (1:30 pm). When Erev Pesach fell on a Friday, they would move it up two hours (12:30 pm) to ensure ample time to even cook the Korban ahead of Shabbos.
- תמיד נשחט בשמנה ומחצה. וקרב בתשע ומחצה.
- בערבי פסחים נשחט בשבע ומחצה. וקרב בשמנה ומחצה. בין בחול בין בשבת.
- חל ערב פסח להיות בערב שבת. נשחט בשש ומחצה וקרב בשבע ומחצה. והפסח אחריו:
- [Typically,] the afternoon Tamid was slaughtered starting at the eighth and a half hour (2:30) and (following an hour of preparation) would be placed on the Mizbeach after the ninth and half hour (3:30)
- On Erev Pesach [it would be moved up by an hour such that] the Tamid would be slaughtered after the seventh and half hour (1:30) and placed on the Mizbeach after the eighth and half hour (2:30), [and the Korbanei Pesach would begin being slaughtered thereafter] whether Erev Pesach fell on Shabbos or a weekday [except],
- if Erev Pesach fell on a Friday [requiring the Korban Pesach to be roasted prior to Shabbos they would move up the time even earlier] and the afternoon Tamid would be slaughtered after the sixth and half hour (12:30) and placed on the Mizbeach after the seventh and one half hour (1:30) and the Korban Pesach would be brought thereafter.
Introduction to Mishna 5:3
In addition to bringing the Korban Pesach, there is an additional Mitzvah of eating at least a Kazayis of the Korban (within the appropriate time-span of 2-9 minutes). Therefore, in the first instance, only those who can eat a Kazayis should be included in the Korban Pesach. (See also Mishna 8:3 and 8:7). The person actually bringing the Korban, therefore, should ideally intend to only include properly eligible persons.
Someone who cannot eat at least a Kazayis (such as an older of sickly person) should not be joined into a Chaburah in the first instance. Further, at the time the Korban is brought the designated group must be established so that the Korban is brought for the proper people. Finally, there are certain persons who are not eligible to eat from the Korban including someone who has not had a Bris Milah or is Tamei.
Part one of our Mishna tells us that if a Korban Pesach was brought exclusively for people who cannot eat a Kazayis, the wrong Chaburah or ineligible people, the Korban is Pasul. If brought for both eligible and illegible people than the Korban is Kosher but it is not preferable. In the first instance, only those that can eat a whole Kezayis should be designated for the Korban.
Part two of the Mishna is a continuation of Mishna 1. As noted the Korban Pesach and the Tamid needed to be brought in the afternoon ("בין הערבים") and the Tamid was supposed to be brought first.
בין הערבים was defined to be when the sun's angle begins casting a shadow to the east. Technically, this happens just after midday, however, the Chachomim required them to delay until 12:30 to make sure that it was afternoon. A Korban Pesach brought before Noon is Pasul. If brought before the Tamid, it was Kosher, but you needed to wait to sprinkle the blood until after the Tamid's blood was sprinkled on the Mizbeach.
- שחטו שלא לאוכליו ושלא למנוייו לערלים ולטמאים פסול.
- לאוכליו ושלא לאוכליו. למנוייו ושלא למנוייו. למולים ולערלים. לטמאים ולטהורים. כשר.
- שחטו קודם חצות פסול. משום שנאמר (ויקרא כג, ה) בין הערבים.
- (a) שחטו קודם לתמיד כשר.
(b) ובלבד שיהא אחד ממרס בדמו עד שיזרק דם התמיד. ואם נזרק כשר:
- If a Korban Pesach was brought [exclusively] for non-eaters (i.e., sick and elderly), or non-designated persons (i.e., non-Chaburah members) or [ineligible persons such as] uncircumcised or impure people, the Korban is Pasul
- [However], if the Korban Pesach was brought for both eaters and non-eaters, designated and non-designated people, circumcised and uncircumcised or impure and pure people, then the Korban is Kosher.
- If the Korban Pesach was slaughtered prior to Noon, it is Pasul. For the Pasuk says [that the Korban should be brought] in the afternoon
- (a) If the Korban Pesach was brought prior to the Tamid it is Kosher
(b) However, this is so long as someone continuously mixes the blood (so it does not congeal) until the blood of the Tamid is sprinkled. But if the Korban Pesach's blood was sprinkled first it remains Kosher.
Introduction to Mishnayos 5-7
The next three Mishnayos describe in detail the pomp and circumstance surrounding the bringing of the Korban Pesach in the Beis HaMikdash. As described, the Pesach festival brought out the multitudes of people and to accommodate all the people, the operations of the Beis HaMikdash were modified to streamline the processing of all the Korbanei Pesach.
To prevent overcrowding in the Azarah, the Kohanim would divide the people into groups. From the Torah's use of the terms " קהל, עדת, ישראל" the Chachomim learned that there should be three groupings of Korbonos with each group consisting of no less than thirty people/Chaburos. As the Mishna later suggests, it was rare that the final, third group would fill up the Azarah.
Like with all Public Korbonos (Korbanei Tzibbur) the Kohanim would punctuate the service with blasts from silver trumpets. While the trumpets were typically used during the wine-libation ceremony, for the Korban Pesach (which did not include wine) they would blow them during the slaughtering process.
Once slaughtered by its owner, like all Korbonos, the blood was collected by a Kohein in a silver or gold beaker and brought close to Mizbeach where it was then sprinkled/splashed against its side. These beakers were rounded on bottom to prevent placing them on the ground where the blood could congeal. The Kohanim would stand in assembly line form and would each other the full beaker until it reached the Mizbeach where the final Kohein would pour it on the base of the Mizbeach. He would then return the empty beaker to the Kohein in the next row--keeping the flow of blood circulating through the Azarah.
Finally, the Mishna tells us that throughout this process the Leviim would be singing Hallel in a continuous loop.
- הפסח נשחט בשלש כתות. שנאמר (שמות יב, ו) ושחטו אותו כל קהל עדת ישראל. קהל. ועדה. וישראל
- נכנסה כת הראשונה נתמלאת העזרה. נעלו דלתות העזרה
- תקעו הריעו ותקעו.
- הכהנים עומדים שורות שורות ובידיהם בזיכי כסף ובזיכי זהב.
- שורה שכולה כסף כסף. ושורה שכולה זהב זהב. לא היו מעורבין
- ולא היו לבזיכין שוליים שמא יניחום ויקרש הדם:
- The [Korban] Pesach was slaughtered in three groups, as it is stated (Exodus 12:6), "The whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall slaughter it," [i.e. three groups according to the three different terms used to refer to the Jews:] assembly, congregation, and Israel.
- The first group entered, [until] the Azarah was filled, [and then] the gates of the Azarah were closed
- [During the slaughtering process the Kohanim would blast] Tekiah, Terua, Tekiah sounds [from the silver trumpets].
- The Kohanim would stand in rows (like an assembly line) and in their hands were silver and gold beakers sounds [in which to collect the blood from the animals]
- A "silver" row was fully silver and a "gold" row was fully gold--they did not mix
- The beakers did not have flat bottoms [to prevent them from] placing the beakers on the ground and allowing the blood to congeal.
- שחט ישראל וקבל הכהן.
- נותנו לחבירו. וחבירו לחבירו.
- ומקבל את המלא. ומחזיר את הריקן.
- כהן הקרוב אצל המזבח. זורקו זריקה אחת כנגד היסוד:
- The [owner who may even be a] Yisroel would slaughter [the Korban Pesach] and the Kohein would collect the blood.
- The Kohein would hand the full beaker to the next Kohein and that Kohein to the next one
- each [subsequent Kohein] would receive the full beaker and return the empty beaker.
- The Kohein closest to the Mizbeach would splash/pour the blood against the side of the Mizbeach opposite the Yesod.
- יצתה כת ראשונה ונכנסה כת שניה.
- יצתה שניה נכנסה שלישית.
- כמעשה הראשונה כך מעשה השניה והשלישית.
- קראו את ההלל אם גמרו שנו. ואם שנו שלשו. אף על פי שלא שלשו מימיהם.
- רבי יהודה אומר מימיהם של כת שלישית לא הגיע לאהבתי כי ישמע יי. מפני שעמה מועטין:
- When the first group [completed their Korbonos, they] went out and the second group entered;
- when the second group [completed their Korbonos, they] went out and the third group entered.
- Like [the proceedings] of the first [group], so [too] were [the proceedings] of the second and third [groups].
- [the Leviim along with each group] would read [sing] Hallel [throughout the proceedings] and if they completed the entire Hallel they would repeat it [and at times] repeat it a third time--although it rarely if ever happened that they need to sing it a third time
- Rabi Yehuda said that [with respect to the third group] it never happened that they got past the paragraph of Ahavti since [the third group typically] had few participants.
Introduction to Mishna 7:13
As noted above, in order to partake in a particular Korban Pesach, a person needed to be designated a member of the Chaburah. Moreover, once the designation period was closed (at the time of slaughtering the animal) a person was tied to his Chaburah and no further people could be added.
Furthermore, a single Korban Pesach may be split up into multiple Chaburos (i.e., a Chaburah can split in half with each new Chaburah taking half the animal). However, a person was still prohibited from switching Chaburos (even though he was designated for this animal) nor could the meat of one Chaburah be fed to a member of the other Chaburah. The Chachomim were so strict regarding the separation of Chaburos that they took steps to ensure that there was not even a suspicion that a person was partaking in two Chaburos. Further, if a Kazayis of meat from one Chaburah "traveled" outside the Chabura it would be have the same Din as Kodshim having left Yerushalyim and would be Pasul.
Given the multitudes of people in Yerushalyim during the Chag, it was often the case that two Chaburos would be occupying the same space. Our Mishna discusses the practical realities of two Chaburos eating side by side and how they can avoid tripping over this prohibition. The person potentially most affected was the waiter--for while part of one Chaburah, he was still required to assist the members of the other Chaburah. The Chachomim required that the members of the Chaburah face each other while eating the Korban Pesach and if the waiter was required to assist another Chaburah, he was directed to shut his mount and stop chewing until he returned (this so that people would not suspect him of partaking in two Chaburos).
Nonetheless, the Chaburos were allowed to utilize common facilities (e.g., hot water urn) and a dispensation to turn aside was made for a Bride who may have felt uncomfortable and self-conscious with everyone in the Chaburah staring at her while she ate the Korban.
- שתי חבורות שהיו אוכלות בבית אחד. אלו הופכין את פניהם הילך ואוכלין. ואלו הופכין את פניהם. הילך ואוכלין.
- והמיחם באמצע
- כשהשמש עומד למזוג קופץ את פיו. ומחזיר את פניו. עד שמגיע אצל חבורתו ואוכל.
- והכלה הופכת את פניה ואוכלת:
- Two Chaburos (or one that split a single Korban Pesach) that were eating in one house [room], [the members of] each [Chaburah] must turn their faces [towards the members of their respective Chaburah] while eating it;
- and [even though both Chaburos are utilizing a common] a hot water pot that sits between the Chaburos [it does not act to combine them together]
- And when the waiter stands to mix the wine [with the warm water from the pot] [if he has already started to eat from his Korban], he must close his mouth and turn his face [towards his Chaburah to show he is not eating from the second Chaburah] until he returns to his Chaburah, at which point he can resume eating.
- [out of respect] a bride [who may be uncomfortable with everyone staring at her while she eats] may, [however,] turn away from her Chaburah while eating the Korban.
Seder Night as Reflected in Perek Arvei Pesachim
The Seder Night is perhaps the most widely celebrated Jewish ritual and the Haggadah the most commentated on work of Jewish liturgy. Its resounding messages of personal and national freedom, Divine Providence and Intervention, recompense for historic wrongs and promises of a brighter future find expression in each era, time and place allowing each individual and community to meaningfully connect to the holiday. Importantly, the ritual itself is meant to establish an atmosphere where one can relive that historic night—palpably sensing the imminent Exodus.
Seder Night, or ליל התקדש חג, is the culmination of weeks of exhaustive preparation. During Temple times the pilgrimage to Yerushalyim (עליית הרגל) and preparation of the Korban Pesach were the main focus of the people. Scholars suggest that the formal structure we know today was implemented only after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and that during Temple times the celebratory evening consisted of the family unit eating the Korban Pesach, Matzoh and Maror together in one's home while relating the story of Yetziyas Mitzrayim. Afterwards, everyone would make their way to the rooftops of Yerushalayim where they collectively would sing Hallel overlooking the Beis HaMikdash.
After the destruction, and in the absence of the Korban Pesach and its attendant celebration, the Rabbis and the nation looked to refashion the evening for a nation un-anchored from its land and history. To do so, meant diverting the focus from the Korban Pesach to the other elements of the night, such as the Matzoh, Marror and סיפור יציאת מצרים. Nonetheless, evidence remains of the central role the Korban Pesach continued to play post-destruction including, Rabban Gamliel's imperative to discuss the Korban, the inclusion of the question in Ma Nishtana and evidence that Jews continued to bring a Korban Pesach or a non-Korban substitute well after the destruction. Over the years, the Seder has evolved into a precise ritual of text, food and Hallel. It even contains its own table of contents/checklist.
Undoubtedly, our Seder meal mimics what one imagines a typical "Korban" meal may have looked like. The foods and liturgy may be different but the celebration was the same. Importantly, in developing the evening's festivities, the Rabbis, did not directly co-opt the model of the Greco-Roman "Symposium" (a formal meal at which the participants would drink wine, recline and partake in philosophical discussions). Rather, in developing a festive meal celebrating our freedom, they likely drew inspiration from the surrounding culture as to what constitutes such a meal. So drinking wine, reclining, dipping various foods and engaging in formal discussions were natural elements to be included.
The actual liturgy of the Haggadah was developed over the centuries but its core can already be found in the Mishna. We find mention of the מה נשתנה, the need to be דורש the passage of ארמי עובד אבי, Rabban Gamliel's directive to mention and explicate the three Mitzvos of the night: Korban Pesach, Matzoh and Maror and a discussion over the proper Berocho to make at the end of Magid. Some of these segments existed prior to the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash while others were added or altered afterwards.
The difficulty in translating Perek Arvei Pesachim is that it is easy to fall into the trap of seeing our current practices in the words of the Mishna. Many commentators have struggled to unify both the Mishna's words and common practice—essentially conflating the two. Evidence of this conundrum can be seen by the many additions and alterations to the Mishna's text to reflect later practices. Sometimes it’s the addition of a word or two; other times, it’s the inclusion of a copyist's note into the text itself. We will make an attempt to create a commentary as close to the text as possible. When dueling translations make equal sense, both will be noted.
What is clear, is that the Seder Night is an intricate amalgam of three elements: specialized and ritualized food and drink, the formal retelling of the Exodus story and exuberant praise for Hashem and the goodness He has shown us. How these three elements blend together into a considered whole is the main topic of our Perek.
A companion source sheet listing additional texts including passages from our standard Haggadah can be found at http://www.sefaria.org/sheets/62470.
Introduction to Mishna 10:1
The Seder Night was filled with anticipation. Anticipation for the Korban Pesach, for the Matzoh, Marror and the communal celebration. To ensure full participation in all the Mitzvos of the evening--especially for the Mitzvos directed at eating, the Chachomim instituted a ban or a curb on excessive eating starting from a half hour prior to Mincha Ketana (which we noted above was 3:30, so the ban started at 3:00). This would ensure that people had sufficient capacity to eat and fulfill the mitzvos of the night.
We find a similar concept in Shabbos 1:2-3 where the Chachomim banned certain activities close (i.e., half an hour prior) to Mincha or Shabbos. It seems that prior to the advent of clocks and watches when time could be more accurately tracked, a safe rule of thumb was to extend periods by half an hour.
Separately, the Mishna tells us that one must wait until nightfall to begin eating and that even a poor person must wait until he is settled in and leaning to his side before he begins eating (even though he may not have eaten all day).
Finally, the Mishna informs us that everyone must have no less than four (4) cups of wine during the Seder even is he is so poor that he generally is eligible to receive his daily food from the Tamchoi (the communal food plate).
- ערבי פסחים סמוך למנחה. לא יאכל אדם עד שתחשך.
- ואפילו עני שבישראל לא יאכל עד שיסב.
- ולא יפחתו לו מארבע כוסות של יין.
- ואפילו מן התמחוי:
- On Erev Pesach [starting from one half hour] prior to] Mincha [Ketana, i.e., 3:00] a person must refrain from [excessive] eating [to ensure an appetite for the Seder Night] until nightfall
- and even the poorest of people [who may not have eaten all day,] should not begin eating until they are settled in and reclining
- He [any person/poor person] should not be given less than four cups of wine [by the waiter/charity administrator]
- Even [if he typically receives relief] from the charity plate (he either has to procure the wine himself or receive it from the charity).
Introduction to Mishna 10:2
Like all Shabbos and Yom Tov meals, the Seder Night begins with Kiddush. The Chachomim instituted that Kiddush be recited on wine (and if no wine is available, bread may be substituted). The Kiddush has two main components: the blessing on the wine and the blessing over the day itself (i.e., the fact that Hashem has chosen us and set aside this special time for us).
Our Mishna relates a dispute Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel over the proper order of the blessings. This Mishna is repetitive of the Mishna in Berochos 8:1 (although query which is the "real" Mishna) where the same dispute is described. Beis Shammai requires the blessing on the day to be said first since it’s the special nature of the day itself that is causing us to make the blessing on wine. Beis Hillel's view, however, is that but for the presence of the wine, Kiddush would not be said, hence the blessing on wine takes priority.
- מזגו לו* כוס ראשון.
- בית שמאי אומרים מברך על היום. ואחר כך מברך על היין.
- ובית הלל אומרים מברך על היין. ואחר כך מברך על היום:
- They (the waiter) pour the first cup [of wine] for him [for the purpose of reciting Kiddush].
- Beis Shammai say: that he first make the blessing on the day and only afterwards the blessing on the wine
- Beis Hillel says you first make the blessing on the wine followed by the blessing on the day.
* The reference to "him" suggests that only the leader of the Seder need make Kiddush or do any of the other actions discussed throughout the MIshnayos in this Perek. Obviously, our practice is that everyone participates fully in the Seder night.
Introduction to Mishna 10:3
Mishna 3 is perhaps the hardest to decipher in our Perek. What is clear is that the Mishna is telling us about the various foods that are presented during the Seder Night. The confusion stems from the opening language of the Mishna and the words "מטבל בחזרת" and the double use of the words "הביאו לפניו". The commentators struggle to understand what does it mean to dip "in" the lettuce and what are the "two" items brought in front of him. Some commentators suggest that the Mishna is referring to the table which is brought in front of him. It first simply contains lettuce and then other items are added. Others suggest that they bring the entire table and then removed it, all to generate children's questions.
The next question is what exactly is he dipping and into what? The use of the letter ב is confusing because if what he is doing is dipping the lettuce into something it should have said "החזרת". Further, is he dipping the lettuce into Charoses (which would be duplicative of the Maror ceremony) or is he dipping into salt water like we do today? Finally, until when does he dip? Two main understandings have emerged from the commentators. Either פרפרת means the Maror [technically it means appetizer—see Mishna Berochos 6:5] which follows the Matzoh--the meaning of the Mishna being "he dips (and eats) the lettuce (and no other vegetable) until he reaches the Maror. Or, it means "to crumble" (i.e., to break the Matzoh) and the Mishna is read as follows: He dips/eats the lettuce up until he crumbles the Matzoh (at which point he uses the lettuce for Maror).
Finally, the Mishna tells us that besides for the Matzoh and Maror, they bring him Charoses (and the Mishna relates a dispute whether Charoses is a “Mitzvah” (obligatory)) and two cooked foods (representative of the Korban Chagigah and Korban Pesach). During the times of the Beis HaMikdash, they would bring him the actual Korban Pesach.
I note that Albeck suggests that the entire first clause, up until the second "הביאו לפניו" is extraneous and, in fact, was a scribal note accidentally copied into the text at some point (i.e., a copyist explaining what you might do with the Chazeres). While I am hesitant to strike words from the Mishna, it makes intuitive sense and solves many of the issues the commentators have with our Mishna while not detracting from the Halacha as we know it.
- הביאו לפניו מטבל בחזרת.
- עד שמגיע לפרפרת הפת.
- הביאו לפניו מצה וחזרת. וחרוסת. ושני תבשילין.
- אף על פי שאין חרוסת מצוה.
- רבי אליעזר בר צדוק אומר. מצוה.
- ובמקדש. היו מביאים לפניו גופו של פסח:
- [After Kiddush] they brought him [Lettuce/the table] and he would dip/eat the lettuce prior to [breaking the matzoh/up until he would eat the Maror]
- They brought in front of him the Matzoh, Chazeres/Maror, the Charoses and two cooked foods.
- Even though Charoses is not a Mitzvah [they still brought it to him and he would dip the Maror in it to stave off harmful effects]
- Rabi Eliezer says [Charoses] is a Mitzvah [and a person must make a specialized blessing on it].
- During the times of the Beis HaMikdash (i.e., when the Korban Pesach was brought) they would bring the Korban Pesach in front of him as well.
Introduction to Mishna 10:4
The Mishna now turns its attention to what can be seen as the core of the Seder Night as reconstituted by the Chachomim: the Mitzvah of סיפור יציאת מצרים. Although there is a Mitzvah to mention the Exodus from Egypt each day (and each night), the Chachomim understood (based on the Pasuk) that there was an additional and specific Mitzvah of retelling the story to our children on the night of Pesach. Furthermore, again basing themselves on the Pasuk (such as וְהָיָ֞ה כִּֽי־יִשְׁאָלְךָ֥ בִנְךָ֛ ), the Chachomim insisted that the pedagogical system of question/answer be utilized in that process and over the years, a formalized set of questions have been established. Importantly, these should not be the only questions asked on the Seder Night. They are meant to prompt further discussion among the participants.
Two things seem evident from the order and words of our Mishna. First, it would seem that "Magid" was first said after the Matzoh, Maror and meal were eaten making the questions in the Mah Nishtana reflective of the real life situation just experienced at the table. Second, it seems that rather than serving as the text of the son's questions, the Mah Nishtana were prompts used by the leader to engage the children in a discussion—eliciting further questions from those present. Over time, the roles were reversed and the child started saying the Mah Nishtana.
The text of our Mishna somewhat reflects the current version of our Mah Nishtana--however we swap out the question about roasted meat for leaning at the table. The original version contained only three questions:
מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילוֹת?
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ מַטְבִּילִין פַּעַם אֶחָת - והַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעָמִים
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה, והַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה - כֻּלּוֹ מַצָּה
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין בשר צלי שלוק ומבושל, והלילה הזה כלו צלי
The first question reflects the reality that during the period this was written it was common to serve appetizers, including vegetables, prior to the meal. The anomaly on Pesach night was that they were served again during the meal. Notably, there is no separate question for Maror in the original text. The second question regarding Matzoh we are familiar with. The last question reflects either the memory of or the current practice of eating roasted meat (either as a Korban or a Korban substitute) at the Seder to commemorate the Korban Pesach. The Chachomim eventually put an end to that practice out of concern, in part, that one may inadvertently designate the meat as a Korban.
Next, the Mishna sets out the parameters for the night's discussion. We are to start off discussing the more shameful aspects of our history while concluding on a high note. Where to begin is a Talmudic dispute between Rav and Shmuel. Shmuel says we begin by telling how our ancestors were slaves in Egypt (עבדים היינו). Whereas Rav focuses on the spiritual depths of our history when our ancestors were idol worshipers (מִתְּחִלָּה עוֹבְדֵי עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה). More likely than not, these paragraphs constituted older parallel texts to the אֲרַמִּי אֹבֵד אָבִי Darasha that the Mishna refers to next and the Amaroim wanted to include these as well in the official text.
Finally, as noted, the Mishna tells us that there is an obligation to recite and expound on the verses of אֲרַמִּי אֹבֵד אָבִי. These Pesukim are found in the Parsha of Bikkurim--and are part of the declaration a person bringing Bikkurim (the First Fruits) was required to say at the Beis HaMikdash. Not only do these verses provide the briefest of national history overviews, these were well known verses making them the perfect vehicle to fulfill the Seder Night's obligation to retell the story. While it is unclear which Midrash the Mishna is referring to it is clear that it was something well known at that time. The Midrash we use (which can be found in Sifrei Devarim chapter 301) likely incorporates part, if not all, of the original Midrash.
- מזגו לו כוס שני. וכאן הבן שואל אביו.
- ואם אין דעת בבן. אביו מלמדו.
(a) מה נשתנה הלילה הזה מכל הלילות.
(b) שבכל הלילות אנו אוכלין חמץ ומצה. הלילה הזה כולו מצה.
(c) שבכל הלילות. אנו אוכלין שאר ירקות. הלילה הזה מרור.
(d) שבכל הלילות. אנו אוכלין בשר צלי. שלוק. ומבושל. הלילה הזה כולו צלי.
(e) שבכל הלילות. אנו מטבילין פעם אחת. הלילה הזה שתי פעמים.
- ולפי דעתו של בן. אביו מלמדו.
- מתחיל בגנות. ומסיים בשבח.
- ודורש מארמי אובד אבי. עד שיגמור כל הפרשה כולה:
- They (the waiter) pour a second cup [of wine] for him. And [it is at this point in the evening that] the son questions his father.
- And if the son has insufficient understanding [and curiosity to question], his father prompts him by [asking him the following questions]:
(a) Why is this night different from all [other] nights?
(b) On all [other] nights, we eat Chametz and Matzoh*, [but] on this night, [we eat] only Matzoh
(c) On all [other] nights, we eat all kinds of vegetables, [but] on this night, [we eat only] bitter herbs.
(d) On all [other] nights, we eat meat roasted, stewed or boiled, [but] on this night, [we eat] only roasted [meat].
(e) On all [other] nights, we dip [vegetables] once, [but] on this night, we dip [vegetables] twice.
- And according to the son's intelligence, his father instructs [answers/explicates] him.
- He must begin [the Seder liturgy and answering the questions] with [the account of Israel’s] shame and concludes with [Israel’s] glory
- [and he does so by] expounding upon [the Parsha of] “My father was a wandering Aramean” until he completes the whole passage.
* Perhaps what is underlying this question is the fact that the Korban Pesach most commonly resembles the Korban Todah, the Thanksgiving Offering. Both are Shelamim and are meant to be eaten in groups within a shortened time period. However, unlike the Todah which, along with the Korban itself, one brought both Chametz and Matzoh breads, the Pesach only had Matzoh. Any person familiar with the workings of the Beis Hamikdash and the Korbonos would find this strange--prompting a question. If this is true, it would suggest that the formulation of these questions is ancient--from the time of the Beis HaMikdash itself.
Introduction to Mishna 10:5
Mishna 5 is an interesting Mishna. First, Rabban Gamliel's* Halacha--that in order to fulfill your obligations of וְהִגַּדְתָּ֣ לְבִנְךָ֔ בַּיּ֥וֹם הַה֖וּא one must specifically mention and explain Pesach, Matzoh and Marror--itself becomes part of the liturgy. Of course, in the Haggadah, Rabban Gamliel's statement is transformed into question form and the answers are embellished with support from Pasukim.
Second, the next two parts of the Mishna appear not be part of the original text but were later additions. Note that the Mishna itself does not say one "should say these words," but they have definitively become part of the liturgy itself. The last part of the Mishna appears to be a transition from the Mitzvah of Sippur to the Mitzvah of Hallel.
*There is some debate as to which Rabban Gamliel our Mishna is referring. It may be the later Rabban Gamliel of Yavneh or his great-grandfather, who lived at the end of the Second Beis HaMikdash.
- רבן גמליאל היה אומר.
(a) כל שלא אמר שלשה דברים אלו בפסח. לא יצא ידי חובתו.
(b) ואלו הן. פסח. מצה. ומרור.
- פסח. על שום שפסח המקום על בתי אבותינו במצרים.
- מצה. על שום שנגאלו אבותינו במצרים.
- מרור. על שום שמררו המצריים את חיי אבותינו במצרים.
- בכל דור ודור חייב אדם לראות את עצמו. כאילו הוא יצא ממצרים. שנאמר (שמות יג, ח) והגדת לבנך ביום ההוא לאמר. בעבור זה עשה יי לי בצאתי ממצרים.
- לפיכך אנחנו חייבין להודות. להלל. לשבח. לפאר. לרומם להדר. לברך. לעלה ולקלס. למי שעשה לאבותינו. ולנו את כל הניסים האלו. הוציאנו מעבדות לחירות. מיגון לשמחה. ומאבל ליום טוב. ומאפילה לאור גדול ומשעבוד לגאולה ונאמר לפניו הללויה:
- Rabban Gamliel used to say:
(a) Whoever does not mentioned these three things on Pesach [night] does not discharge his duty [of retelling the Exodus story to his children],
(b) and these things are: the Korban Pesach, Matzoh and Marror [the Mishna now breaks it own for us]
- The Korban Pesach [is offered] because Hashem passed over the homes of our ancestors in Egypt.
- Matzoh [is exclusively eaten] because our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt.
- [The] Marror is [eaten] because the Egyptians embittered the lives of our ancestors in Egypt.
- In every generation a person must regard himself as though he personally had gone out of Egypt, as it is said: “And you shall tell your son in that day, saying: ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.’”
- Therefore it is our duty to thank, praise, laud, glorify, exalt, honor, bless, extol, and adore Him Who performed all these miracles for our ancestors and us; He brought us forth from bondage into freedom, from sorrow into joy, from mourning into festivity, from darkness into great light, and from servitude into redemption. Therefore let us say before Him, Hallelujah!
Introduction to Mishna 10:6
We saw that during the times of the Beis HaMikdash, the Levi’im would sing Hallel while the people slaughtered their Korbanei Pesach. However, on the Seder Night there is a separate Mitzvah to say Hallel as part of the meal itself. From the Mishna it seems that Hallel was split into two parts. The first one or two chapters being said prior to Birchas HaMazon and the second (and bulk of the chapters) part, afterwards. Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel argue whether the second chapter of Hallel, בצאת ישראל , is said in the first part.
Second, the Mishna tells us the rule that a blessing is said at the conclusion of the Haggadah. Rabi Tarfon and Rabi Akiva argue as to the precise nature and text of the blessing. Our common practice is to combine both of their views in one long Blessing.
- עד היכן הוא אומר?
(a) בית שמאי אומרים. עד אם הבנים שמחה.
(b) ובית הלל אומרים עד חלמיש למעינו מים
- וחותם בגאולה.
(a) רבי טרפון אומר. אשר גאלנו. וגאל את אבותינו ממצרים.
(b) ולא היה חותם.
(c) רבי עקיבא אומר. כן יי אלקינו ואלקי אבותינו יגיענו למועדים ולרגלים אחרים הבאים לקראתינו לשלום. שמחים בבנין עירך וששים בעבודתך. ונאכל שם מן הזבחים ומן הפסחים כו' עד ברוך אתה יי גאל ישראל:
- [As part of the Hallel prior to Birchas HaMazon] until which chapter does he say?
(a) Beis Shammai says [only the first chapter] Up to 'as a happy mother of children'.
(b) Beis Hillel says [you include the second chapter as well since it references the Exodus] Up to 'flint stone into a water-spring',
- [all agree that Magid] concludes with a blessing of redemption
(a) Rabi Tarfon says [it is a limited blessing simply saying] 'who redeemed us and our ancestors from Egypt',
(b) and this blessing did not have a conclusory blessing
(c) Rabi Akiva [added substantially to the blessing to include a prayer for the future redemption]: 'O Hashem our G-d and G-d of our ancestors--may we come to reach other seasons and festivals in peace, joyful in the rebuilding of your city, and jubilant in your Temple service, where we will eat from the offerings and Passover sacrifices etc.' until 'Bless you Hashem, Redeemer of Israel.
Introduction to Mishna 10:7
Mishna 7 concludes the Seder evening and describes the final two cups of wine. The third cup of wine is used for Birchas HaMazon while the fourth is used to complete the second part of the Hallel. The Mishna mentions that Hallel concludes with "Birchas HaShir" which either means the standard יהללוך we say at the end of Hallel service or it means נשמת כל חי. In practice, we say both--a practice the RamBam found praiseworthy.
Finally, the Mishna tells us that one cannot drink extra cups of wine between the third and fourth cups (and likely between the first and second). But one may drink between the first set and the second (i.e., during the meal--this interpretation assumes that the meal comes after Magid).
- מזגו לו כוס שלישי מברך על מזונו.
- רביעי גומר עליו את ההלל.
- ואומר עליו ברכת השיר.
- בין הכוסות הללו אם רוצה לשתות ישתה. בין שלישי לרביעי. לא ישתה:
- They (the waiter) pours the third cup; on which he says Birchas haMazon
- [They then pour him] the fourth [cup] [and he] completes Hallel,
- [As part of Hallel] he says the Birchas Hashir.
- Between these [the first and second sets of] cups, if he wishes to drink, he may drink [additional wine]. Between the third and the fourth [cups], he may not drink. [the same would be between the first and second cup].
The Korban HaOmer
The Torah tells us in Parshas Emor:*
וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יי אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר׃ (י) דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵקֶ֔ם כִּֽי־תָבֹ֣אוּ אֶל־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֤ר אֲנִי֙ נֹתֵ֣ן לָכֶ֔ם וּקְצַרְתֶּ֖ם אֶת־קְצִירָ֑הּ וַהֲבֵאתֶ֥ם אֶת־עֹ֛מֶר רֵאשִׁ֥ית קְצִירְכֶ֖ם אֶל־הַכֹּהֵֽן׃ (יא) וְהֵנִ֧יף אֶת־הָעֹ֛מֶר לִפְנֵ֥י יי לִֽרְצֹנְכֶ֑ם מִֽמָּחֳרַת֙ הַשַּׁבָּ֔ת יְנִיפֶ֖נּוּ הַכֹּהֵֽן׃ (יב) וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֕ם בְּי֥וֹם הֲנִֽיפְכֶ֖ם אֶת־הָעֹ֑מֶר כֶּ֣בֶשׂ תָּמִ֧ים בֶּן־שְׁנָת֛וֹ לְעֹלָ֖ה לַיי (יג) וּמִנְחָתוֹ֩ שְׁנֵ֨י עֶשְׂרֹנִ֜ים סֹ֣לֶת בְּלוּלָ֥ה בַשֶּׁ֛מֶן אִשֶּׁ֥ה לַיי רֵ֣יחַ נִיחֹ֑חַ וְנִסְכֹּ֥ה יַ֖יִן רְבִיעִ֥ת הַהִֽין׃ (יד) וְלֶחֶם֩ וְקָלִ֨י וְכַרְמֶ֜ל לֹ֣א תֹֽאכְל֗וּ עַד־עֶ֙צֶם֙ הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה עַ֚ד הֲבִ֣יאֲכֶ֔ם אֶת־קָרְבַּ֖ן אֱלֹקֵיכֶ֑ם חֻקַּ֤ת עוֹלָם֙ לְדֹרֹ֣תֵיכֶ֔ם בְּכֹ֖ל מֹשְׁבֹֽתֵיכֶֽם׃ (ס) (טו) וּסְפַרְתֶּ֤ם לָכֶם֙ מִמָּחֳרַ֣ת הַשַּׁבָּ֔ת מִיּוֹם֙ הֲבִ֣יאֲכֶ֔ם אֶת־עֹ֖מֶר הַתְּנוּפָ֑ה שֶׁ֥בַע שַׁבָּת֖וֹת תְּמִימֹ֥ת תִּהְיֶֽינָה׃ (טז) עַ֣ד מִֽמָּחֳרַ֤ת הַשַּׁבָּת֙ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔ת תִּסְפְּר֖וּ חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים י֑וֹם וְהִקְרַבְתֶּ֛ם מִנְחָ֥ה חֲדָשָׁ֖ה לַיי
On מִֽמָּחֳרַ֤ת הַשַּׁבָּת֙ we are commanded to bring a special Korban Mincha (a Korban made from grain) called the Korban Omer--which is to be brought specifically from the new grain crop. Besides for the many Halachos about the Korban itself, the bringing of the Korban acts as a trigger for many other Mitzvos as well.
Halochos of the Korban Omer
- As noted, the Korban Omer is brought from the new grain, specifically barley (which ripens around Pesach time).
- The barley must be from Eretz Yisroel and, in fact, this requirement is what differentiates the holiness of Eretz Yisroel over other lands. (see Keilim 1:6).
- It is supposed to come from the first harvest as well, therefore, it is generally prohibited, with some exceptions, to harvest grain in Eretz Yisroel prior to the bringing of the Korban Omer.
- It is to be harvested at night but, if harvested during the day, the Korban is kosher.
- The harvesting and bringing of the Korban Omer was done with great fanfare and even pushes aside shabbos.
- The grains were roasted and then ground into fine flour.
Other Mitzvos Tied to the Korban Omer
- Prior to the bringing of this Korban, it is prohibited to eat from the new crop of grain (i.e., any grain that has taken root since the prior year's Korban). This is called חדש. Essentially, any grain grown after last year’s Korban Omer remains prohibited to eat until after this year’s Korban is offered. Today, in the absence of the Beis Hamikdash, we wait until the night after the 16th (or outside Eretz Yisroel, the 17th) of Nissan to partake in new grain. As a practical matter, since we do not use grain on Pesach, we wait until after Pesach to eat new grain.
- Starting from the night we harvest the Korban Omer, the Torah tells us to count seven full weeks (Sefiras HaOmer), 49 days. On the 50th day (which is the Yom Tom of Shavuos), we are to bring another Korban Mincha, this one is called the Shtei HaLechem (the two loaves of bread). This Mincha comes from wheat (not barley) and is the first new wheat brought in the Beis HaMikdash. Prior to this date, no Korban can be brought from the new Harvest.
When exactly (i.e., which day) the Korban Omer was to be brought was the subject of a great dispute during the times of the Second Beis Hamikdash. As will be described in greater detail below (Mishna Menachos 10:3), according to the Chachomim/Perushim/Pharisees, ממחרת השבת was defined as the 16th of Nissan, the second day of Pesach. The "Shabbos" being referred to in the Pasuk was understood to mean Pesach. On the other hand, the various sects (Tziddukim (Saducees), Boethusians and Essenes) took the Torah's words literally so that, in their calendar, the Korban Omer was always brought on the Sunday following the first day of Pesach. This later group would try and make the first day of Pesach fall on a Shabbos so that Sunday would fall out on the 16th of Nissan.
Below, is a selection of Mishnayos from the 10th Perek of Menachos describing aspects of the Korban Omer. It certainly does not cover every aspect of the Korban but provides sufficient background for the interested reader to explore further. Additional source materials can be found at http://www.sefaria.org/sheets/62889.
The purple highlighted passages represent Positive Mitzvos; Red are Negative Mitzvos.
Introduction to Mishna 10:3-4
The following two Mishnayos describe the process of harvesting, preparing and bringing of the Korban Omer. It would start prior to Pesach when the court would send out people to bundle the grain (while it was standing) so that it would be easier and faster to reap at night. The barley had to be roasted before being ground and sifted (13 times!). Once the flour was made it was mixed with oil, layered with frankincense, waived and a portion was offered on the Alter. the rest would be eaten by the Kohanim.
The Mishna describes the fanfare associated with the harvesting ceremony. People would gather on the night after the first day of Pesach in the fields outside Yerushalyim and watch as the barley was harvested. There was significant audience participation in this event and the mood was particularly joyous. There were a number of reasons for this. First, as noted, the harvest took place during the holiday of Pesach and the people were already in a joyous mood. Second, the Omer signified the start of the harvesting season. Third, as specifically mentioned in the Mishna and as is described in detail below, the proper date of the Korban Omer was a point of contention and the Chachomim, by including the general population, sought to solidify their viewpoint that the proper date to bring the Korban Omer was the eve of the 16th of Nissan.
Because the Korban Omer was a public offering, the barley from which it was brought was paid for by the public coffers (See Shekalim 4:1). Because only a small portion of the extracted flour was needed for the Korban Omer, the residual could be purchased and redeemed by anyone. Once redeemed, any dough made from the flour was subject to the obligation of Challah [the requirement to give a potion of every dough to the Kohein]. The end of Mishna 4 describes a dispute over whether the redeemed flour is obligated in Terumos and Maasros. The Chachomim say it is not obligated since at the time the obligation comes into being (i.e., the obligation to give Terumos and Ma'asros kicks in once the winnowed pile of grain is smoothed over) the grain was owned by Hekdesh. Whereas, according the Rabi Akiva, from the onset, Hekdesh only wanted to purchase the limited amount of flour needed for the Korban, therefore, the residual flour was never purchased by Hekdesh--hence the flour was subject to Ma’asros from the very beginning.
The Different Jewish Sects
Towards the second half of the second Beis HaMikdash a number of different groups (sects) of Jews developed, including the Tziddukim (Saducees), Boethusians and Essenes. The Chachomim were known as Peirushim (Pharisees). Throughout the Mishnayos we find a number of disagreements between these groups and the Chachomim. One of the most famous and contentious fights was over the day on which the Korban Omer was to be brought.
Traditional sources relate that the Sadducian sect was started by a wayward student of Antigonus Ish Socho named Tzadok. He misinterpreted one of his Rebbe's teachings and could not reconcile it with his faith. It is commonly misunderstood that that the Sadducees only believed in or followed exclusively the Torah Sh'beksav, the Written Torah (like the Karaites of the Middle Ages). However, as it appears in various Mishnayos, while they had their own distinctive way of explicating the Torah and its laws--often adhering to a more Peshat level understanding of the text--they did have an interpretive tradition. Many of their leaders were active in the Beis HaMikdash and the Beis Midrash and, more importantly, there likely was not a singular set of Halochos they all followed. In addition, while not identical, the Qumran sect espoused similar Halachik positions. See generally, Eyal Regev, הצדוקים והלכתם: על דת וחברה בימי בית שני, יד יצחק בן צבי, ירושלים תשס"ה and Yair Furstenberg, "קובלין אנו עליכם פרושים: לעיצובה של תמונת העולם הפרושית במשנה", א' רוזנק וד' שרייבר (עורכים), ההלכה: הקשרים רעיוניים ואידיאולוגיים גלויים וסמויים, מגנס וואן ליר, ירושלים תשע"ב, עמ' 283-211
In describing the day on which to bring the Korban the Torah uses the term "מִֽמָּחֳרַת֙ הַשַּׁבָּ֔ת," the day after "shabbos." The Chachomim had a tradition that this meant the day after the first day of Pesach (i.e., the second day of Pesach). Whereas, the Boethusians, relying on a literal translation of the words held that the Korban was meant to be brought on the Sunday following the first day of Pesach (this would mean that the date of the Korban was not fixed and it would depend on when Pesach fell--but it would always be a Sunday, as would Shavuous). Importantly, this also meant that according to the Boethusians the harvesting of the Omer would never fall on Shabbos, requiring the potential desecration of Shabbos, something they generally would try and avoid at all costs.
The only time these two group would agree that the Korban be brought on the same day was when the first day of Pesach fell on Shabbos. Then, according to all, the Korban Omer was brought the next day, Sunday, the second day of Pesach. In order to make sure this would happen, the Boethusians would try to make sure that Rosh Chodesh Nissan fell on a Shabbos--at times that would mean having witnesses say they saw the new moon on Friday night even if they had not. Our Mishna tells us that once this started happening, the Beis Din would only rely on witnesses that were known not to be Boethusians. (See Rosh Hashana 2:1)
Notably, we do not find specific cases of the Pharisees directly challenging the logic of the Sadducian Halacha, rather, you find numerous instances of the Pharisees (and the later Chachomim) taking actions to indoctrinate their own views and solidify its practice. For example, our case of the harvesting of the Omer, the procession and the triple repeat of the instructions ensured that no one forgot the law. Similarly, we find the Chachomim admonishing the Kohein Godol prior to Yom Kippur to properly observe the Incense Service. Finally, when it came to the Parah Adumah, the Chachomim would specifically make the Kohein designated to burn the Heifer a "T'vul Yom" so as to clearly indicate that the Halacha was not like the Sadducees.
כיצד היו עושים?
- שלוחי בית דין. יוצאים מערב יום טוב. ועושים אותו כריכות במחובר לקרקע. כדי שיהא נוח לקצור.
- וכל העיירות הסמוכות לשם מתכנסות לשם. כדי שיהא נקצר בעסק גדול.
- כיון שחשכה. אומר להם. בא השמש. אומרים הין. בא השמש. אומרים הין.
- מגל זו. אומרים הין. מגל זו. אומרים הין.
- קופה זו. אומרים הין. קופה זו. אומרים הין.
- בשבת אומר להם. שבת זו. אומרים הין. שבת זו. אומרים הין.
- אקצור. והם אומרים לו. קצור. אקצור והם אומרים לו קצור.
- שלשה פעמים על כל דבר ודבר.
- והם אומרים לו הין הין הין
- כל כך למה מפני הביתוסים. שהיו אומרים. אין קצירת העומר במוצאי יום טוב:
How would they go about [harvesting, preparing and bringing the Korban Omer]?
- The Beis Din's agents would go out [to the surrounding field where the barley for the Omer was growing] prior to the holiday [Pesach] and they would tie [the barley] together in bundles while still attached to the ground so that it would be easy to cut [the following night].
- [the residents of the] surrounding cities would all gather there (i.e., the place of harvest) so that the harvest would take place amidst great fanfare.
- Once it got dark (i.e., the eve of the 16th of Nissan), [the three reapers] would say to them [the crowd that gathered], "Has the sun set?" and they would answer "Yes!". [he would repeat] Has the sun set? and they would answer "Yes!"
- [should I harvest] "With this sickle?" and they would answer "Yes!", [he would repeat] "With this sickle?" and they would answer "Yes!"
- [should I place the barley] "Into this basket?", and they would answer "Yes!", [he would repeat] "Into this basket?" and they would answer "Yes!"
- [if the night of the 16th of Nissan fell] on Friday night (i.e., Shabbos), he would say to them, "Is it Shabbos?" and they would answer "Yes!", [he would repeat] "Is it Shabbos?" and they would answer "Yes!"
- [finally, he would ask] "Shall I reap?" and they would answer "Reap!" [he would repeat] "Shall I reap?" and they would answer "Reap!"
- for each of these stages/questions he would repeat himself three times
- and they would answer, "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
- Why was all this necessary? To undermine the Boethusians. for they interpreted the Torah as saying that the Omer is not necessarily brought on the 16th of Nissan--the night after the first day of Pesach [rather they said it should be harvested on the Saturday Night following the start of Pesach].
- קצרוהו ונתנוהו בקופות הביאוהו לעזרה.
- (a) היו מהבהבין אותו באור. כדי לקיים בו מצות קלי. דברי רבי מאיר.
(b) וחכמים אומרים. בקנים ובקליחות חובטים אותו כדי שלא יתמעך. נתנוהו לאבוב. ואבוב היה מנוקב. כדי שיהא האור שולט בכולו.
- שטחוהו בעזרה. והרוח מנשבת בו.
- נתנוהו ברחיים של גרוסות. והוציאו ממנו עשרון. שהוא מנופה משלש עשרה נפה.
- (a) והשאר נפדה. ונאכל לכל אדם. וחייב בחלה. ופטור מן המעשרות.
(b) רבי עקיבא מחייב בחלה. ובמעשרות.
- בא לו לעשרון. ונתן שמנו ולבונתו.
- יצק. ובלל.
- הניף והגיש. וקמץ. והקטיר.
- והשאר נאכל לכהנים:
- They would reap [the barley], place [the sheaths] in the baskets and bring them to the Azarah.
- (a) [there] they would would singe [the stalks of barley directly] over the fire to fulfill the commandment [that the Korban Omer be brought from] parched grain, [these are] the words of Rabbi Meir;
(b) the Sages say [you first] beat the stalks of barley with reeds and stems [to remove the husks] so that [the grains themselves] would not be crushed; they [would then] place [the barley grains] into a metal tube which was perforated to ensure the fire reached the entirety of the grain.
- They would [after the kernels were roasted] spread them out in the courtyard and the wind would blow through it [removing the chaff and removing residual moisture],
- [the kernels, once dry, would then] be placed in a mill and [and coarsly ground and sifted thirteen times] so that an issaron (one tenth of an Eifah--a specific measure of volume) of fine flour could be extracted;
- (a) the rest of the flour would be redeemed and [could then] be eaten by anyone, [and dough made from the redeemed flour] was obligated in Challah, but exempt from Ma'asros.
(b) Rabbi Akiva said it is obligated in both Challah and Ma'asros.
- [The next morning, i.e., the 16th day of Nissan, the person charged with preparing the Korban Omer] approached the Issaron [of flour], and he would place oil and frankincense in the vessel [first] and then the flour.
- he poured [additional oil] and mixed [the ingredients]
- he waived [the Korban in all directions] and brought it close [to the corner of the Mizbeach], [he then] took a handful and burned it [on the Mizbeach]
- The remainder [of the Korban] would be eaten by the priests.
Introduction to Mishna 10:7
The Chachomim identified five main grains: wheat, barley, spelt, oats* and rye which are subject to a number of Halachos. These grains can be used for Matzoh and, alternatively, can become Chametz. Dough made from these grains are subject to the laws of Challah.** According to our Mishna, the dough need not be made from a single grain--in other words you can combine grains to make Challah-eligible dough.
The bringing of the Korban Omer acts as a trigger to permit two, otherwise prohibited actions. First, the Mishna tells us that these grains are subject to the rules of Chadash. The Pasuk tells us וְלֶחֶם֩ וְקָלִ֨י וְכַרְמֶ֜ל לֹ֣א תֹֽאכְל֗וּ עַד־עֶ֙צֶם֙ הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה עַ֚ד הֲבִ֣יאֲכֶ֔ם אֶת־קָרְבַּ֖ן--it is prohibited to eat from these new grains prior to the bringing of the Korban Omer. This prohibition applies even nowadays--even without a Beis HaMikdash. As we will see in Mishna 5, this prohibition lasts until day’s end on the 16th (or 17th) of Nissan. Then, all new grain is permissible to consume.
Second, the Pasuk tells us that the Omer is to be from the first harvest. וַהֲבֵאתֶ֥ם אֶת־עֹ֛מֶר רֵאשִׁ֥ית קְצִירְכֶ֖ם. By implication, this means that you are prohibited from harvesting anything prior to the cutting of the Omer. Once again, the harvesting of the Omer permits subsequent harvesting of all grain.
Finally, the Mishna expands on the topic of Chadash and explains that in order for the grain to be "freed" by the Korban Omer, it must have taken root prior to the bringing of the Korban. Otherwise, it will remain prohibited until after the following year's Korban if offered.
This exact Mishna is repeated in Challah 1:1 (with a slight change to the introduction leading some to suggest that that Mishna is a combinatin of our Mishna with an additional introductory phrase that, at one point, was the entirety of the Mishna in Challah).
* As of late, there are some who have questioned the identity of oats as on of the five grains.
**From every dough measuring at least 43 1/5 egg's in volume, you are required to set aside a portion of the dough for the Kohein.
- החטים והשעורים. והכוסמין ושבולת שועל והשיפון חייבין בחלה ומצטרפים זה עם זה.
- ואסורים בחדש מלפני הפסח.
- ומלקצור מלפני העומר.
- ואם השרישו קודם לעומר. העומר מתירן.
- ואם לאו אסורים עד שיבוא עומר הבא:
- [The following five grains] wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye are obligated in Challah and [a dough made up of a mixture of these grains] may be combined into a single dough [which will then be] obligated in Challah [as well].
- [These grains] are also subject to the prohibition of Chadash (i.e., the new crop cannot be eaten] prior to Pesach*;
- [and since the Korban Omer must be brought from the first harvest] they are [subject to] the prohibition of being harvested prior to the bringing of the Korban Omer.*
- If the grain took root prior to the Korban Omer being brought then the [bringing of the Korban Omer] will permit [the grain],
- and if not [i.e., it had not taken root prior to the bringing of the Korban Omer,] the grain will remain prohibited until the bringing of the following year's Korban Omer.
* The change in terminology from Pesach to Omer is discussed in the Jerusalem Talmud (Yerushalmi). Some version flip the order referencing the Omer with respect to Chadash and Pesach regarding harvesting.
Introduction to Mishna 10:5
As we learned in Mishna 7, it is prohibited to harvest any grains prior to the harvesting of the Omer. Once the Omer was harvested, however, you are allowed to harvest other grains. According to our Mishna, it seems that as soon as the Omer was offered the marketplace would be flooded with flour and grain from the new harvest. For this to happen, it meant that the farmers spent the night, after the Omer was cut, harvesting their fields and bringing the product to market. Our Mishna records a dispute between Rabi Meir and Rabi Yehuda whether this was appropriate behavior (i.e., should the merchants have waited some amount of additional time before offering their wares for sale).
According to Rabi Meir, the Chachomim extended the prohibition on harvesting until after the Omer was offered on the Mizbeach because they were afraid that if you allowed people to harvest the grain right way, they may inadvertently eat the grain prior the Omer's offering--which is biblically prohibited. Rabi Yehudah did not share that concern and even seemingly encouraged the grains' immediate appearance.
As noted, the offering of the Korban Omer was the triggering event permitting the consumption of the new grain. During the times of the Beis Hamikdash, for those living in and near Yerushalyim it was easy to ascertain when the Korban was brought, allowing the consumption of new grain. For those further away, they waited until Noon to eat the new grain because surely by then the Omer would have been brought.
In the absence of the Beis HaMikdash when are you allowed to eat the new grain? According to Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai, the grain is permitted starting at daybreak of the 16th of Nissan. However, if people grew accustomed to eating the new grain immediately, there was a concern that when the Beis HaMikdash would be rebuilt they may forget to wait until the Korban Omer was offered--resulting in a violation of a biblical prohibition. Therefore, he instituted a rule that you must wait until the eve of the 17th of Nissan (or 18th outside of Israel) before eating the new grain.
Rabi Yehudah, on the other hand, understood the words עַד־עֶ֙צֶם֙ הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה עַ֚ד הֲבִ֣יאֲכֶ֔ם אֶת־קָרְבַּ֖ן as providing two trigger points. When there is a Beis HaMikdash, the bringing of the Korban frees the grain. However, in the absence of the Beis HaMikdash, you have to wait the entire day. As a practical matter, both Rabi Yehudah and Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai require you to wait until the eve of the 17th of Nissan.
- משקרב העומר יוצאין ומוצאין שוק ירושלים. שהוא מלא קמח וקלי. שלא ברצון חכמים. דברי רבי מאיר.
- רבי יהודה אומר. ברצון חכמים היו עושים.
- משקרב העומר הותר החדש מיד.
- והרחוקים מותרים מחצות היום ולהלן.
- משחרב בית המקדש התקין רבן יוחנן בן זכאי שיהא יום הנף כולו אסור.
- אמר רבי יהודה והלא מן התורה הוא אסור. שנאמר (ויקרא כג, יד) עד עצם היום הזה.
- מפני מה הרחוקים מותרים מחצות היום ולהלן. מפני שהן יודעין שאין בית דין מתעצלין בו:
- [immediately after] the Omer was offered [on the Mizbeach], they used to go out and find the Jerusalem markets full of flour and parched grain [of the new produce which was harvested overnight], [though this was] against the will of the Chachomim [since they were concerned that you may inadvertently eat the grain before the Korban was offered] [these are] the words of Rabi Meir;
- Rabi Yehudah says: the [merchants] were acting [in accordance with] the will of the Chachomim (i.e., there was no concern that you may inadvertently eat the grain).
- [As soon as] the omer was offered, the new grain was permitted [for those living in Yerushalyim],
- [nonetheless] for those that lived far off it was permitted only after midday.
- After the Temple was destroyed Rabi Yohanan ben Zakkai instituted that [new grain] [remain] prohibited throughout the entire day (i.e., the 16th of Nissan--colloquially called the "day of waiving") .
- Rabbi Judah said: [there is no reason to institute a new decree inasmuch as the new grain] is anyways biblically prohibited all of that day, for it is said, “Until this very day?” (Leviticus 23:14)
- [returning to the point that during the times of the Beis HaMikdash those living far away could eat starting at Noon rather than waiting all day, the Mishna explains] So why was it permitted for those that lived far away [to eat the new grain starting] from midday? Because they know that the court would not be lazy regarding the bringing of the Korban (i.e., they would move quickly in the morning to bring the Korban Omer)..
For an article summarizing the Takkanah of R' Yochanan ben Zakkai on Chodosh, see Prof. Eliezer E. Goldschmidt, Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai's Regulation on New Grain [Hebrew], Hama'yan, Vol. 221, Nissan 5777 [57:3], pp10-19. http://www.machonso.org/hamaayan/?gilayon=45&id=1332
One view is that rather than extending a prohibition, in the absence of the korban Omer and it's inherent ability to permit Chadash, it was not clear how or when Chadash would become permitted in the new era. Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai's core teaching was that the grain, in fact, becomes permitted immediately upon daybreak on the 16th of Nissan. He then instituted his decree to wait the extra day to both inculcate a sense of yearning for the Beis HaMikdash and to prevent a potenital violation of a biblical prohibition.
Introduction to Mishna 10:9
As noted above, no grain was to be harvested prior to the harvesting of the Korban Omer. The biblical prohibition, however, was limited to harvesting from fields whose grains were otherwise eligible to be used for the Korban Omer. (see Mishna 10:8). Our Mishna sets out a number of other exceptions. First, is grain growing among saplings. Since such grain is not eligible to be brought for the Korban Omer and if you let the grain grow it may damage the saplings, we allow you to remove it (and you do not have to worry that you will eat such grain prior to the Omer being brought). The second exception is when the harvest is being done for non-personal reasons, such as a Mitzvah. Our Mishna posits two cases of harvesting in aid of a Mitzvah. First, it is to clear an area where mourners can gather and people can make the appropriate blessing. Second, to clear an area so that more students may study Torah. Importantly, even when permitted to harvest, one must not do so in the regular way. He should not tie the stalks into bundles, but rather let them remain loose.
The Mishna then continues with a series of "best practices" one should try and undertake when bringing the Korban Omer. Importantly, if you cannot fulfill any (or all) of them the Korban may still be brought. The most intriguing one is that if the grain cannot be harvested by night, it may be done by day. This is seemingly in contradiction to the Mishna in Megillah 2:6 which counts the harvesting of the Omer among those Mitzvos to be done at night.
Finally, like with all public offerings, the Mishna tells us that the bringing of the Korban Omer (including the harvesting, processing and offering) pushes aside any prohibition Shabbos may impose.* Obviously the Boethusians would not agree.
*The Gemara records a dispute whether the reference to permissible actions on Shabbos includes even harvesting the Omer or whether it is limited to offering the Omer (but harvesting may not be done on Shabbos). The reason to exclude harvesting is since harvesting may be done by day (if need be) it remains prohibited to harvest on Shabbos--this presumes that the "day" also includes the day prior to the 16th (i.e., the 15th--or rather, the 14th of Nissan). Based on this, the Meforshim take exception to the RAMBAM's ruling that the Korban Omer may, if need be, harvested by day and that its harvesting also pushes aside Shabbos.
(a) מפני הנטיעות.
(b) מפני בית האבל.
(c) מפני בטול בית המדרש.
- לא יעשה אותן כריכות אבל מניחן צבתים.
- מצות העומר.
(a) לבא מן הקמה. לא מצא יביא מן העמרים.
(b) מצותו לבא מן הלח. לא מצא יביא מן היבש.
(c) מצותו לקצור בלילה נקצר ביום כשר
(d) ודוחה את השבת:
- One may harvest [prior to the bringing of the Korban Omer]
(a) for the sake of the saplings [i.e., so as not to damage them]
(b) [to clear an opening] for the sake of a house of mourning
(c) [and to clear space] for a Beis Midrash,
- [even when permitted to harvest] one should not bind the stalks together but rather leave them in loose bunches.
- The [best fulfillment of the] commandment of the Omer
(a) is that is come from standing grain; if he did not find any, he may bring from bundled grain.
(b) is that it come fresh; if he did not find any, he may bring it dry.
(c) is that it be reaped at night; if it was reaped during the day, it is still valid;
(d) and [all its activities/being offered] overrides Shabbos [prohibitions].