For the week ending 22 June 2013 / 13 Tammuz 5773

Pesachim 2 - 8

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • When the search for chametz takes place
  • The importance of esthetic speech and concise expression
  • The detective work of Rabbi Yehuda ben Beteiro
  • Giving yourself away by what you say
  • Why the chametz search is done at night
  • Landlord and tenant in regard to responsibility for chametz search
  • Torah source for ban on eating chametz from midday of the 14th
  • The three “firsts” in our people’s history
  • The chametz of a non-Jew or which is property of the Sanctuary
  • How the king’s tax on an animal or grain affects the halachic status
  • When one leaves his home or turns it into a warehouse
  • Studying the laws of Pesach 30 days before the holiday
  • Renouncing ownership of chametz
  • Mystery of food not recognizable whether matzo or chametz
  • The blessing made before search for chametz and other mitzvot
  • Why a candle is used for the chametz search
  • Which places must be searched for chametz
  • Divine protection for mitzvah performance

Shedding Light on “Light”

  • Pesachim 2-3a

“The light of the 14th (of Nissan) is when the search for chametz is conducted.”

This is how Mesechta Pesachim begins.

It is not clear from the language of the mishna, however, whether the term “light” refers to the evening preceding the 14th or the morning of that day. After a rather elaborate discussion of the subject based on the sources in Tanach and Talmud where the term light appears, a conclusion is reached that the meaning of light here is the evening.

But why, asks the gemara, does the mishna use such an ambiguous term which can easily be mistaken for its more obvious meaning of day?

The answer given is that the mishna preferred a lishna me’alya – a euphemism – for the less esthetic term “night” which is associated with darkness.

In explaining this point Rabbi Avraham ben David (RAB”D), one of the early commentaries, notes that no matter how important it is to follow the directive of the Sage Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi to always seek to avoid an unaesthetic expression, this alone would not have justified referring to the night as light. Since there is still some light lingering when the evening begins, there is a legitimate choice of referring to that time period as either the beginning of the night or simply as light. The need to use aesthetic expression then tips the scale in favor of light.

The practical halachic implication of this is that one should begin his search for chametz at the very beginning of the evening of the 14th while there is still a lingering light and not to delay since such delay may lead to completely forgetting this obligation.

What the Sages Say

“Why was Jerusalem not privileged to have hot springs like Tiberias? So that those who made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem for each of the Three Festivals would not say it was worth going there just for the hot springs, and thus making their mitzvah wrongly motivated.”

- Rabbi Dostai ben Rabbi Yannai
Pesachim 8b

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