For the week ending 24 August 2013 / 18 Elul 5773

Pesachim 65 - 71

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • The “lazy group” and a perspective on indispensability
  • Washing the Beit Hamikdash floor when Shabbat is the day of offering Pesach sacrifice
  • Why the blood of the sacrifices was temporarily restrained from exiting
  • Which normally forbidden Shabbat activities could be done for the Pesach sacrifice
  • Why the Sage Hillel was appointed head of the Sanhedrin
  • The dangers of pride and anger
  • The limitations imposed on different sorts of spiritually impure people and how they differ in regard to offering Pesach sacrifice
  • Resurrection of the dead and other wonders of the hereafter
  • The special days when eating is a mitzvah
  • The sharp exchange between Rabbi Eliezer and his disciple Rabbi Akiva
  • Rabbi Akiva’s principle re violating Shabbat for Pesach sacrifice as it applies to Shabbat circumcision
  • The Chagigah sacrifice – when it is offered in addition to the Pesach one and the rules that apply to it
  • Ben Taima’s position and the question not asked at the Pesach Seder
  • The knives lost and found
  • Fulfilling the mitzvah of simcha with eating sacrificial flesh

For G-d and You

  • Pesachim 68b

We are accustomed to dividing our holidays, with half dedicated to the service of G-d with prayer and Torah study and the other half to enjoying food and drink. The source for this formula is an apparent contradiction between two passages dealing with our obligations during our sacred festivals.

In regard to the festival of Pesach we find (Devarim 16:8) the term atzeret – a festive gathering – is used, and it is described as being dedicated to G-d. When it comes to the eighth day of Succot, the same term, atzeret, is used (Bamidbar 29:35), but this time it is designated as being for your – ’s – indulgence.

Rabbi Eliezer’s resolution of the two passages is that a Jew has a choice of either dedicating himself completely to prayer and Torah study on the holiday to the exclusion of festive meals, or to indulge in festive meals as the main celebration of the day. Rabbi Yehoshua, on the other hand, saw in these conflicting passages a signal to split the holy day between the spiritual and the physical.

Two questions arise in regard to this gemara:

1) Since the passages cited refer to two different festivals, why not assume that on one of them we must dedicate our atzeret to the service of G-d and on the other atzeret to our physical enjoyment?
2) In regard to the third festival, Shavuot, there is no mention of atzeret dedicated either to G-d or ourselves. Yet Rabbi Elazar declares that even Rabbi Eliezer will concede that on that festival there must be feasting to celebrate the Giving of the Torah which took place on that day.

Maharsha clears up these problems by pointing out that our Sages found it illogical to assume that different festivals should have different rules as to how they should be enjoyed, so that whatever instruction is found in one applies to all the festivals. He cautions us not to mistake the term Atzeret which our Sages use as a name for Shavuot with the word atzeret used by the Torah in regard to the other two festivals. And when Rabbi Elazar states that there is a consensus that on Atzeret (Shavuot) there must be feasting, he means that even Rabbi Eliezer agrees that one cannot spend the day only in prayer and study but must also celebrate with eating and drinking on the day when we received the Torah.

What the Sages Say

“Should a wise man become angry his wisdom will depart from him, and if he is a prophet his power of prophecy will leave him.”

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