Talmud Tips

For the week ending 19 December 2020 / 4 Tevet 5781

Pesachim 30 - 36

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
Become a Supporter Library Library

“Double Jeopardy” Matzah

The mishna states, “A person fulfills the mitzvah of eating matzah (on the first night of Pesach – Rashi) with matzah made from wheat, barley… and Kohanim fulfill their mitzvah with matzah made from their terumah… but one does not fulfill the mitzvah with tevel (grain from which terumah and ma’aser had not yet been separated and is therefore still forbidden to eat).”

Why does a person not fulfill the mitzvah with a matzah made from grain that is still tevel? When learning Rashi in our sugya it seems that he offers two completely different reasons. In the mishna he explains in one manner, but in the gemara he says something different.

What exactly are these two reasons, and why does he write one reason in one place and a different reason in the other place? Both are explanations for the same halacha of why a person does not fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzah if the matzah is made from grain that is tevel.

When the mishna states that Kohanim fulfill the mitzvah with grain that is terumah, Rashi explains that this excludes a Yisrael from fulfilling the mitzvah with a terumah matzah. Why? The Torah states, “You will not eat chametz with it (theKorban Pesach), for seven days you will eat matzah with it, the bread of affliction — for in haste you went out from the land of Egypt, [and you will do this] in order that you will remember the day when you went out from the land of Egypt all the days of your life.” (Devarim 16:3) Rashi quotes the Chazal’s teaching (35b), who note that the beginning of this verse juxtaposes the mitzvah to eat matzah with the prohibition against eating chametz. From this we learn, “If the grain is forbidden to eat when it is leaven, only due to the prohibition of eating chametz on Peasch, it is fit for fulfilling the mitzvah of matzah; which excludes [from the mitzvah of eating matzah] that which is forbidden due to a different prohibition.” Rashi writes this to explain why a Yisrael would not fulfill the mitzvah with a terumah matzah, and this also serves as the reason why anyone would not fulfill the mitzvah to eat matzah if the matzah is made from tevel. This is the reason that Rashi gives in his commentary on the mishna (on 35a) for disqualifying matzah made from tevel.

In the gemara, however (35b), the case of tevel matzah being unfit is explained as being an issue of “tevel d’Rabbanan,” and is teaching about grain that was not grown directly in the ground, but rather in a pot with perforations. This grain is not considered to be tevel according to Torah law, but was decreed to be considered tevel by Rabbinic law. Why is it not suitable for the mitzvah of eating matzah? Rashi here explains that eating this matzah would not fulfill the mitzvah since it would be considered a “mitzvah ha’aba b’aveira” — literally, a mitzvah that comes with a transgression (i.e. eating grain that is deemed tevel according by Rabbinical decree). A mitzvah ha’ba b’aveira is not a mitzvah, as elaborated upon elsewhere in Shas (perhaps most notably at the beginning on the third perek of Masechet Succah).

The commentaries address the need for the two different reasons that Rashi gives for a matzah of tevel not being suitable for fulfilling the mitzvah of eating matzah on Pesach. In the mishna, the grain of tevel is the “normal” case of grain that was grown in the ground. Therefore, it has the tevel status of being forbidden to eat according to Torah law. And since this prohibition of tevel existed even before the grain became chametz, the grain does not acquire an additional prohibition — i.e. that of “not eating chametz on Pesach.” This principle is known as “ein issur chal al issur” — a second prohibition cannot be attributed to something that is already prohibited. An example of this rule is Rabbi Simon bar Yochai’s teaching (36a) that “a person who eats neveilah (meat from an animal without kosher shechita) on Yom Kippur is exempt” (from bringing a chatat sin offering for eating b’shogeg on Yom Kippur – Rashi). Since the neveilah meat was already forbidden by the Torah before Yom Kippur, an additional prohibition is not accrued when eating it on Yom Kippur.

This is why Rashi explains in the mishna that the reason for the tevel matzah not being suitable is based on the special teaching of Chazal, which they derive from the verse juxtaposing the mitzvah of matzah with the prohibition of chametz (Devarim 16:3). Without the possibility of the matzah bearing a prohibition of chametz, since it is tevel and already forbidden by Torah law, it cannot serve as matzah for the mitzvah.

On the other hand, in the gemara’s case, where the tevel is not a Torah prohibition since it grew in a perforated vessel instead of in a field, the Torah prohibition of it being chametz is a real possibility. Therefore, Rashi’s reason in the mishna does not apply to this tevel d’Rabbanan. So why is it not suitable for the mitzvah of matzah? Because, still being forbidden as tevel according to Rabbinic law, eating this tevel matzah would be a mitzvah ha’ba b’aveira — and not a mitzvah.

In summary, if the grain is already prohibited by Torah law, it cannot be prohibited as chametz as well, and is therefore not fit for the mitzvah of eating matzah. But, if the grain is prohibited “only” by Rabbinic law and not by Torah law, it is still a candidate to be considered banned as chametz according to Torah law, and therefore fit for the mitzvah of eating it as matzah on Pesach if not for the issue of mitzvah ha’ba b’aveira. (Maharsha)

  • Pesachim 35a

© 1995-2024 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved.

Articles may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue or school newsletters. Hardcopy or electronic. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission in advance at ohr@ohr.edu and credit for the source as Ohr Somayach Institutions www.ohr.edu

« Back to Talmud Tips

Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) EIN 13-3503155 and your donation is tax deductable.