Parsha Q&A

For the week ending 4 April 2020 / 10 Nisan 5780

Parents with Bread

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Parents with Bread

Question: I am living with my parents now and they do not keep mitzvahs, Shabbat or the holidays. They are respectful, but they just don't know and can't be bothered to learn.Pesach is coming up. My parents may or may not want to clean up, and even if we try to, I'm convinced they will bring chametz in at some point (knowingly or not). What should I do?

The Rabbi answers: The Torah prohibits owning chametz on Pesach. This is derived from the verse "Nothing leavened may be seen in your possession." This prohibition applies only to chametz which you own. It does not apply to someone else's chametz even if it's in your house. If we can assume that your parents own or rent the house, and assume that all the chametz in the house belongs to them, it is their responsibility to get rid of the chametz — not yours.

Of course, chametz that you personally own, you have to get rid of before Pesach. Also, any of your personal belongings in which you might put chametz require a pre-Pesach search. For example, pockets and knapsacks should be checked for forgotten candy bars or half-eaten sandwiches. But since you are a "guest" in your parents home i.e., you have no ownership or legal rights over your room, you wouldn't say the blessing when searching for chametz.

I once spoke to Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg about this issue, and he said that a child may stay at his parents’ home for Pesach even if they haven't removed their chametz. The best scenario would be if you could agree with your parents to keep the house chametz-free. That way, your parents will be doing a mitzvah, and also, neither you nor your parents will accidentally eat any chametz. But this must all be done in a way that causes no friction between you and your parents and conveys no disrespect to them whatsoever.

  • Sources: Exodus 13:17, Tractate Pesachim 5b; Chayei Adam 119:18; Chok Yaakov Orach Chaim 436; After the Return, Rabbi Mordechai Becher and Rabbi Moshe Newman, p. 80

The Riddle in the Middle

Question: Why is the afikomen taken from the middle matza during the Seder rather than from the top or bottom matza?

The Rabbi answers: On the first night of Pesach, we say two blessings over the matzah. The first blessing, hamotzi, is the usual blessing we say when eating bread. Since this blessing is always best to say on a whole "loaf," we therefore put an unbroken matzah on top of the stack.

The second blessing, al achilat matza, is the special blessing we say for the commandment to eat matzah on this night. This blessing applies especially to the broken matzah, because this matzah symbolizes our broken, impoverished state as slaves in Egypt. Since this blessing is the second one, the broken matzah is second in the stack.

The third matzah is included in order to complete lechem mishneh — the requirement on Shabbat and festivals to use two whole loaves instead of one — and it goes on the bottom. According to widespread custom, this bottom matzah is let to slip from the hands before the second blessing is said.

  • Sources: Mishnah Berurah 473:57, 475:2

What's Not In a Name?

Question: Why is Moses' name not mentioned in the Haggadah?

The Rabbi answers: The Torah attests, "Moses was the most humble person on the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:3). It should be no surprise, then, that the name of the world’s humblest person is omitted from the story, and, instead, all the credit is given to G-d.

Your question raises an interesting point. After a full year in the desert, the Jewish People celebrated the Pesach festival. They offered the paschal lamb and ate matzah and maror (bitter herbs). But when it came time to tell the Pesach story, who did they tell it to? To whom did they relate the plagues and miracles, the Strong Hand and Outstretched Arm? Everybody was there! Everyone saw it with their own eyes!

Only one person had children who did not personally experience the going out of Egypt — Moses! Moses’ two sons were in Midian during the Exodus. Moses, therefore, was the first person in history to relate the Pesach story to children who didn't know it first-hand.

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