TalmuDigest

For the week ending 21 September 2019 / 21 Elul 5779

The Rosh Hashanah Meat Mystery

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
Library Library Kaddish

There is a well-known halachah that one is not allowed to fast on Rosh Hashanah barring certain specific circumstances. Although it is a Day of Judgment, and there are shittos of the Gaonim that do permit one to fast, nevertheless the halachah is that Rosh Hashanah is also a festive Yom Tov and we must honor it properly. In fact, the Yerushalmi mentions that we must eat, drink, and be mesamayach on Rosh Hashanah.[1][2] This includes partaking of fine delicacies, as it is written in Sefer Nechemiah[3] regarding Rosh Hashanah, that everyone should “Eat fatty foods and drink sweet drinks…for this day is holy.”

Interestingly, there are various customs related to the permissibility of partaking of meat on Rosh Hashanah, although it is considered to be the most distinguished of foods, and therefore seemingly the most appropriate delicacy with which to honor the holiday.[4]

Many readers are probably puzzled by the last paragraph, and might exclaim after rereading it: “What? How is that possible? Everyone eats meat on Rosh Hashanah. In fact it is even widely used as one of the Simanim.

Simana Milsa

The Gemara recounts that Abaye exhorted us to eat certain specific foods on Rosh Hashanah as symbolic omens for the upcoming year.[5] This practice is even codified as halachah in the ShulchanAruch.[6]

According to the famed MaharalM’Prague and later the Chayei Adam,and based on the Ramban, the purpose of performing these Simanim is that a physical action, small as it may be, serves as a conduit to actualize and channel a Divine decree.[7]

And one of the foods that is commonly eaten as one of these Simanim is a Rosh Kevess, the head of a ram, which by definition is definitely a type of meat. So why would anyone not partake of meat on Rosh Hashanah? Furthermore, how can something meant to properly usher in the New Year possibly be prohibited?

Where’s the Beef?

The answer to these questions lie in an interesting minhag found in a somewhat obscure sefer titled “Maggid Meisharim,” that is cited by several authorities, including the Magen Avraham and Elyah Rabba, not to eat meat or drink wine[8] on Rosh Hashanah.[9] While that alone does not seem too noteworthy, as everyone can simply say “to each his own; he’ll follow his custom and I will follow mine”, in this case, however, it is the author of the sefer that demands our attention.

The author of the Maggid Meisharim is none other than the great Rav Yosef Karo, codifier extraordinaire and author of our authoritative Code of Law, the Shulchan Aruch. Moreover, this particular sefer is a compilation of the halachos that he personally learned from a Malach from Shamayim; in other words, from an angel. This means, that according to the Heavenly spheres it seems that we should actually refrain from eating meat on Rosh Hashanah.

But if so, how do we reconcile the directive of Ezra Hasofer cited in the aforementioned Sefer Nechemiah about “eating fatty foods?” This surely refers to eating meat. Furthermore, there are several Mishnayos referencing that one should eat meat on Rosh Hashanah.[10] Additionally, as mentioned previously, the Shulchan Aruch himself cites the minhag to eat a Rosh Kevess (a lamb’s head) on Rosh Hashanah night as a Siman.[11] What is the proper ruling?[12]

The Meat of the Matter

There seem to be several different views on how to resolve this glaring contradiction. One answer is that the Maggid was only referring to refraining from eating meat on Rosh Hashanah day. Conversely, on Rosh Hashanah night, when most people perform the Yehi Ratzons, the positive omens[13] beneficial for starting the year off on the right foot, meat is indeed permitted. Accordingly, one may still have his lamb’s head (as one of the simanim) and eat it too.[14]

Another possible solution is that the Maggid’s proscription was only meant for certain specific individuals who attained a high degree of spirituality (Yechidei Segulah), and was never meant for the general populace, who may certainly partake of a fleishig seudah on Rosh Hashanah.[15]

Heaven on Earth?

However, the most widely accepted resolution is similar to that found in Gemara Bava Metzia 59b - in an analogous debate regarding the great Rabbi Eliezer who brought proof for his minority opinion by performing open miracles. The Gemara concludes that nevertheless, “Torah Lo Bashamayim Hee,”[16] meaning we do not base our halachic decisions on how the relevant issue is viewed in the Heavenly realms.

Likewise, regarding our pertinent discussion, many authorities categorically reject this prohibitive view with nary a mention of it, and allow eating meat on Rosh Hashanah. Several even aver that it is an outright obligation to do so, in order to properly commemorate Rosh Hashanah. Several authorities point out that had the Shulchan Aruch meant for his Maggid’s words to be authoritative psak, he would have codified the Maggid’s rulings as part of his Shulchan Aruch and not in a separate sefer.[17]

Eating meat on Rosh Hashanah has since become the common minhag, as Rav Nitronaei Gaon, as well as many Rishonim including Rashi, Rabbeinu Gershom, the Meiri, Rav Yehuda Hachassid, and Rabbeinu Efraim,[18] and the vast majority of Acharonim from across the Jewish spectrum, including the Rema, Levush, Noda B’Yehuda, Yaavetz, Chayei Adam, Shulchan Aruch Harav, Matteh Efraim, Ben Ish Chai, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Aruch Hashulchan, and Kaf Hachaim, all write that the proper minhag is that one should eat bassar shamein on Rosh Hashanah.[19] This is also explicitly cited as the normative minhag by several contemporary Sefardic poskim, including Rav Ovadiah Yosef zt”l, Rav Yaakov Hillel, and Rav Yitzchok Yosef.[20] The Kaf Hachaim actually concludes that even “Yechidei Segulah” do not have to follow the Maggid’s words, and accordingly should eat meat on Rosh Hashanah.

In the final analysis, we mere mortals, apparently unlike angels, can and should properly celebrate the holiday of Rosh Hashanah in style, giving it the honor it deserves, including by eating fleishig delicacies l’kavod Yom Tov. However, it is important to note that many poskim caution that even so, it is proper not to incite our internal desires by overindulging ourselves on Rosh Hashanah.[21] Therefore, it would be prudent for us to remember before enjoying our Yom Tov roasts, that the essence of the day is not about gastronomical delight, but rather our avodah of crowning Hashem as our King.lll

Postscript: Many later authorities, including the Chacham Tzvi, Rav Chaim Volozhiner, and the Chazon Ish, among others, share an interesting and different viewpoint regarding the Shulchan Aruch’s Maggid.[22] This author has also heard this view averred b’sheim noted mekubal Rav Yaakov Hillel.[23]

They understand that a Maggid does not actually rule with Heavenly authority; rather it uses the individual’s own merit and koach to present rulings. Meaning, although Rav Karo cites psakim from the Maggid, it is essentially utilizing his own personal hidden strengths to bring out these rulings. Therefore, concludes Rav Chaim Volozhiner, that in this instance it must be that notwithstanding his incredible greatness, Rav Karo must have somehow and inexplicably personally made a mistake, and the outcome of that resulted in a potentially erroneous conclusion being ‘taught by the Maggid.[24]

In a similar vein, the Minchas Elazar wrote that in his estimation, the Maggid Meisharim’s teachings and psakim, although of Divine origin, were only meant for Rav Karo himself and not necessarily the general populace.[25] Either way, and whichever understanding, in this instance it is quite understandable why the common minhag is to partake of meat L’kavod Rosh Hashanah, and not necessarily following the assertion of the “Maggid.”

Much of this article is based on Rabbi Eliezer Brodt’s fascinating Likutei Eliezer (Ch. 4, pg. 90-118).

This article was written L’iluy Nishmas Shoshana Leah bas Dreiza Liba and R’ Chaim Baruch Yehuda ben Dovid Tzvi, and l’zechus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam v’chol yotzei chalatzeha for a yeshua sheleimah teikif umiyad.

For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author: yspitz@ohr.edu.

Rabbi Yehuda Spitz, author of M’Shulchan Yehuda on Inyanei Halacha, serves as the Sho’el U' Meishiv and Rosh Chabura of the Ohr Lagolah Halachah Kollel at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim. He also currently writes a contemporary halachah column for the Ohr Somayach website titled “Insights Into Halachah”.



[1] See Tur / Shulchan Aruch, Levush, Bach, Taz, Shulchan Aruch Harav, Birkei Yosef, Aruch Hashulchan, Mishnah Berurah (all Orach Chaim 597: 1), Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 139: 11), Matteh Efraim (Orach Chaim 597: 5; although he adds that if one does so, “ain mochin b’yado”), Shu”t Shaagas Aryeh (101 and 102), Shu”t Chasam Sofer (Orach Chaim 168), Kaf Hachaim (Orach Chaim 597: 3), and mv”r Rav Yosef Yitzchok Lerner’s excellent Shemiras HaGuf V’Hanefesh (vol. 2: Ch. 137) at length. Although there are shittos in the Gaonim that one may fast on Rosh Hashanah - see Mordechai (Rosh Hashanah Ch. 1: 708 at length, and Yoma Ch.1: 723), Rosh (at the very end of Maseches Rosh Hashanah), Ran (ad loc.), Sefer Hamanhig (Hilchos Rosh Hashanah 1), Terumas Hadeshen (Shu”t 278), Haghos Maimoniyos (Hilchos Rosh Hashanah Ch. 1: 1), and Beis Yosef (Orach Chaim 597), this is not the normative halachah. In fact, the Yerushalmi mentions that we must eat, drink, and be mesamayach on Rosh Hashanah. See also the Rogatchover Gaon’s Shu”t Tzafnas Pane’ach (in the Divrei Torah between volumes 2 and 3) for a fascinating and deep hesber to answer up the shittos of those Gaonim who maintain that one may indeed fast on Rosh Hashanah. This was addressed in a previous article titled “The Rosh HashanahDug’ Dilemma.

[2] However, the Gaonim’s opinion of allowing fasting on Rosh Hashanah does have practical ramifications: whether Birkas Hamazon must be repeated if someone forgot Yaaleh V’Yavo inBentching. Generally speaking, as Shabbos and Yom Tov have a requirement of ‘Seudah,’ if one does not mention the Yom Tov day in Birkas Hamazon as part of Yaaleh V’Yavo (or likewise, Retzei on Shabbos), he must repeat the whole Bentching. Yet,a day such as Rosh Chodesh is different. Although there is a Mitzvah to have a ‘Seudah’ on it, as it is not actually halachically required, Bentching would not be repeated if Yaaleh V’Yavo was forgotten. [This topic was addressed at length in a previous article titled “Facts and Formulae for the Forgetful.”] Regarding Rosh Hashanah, due to the shittah of the Gaonim, several Poskim maintain that there is no actual obligation to have a ‘Seudah’ on Rosh Hashanah (as opposed to Shabbos and Yom Tov), and therefore rule that if one forgot Yaaleh V’Yavo on Rosh Hashanah, Bentching is not repeated. These authorities include the Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 188: 7), Pri Megadim (ad loc. Eishel Avraham 7), Shulchan Aruch Harav (Orach Chaim 188: 10), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (44: end 14), Kaf Hachaim (Orach Chaim 188: 25), the Ba’er Moshe (Shu”t vol. 3: 38, 13; however he does admit that this ruling is not so clear, therefore it is preferable for one who forgot Yaaleh V’Yavo to ask someone else to be motzie him m’safek), and Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Moadim U’Zmanim vol. 1: 4 haghah and vol. 8, Lekutei Haaros on vol. 1: 4 and Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 2: 269). On the other hand, other Poskim, including the Elyah Rabba (Orach Chaim 188: 8), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 21; who maintains that this the pashut pshat in the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch), Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Halichos Shlomo, Moadim vol. 1, Rosh Hashanah Ch. 1, footnote 87) and the Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa (vol. 2, Ch. 57: 7 and footnote 23) rule that one must indeed repeat Bentching in such a scenario. Interestingly, the Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 19) brings down both sides of this machlokes but does not rule conclusively. For more on this topic, see mv”r Rav Yosef Yitzchok Lerner’s award-winning Shgiyos Mi Yavin (vol. 1, Ch. 25: 21, pg. 343).

[3] Nechemiah (Ch. 8: 10).

3 “Ain Simchah Ela B’Bassar”. See Gemara Pesachim (109a), Midrash Rabba (Parshas Nasso 10: 5), Rambam (Hilchos Yom Tov Ch. 6: 18), Sefer Hachinuch (Parshas Re’eh, Mitzvah 488), Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 249: 6), Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 529: 5), and Biur Halachah (529 s.v. keitzad).

[5] Gemara Horiyos 12a and Krisus 6a. There is however, a difference in girsa between the two sources. The Gemara in Krisus mentions “eating” (l’meichal) the Simanim, while the Gemara in Horiyus refers to “seeing” (l’mechzei) them. Most authorities, including the Tur and Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 583: 1), only cite the minhag of eating them. Yet, others, such as the Aruch (erechKra”), Beis Yosef (Orach Chaim 583: 1 s.v. amar), and Kol Bo (64), do indeed cite the variant viewing version. See Chiddushei Haghos on the Tur (ad loc. 3) who explains that truly, me’ikar din, viewing is indeed sufficient, but the Tur justifiably used the wording of the more common minhag, additionally taking blind people into account. The Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 6) adds that one who for whatever reason cannot actually eat some of the Simanim, or if one suspects possible insect infestation, may certainly rely upon viewing them, especially as the Yehi Ratzons are not actual brachos, but rather bakashos rachamim for the New Year. See also Tosafos (Avodah Zara 5b s.v. Erev Yom Tov) and Ben Ish Chai (Year 1, Parshas Nitzavim 4) at length, as well as Shu”t Divrei Yatziv (Orach Chaim vol. 2: 253).

[6] Tur and Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 583: 1) and relevant commentaries. See also Tosafos (Avodah Zara 5b s.v. Erev Yom Tov) and Ben Ish Chai (Year 1, Parshas Nitzavim 4) at length. This was discussed in a previous article titled “The Rosh Hashanah ‘Dug’ Dilemma.” As to why this does not fall under the prohibited category of Neichush, divining, see the Mordechai (Yoma 723), Meiri (Horiyus 12a), Haghos to Sefer Haminhagim (Rosh Hashanah 110), Derishah (Orach Chaim 583: 1), Pri Megadim (ad loc. Mishbetzos Zahav 1), Shlah (Maseches Rosh Hashanah, Ner Mitzvah 22 - 23), Biur HaGr”a (Yoreh Deah 179: 6 ; based on the Rema ad loc. 2, citing the SMa”K 136), and the aforementioned Kaf Hachaim (Orach Chaim 583: 6 and 11).

[7] Maharal in Be’er HaGolah (Be’er HaSheini s.v. b’perek gimmel; cited by the Mekor Chaim - Orach Chaim beg. 583) and Chidushei Aggados (to Horiyos 12a). This is also cited by the Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 139: 6), Elef Hamagen (583: 17), and Katzeh Hamatteh (583: 9) [both commentaries on the Matteh Efraim], among later authorities. This understanding of the Simanim is derived from a Klal set by the Ramban (Parshas Lech Lecha Ch. 12: 6, and in his introduction to Sefer Shemos;based on the Midrash Tanchuma Parshas Lech Lecha 9), who expresses great interest in every detail related by the Torah, and introduces us to the fundamental concept of “Maaseh Avos Siman LaBanim.” This refers to the idea that the actions of our forefathers created a spiritual reality which was symbolic for their descendents. In other words, the challenges met by our great patriarchs transmitted to their children a unique form of spiritual DNA, whereby the potential was created for their descendants to emulate their deeds. This is why, he explains, the Torah records the stories of our forefathers in great detail. Showcasing their actions demonstrates that they serve as a conduit to actualize Divine decrees; in this case creating and enabling abilities in future generations. So too, explains the Maharal, this is the intention of these seemingly mysterious omens on Rosh Hashanah night. The purpose of these Simanim is to perform a physical action, small as it may be, to function as a means to channel a Heavenly decree. Therefore, we are utilizing these “omens”, with their specific characteristics, as a unique but positive way to channel Divine blessing for the New Year. See at length Rabbi Eliezer Brodt’s “Minhag Achilas Simanim B’Leil Rosh Hashanah V’Taamav” (printed in Kovetz Datz”ah vol. 100, pg. 4 - 5).

[8] The Minchas Elazer (cited in Likutei Eliezer pg. 91, footnote 7) writes that obviously this prohibition of the Maggid’s does not include wine for Kiddush.

[9] Magen Avraham (beg. Orach Chaim 597), Elyah Rabba (ad loc.), Maggid Meisharim (end Parshas Nitzavim).

[10] See Chullin (Ch. 5: Mishnah 3 and 4) and Gemara Avodah Zarah (5b).

[11] See Shulchan Aruch and main commentaries (Orach Chaim 583: 2). This minhag is based on a pasuk in Parshas Ki Savo (Ch. 28: 13; see commentaries ad loc. for differing views as to this bracha’s intent), and aside for it being mentioned by the classic Acharonim, dates quite far back with reports of Rishonim, including the Ravyah (vol. 2, Rosh Hashanah beg. 547), Maharam M’Rottenberg (cited in Shu”t Tashbatz 118), Ohr Zarua (vol. 2, Hilchos Rosh Hashanah beg. 257), Machzor Vitry (vol. 1: 323), Abudraham (Seder Tefillas Rosh Hashanah pg. 266), Maharil (Minhagim, Hilchos Rosh Hashanah 8), Terumas Hadeshen (cited in Leket Yosher vol. 1: pg. 129), Haghos Ashiri (Rosh Hashanah Ch. 1: 5), and the Tur (Orach Chaim 583) partaking of a Rosh Kevess or Rosh Ayil on Rosh Hashanah night, referring to it as a “minhag hakadmonim.” Many emphasize the significance of the zechus of Akeidas Yitzchok as an additional factor for this minhag. See also Ben Ish Chai (Year 1, Parshas Nitzavim 4 s.v. v’achar) who stresses that one should not use a Rosh Aiz, the head of a goat. The common minhag to use a “Rosh Dug,” a fish head, is mentioned explicitly by the Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 139: 6), and Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 583: 3). This Rosh Hashanah night minhag is indeed cited as proper in many contemporary calendars, including Rav Yechiel Michel Tukachinsky’s authoritative Luach Eretz Yisrael (Rosh Hashanah), Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin’s essential Luach Ezras Torah (Rosh Hashanah), and Rav Yaakov Hillel’s Luach Dinim U’Minhagim Ahavat Shalom (Rosh Hashanah).

[12] Many authorities ask these hard-hitting questions including Rav Chaim Volozhiner (cited by his talmid, Rav Dovid Luria in his Kidmos Sefer HaZohar, Anaf 5, 3: 2), the Mahar”i Assad (Shu”t Yehuda Yaaleh,Orach Chaim 163), Rav Rachamim Nissim Palaji (Yafeh Lalev, Orach Chaim 597: 1), the Beis Meir (ad loc.), Maharsham (Daas Torah, beg. Orach Chaim 597), Adnei Paz (ad loc.), Lekutei Chaver Ben Chaim (cited in the Yalkut Meforshim in the Friedman edition of Shulchan Aruch ad loc.), Katzeh Hamatteh (on the Matteh Efraim 583: 7) and the Sdei Chemed (vol. 8, Maareches Rosh Hashanah 2: 3). Although not the “pashut pshat” and in fact disputed by many authorities, the Maggid Meisharim writes that Sefer Nechemiah’s “fatty foods” must really be referring to fatty milk products, not meats.

[13] See Gemara Kerisus 6a, Horiyos 12a, and Tur / Shulchan Aruch and relevant commentaries to Orach Chaim (583: 1).

[14] This solution is proposed by several authorities including the Maharsha (Chiddushei Aggados to Beitzah 15b s.v. baalei), the Pnei Yehoshua (Kesuvos, Kuntress Acharon 5a), the Mishkenos Haro’im (Shu”t vol. 1: 1), the Maharsham (Daas Torah, Orach Chaim 597: 1), and the Orchos Chaim (Spinka; ad loc. 1).

[15] The Radal (Rav Dovid Luria; Kidmos Sefer HaZohar, Anaf 5, 3: 2), Elef Hamagen (on Matteh Efraim 583: end 11), and the Ben Aryeh (Haghos Ben Aryeh to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 597: 1), are proponents of this resolution.

[16] Devarim (Parshas Nitzavim, Ch. 30: 12).

[17] See Likutei Eliezer (pg. 103-104).

[18] Shu”t HaGaonim (Orach Chaim 61), Rashi (Avodah Zarah 5b s.v. v’chein), Rabbeinu Gershom (Chullin 83a), the Meiri (Beis Habechirah to Chullin 83a), Rav Yehuda Hachassid (Sefer Gematriyos vol. 2, Parshas Masei 5), and Rabbeinu Efraim (Parshas Re’eh, pg. 181 and vol. 2, Behaaloscha).

[19] Rema (Orach Chaim 583: 1), Levush (Levush Hachur Orach Chaim 583: 2), Noda B’Yehuda (Tzlach - glosses to Beitzah 20b s.v. Rashi), Yaavetz (Siddur Shaar Hashamayim vol. 2, Shaar Shevii, Shaar Hatzon, Chodesh Elul 72), Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 139: 6), Shulchan Aruch Harav (Orach Chaim 583: 4), Matteh Efraim (583: end 1), Ben Ish Chai (Year 1, Nitzavim 5), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (129: 9), Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 583: 2), and Kaf Hachaim (Orach Chaim 597: 11).

[20] Chazon Ovadiah(Yomim Noraim pg. 100, footnote 21), Luach Dinim U’Minhagim Ahavat Shalom (5776, pg. 23), Yalkut Yosef (Moadim pg. 32: 8 and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 583: 19).

[21] Including the Meiri (Chibur HaTeshuva, Meishiv Nefesh, Maamar Sheini, Ch. 2), Sefer HaAgudah (Rosh Hashanah Ch. 4: 21), Matteh Yehuda (581: 8), Pri Megadim (ad loc. Eshel Avraham 10), Yosef Ometz (ad loc.), Shulchan Aruch Harav (Orach Chaim 597, 1), Yaavetz (Siddur Shaarei Shamayim pg. 284), Chayei Adam (ibid.), Yesod V’Shoresh H’Avodah (Shaar 11, Ch. 2, pg. 301), Elef Hamatteh (on Matteh Efraim, 583: 11), and Kaf Hachaim (ibid.).

[22] Chacham Tzvi (cited by his son the Yaavetz in his Toras Hakinaos 8), Rav Chaim Volozhiner (cited by Rav Sroyah Debilitzky in his introduction to the recent edition of Maggid Meisharim; see also the Radal’s Kidmos Sefer HaZohar ibid.), and Chazon Ish (cited in Maaseh Ish vol. 1, pg. 119)

[23] See also Rav Hillel’s Shu”t Vayeishev HaYam (vol. 2: 14, pg. 227).

[24] See also footnote 18 on pg. 231 of the recent Weinreb edition of Maaseh Rav (207; Hilchos Yomim Noraim).

[25] Nimukei Orach Chaim (426: 1, pg. 273). Interestingly, in the actual case he was referring to, regarding when one may recite Kiddush Levana, it turns out that the Maggid’s psak was actually in line with Kabbalistic practice as well as the Shulchan Aruch’s own ruling, and not as the Minchas Elazar presumed. See previous article titled “Kiddush LevanaDuring the Megillah?!

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