Halacha of the Week: No Fighting at the Seder! by Rabbi Chaim Jachter

(2005/5765)

There seem to be three differences between the mimetic tradition (Halachic practice that is transmitted by children following their parents’ practices) and the Mishnah Berurah’s rulings regarding one’s conduct at the Seder.  The three differences are the size of the Kezayit, conversation before eating the Korech sandwich, and including Charoset in the Korech sandwich.  I have heard that in some families there is conflict at the Seder about these matters, as the children insist that the Mishnah Berurah’s rulings be followed and the parents insist on their right to conduct themselves at the Seder in the same manner that their parents and their grandparents did.  In this brief column, we seek to outline that there is a Halachic basis for the mimetic tradition and that parents who abide by these traditions should not be criticized by their children.  Of course, those children who wish to follow the Mishnah Berurah should also not be criticized by their parents. 

The twentieth-century Halachic guidebooks generally instruct one to eat a relatively large amount of Matzah (such as a half of a handmade Matzah Shemurah) in order to fulfill the Mitzvah.  This instruction stems from the Shulchan Aruch’s and Mishnah Berurah’s ruling (486:1) that a Kezayit is the equivalent of half of an egg and that one should accommodate the Noda Biyehudah’s ruling that the eggs today are half the size that they were in the time of the Gemara.  (A relatively full discussion of this issue appears at www.koltorah.org.)  Those who follow the mimetic tradition generally eat dramatically less than half of a Matzah Shemurah.  However, in Rabbi Bodner’s recently published Sefer on the topic of the size of a Kezayit, the author cites a very interesting observation of the Chazon Ish.  The Chazon Ish is reported (by his nephew Rav Chaim Kanievsky) as having asserted that essentially a Kezayit should be measured by the size of an average contemporary olive.  According to this approach, one would be required to eat approximately a fourth less Matzah than if one follows the approach that a Kezayit is the equivalent of half of an egg.  Although a Rav would not ordinarily counsel one to follow this lenient approach, it nevertheless seems that the mimetic tradition is in harmony with the Chazon Ish’s approach.  Thus, we have no right to criticize those who follow the mimetic tradition.

Although the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 475:1) clearly states that one should not engage in conversation until one eats the Korech sandwich, many people who follow the mimetic tradition do seem not to strictly abide by this ruling.  It seems that they are following the Mishnah Berurah (475:24) that states it is desired (Lechatchilah) but not essential (Bedieved) that one refrain from conversation until consuming the Korech sandwich.  Indeed, the fact that the common practice is to recite “Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel” before consuming the Korech seems to demonstrate that we do not consider it  essential to refrain from conversation until completing the Korech (this topic also is discussed in an essay that is available at www.koltorah.org).  Thus, although it is very important to follow the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch on this matter, one should not rebuke those who do not.

The Mishnah Berurah (475:16) codifies the ruling of the Ma’amar Mordechai that one should remove the Charoset from the Maror before he consumes the Korech sandwich.  However, many who follow the mimetic tradition eat the Charoset along with the Matzah and Maror.  We can defend the mimetic tradition by noting that the Shulchan Aruch does not explicitly state that one should remove the Charoset from the Maror used for the Korech sandwich.  Thus, the mimetic tradition seems to be in harmony with the straightforward reading of the Shulchan Aruch.  Moreover, a TABC student suggested that perhaps the mimetic tradition seeks to accommodate the approach that the Rambam articulates in his Peirush HaMishnayot, that it is a Mitzvah to eat Charoset just as it is a Mitzvah to eat Maror and Matzah at the Seder (this also is discussed in an article that appears at www.koltorah.org).  Accordingly, although one should follow the Mishnah Berurah’s ruling, it seems that we have no right to criticize those who follow the mimetic tradition.

The bottom line is:  NO FIGHTING AT THE SEDER!!!!!!

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