Some Halachic authorities have questioned the common practice to recite Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel before eating Korech. Some have claimed that it constitutes an unwarranted interruption between the Berachot on Matza and Maror and eating the Korech. In this issue, we will outline the debate and seek to defend the common practice.
Gemara and Rishonim
The Gemara (Pesachim 115a) presents the celebrated dispute whether Matza and Maror must be eaten together or separately. The Chachamim believed that the Matza and Maror should be eaten separately and Hillel believed that the Matza and Maror should be eaten together. The dispute hinges upon how to interpret the Pasuk (Bemidbar 9:11) that states, “With Matzot and Maror should one eat it,” whether the word “and” implies that the Matza and Maror must be eaten together. (We have merely presented a straightforward explanation of this dispute; a careful examination of Pesachim 115a, Tosafot ad. loc. s.v. Ella Amar Rav Ashi, and Rambam Hilchot Chametz Umatza 8:6-8 reveals more layers of interpretation, which we will not discuss in this essay.)
The Rishonim dispute whether Hillel would wrap the Korban Pesach together with the Matza and Maror (Rashi Pesachim 115a s.v. Shehaya and Rashbam ad. loc. s.v. Korchan) or eat the Korban Pesach separate from the Matza and Maror (Rambam Hilchot Chametz Umatza 8:6-7). This dispute accounts for the variations in the text of Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel that we recite before eating the Korech (see Baer Heitev 475:9 and Mishna Berurah 475:21). Some versions state, “He would wrap Matza and Maror and eat then together,” in accordance with the Rambam’s view. Other versions state, “He would wrap Pesach, Matza, and Maror and eat them together”, following the view of Rashi and the Rashbam.
The Gemara concludes that since the dispute between Hillel and the Chachamim has not been resolved, we should accommodate both opinions. Hence, we should first recite the Berachot on Matza and eat the Matza, then bless on the Maror and eat it, and then eat the Matza and Maror together Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel (to remember the practice in the Beit Hamikdash according to Hillel). The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 475:1) codifies the Gemara’s conclusion.
A number of Rishonim add that since we accommodate the opinions of both the Chachamim and Hillel, the Berachot we recite on the Mitzvot of eating Matza and Maror also refer to the Korech, the Matza-Marror combination. Hence, talking before the completion of the Korech constitutes an inappropriate interruption between the Beracha and the complete fulfillment of the Mitzva. The Rishonim who subscribe to this approach include the Sefer Hamanhig, the Rashbatz, the Abudraham, and the Tur. The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 475:1) rules in accordance with these Rishonim.
Interestingly, I heard from Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (in a Shiur delivered at Yeshiva University in 1984) that Rav Chaim Soloveitchik refrained from engaging in conversation throughout the Seder meal. Rav Chaim was concerned for the opinion of Rashbam (Pesachim 120a s.v. Yashnu Kulan) and Tosafot (ad. loc. s.v. Baachrona) that one fulfills the Mitzva of Matza when eating the Afikoman, the piece of Matza eaten at the very end of the Seder meal. Accordingly, conversation during the meal might constitute an interruption between the Birkat Hamitzva and the performance of the Mitzva. The Shelah subscribed to this approach as well, but few people observe this stringency. Interestingly, Rav Chaim did not consider the meal to constitute an unwarranted interruption between the recitation of the Beracha and the performance of the Mitzva. The explanation for this might be Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik’s assertion (as reported by Rav Menachem Genack in a Shiur delivered at Yeshiva University) that the Seder meal is not merely a sort of “halftime” break in the middle of the Seder. Rather, it constitutes an integral part of the Seder where we demonstrate our freedom by participating in a festive meal.
Recitation of Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel
The Shulchan Aruch (O. C. 475:1) records our practice to recite Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel in conjunction with Korech. However, the Gemara, Rambam, or Tur do not record this practice. Indeed, the Rama (Darkei Moshe O.C.475:3) categorizes this practice as a Minhag. The Shulchan Aruch writes, “One takes the third Matza breaks it and wraps it with the Maror and dips it in Charoset, and recites Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel and he eats them together.” The Shulchan Aruch indicates that we recite Zecher Lemikdash before partaking of the Korech. A problem, though, is that this recitation seems to constitute an unwarranted interruption between the Beracha and the eating of the Korech. Both the Biur Halacha (475:1 s.v. Vaomer) and Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yechave Daat 1:19) grapple with this problem, but arrive at different conclusions.
The Biur Halacha’s Approach
The Biur Halacha rejects the idea that Zecher Lemikdash does not constitute an unwarranted interruption because it is “Tzorech Beracha,” related to the Beracha. The Gemara (Berachot 40a, see Rashi) concludes that after reciting a Beracha on food, one is permitted to say, “bring salt,” or “take the food.” These statements do not constitute an unwarranted interruption, since they are necessary for the Beracha. The Biur Halacha believes that since the recitation of Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel is not necessary, it is not regarded as Tzorech Beracha.
The Biur Halacha asserts that no Posek states that we should recite Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel. Thus, he makes two suggestions to resolve this problem. The first is that perhaps Rav Yosef Karo is not teaching that Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel should be recited before partaking of the Korech. Instead, the Biur Halacha suggests that the Shulchan Aruch means that Zecher Lemikdash should be recited after completing the Korech. Common practice, among both Ashkenazim and Sephardim, though, is to recite Zecher Lemikdash before eating the Korech. On the other hand, Rav Menachem Genack reports (in a Shiur delivered at Yeshiva University) that Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik recited Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel after he completed eating the Korech. In addition, the Aruch Hashulchan (O.C.475:7) might imply that we should recite Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel after eating the Korech, as he writes, “one wraps [the Matza and Maror] together and he eats them while reclining and recites ‘Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel.’”
The Biur Halacha then makes a very bold suggestion. He suggests that since no other authority mentions the recitation of “Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel,” perhaps the Shulchan Aruch does not mean that one actually recites “Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel.” Rather, he means to say that one performs Korech in order to commemorate Hillel’s practice in the Bait Hamikdash. The Biur Halacha does not arrive at a definitive conclusion regarding this question. He merely concludes with the comment “Vetzarich Iyun,” the matter merits further investigation.
Rav Ovadia Yosef’s Approach
Rav Ovadia zealously defends the common practice to recite “Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel” before partaking from the Korech. First, he demonstrates that the Shulchan Aruch intends to teach that we should recite Zecher Lemikdash aloud. He notes that contrary to the Biur Halacha’s claim, there are indeed Poskim (Rama, Darkei Moshe O.C. 475:3 and Teshuvot Maharshal 88) who record the practice of saying Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel aloud. Rav Ovadia argues that it is extremely unlikely that Rav Yosef Karo, the Rama, and the Maharshal all did not intend to teach that one should recite Zecher Lemikdash aloud when these three texts specifically state that it should be recited aloud.
Moreover, Rav Ovadia argues that the recitation of Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel does constitute a legitimate Tzorech Beracha since it is of relevance to Korech. The Biur Halacha maintains that the interruption must be a necessary one for it to qualify as Tzorech Beracha. Rav Ovadia argues that relevance suffices.
Rav Ovadia adds that Tosafot (Pesachim 115a s.v. Ela Amar Rav Ashi) believe that Hillel’s requirement that we eat the Maror and Matzah together is merely desirable Lechatchila and is not indispensable Bedieved. Thus, one may adopt a lower standard for Tzorech Beracha in this case, as the stakes are not particularly high.
One might add that the Chok Yaakov (475:12) writes that the Korech sandwich today is merely a commemorative of the Korech that Hillel performed in the Bait Hamikdash. When the Bait Hamikdash functions, Hillel believes that Matza and Maror are compatible together since they both fulfill Torah level obligations (see Pesachim 115a). Today, however, these two Mitzvot are incompatible together since Matza remains a Torah level obligation and Maror is a rabbinic obligation (see Pesachim 120a and Rambam Hilchot Chametz Umatza 6:1 and 7:12). The rule of “Mitzvot Mevatlot Zo Et Zo” is thus relevant and even Hillel concedes that one cannot fulfill the Mitzvot of Matza and Maror simultaneously. The Chok Yaakov concludes that we perform Korech as a mere remembrance of Hillel’s practice in the Bait Hamikdash, but do not fulfill these Mitzvot thereby. See, however, Tosafot (Pesachim 115a s.v. Ella Mevareich) who might disagree with the Chok Yaakov’s assertion.
Rav Yosef Soloveitchik (Mesorah 3:25) arrives at the same conclusion as the Chok Yaakov. The Rav notes that the Gemara (Pesachim 90a) refers to the Matzah and Maror as “Hechsheira DePischa,” accessories to the Korban Pesach. The wrapping of the Matzah and Maror serve to bind these two Mitzvot with the Korban Pesach. Absent a Korban Pesach, there is no reason for Korech since Matza and Maror constitute two entirely independent Mitzvot. We perform the Korech merely as a remembrance to Hillel’s practice in the Bait Hamikdash. See, however, the Pri Megadim (M.Z. O.C. 475:7) who asserts that the question whether Korech today is merely commemorative hinges on the aforementioned dispute between the Rambam and Rashi/Rashbam whether Hillel wrapped only the Matzah and Maror together (Rambam) or the Korban Pesach, Matza, and Maror together (Rashi and Rashbam). The Pri Megadim argues that for the Rambam, Korech today is not merely commemorative since the absence of Korban Pesach does not affect the Mitzva of Korech.
According to the approaches of the Chok Yaakov and Rav Soloveitchik, the concern for interruption between the Berachot on Matzah and Maror and Korech is not great. Of course, we do not tolerate a frivolous interruption between the Berachot and Korech. However, the relevance of Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel allows it to be seen as something appropriate to recite between the Berachot and eating the Korech. Indeed, Rav Soloveitchik’s assertion might explain why the Tur presents that it is merely preferable not to talk between the Berachot and Korech. Accordingly, a relevant statement should not pose a concern for Hefseik (interruption) in this context.
Rav Ovadia Yosef concludes his Teshuva by citing a celebrated statement of the Jerusalem Talmud (Maaser Sheini 5:2). The Yerushalmi states, “Any Halacha that is not clear to you – go out and see what the people are doing.” Hence, the custom of the overwhelming majority of both Sephardim and Ashkenazim to recite Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel before partaking of the Korech resolves our dilemma. This is especially true since the straightforward reading of the Shulchan Aruch is in harmony with the common practice. One probably should not deviate from a family tradition despite the concerns expressed by the Biur Halacha.