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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Matzoh Before Pesach

Many are accustomed to stop eating Matzoh before Pesach. Like everything, there are various customs as far as when to begin our Matzoh withdrawal:

a) Erev Pesach
b) From the beginning of Nissan
c) From right after Purim

I’d like to trace this Minhag from the top down.

The Yerushalmi (Pesachim Chap. 10) states: “Reb Levi said, he who eats Matzoh on Erev Pesach is like one who cohabits with his betrothed in his father in laws house. (commonly understood to mean that he is preemptive and jumping the gun).

The Rambam codifies this (Chametz U’Matzoh 6:12) and it is quoted by Tosfos (Pesachim 99b) as well. Tosfos qualifies the prohibition: only Matzoh which one can fulfill his obligation with at the Seder is proscribed, thus permitting Egg Matzoh or Matzoh made with juice instead of water.

There is some discussion among the Rishonim as to when on Erev Pesach one should stop eating Mazoh. The general consensus among the Poskim is that it begins at Amud Hashachar, (50-72 minutes before sunrise). The Magen Avraham, quoting the Ran, says one should begin the evening prior.

This prohibition is quoted by the Rema (OC 471:2). It’s omission by the Shulchan Aruch is noteworthy; I would be interested in hearing whether Sefardim have a different custom regarding this.

The Mishna Berura quotes a minhag to refrain from Matzoh from Rosh Chodesh Nissan, two weeks prior to Pesach. As we have noted, there is also a common Minhag to abstain from Matzoh from after Purim, or 30 days before Pesach. Rav Moshe Feinstein (OC 1:155) explains these customs:

He deduces from the Yerushalmi quoted above that the reason Chazal don’t want us to eat Matzoh before Pesach is because they want our initial Matzoh ingestion to be as a Mitzvah. At what point would eating Matzoh interfere with Matzoh on Pesach being considered “initial”? Logically this would start from when we begin to prepare for Pesach.

There is a dispute in the Gemara (Pesachim 6a) as to when one should begin Pesach preparations; 30 days or two weeks. So although Chazal didn’t go so far as to prohibit Matzoh from those times, the various customs evolved to refrain from Matzoh from those times.
[For a more in depth discussion of this topic see Igros Moshe Ibid.).

This prohibition does not extend to children too young to comprehend the story of the Exodus.

Matzoh Meal products are included in this prohibition. If, however, they are boiled (such as kneidelach) then one can eat them on erev Pesach. To the best of my knowledge even those who have the extended minhagim cited above do not refrain from eating Matzoh Meal products other than on Erev Pesach proper.

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Posted on 03/11 at 08:13 AM • Permalink
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Meet Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch HaberRabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber is sought after by all who know him for his Halachic and practical advice. His keen ability to put complicated matters into a digestible perspective coupled with his ability to get the facts, make him the perfect blogger to help us all “Do It Right”.

A native of Buffalo, NY, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber spent his childhood globetrotting with his family. His pioneering spirit first surfaced in Melbourne, Australia, where he was excited to be a member of the opening class of Mesivta Bnei Torah. From Australia the Haber family settled down in Monsey, NY. Ever the maverick, Tzvi promptly left home to study in Yeshiva Ohr Hameir in Peekskill, where he became a mainstay of the Yeshiva, and inspired his younger brothers as well as several friends from the Mesivta in Melbourne to follow him. He then joined his chaburah in Jerusalem, first at the Mir Yeshiva and then at the Bais Medrash of Rav Dovid Soloveitchik, a senior scion of the famed Brisk dynasty. As his globetrotting family returned to Jerusalem, Tzvi returned to the US, to freeze in the famed, yet comparatively chilled Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood.

 In 2004 he met his wife, Suzanne Schor, a native of the warmer Los Angeles climate, and the couple settled in Lakewood, where he focused his pioneering and independent strengths on the study of Halacha, or Jewish law. His innovative spirit and innate ability to help others seeking to clarify the finer points of Judaism and integrate them into their daily lives inspired his decision to commute daily from Lakewood to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in order to bask in the day to day exposure to the world renowned Posek, HaRav David Feinstein. The daily commute was more than compensated for when he received Semicha from Rav Feinstien and the Kollel L’Torah U’lhorah (a division of Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem) in Tamuz 5768, June 2008.

In August 2009, the Habers moved west, heading toward Los Angeles where Rabbi Haber joined the LINK-LA Kollel. After being an active member of the Kollel for several years, he joined the business world, however he is still actively involved in teaching and learning in LA.

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Rabbi Haber is now living in the La Brea section of Los Angeles with his wonderful family. He can be contacted at tzvi@torahlab.org