36a-b - Poor man's bread
The Torah commands (Devarim 16:3) that during the Pesah holiday no hametz be eaten, rather that only matza - lehem oni - can be eaten. Lehem oni is usually translated as "the bread of affliction." In the context of our Gemara it is understood to mean "poor bread."
The Sages taught that the phrase poor man’s bread [lehem oni] excludes matza that was boiled [halut] in hot water after it was baked, which is considered to be a relative delicacy; and this expression also excludes matza that was baked as a large cake [ashisha]. I might have thought that a person fulfills his obligation to eat matza only with coarse [hadra’a] bread; therefore, the verse states: “Matzot,” “matzot,” which serves to amplify and include matza prepared with fine-grade flour. And in fact, one could fulfill his obligation even with matzot like those of King Solomon, which were prepared from the finest sifted flour. If so, what is the meaning when the verse states: “Poor man’s bread”? This phrase comes to exclude boiled matza and large cakes, but it does not exclude matza prepared from refined flour.
Gemara on our daf (page) brings this Rav Hai
Gaon explains that the dough was "boiled" in oil
and it is, therefore, considered matza ashirah - "rich matza"
- that cannot be used. Others understand that the dough was actually boiled
(similar to the process used today to make bagels) and cannot be used either
because boiling gives it a certain importance that negates the "poor
bread" that we need (Ra'avad
and others), or because the boiling process does not produce an end-product
that is considered to be bread at all (Rabbenu
An ashisha is a large cake. According to some rishonim, its very size gives it a certain importance that is problematic, as noted above. According to Rabbenu Yehonatan, the ashisha is kneaded together with oil or honey, again creating a situation of matza ashirah.
The Gemara rejects the suggestion that lehem oni teaches that only pat hadra'a can be used - i.e. that low grade flour need be used - arguing that even King Solomon's matzot, made of the finest flour, could be used as matza. While all commentaries agree that the pat hadra'a mentioned means something baked from low-quality flour, the actual definition of the term is subject to dispute. According to the Maharam Halavah quoting the Rambam, the word means "a worm" and the reference is to worm-eaten flour. The Arukh had a slight variation on the reading of the word; his version is harda'a, whose source is the Latin horedeum, meaning barley. According to this, the suggestion raised in the Gemara is that normal wheat flour should be rejected for the "poor bread" and replaced with a lower quality barley grain.
37a-b - Is baking matza like baking
Our daf (page) opens with a that records a disagreement between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai. The topic of debate is pat ava - whether thick matza can be baked on the holiday of Pesah. Beit Hillel permits such baking to be done; Beit Shammai forbids it.
Rav Huna interprets the expression pat ava to be similar to the size of the lehem ha-panim - the showbread in the Temple - which was also matza and was one tefah (handbreadth) thick (see them here, and on the shulhan).
Rav Yosef objects to the comparison on a number of levels:
The ovens in the Temple were made of metal, not
Given the severity of the prohibition against eating hametz, and the difficulty involved in baking thick matza properly, even if it was done in the Temple for the lehem ha-panim, how can Beit Hillel permit it on Pesah for the general public?
In explanation of this baraita, one suggestion that is raised (either by Rav or by Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi) is that pat ava does not mean to bake a thick cake; rather it means to bake a large amount at one time. The Gemara points out that if we understand pat ava this way, the potential problem would not be specific to Pesah, but it is a general issue of possibly baking unnecessarily on Yom Tov.
Rabbenu Yehonatan explains that if this is, in fact, the point of disagreement, Beit Shammai forbids it lest some of the bread or matza will be left over and will be used after Yom Tov is over, creating a situation where preparations for the regular weekday were done on the holiday. Beit Hillel would argue that the baking process works better when a large amount is baked, so having leftovers is of no concern.
Pesahim 38a-b - Using matzot prepared for another purpose
teaches that someone who prepares matzot
to bring together with their sacrifice (korbanot
like that brought by a Nazir
– Bamidbar 6:15 - who is completing
his nezirut or someone bringing a thanksgiving offering – Vayikra 7:12 - include halot
matzot together with the animal sacrifice) cannot use them to fulfill the mitzvah of matza
If, however, someone prepared such matzot to sell to others, then they
can be used for the mitzvah on Pesah.
This very issue was the subject of a question that Rabbi Ilai asked Rabbi Eliezer, who did not know the answer. When Rabbi Ilai posed the question to Rabbi Yehoshua, he was quick to refer to the Mishnah, which distinguished between the two cases – if the matzot were prepared by someone to accompany his sacrifice they cannot be used for Pesah but if they were prepared for sale then they can be used for Pesah.
When I [Rabbi Ilai] returned and recited these matters to Rabbi Eliezer, he said to me in excitement: By the covenant, these are the very matters that were stated to Moses on Mount Sinai. Rabbi Eliezer swore that this halakha had been transmitted over the generations going back to Moses on
The Arukh understands that both statements end with a question mark. The first one is Rabbi Eliezer talking, and he questions whether Rabbi Yehoshua's ruling was truly based on a reliable tradition. The second statement is said by Rabbi Yehoshua, who insists that the tradition is a reliable one, but that it still needs a good reason, since even well-established traditions need to make sense.
The Gemara concludes with Rabbah's explanation of the ruling. If someone prepares the matzot to sell, he has not made a final decision on what their destiny will be. He hopes to sell them to someone who needs them for a sacrifice. At the same time he thinks to himself that if they are not sold, he can always use them as matzot for the upcoming Pesah holiday.
Pesahim 39a-b - Vegetables that can count as maror
Aside from hametz and matza that we have been discussing, another one of the mitzvot of Pesah is eating maror – bitter herbs. The Mishnah that opens our daf (page) lists five types of vegetables that can be used to fulfill the mitzvah of maror. It is commonly accepted that the first type listed, hazeret, is romaine lettuce. The Sages identify the second type, tamkha, as horseradish. Some hold that the fourth type, olashin, is endives. There is no firm tradition regarding the remaining two species - harhavina and maror – although the Me'iri claims that it is not the name of a specific plant, rather it includes all types of bitter vegetables.
According to the Gemara, the most preferred type is hazeret – romaine lettuce. Initially this is soft and sweet, but the longer it remains in the ground, the more bitter it becomes. This recalls the nature of the Egyptian servitude which was bearable at first, but became progressively worse as time went on. Furthermore, its name in Hebrew - hassah – reminds us of God's mercy on the Jewish People in Egypt.
This leaf-lettuce, Lactuca sativa var. Romana, is grown commercially for food. Its leaves, which grow to a length of 35 cm. and a width of 15 cm., develop into a "head." If the lettuce is allowed to grow undisturbed, it develops a long (up to one meter), hard stem, from which flowers and small, bitter leaves will sprout, probably the source for the Gemara's comment that it starts out sweet, but ends up bitter. As noted, the identification of hazeret as horseradish is a common error.
One vegetable that is rejected by the Gemara as a possible type of maror is oleander, a shrub that grows to a height of four meters with hard yellow-green leaves and pink flowers. Aside from being bitter, the leaves and flowers of this plant are poisonous, and can kill animals and even people if eaten in large quantities.
Pesahim 40a-b - Rules for Passover foods
Most of this perek (chapter) has focused on issues of defining hametz. The Mishnah on our daf (page) teaches three halakhot:
One may not add flour to haroset, a seasoned, pungent food, or to mustard, to dull the sharp taste. In both cases, the pungency of these foods might accelerate the leavening of the flour. And if one added flour to either of these, the mixture may be eaten immediately before it is leavened; and Rabbi Meir prohibits this, lest the food be leavened immediately.
The mishna continues: One may not boil the Paschal lamb in ordinary liquids or in fruit juices, as the Torah explicitly states that it must be roasted [see Shmot 12:9]. However, one may baste it while it is roasting and dip it into liquid while eating it. [According to the Rambam no liquids can be added until after it has been roasted.]
The tanna further states: Water that has been used by a baker for cooling his hands or washing dishes should be poured out, because this water leavens the dough, as the water probably contains a small quantity of flour and dough.
regard to the first rule, Rav Kahane teaches that the argument between Rabbi
Meir and the Tanna Kamma (first tanna)
is only in the case of mustard, but with regard to other spices everyone agrees
that it must be destroyed immediately. The Maharam Halavah suggests that the
reason you can eat mustard mixed with flour immediately is because mustard
loses its flavor if it is not eaten right away, so we need not fear that it
will be left long enough to become hametz. Most other spices are used
sparingly over a period of time, so it is likely that they will become hametz.
According to the Rema, the Ashkenazi tradition to refrain from eating kitniyot on Pesah applies to mustard, so for Ashkenazim, the discussion is moot.
The second rule taught in the Mishnah that deals with specifics of the Passover sacrifice seems to be out of place amongst the rules and regulations about hametz, which are the main concerns of this chapter. Rabbi Shlomo Adani in his commentary to the Mishnah, Melekhet Shlomo, suggests that since the Mishnah opened by teaching that one cannot mix flour with certain types of liquidy foods, it continued by teaching another Passover related rule – the korban Pesah itself - where mei peirot (fruit juice) cannot be used.
Pesahim 41a-b - How to cook the Passover sacrifice
In the Mishnah on yesterday's daf (page) we learned that the Passover sacrifice must be roasted and cannot be boiled in water or other liquids.
Rav Hisda teaches that if someone cooks food on Shabbat by using the heat from the hot-springs in Tiberias, he is not held liable for cooking on Shabbat (one of the 39 prohibited activities on Shabbat), but he would be held liable for cooking the Passover sacrifice, which, as we learned, is forbidden, were he to do it in the hot-springs. Rava explains that the hot-springs in Tiberias are not considered "fire" with regard to the rules and regulations of Shabbat, so no formal cooking takes place. On Passover, although it would not be considered cooking, neither is it considered broiling, which is what one must do in order to fulfill the mitzvah of tzli esh (Shmot 12:8-9).
The Me'iri points out that there are variant readings in the Gemara as to whether the source that is quoted is
Pasuk (verse) 8 - And they shall eat the meat that night, roasted by fire…
Pasuk 9 – It should not be eaten raw, nor boiled in, rather roasted by fire…
The difference between the sources is whether the method under discussion is considered negation of a positive commandment (8) or transgression of a negative one (9).
The very suggestion that the Pesah might be cooked in the hot-springs of Tiberias is a strange one. The Passover sacrifice, which is considered kodashim (consecration), can only be eaten within the precincts of
Although the simple explanation is to say that the Gemara is using the hot-springs of Tiberias as an example of non-fire-related cooking methods, which would apply, for example, to cooking in water heated by the sun – or, perhaps, by microwaves - (this appears to be the approach to the Mishnah suggested by Maimonides), Rav Shlomo ha-Kohen suggests that the reference might be to a historical period before the Temple was built, when the sacrifice could be brought anywhere in Israel.
Pesahim 42a-b -
Seven days shall
there be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats that which is
leavened, that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of
Matzot shall be eaten seven days; and no leavened bread shall be seen with you, neither shall there be leaven seen with you, in all your borders.
The Torah forbids eating hametz on Pesah; even having it in your house on the holiday is forbidden.
The third perek (chapter) of Massekhet Pesahim, which begins on our daf (page), examines a very basic question: what is the definition of hametz? From the Torah it is clear that bread or a direct leavening agent is considered hametz. What about food or drink that has a small amount of hametz in it – are they also forbidden on Pesah? Does something with hametz mixed in need to be searched out and destroyed before the holiday? What percentage of a given mixture need be hametz for it to be forbidden? How about a product that contains hametz, but is not intended to be eaten? Is it, too, considered hametz?
These are the types of questions with which our chapter grapples.
The first Mishnah teaches that food, drink and even paste made from flour or grain is considered hametz. The specific examples are Babylonian kutah, Median beer, Edomite vinegar, Egyptian zitom, dyers' broth (zoman), bakers’ well-worked dough and bookmakers' kolan, or glue (the Gemara refers to these as "the four countries and the three professions"). Rabbi Eliezer even includes women's cosmetics – apparently a type of depilatory cream used for removing hair.
The prohibition, however, is only on the level of a simple negative commandment, which does not carry the more severe punishment of karet (excision from the people of Israel) if it is eaten. Introducing these items, the Mishnah uses the term Elu Ovrin, an expression that is understood in a number of ways by the rishonim. Rashi understands it to mean that keeping these things in your house over Pesah leads you to be over – to transgress – the prohibition of bal yera'eh u'bal yimatzeh, of having hametz in your possession.
Rabbenu Hananel suggests that the expression should be understood to mean ma'avirim me'al ha-shulhan - that these things need to be removed from the table, i.e. that they cannot be eaten. According to Rabbenu Yehonatan it means that these things need bi'ur; that they need to be searched for and destroyed.