By April 9, 2008 Read More →

Jerusalem Talmud Pesahim 10:1 (37a-c): Preparing for the Seder

Passover SederThis passage sets forth a particular order for the Passover eve celebration. It discusses the rule that one may not eat on the days preceding Sabbaths and festivals from the time of the afternoon sacrifice until the evening, and mandates that reclining at the Seder not be limited to the rich or intellectuals, who in antiquity predominated at wine parties and symposia and who elsewhere in Rabbinic sources are associated with reclining.

“On the eve of Passover [from] close to [the time of the] minhah [afternoon offering = about the ninth hour of the day], until it gets dark a person should not eat. Even a poor person in Israel should not eat until he reclines [at the Seder]. [At the Seder those who serve] should not give him fewer than four cups of wine even if [the funds come] from the charity plate.” 32

The teaching [the Mishnah] represents the position of Rabbi Judah [who holds that one refrains from eating on the eve of all Sabbaths and festivals]. As it is taught- 33 ‘“Sabbath eve from minhah time onward a person should not taste anything until it gets dark so that he may enter the Sabbath with an appetite’—the words of Rabbi Judah. Rabbi Yose says, ‘[A person] continues to eat until he finishes [the meal].’ ‘They interrupt [eating] because of the Sabbath [to welcome it by reciting the Sanctification blessing]’—the words of Rabbi Judah. Rabbi Yose says, ‘They do not interrupt.’

‘‘A case concerning Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel and Rabbi Yose bar Halafta who [prior to minhah time] were dining in Akko on the Sabbath eve and the time of Sabbath came. “Said Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel to Rabbi Yose bar Halafta, ‘Do you want us to interrupt [our meal] because of the Sabbath [and thus take Rabbi Judah’s position into consideration]?’

“[Rabbi Yose bar Halafta] said to him, ‘Every day you would prefer my opinion in the presence of Rabbi Judah and now you prefer Rabbi Judah’s in my presence? “Does he mean to ravish the queen in my own palace?” (Est. 7-8)’ 34

“[Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel] said to him, ‘If so, let us not interrupt lest [following our action] the law be fixed in Israel according to Rabbi Judah.’ They did not move from there until they fixed the law according to Rabbi Yose.” 35

Rabbi Judah [said] in the name of Samuel, “These [the foregoing] are the opinions of Rabbi Judah and Rabbi Yose. [But] the opinion of the Sages [the law] is- [A person] spreads a napkin [over the bread] and sanctifies [the day by reciting the sanctification blessing].” 36

What is the law, is it permissible to eat dried fruit [which whets one’s thirst]? Rabbi Judah Nesiah [II = Judah the Patriarch III] bathed and became thirsty [in the late afternoon]. He asked Rabbi Mana, “Since I am thirsty, may I drink?” 37

He said to him, “[No, for] Rabbi Hiyya teaches- ‘A person is prohibited from tasting anything until it gets dark.’” 38

Said Rabbi Levi, “One who eats unleavened bread on Passover eve is like one who has intercourse with his betrothed in his in-laws’ [literally- father-in-law’s] house, and one who has intercourse with his betrothed in his in-laws’ house is liable to lashes.” [For both, one must wait for the proper time.]

It is taught -39 “Rabbi Judah ben Beterah says, ‘One is prohibited [from eating] both leavened and unleavened bread.’’’ Rabbi Simon [said] in the name of Rabbi Joshua ben Levi, “Rabbi [Judah the Patriarch] was accustomed to eat neither leavened nor unleavened bread”—neither unleavened bread because of this [tradition] of Rabbi Levi, nor leavened bread because of this [tradition] of Rabbi Judah ben Beterah.”

And was Rabbi a student of Rabbi Judah hen Beterah [that he should follow the latter’s opinion in this matter]? Was he not [instead] a student of Rabbi Jacob ben Qorshai? Rather [he refrained from eating leavened bread] because he was a firstborn son [and the firstborn fasted on the day preceding Passover]. 40

Said Rabbi Mana, “Rabbi Jonah, my father, was a firstborn and he ate!” 41

Said Rabbi Tanhum, “[Rabbi acted thus] not because of this [reason], but because of the following- Rabbi was sickly. When he ate during the day, he would not [be able to] eat in the evening. And why here [in this case] would he not eat during the day? In order to enter [upon the eating of] the unleavened bread with an appetite.” 42

Said Rabbi Levi, “Because it is the custom of slaves to eat standing, here [on Passover night, the Mishnah requires people] to eat reclining to proclaim that they have gone out from slavery to freedom.” Rabbi Simon [said] in the name of Rabbi Joshua ben Levi, “That olive’s amount [of unleavened bread] with which a person fulfills his obligation on Passover—one must eat it reclining.”

Rabbi Yose asked before Rabbi Simon, “Does this apply even to a slave in the presence of his master, even to a woman in the presence of her husband?”

He said to him, “Son of the great, until here I have heard [i.e., only what I reported].” Said Rabbi Hiyya bar Adda, “Because it is not pleasant for a person to eat from the communal fund, here [he is required] ‘even if [the funds come] from the charity plate.’” 43

It is taught- “On a festival, a man is required to make his wife and children happy. With what does he make them happy? With wine. Rabbi Judah says, ‘Women with what is appropriate for them; and children, with what is appropriate for them’].” 44 “Women, with what is appropriate for them”—for example, fine linen garments and belts; “and children, with what is appropriate for them”—for example, walnuts and almonds. They say, “Rabbi Tarfon used to do this.”

Whence [did they derive the requirement] for four cups? Rabbi Yohanan [said] in the name of Rabbi Benaiah, “[They] correspond to the four redemptions [or acts of redemption, mentioned in reference to Egypt]- ‘Say, therefore, to the Israelite people- I am the Lord. I willtake you out [from under the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from their bondage. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and through extraordinary chastisements]. And I will take you to be my people,’ etc. (Ex. 6-6-7). [These verses contain the four terms-] ‘I will take out- ‘I will deliver- ‘I will redeem- ‘I will take.’’’

Rabbi Joshua ben Levi said, “[They] correspond to the four cups of [wine mentioned in reference to] Pharaoh- ‘Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, [and I took the grapes,] and I pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand’ (Gen. 40-11)… ‘and you will place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand,’ etc. (Gen. 40-13). [‘But think of me when all is well with you again so as to free me from this place’ (Gen. 40-14).]” [The four cups in the dream and its interpretation brought or preceded a redemption, in this instance that of Joseph.]

Rabbi Levi said, “[They] correspond to the four [world] kingdoms [that have oppressed Israel and that precede the kingdom of God—Babylonia, Media, Greece, and Rome, with each cup perhaps marking the release of Israel from a different oppressor].”

And Rabbis say, “[They] correspond to the four cups of retribution that the Holy One Praised be He will give the nations of the world to drink- ‘For thus said the Lord, the God of Israel, to me- “Take from my hand this cup of wine of wrath [and make all the nations to whom I send you drink of it]’’’ (Jer. 25-15); ‘[Flee from the midst of Babylon for this is a time of vengeance for the Lord, He will deal retribution to her]. Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord’s hand, [it made the whole earth drunk]’ (Jer. 51- 6-7); ‘For in the Lord’s hand there is a cup [with foaming wine fully mixed; from this He pours; all the wicked of the earth drink, draining it to the very dregs]’ (Ps. 75-9); ‘He will rain down
upon the wicked blazing coals and sulfur, a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup’ (Ps. 11 -6).”

[In the last verse,] What is “the portion of their cup”? Rabbi Abin said, ‘‘A bowl of poterion 45 like the bowl of poterion after bathing.” 46

[Continuing the words of the Rabbis-] ‘‘And corresponding to them [to the four cups of retribution], the Holy One, Praised be He, will give Israel four cups of consolation to drink- ‘The Lord is my allotted share and cup’ (Ps. 16-5); ‘[You spread a table for me in full view of my enemies;] You anoint my head with oil; mydrink [cup] is abundant’ (Ps. 23-5); and this [verse-] ‘1 raise the cup of deliverances’ (Ps. 116-13) [provides an additional] two [cups (as “deliverances” is plural), each of which represents a separate act of deliverance].”

31. Trans. B. Bokser, completed and edited by L. H. Schiffman, Yerushalmi Pesahim (The Talmud of the Land of Israel- A Preliminary Translation and Explanation, vol. 13; Chicago Studies in the History of Judaism; Chicago- University of Chicago Press, 1994), pp. 473-8.

32. Mishnah Pesahim 10-1, which is then discussed in the following Talmudic discussion.

33. Here begins a baraita parallel to Tosefta Berakhot 5-1.

34. In my presence, do you wish to follow the view of Rabbi Judah?

35. The baraita ends here and amoraic discussion begins.

36. One may eat right up to the time of the beginning of the Sabbath and no waiting period beforehand is required.

37. On Friday afternoon after minhah.

38. Until the onset of the Sabbath.

39. In a baraita.

40. To commemorate their redemption from the plague of the firstborn, the last of the Ten Plagues against the Egyptians prior to the Exodus.

41. Therefore we must assume that the fast of the firstborn was not yet an accepted custom, and the fact that Rabbi may have been a firstborn is not crucial.

42. Had he eaten bread in the morning or matzah in the afternoon, he would not have been able to eat matzah at the seder.

43. Because of the importance of drinking four cups, the Mishnah requires a person to take, not just from the communal fund, which provides a weekly allotment, but even from the charity plate, which provides a daily allotment. Since this requires a person to appear daily, it poses an even greater source of embarrassment.

44. A baraita parallel to Tosefta Pesahim 10-4.

45. Poterion refers to a potion made from the root of a shrub which was believed to be a healing agent for wounds and used to strengthen weak muscles.

46. Usually given after a bath to relax the muscles but in this case used to bring about a punishment.

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