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11 Answers 11


Answers to the Mah Nishtanah


user3329 asked: Almost every small Jewish child learns the Mah Nishtanah, sometimes even in multiple languages. However, when they are done, the question remains.

Where in the Haggadah are the four questions answered (please do not tell me "Ha Lach Mianya" and if you do please tell me how it does)? Where in the Haggadah do we find direct answers to the questions asked?

Shimon bM offered: I'll deal with one potential aspect of your question, and hopefully others will be able to add more: to what extent are the questions in Mah Nishtanah answered within the text of Mah Nishtanah itself? This issue is discussed at length by Prof. Richard C. Steiner of Yeshiva University[1], which I will summarise below.

There are at least three different ways of construing the number of questions in the Mah Nishtanah, at least one of which provides answers. The differences in interpretation boil down to three different ways of construing the word mah (מה), and three different ways of construing the particle she- (ש). Those different interpretations are as follows:

1) Mah (מה) = "What?"; she- (ש) = "[such] that".

"What differentiates this night from all other nights, such that [examples A, B, C, D]?"

This interpretation of the two lexemes (mah and she-) has great precedent, and elicits a reading of the text in which there is a single question: what is it about this night to have produced these four differences between it and all others?

2) Mah (מה) = "Why?"; she- (ש) = "for".

"Why is this night different from all other nights? For, [examples A? B? C? D?]"

This is the best attested interpretation of the text, although it too can be understood in three different ways:

  1. Four questions: why is this night different in respect of example A? In respect of example B? In respect of example C? etc;
  2. Five questions: Why is this night different from all other nights? Why do we do example A? Why do we do example B? etc;
  3. One question, and four answers: Why is this night different from all other nights? Because of example A, because of example B, because of example C and because of example D.

3) Mah (מה) = "How!"; she- (ש) = "for" (idiomatically, "why")

"How different this night is from all other nights! Why, [examples A! B! C! D!]"

This interpretation also has some precedent, though it yields a reading of the text in which there are no questions, being a rhetorical assertion only, and therefore one in which it also requires no answers.

The only construals of the text that require an answer are those found in interpretation 1 (a single question), interpretation 2.1 (four questions) and interpretation 2.2 (five questions). Where the first (1) asks about the general nature of the evening, and the second (2.1) about the specific things that we are doing, the third (2.2) combines them both together. You might suppose that the entirety of the haggadah is an answer to that first question, while the second (why do we do examples A, B, C and D?) is answered more specifically at various junctures within it.

Fascinatingly, the 1609 Venetian Haggadah was printed with three different translations: Yiddish, Judeo-Italian and Judeo-Spanish. All three of these translations rendered the mah (מה) in Mah Nishtanah differently:

Yiddish: וואז ("What?");
Judeo-Italian: פַיר קַי ("Why?");
Judeo-Spanish: קואנטו ("How!").

I encourage you to read Prof. Steiner's full article, which is considerably more thorough than what I have presented here.

Y ez said: The Maharal in Gevuros Hashem Ch. 52 suggests two answers to this question:

First answer:

דודאי התשובה הוא בסוף המאמר שמשיב על פסח מצה ומרור כאשר מגיע לשם... וכן על שאנו מסובין משיב בכל דור ודור חייב אדם לראות את עצמו כאלו הוא יצא ממצרים וכו' ומפני שיראה עצמו כאילו יצא ממצרים יש לעשות הסבה

The answer is at the end in the description of the Pesach sacrifice, matzah, and marror, when he gets there... and that which we lean is answered in the paragraph in which we declare that in every generation one must see one's self as if he himself left Egypt, and therefore he should lean.

Second answer:

כי מה נשתנה שאלת חכם... ויודע הוא זה... אלא ששואל מה ענין זה לנו כי מה קרה לנו ... ומתרץ עבדים היינו לפרעה

Mah Nishtana is the question of a scholar... and he understands the meaning of all of these things... rather he is asking what does this have to do with us, and what happened to us... and the answer is "we were slaves to Pharaoh etc."

Double AA provided support[2] for the first answer based on early manuscripts of the Mishna (Pesachim 10:4-5), which asks three questions in the Mah Nishtanah, corresponding to the three explanations Rabban Gamliel gives.

  1. "On the Original Structure and Meaning of Mah Nishtannah and the History of its Reinterpretation" (JSIJ 7 [2008], 163-204). The article can be read online at http://www.biu.ac.il/JS/JSIJ/7-2008/Steiner.pdf
  2. https://judaism.stackexchange.com/a/22796

user3329 mi.yodeya.com/u/3329
Shimon bM mi.yodeya.com/u/1659
Y ez mi.yodeya.com/u/4794
Double AA mi.yodeya.com/u/759

  • Section: Maggid -> Mah Nishtanah.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 22:39
  • Second-party edit completed in the Word document.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 9:32

How much is 2 Zuz worth in current US Dollars?


Ari asked: As mentioned in the Passover Hagaddah, how much is "2 zuz" worth in current US Dollars? Please note there may be different types of zuz: "זוזי פשיטי" and "זוזי ממש" (Gemara Ketuvot 67a).

An Aish HaTorah article1 appears to imply 2 zuz is worth $7.50, based on the value of silver coins. But that seems cheap for a little goat, even one that can be eaten by a single cat.

So what's 2 zuz worth? How much did this baby goat go for in USD?

Ariel answered: It's virtually impossible to compare money from such a long time ago.

Common comparisons are:

  • Value of precious metal.
  • Cost of a day's meal.
  • Value of a day's labor.

Each measure will give you a different number. For a goat probably a day's labor is the best measure, since that's what you would have to do to get one.

A day laborer (unskilled) in those days would earn about one dinarii (same as a zuz) per day.

Federal minimum wage in the US for a day's labor is about $58 (in 2013), so your goat cost about $116. Although practically speaking most people can expect more since state minimum wage is higher, and someone earning minimum wage with a family (which is comparable to the situation back then) would get a large refund on their tax return. So the real number is probably higher.

A price based on precious metals you already know: $7.50.

In terms of food a zuz is worth about $20 according to a Wikipedia article.2 So that would make the goat's price $40.

Rabbi Michael Tzadok explained: An article from JLaw3 talks about the 200 zuz of a ketubah, covering a range of opinions from $750 to $1,000,000. Current custom in Israel is to not evaluate the actual worth of Talmudic coins but to equate it to purchasing power, technically known as relative worth. According to the Rabbinate the current relative worth of 200 zuz is equivalent to $50000 USD. In October 2012 I was maseder kiddushin in the US. I asked Rav Ovadia Yosef, before I wrote the ketubah, if the $50k stipulation should also be included in an American ketubah, where it wasn't mandated by state law and there were differing opinions concerning the value of a zuz, and he told me that it should still be written explicitly that 200 zuz is equal to $50000 USD.

So 50000/200=250. 250*2=500. So 2 zuz is $500 (or possibly considerably less if you follow another valid opinion).

Michoel added: R' Chaim Naeh points out (Shiurey Torah Siman 1 footnote 21) that in post-talmudic halachic works, the term zuz was used loosely for whatever coin their country happened to use. Chad Gadya is attributed to the Rokeach, so it may have referring to German currency.

  1. http://www.aish.com/atr/Ketubah_200_Zuz.html
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denarii
  3. http://www.jlaw.com/Articles/KETUBAH.pdf

Ari mi.yodeya.com/u/2577
Ariel mi.yodeya.com/u/758
Michoel mi.yodeya.com/u/1535
Rabbi Michael Tzadok mi.yodeya.com/u/184

  • Section: Nirtzah. I wondered whether to use the plural zuzim, but since not one of the participants whose work I used did, I didn't make this change. (I figure maybe they know something I don't.) Does anybody have opinions on this? Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 2:12
  • The whole long "funny part" in the first paragraph might be good for the web, but i'm not so sure about in print. Thoughts?
    – Scimonster
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 9:39
  • @Scimonster do you mean the part about the cat, the dog, the stick, the fire, etc? Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 13:08
  • Yes. [15 chars]
    – Scimonster
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 13:12
  • @Scimonster edited. Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 17:20
  • Second-party edits complete.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 9:45

Hardboiled eggs and salt water at the Seder?


Seth J asked: How widespread is the custom of eating a hardboiled egg in salt water at the Seder, and what are the source and reason behind it? Is it codified anywhere?

Menachem said about the egg: The Remah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 576:2) says that some people have the custom to eat eggs at the Seder, as a sign/remembrance of mourning. He posits two reasons:

  • The first night of Pesach is always the same day of the week as Tisha Be'av
  • To remember the destruction of the Temple. Were it not for the destruction we would be eating the Korban Pesach.

The Mishna Berurah (:11) brings a third reason, from the GR"A:

  • As a remembrance for the Chagigah (generic holiday offering) offering that was also brought and eaten that night. (Therefore the egg from the seder plate should be taken and eaten.)

We do not make a difference between the first night and the second night – Mishna Berurah ibid:11,13 and Be'er Hetiv ibid:2.

No mention of dipping the salt water is made. Askmoses.com[1] mentions that it is a tradition.

Toras EMES 613 said about the salt water: The Encyclopedia Yehudit suggests that the salt water is for the following reasons, though I don't know what the source is for what is written there or if the suggestion offered is their own. This relates to the reason given for the egg as having to do with the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash.

  • Salt water symbolizes the tears that were wept over the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash.

  • It symbolizes the crying of the B'nei Yisrael due to extent of the slavery in Egypt.

  • It symbolizes a remembrance of our crossing the Red Sea (which was salt-water).


  1. http://www.askmoses.com/en/article/581,165566/Why-is-there-an-egg-on-the-Seder-Plate.html

Menachem mi.yodeya.com/u/603
Seth J mi.yodeya.com/u/5
Toras EMES 613 mi.yodeya.com/u/1399

  • Section: Shulchan Oreich. Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 2:25
  • Second party edit complete.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 19:00

What does the word “Karpas” mean?


Yehoshua asked: At the seder on Pesach we eat karpas (a fresh vegetable customarily dipped in salt water). What does this word actually mean and where does it come from?

Shimon bM brought: According to Jastrow, the word כרפס refers to an umbelliferous plant (one that has stalks branching out from a common stem, forming a flat or curved surface), like parsley or celery. It is not clear what the word's etymology is, or whether or not it is related to its homonym, כרפס, which turns up in Tanakh. That word, appearing in Esther 1:6, refers to a fine fabric, like linen (according to Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (sic)) or cotton (according to Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon). It is related to the Aramaic כרפסא and the Arabic كرباس (karbās), both of which derive from the Sanskrit karpāsa and the Greek καρπασος, meaning "cotton plant".

According to Rashi (cf: Genesis 37:3), this word is synonymous with פסים, which appears both as a reference to the clothes that Yaakov gave Yosef, as well as in 2 Samuel 13:18, in reference to the clothes that Tamar was wearing when Amnon sent her away. According to Rabbi Manoach ben Yaakov of Narvona (MT Hilkhot Chametz uMatzah 8:2), the reason that we dip this type of vegetable on Passover Eve is to remind ourselves of the dipping of Yosef's coat into blood, which resulted in the servitude of his entire family and their offspring.

Yehoshua mi.yodeya.com/u/1884
Shimon bM mi.yodeya.com/u/1659

  • Section: Karpas. I decided to use the Jewish verb "brought" here; that shouldn't cause any confusion among less knowledgeable folks.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 15:03
  • Second-party edit complete. Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 19:16

When do you eat the charoset?


Sam asked: During the seder, are you really not supposed have any charoset left on your maror when you eat it? Why is this? When do people actually get to eat the charoset?

Ahron said: When one eats the marror, he is obligated to dip it into charoses and then to shake off the charoses before eating it. If the charoses remains on the marror, it would give off its sweet taste to the marror that is supposed to be bitter (Shulchan Aruch 475:1).

When one eats the korech (matzah with maror), the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) rules that one must follow the same procedure. However, the Rema (ibid.) notes that the custom is not to do so. Today, though, the general custom is to use charoses at korech as well (see Aruch HaShulchan 475:8, Mishnah Berurah 475:19). While the Beis Yosef rules that one does not need to remove the charoses for the korech (see Kaf HaChaim 475:32), many poskim do require the charoses to be removed before eating the korech (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 119:7, Mishnah Berurah 475:17). If one is careful about gebrochts, he should ensure that the charoses that he uses is dry and that it is removed before the marror comes in contact with the matzo (Siddur HaRav).

It is the custom among Belz Chassidim to eat the leftover charoses at the Yom Tov daytime meals.

Sam mi.yodeya.com/u/9
Ahron mi.yodeya.com/u/139

  • Section: Marror.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 15:42
  • Second-party edit complete. Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 19:10

How can two contradictory ideas exist in Matzah?


RCW asked: Matzah embodies two ideas: poor man’s bread (slavery) and free man’s bread (the bread that was made in haste when they left Egypt). These ideas seem to contradict one another; how can they both exist in one חפצא של מצוה, object of the commandment?

Furthermore, if you look at Rabban Gamliel’s statement that one has to speak of three things in order to fulfill one's obligation), he only lists the one explanation of “free man’s bread”. Why is the other idea of Lechem Oni (poor man's bread) not included?

jake said: Given the proliferation of published commentaries on the haggada these days, I'm sure there are an abundance of answers to this question. The two most famous answers, though, come from earlier commentaries.

The first is from Abarbanel,1 who asks this in connection to what "לחם עוני" means. What is "poor bread"? Answering that "poor" refers to the composition of the dough as well as its quality of being filling in small amounts, Abarbanel writes that in "Ha Lachma Anya", we refer to matza by its inherent qualities of paucity, while only later in the haggada do we discuss what the matza represents, which is freedom and redemption.

The second answer comes from the Maharal,2 whose writings on a haggada (although not initially composed as a commentary to the haggada necessarily) were clearly meant as a response to Abarbanel's haggada. Matza is called lechem oni because it is the poor man's bread. But poverty and freedom are not contradictory ideas; on the contrary. Poverty is essentially freedom in that one who is anchored by his wealth and possessions is not as free as one who is not. Thus matza's designation as לחם עוני is itself a representation of freedom and redemption.

  1. Zevach Pesach, commentary on הא לחמא עניא
  2. Gvurot Hashem, commentary on הא לחמא עניא

RCW mi.yodeya.com/u/161
jake mi.yodeya.com/489

  • Section: Yachatz. There are a couple more answers, but i decided to leave them off due to low votes.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 16:11
  • Second-party edit complete. Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 2:03

When was matzah eaten besides for Pesach?


Charles Koppelman asked: The first of four questions specifically says, "On all other nights we eat chametz or matza, why on this night only matza?"

While I understand that it's halakhically acceptable to eat matzah when it isn't Pesach, was there a time when people regularly ate matzah outside of Passover?

user4523 found: The Binyan Ariel[1] writes:

According to what would appear to be the simple understanding of this stanza -- that on all other nights we can eat either chametz or matzah, whichever our heart desires -- it should have written "we eat either chametz or matzah", like it wrote in the last stanza "we eat either sitting or leaning". Or better still, it should have written "on all other nights we eat chametz", like it wrote with maror "on all other nights we eat other vegetables". Why does it say chametz and matzah?

However, it seems to me that we can explain the wording of this stanza according to what the poskim and commentaries wrote -- that the matzah that we eat to fulfill the mitzvah of matzah is a commemoration of the thanksgiving offering. Because there are four categories of people who are obligated to give thanks to Hashem, and the mnemonic to remember them is חיי"ם - one who has recovered from sickness (חלה), one who has returned from sea (ים), one who has been released from captivity (יצא מאסורים), and one who has crossed a wilderness (מדבר). And all of these four things happened to Yisrael -- they were released from slavery, they were healed from their spiritual sickness, they crossed the sea, and they crossed the wilderness.

Now, the thanksgiving offering can be eaten on the day that it is brought and the following night, and there is a mitzvah to eat it. Therefore, the son asks: Why is it that usually when there is a mitzvah to eat bread, that is, the thanksgiving offering, we eat both chametz and matzah, because the mitzvah includes eating them both (the thanksgiving offering is accompanied by forty loaves of bread - thirty unleavened (matzah) and ten leavened (chametz)). So why on this night when we are eating as a commemoration of the thanksgiving offering are we not eating chametz and matzah together, and instead we are eating only matzah?

  1. Written by R. Saul Lowenstam, Amsterdam, 1778

Charles Koppelman mi.yodeya.com/u/1498
user4523 N/A

  • Is Binyan Ariel a source that's commonly known or recognized? If not, it would be better if this included some sort of citation. (I see that the original has a HebrewBooks link, though those are unwieldy so I see why you dropped it. But can we do something else?) Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 12:57
  • @MonicaCellio probably just cite the author, publisher and year in a footnote
    – Scimonster
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 13:14
  • That would suffice. Can you pull that out of the HebrewBooks copy? Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 13:20
  • Done. Section: Maggid -> Mah Nishtanah.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 14:33
  • Second-party edit complete. (I don't know why the editor reports incorrect HTML in the body. I don't see anything wrong.) Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 2:12
  • Lot made it for the angels because he needed to have the bread cooked quickly, as did the witch of endor. THerefore we know it was common practice that if you had a sudden guest people would make matzah quickly since they didn't have the time to let the dough sit and rise
    – Aaron
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 18:10
  • @Aaron This is an edited version of the question for our publication. If you want to comment on the question, there's a link at the top of this post.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 18:20

Rabban Gamliel says we must mention moror at the seder. Is it just a word association?


Avrohom Yitzchok asked: Rabban Gamliel requires us to mention three things at the seder and gives the reasons.

פסח, על שום שפסח המקום על בתי אבותינו במצרים. מצה, על שום שנגאלו אבותינו במצרים. מרור, על שום שמררו המצרים את חיי אבותינו במצרים.

For the korban pesach, the offering for the festival, the reason to mention it could be that the Torah says: “The Lord will pass to smite the Egyptians, and He will see the blood {of the korban pesach} on the lintel and on the two doorposts, and the Lord will pass over the entrance, and He will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses to smite”.

We mention matzo because we were redeemed from Egypt and the matzo was evidence for this as Ikar Tosfot Yom-Tov quotes the Rambam to say: because there was no time for the dough of our forefathers to rise until HKB”H was revealed to them and redeemed them as it says and they baked the dough etc.

So for these first two, there is a direct link between the thing to mention (Pesach and matzo) and the thing we ate, whereas for the moror the reason to mention seems just to be an association of words.

How do we explain the reference to the reason to mention moror from Rabban Gamliel?

Double AA answered: In old manuscripts of the Mishna1 (and in the Rambam's Haggada2), the questions are actually phrased "על שם מה" not "על שום מה". Thus the "reasons" we are giving are based on the names. See, for example, the commentary in ברכת מרדכי, found at HebrewBooks.org.

"Sabba, why do we eat this thing called Pesach?" "Well, it's because God skipped (Pasach) over our houses when he killed the firstborns back when we were in Egypt. Have I told you that story? A long time ago..."

"Sabba, why do we eat this thing called Matza?" "Well, it's because we had to bake flat-bread (Uggot Matzot) when we were fleeing slavery in Egypt. Have I told you that story? A long time ago..."

So too in your case:

"Sabba, why do we eat this thing called Maror?" "Well, it's because the Egyptians embittered (Mareru) our lives back when we were enslaved in Egypt. Have I told you that story? A long time ago..."

What follows are my own thoughts:

The verses cited as proof-texts are not found in the Mishna or in the Yerushalmi, and in our printings of the Bavli they are in brackets. The stated reason for the name Matza is just שנגאלו that we were redeemed. Perhaps the original answer of "Matza Al Shem Mah?" was something like this:

"Sabba, why do we eat this thing called Matza?" "Well, it's because God took us out (Motzi) of our slavery in Egypt. Have I told you that story? A long time ago..."

Isn't Sabba punny? :)

josh waxman said: I am not sure I would agree with the premise of the question, that the reason to mention these (two of) three things is because (for Pesach) the Torah says the Lord will see the blood and not smite and because (for matza) that it is evidence.

Rather, the most immediate cause of Rabban Gamliel's opinion is the word Zeh, within the command to relate the story of the Exodus. Shemot 13:8 reads: וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר: בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה ה' לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם. "And you shall relate to your son on that day saying: Because of Zeh (this) Hashem did for me when I left Egypt."

Zeh is taken, midrashically, as something you can point to. For instance, the word zeh by the construction of the Menorah is the spark for the midrash that Moshe did not understand its complex construction until Hashem showed him a Menorah made of flame. The same for the half-shekel, where the word zeh is a spark for saying that Hashem showed him the coin out of fire.

בַּעֲבוּר זֶה teaches us that the mitzvah of telling the story of the Exodus is only at the time when the (Pesach) Matzah and Maror are resting before him. That is, he is supposed to be able to point to these symbols and say "because of this", indicating these physical items.

Once these items are meant to be pointed out, as an essential part of the commandment (such that "whoever does not say these three things has not fulfilled his obligation"), we may then search for the significance. And perhaps the mentioning of the significance is also essential to the mitzvah, as the "baavur" (because of) of "baavur zeh". Then we find elaboration of the significance of the three.

Further, the connection is not just linguistic, in the sense of a pun. It is called maror because it is indeed bitter. And so it represents bitterness, just as the Egyptians in a non-taste fashion embittered the lives of the Hebrews.

  1. http://jnul.huji.ac.il/dl/talmud/mishna/selectmi.asp
  2. http://mechon-mamre.org/i/3509.htm

Avrohom Yitzchok mi.yodeya.com/u/730
Double AA mi.yodeya.com/u/759
josh waxman mi.yodeya.com/u/458

  • Section: Maror or Magid. I don't know if footnote #3 is worth including; that's not a friendly URL for somebody typing from paper. Maybe it can be replaced with a different form of citation? Or maybe just leave it out? Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 2:59
  • I would just mention the haggadah by name, and in the intro, mention Hebrewbooks.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 9:16
  • @Scimonster seems reasonable. Can you identify the name of the haggadah? I see אזרחי, ברוך מרדכי but I don't know if that's a name, a description, something else... Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 13:06
  • Looks like that's the author. The name of the haggadah seems to be ברכת מורדכי, published in 5770
    – Scimonster
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 13:12
  • Second-party edit complete.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Mar 27, 2016 at 19:34

Why is it ok to pay the kids for the afikoman?


Monica Cellio asked: Most Pesach sedarim feature the afikoman hide-and-seek game; either the children steal it and ransom it back or the parents hide it and (in my experience) pay a prize to the child who finds it. At most of the sedarim I've been to, this has been a cash payment.

Why is it ok to handle and transfer money on Pesach? And does (or should) this custom change when Pesach is on Shabbat?

YDK explained the custom: I cannot speak for those who literally give cash (or any gift) on Yom Tov as this is considered a business transaction and is rabbinically forbidden as a safeguard of the labor of writing. But there is more leeway to talk about the transaction on Yom Tov.

Transferring an object to another's possession is definitely a violation of business activities. Talking about business is not a violation of the above, but is a violation of Yishaya 58:13-14 which warns to steer clear of "your business actions". All would agree, though, that if the business is not personal but spiritual (chafatzecha excludes cheftzei shamayim), one would be permitted to talk about business. For example, one would be allowed to tell a mohel that he is interested in hiring him for a job.

There is a debate over how much one can talk about (Rema OC 306:3 and 6). Can I actually set a price with the mohel and strike a deal? Some say this is still permitted since it is spiritual business. Others say this is too close to the rabbinic decree of business activities (similar to transferring objects) which was forbidden under all circumstances (MB 306:14). (The Mishna Berurah 306:32 equates the debate in 306:3 to 306:6 as well.)

Interestingly, whereas in 306:3 the Rema sides with the stricter approach to forbid making the deal ("v'chen ikar"), he says in 306:6 that the custom is to be lenient and make specific pledges to charity or to pay the chazan ("v'haminhag l'hakil").

So, since you are setting a price for a spiritual deal to eat an afikomen (that you can just take another out of the box does not undermine the spiritual aspect of the "stolen" matza), and you are not transferring the possession since it's already yours, you are at least in line with the "custom".

Isaac Moses added: I've never seen cash payments, but I have seen gifts literally changing hands. Due to the laws of muktzeh (the prohibition to handle things that cannot be used on Shabbat/Yom Tov), I have trouble believing that the former could be permitted. The latter, as I understand it, is also an issue, due to the prohibition of making transactions (kinyanim) on Shabbat/Yom Tov. That issue can be circumvented, I think, by having a third party accept the gifts on behalf of the intended recipients before Yom Tov. This is OK to do without their knowledge because "zachin le-adam shelo befanav" - "we can do unmitigated good for someone without their presence (or knowledge)." And Alex added: On top of that, the recipients are children, who can't really halachically acquire things on their own behalf anyway - so when the parent gives the child the afikoman present, there's no real transfer of ownership.

Can you provide more information? Is there any support for paying money to the children at the seder, or is that just an error on the part of the people doing it?

Alex mi.yodeya.com/u/37
Isaac Moses mi.yodeya.com/u/2
Monica Cellio mi.yodeya.com/u/472
YDK mi.yodeya.com/u/145

  • Section: Tzafun. I added the invitation for more answers at Scimonster's suggestion on the question-nomination post; feel free to massage that or remove it if it doesn't fit. Also, the first sentence of the answer seems like it contains an important typo; where it says Yom Tov I think YDK meant Shabbat. I left a comment asking for clarification, but if we don't get that, we should edit this paragraph further or perhaps remove it. Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 3:46
  • Second-party edits complete. The contrast in the first paragraph is between effecting a transaction and talking about a transaction, not between Shabbat and Yom Tov.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 9:39
  • @IsaacMoses thanks for working out what was going on in the first paragraph! Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 14:49
  • No problem. It took me about five re-readings to get through my preconception that he meant that there's more leeway for us, as analysts, to consider allowing transactions. Tricky. By the way, I couldn't ping you in the chat room, but please note that I put a first draft in there.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 14:52

Why does Echad Mi Yodeya stop at 13?


Gershon Gold asked: The song "Echod Mi Yodeya" traditionally sung at the Pesach Seder goes up to number 13. Why does this song not go higher or lower than 13?

We don't know -- do you? If so, please drop by and offer your answers.

Meanwhile, the Mi Yodeya Community has been crowdsourcing answers for each number from one up into the three-hundred-thirties, and counting; here is a small selection of our additions:1

  • 14 are the books of the Rambam.2 (Shalom)
  • 15 were the cubits of the Flood.3 (Alex)
  • 16 are the maneh of the myrrh.4 (Jeremy)
  • 17 were the Yovel cycles.5 (Alex)
  • 18 are the years before marriage.6 (Yahu)
  • 19 are the years of the calendar.7 (Alex)
  • 20 is the age of the Draft.8 (Isaac Moses)
  • 21 are the days between the straits.9 (Ariel)
  • 22 are the lines in a mezuzah.10 (Alex)
  • 23 are the judges of a small high court.11 (Yahu)
  • 24 are the divisions of the kohanim.12 (Alex)
  • 25 are the letters of Sh'ma.13 (Shalom)
  • 26 is the gematriya of the Tetragrammaton. (Jeremy)
  • 27 are the letters (including final forms). (Isaac Moses)
  • 28 are the "time"s in Koheles.14 (Alex)
  • 29 is the height of the red line.15 (Alex)
  • 30 is the age of strength. 16 (Bas613)

  1. For everything we've come up with so far, see mi.yodeya.com/questions/tagged/mi-yodeya-series.
  2. Or sing it: 14 are the books of the Mishneh ... Torah.
  3. Above the mountaintops (Genesis 7:20), or the whole world (Bereishis Rabbah 32:17).
  4. ... and the cassia, spikenard and saffron in the incense in the Temple (Keritot 6a).
  5. From the conquest of the land of Israel until the destruction of the first Temple. This was the only period in history when Yovel was binding (Erchin 12b).
  6. Avot 5:21
  7. A complete calendar cycle (of regular and leap years) is 19 years.
  8. Numbers 1:3
  9. "The Three Weeks" between the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Av.
  10. Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 288:11
  11. Sanhedrin 2a-b
  12. Kohanim were divided into groups (mishmaros), each of which served in the Temple for one week at a time.
  13. There are 25 letters in "שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יקוק אֱלֹקֵֵינוּ יקוק אֶחָד", mirrored by 25 letters in "בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד".
  14. "A time to be born, and a time to die," etc., in Ecclesiastes 3:2-8.
  15. 29 tefachim is the midpoint of the height of the Altar in the Temple. This was marked with a red line around the Altar. The significance of this demarcation was that the blood of certain offerings had to be applied to the upper half of the Altar, and of others to the lower half (Rambam, Beis Habechirah 2:6-8).
  16. Avot 5:25

Gershon Gold mi.yodeya.com/u/200
Shalom mi.yodeya.com/u/21
Alex mi.yodeya.com/u/37
Jeremy mi.yodeya.com/u/456
Yahu mi.yodeya.com/u/68
Isaac Moses mi.yodeya.com/u/2
Jeremy mi.yodeya.com/u/456
Bas613 mi.yodeya.com/u/10
Ariel mi.yodeya.com/u/76
NAME mi.yodeya.com/u/###

  • This was suggested here. I made it community wiki so anybody can contribute. To get the list of questions in order I sorted Isaac's questions by age and started at the bottom. Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 15:58
  • I think we ought to make sure that each list item is either understandable as-is or at least has a reference to more information. Stylistically, I think it's look best if each item is about a line long, and is as close as possible to being singable, with explanations either following in parentheses or in a footnote.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 14:15
  • @IsaacMoses good idea. I made a start at this; what do you think? (If you like it, feel free to continue.) Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 15:56
  • Monica, @Isaac I did the last several, including changing the example of 27.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 15:29
  • 1
    @Scimonster and Monica, I added some references, made the words fit the song a little better, and changed the choices for 21 and 28.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 4:05

Chad Gadya: The price of a kid goat


Fred asked: Was the fair market value of a kid goat really two zuzim? This song is of course allegorical, but, if the value given is highly inaccurate, is the discrepancy in value symbolic beyond the symbolism of the value itself?

Murex answered: A colleague of mine reminded me that there is actually a Gemara in Berachos 44b that describes a young healthy goat as a 'bar zuza', meaning it costs one zuz. He explained that although Chad Gadya states that the goat was bought for two zuz, there are major commentators (see Haggados of the Vlna Gaon and Chasam Sofer) that explain that the repetition of "Chad Gadya, Chad Gadya" means to hint that the song is actually referring to two goats. This would fit very neatly with the price of two zuz. As to the deeper reference and meaning of the two goats, see the above-mentioned haggados.

Menachem suggested: Perhaps the point is exactly that. In the eyes of the nation the Jews' value was minimal. G-d bought us for dirt cheap.

Fred mi.yodeya.com/u/1442
Menachem mi.yodeya.com/u/603
Murex mi.yodeya.com/u/5396

  • Section: Nirtzah. Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 14:36
  • Second-party edits complete.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 9:51

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