This year (5778), the first night of Pesach falls out on Shabbat night. Every Shabbat night following the Shabbat Arvit Amida prayer in the synagogue and following the recitation of “Vaychulu Ha’Shamayim Ve’Ha’aretz,” the Chazzan proceeds to recite the “Me’en Sheva” blessing, which is a brief repetition of the silent Amida prayer which has already been recited by the entire congregation.
The Gemara (Shabbat 24a) and the Rishonim (ibid.) explain that the reason our Sages enacted recited the Me’en Sheva blessing is because of danger, i.e. because there were people who remained in the synagogue later than the rest of the congregation and they were concerned that when these individuals would return home, destructive forces would harm them. Thus, our Sages established the Me’en Sheva blessing to be recited in the synagogue so that the entire congregation will remain in the synagogue a little while longer so that they would all be able to return to the city together. Our discussion will now revolve upon the issue of whether or not our Sages enacted that this blessing be recited on the first night of Pesach since this night is considered protected from all destructive forces.
The Tur (Chapter 487) states: “The Ba’al Ha’Itur writes in the name of Rabbeinu Nissim Gaon zt”l that when (the first night of) Pesach coincides with Shabbat, the Me’en Sheva blessing is not recited, for this blessing was established so that destructive forces do not harm those who remain in the synagogue later; on the night of Pesach there is no such concern since the night of Pesach is a night of Heavenly protection.” Indeed, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (ibid) rules likewise and writes: “The Me’en Sheva blessing is not recited.” This is the consensus among the vast majority of Rishonim that the Me’en Sheva is not to be recited on the first night of Pesach which coincides with Shabbat.
Based on the above, all of the greatest Poskim rule that the Me’en Sheva blessing should not be recited on the first night of Pesach which coincides with Shabbat.
On the other hand, the great Mekubal, the Rashash (Hagaon Rabbeinu Shalom Sharabi zt”l) presents a novel idea in his Sefer Nehar Shalom (page 58b) and writes that since the Me’en Sheva blessing is explicitly mentioned by the Talmud and we do not find that the Sages of the Talmud distinguished between the night of Pesach and the other Shabbatot of the year, the Me’en Sheva blessing should be recited on the night of Pesach which coincides with Shabbat. He writes that the Rishonim who have written not to recite it base themselves on their own logic. Thus, the Rashash clearly disagrees with the opinion of the great Rishonim because of his own rationale that since the Talmud does not state explicitly not to recite the Me’en Sheva blessing on the night of Pesach, it therefore should be recited.
Indeed, Hagaon Rabbeinu Chaim Palagi zt”l writes in his Responsa Lev Chaim (Volume 2, Chapter 95) quotes the words of the Rashash and then proceeds to question the words of the great Rishonim how it is that they have not deduced from the language of the Talmud that this blessing is to be recited on every Shabbat night including the night of Pesach, as the Rashash understood. Although he quotes several Acharonim who rebuff the Rashash’s opinion based on several sources from the revealed and hidden Torah, he concludes that if the Rashash says so, this must certainly be the correct approach according to the hidden Torah since the Rashash “was great in his knowledge of the revealed Torah and even greater in his knowledge of the hidden Torah, for he was so great and famous for his knowledge of Kabbalah that people almost said about him that the saintly Ari z”l’s promise at the time of his passing that if the people would merit it, he would return to them again, has been fulfilled by the presence of the saintly Rashash. Who then can disagree with him ?!”
Nevertheless, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l discusses this matter at length in his Responsa Yabia Omer (Volume 2, Chapter 25) and completely rebuffs the ruling of Hagaon Rabbeinu Chaim Palagi and the Rashash. He writes that even the greatest Mekubalim of Yeshivat Bet El, headed by the great Rabbeinu Yisrael Yaakov Elgazi zt”l (father of the great Rabbeinu Yom Tov Elgazi zt”l), rule that one should not recite the Me’en Sheva blessing on the first night of Pesach which falls out on Shabbat, in accordance with the ruling of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch. Similarly, Maran Ha’Chida, who was extremely close to the greatest Mekubalim of his generation, writes that the Me’en Sheva blessing should not be recited on the night of Pesach which coincides with Shabbat. Although the saintly Rashash was extremely great, nevertheless, our Torah “is not in Heaven” and one should not veer from the ruling of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch and the other great Poskim in the slightest.
When Maran zt”l’s work was published in the year 5716 (1966), many residents of Jerusalem, Torah scholars and laymen alike, became agitated and created a tumult claiming that Maran zt”l did not have the authority to disagree with the Rashash. As a result of the great argument which ensued, these people tormented Maran to the extent that he fell ill and he could barely sit at the Seder table on the night of Pesach.
When the greatest luminaries of Jerusalem saw this, they immediately supported Maran zt”l and on the morning of the first day of Pesach, Hagaon Rabbeinu Ezra Attieh came to visit Maran zt”l at his home along with other sages from Yeshivat Porat Yosef. Additionally, Hagaon Harav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l proclaimed that Maran zt”l had the right to rule on halachic matters as he deemed fit, for he was correct regarding this matter since the custom of most Jewish communities is not to budge from the rulings of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch. Nevertheless, there were several members of the Kabbalastic Yeshivot in Jerusalem who vehemently opposed Maran zt”l and spoke out harshly and disrespectfully against him.
This continued until one of the greatest Mekubalim of the generation, Hagaon Harav Efraim Ha’Kohen zt”l (father of the current Rosh Yeshiva of Porat Yosef, Hagaon Harav Shalom Ha’Kohen Shlit”a), who was himself the leading Sephardic Mekubal, Rosh Yeshivat “Oz Ve’Hadar” for Kabbalah studies, and one of the greatest disciples of Hagaon Rabbeinu Yosef Haim zt”l (the saintly Ben Ish Hai), openly came out in support of Maran zt”l and stated that his opinion was halachically correct. This served to finally silence those who supported the argument, once and for all.
Thus, halachically speaking, this year (5778), the Me’en Sheva blessing should not be recited in the synagogue on the first night of Pesach. Only the paragraph of “Vaychulu” should be recited until the words “Asher Bara Elohim La’asot.”
Following this, the complete Hallel is recited along with its blessings, as we shall discuss in the following Halacha.