Halacha Date: 18 Adar 5772 March 12 2012
“Inquiring About” vs. “Expounding” the Laws of Pesach
The Gemara in Masechet Pesachim (6b) states that one should begin to inquire about the laws of Pesach thirty days before the actual holiday.
Maran HaBet Yosef (Chapter 429) asks that the Gemara in Megillah (32a) says that Moshe Rabbeinu instituted that the Jewish nation should expound the laws of Pesach on Pesach, the laws of Shavuot on Shavuot, and the laws of Sukkot on Sukkot. If so, it would seem that there is only an obligation to learn the laws of Pesach specifically on Pesach and not thirty days beforehand!
Maran HaBet Yosef answers that this does not actually mean that one must inquire about and expound the laws of Pesach thirty days beforehand; rather, this is with regards to the ruling that if two students come to ask the rabbi a question, one asks about a matter at hand and one asks about an unrelated matter, the rabbi should answer the one who asks about a matter at hand. The Gemara therefore teaches us that asking a question about Pesach thirty days before the holiday is considered a matter at hand. The Ran (Rabbeinu Nissim, one of the great Rishonim) explains likewise. It is for this reason that it says that one must “inquire about” the laws of Pesach as opposed to “expounding” them, for we are not obligated to stop learning all other halachic matters and focus specifically on the laws of Pesach; rather, this only applies to replying to students, for at this time, the inquirer will be considered asking about a matter at hand.
Maran HaBet Yosef offers another answer that although regarding other holidays we were only commanded to expound their laws on the holiday itself, nevertheless, the holiday of Pesach is different from all other holidays and one must begin expounding and delving in its laws thirty days before the actual holiday, for people must be aware of the laws of koshering vessels, baking Matzah, grinding the wheat etc. which, if left to learn only on the holiday itself, will not serve any purpose; people must therefore know all of these laws before the holiday. What Moshe established to expound on the holiday itself is the reasons behind the holiday for which we were commanded to keep the holiday in addition to expounding some laws of the holiday which apply on the holiday itself. Based on this second answer, teachers of Torah must begin teaching the laws of Pesach thirty days before the holiday.
The Opinion of the Mishnah Berura
Hagaon Mishnah Berura writes in his Be’ur Halacha that halachically speaking, one must begin teaching the laws of Pesach thirty days before the holiday, in accordance with the second answer of the Bet Yosef. There is actually an obligation to “expound” the laws of Pesach and not only to “inquire about them” thirty days before the holiday. However, his opinion is not in accordance with the ruling of Maran HaShulchan Aruch who states: “One begins to inquire about the laws of Pesach thirty days before Pesach.” His words prove that only regarding the inquirers do we consider them to be asking about an issue at hand beginning from thirty days before Pesach; however, we are not obligated to begin teaching the laws of Pesach thirty days before Pesach, as Maran HaBet Yosef writes in his first answer.
The Opinion of Maran Shlit”a in his Yabia Omer
Maran Harav Shlit”a in his Responsa Yabia Omer (Volume 2, Chapter 22) writes lengthily to defend the ruling of Maran HaShulchan Aruch that there is no actual obligation to halt all other regular study topics before Pesach in order to delve into the laws of Pesach; only with regards to one “inquiring about an issue at hand” do we say that if one asks a Pesach-related question before Pesach that we are obligated to answer him.
Although there is no actual obligation to begin teaching the laws of Pesach in public thirty days before the holiday, nevertheless, every individual is obligated to learn the laws of Pesach well so as not to err during this holiday which contains a great many laws. Therefore, we at Halacha Yomit shall discuss the laws of Pesach as much as possible and we shall not delve deeply into the reasons for the Halachot; rather, we shall focus on the primary laws so that, as time goes on, we will be able to cover as much of the laws of Pesach as possible.
Besides for discussing the laws directly related to the holiday of Pesach, such as the laws of Matzah and koshering one’s home for Pesach, we must also discuss some of the laws of the Blessing of the Trees which is recited in the beginning of the month of Nissan.
This year, 5772, the first day of Pesach coincides with Shabbat and the seventh day of Pesach falls out on a Friday. Thus, on that Friday before the onset of the Seventh of Pesach, an “Eruv Tavshilin” must be prepared as we shall, G-d-willing, discuss.