Selected Halachos Related to Pesach
By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt
A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the
week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON HILCHOS PESACH
QUESTION: How extensive does the search for chametz have to be? How is it
possible to thoroughly search a whole house in a short period of time?
DISCUSSION: Halachically speaking, an extensive and thorough search is
required in any place
where chametz may have been brought during the past year.(1) Since it is
almost impossible to properly check an entire house in a short period of
time, some people actually spend many hours checking and searching their
houses on the night of bedikas chametz, often devoting a good part of the
night to the bedikah.(2) But most people cannot - or do not - spend so much
time searching their homes for chametz. How, then, do they fulfill this
Several poskim find justification (limud zechus) for the laxer version of
bedikas chametz, as the house has undergone many weeks of meticulous
pre-Pesach cleaning and scrubbing and there is no vestige of chametz around.
Once the rooms of the house have been cleaned, they may be halachically
considered as "a place into which no chametz has been brought." While
checking and searching is still required in order to ascertain that no spot
in the house was overlooked, the search need not be as thorough and exacting
as if no cleaning had been done.(3)
A better suggestion - for those who do not do a meticulous search on the
night before Pesach - is to do partial searches earlier. As soon as a
certain area in the house is cleaned, the area should be carefully checked
for chametz - either at night using a flashlight or in the daytime by
natural light. The wife or an older child can be entrusted with this search.
If the house is checked in stages, then an exhaustive search need not be
repeated on the night before Pesach in the areas that were already checked,
provided that it is certain that no new chametz was carried into those
QUESTION: Is it permitted to get a haircut or do laundry on erev Pesach
after midday (chatzos)?
DISCUSSION: It is Rabbinically forbidden to do melachah, "work," even if it
is needed for Yom Tov, on erev Pesach after chatzos. Two(5) basic reasons
are given for this prohibition: 1) When the Beis ha-Mikdash stood, erev
Pesach was considered a Yom Tov, since the Korban Pesach was brought on that
day. It retains the status of Yom Tov today even though the Korban Pesach is
no longer offered.(6) 2) To give everyone a chance to properly prepare for
Certain forms of personal grooming and certain households chores that are
halachically classified as "work" are forbidden to be done on erev Pesach
after chatzos. Thus it is forbidden to get a haircut or a shave,(8) to sew
new clothing(9) or to do laundry(10) on erev Pesach after chatzos. One must
arrange his schedule so that these tasks are completed before midday.
L'chatchilah, one should even cut his nails before chatzos.(11)
If, b'diavad, one could not or did not take care of these matters before
midday, some of them may still be done while others may not: sewing or
completing the sewing of new clothes may not be done at all; a haircut and
shave may be taken only at a non-Jewish barber; laundry may be done only by
a non-Jewish maid or dry cleaner.(12) Other chores, such as ironing
clothes,(13) polishing shoes, cutting nails, sewing buttons and other minor
mending,(14) may be done with no restrictions.
QUESTION: May one use other beverages - besides wine- to fulfill the mitzvah
of drinking the four cups?
DISCUSSION: The poskim agree that anyone who can, should use only wine(15)
for fulfilling this mitzvah. This is because the four cups on Seder night
are supposed to be drunk derech cheirus - in the manner of a man just freed
from long captivity- which means drinking an alcoholic beverage.(16) Indeed,
some poskim go so far as to allow wine only, even if one dislikes wine or if
the wine will give the drinker a temporary headache, etc.(17)
But many other poskim hold that if one dislikes wine, or if wine makes him
dizzy or ill etc., one is not required to drink it.(18) Indeed, some poskim
are of the opinion that such people should not force themselves to drink
wine, since for them it is not derech cheirus to drink something that they
dislike or that makes them ill.(19) This applies especially to women and
children under bar/bas mitzvah, who are not accustomed to drink wine in such
In order of preference, this is what should be done:
1. Mix grape juice(20) together with the wine. As long as some taste of
wine remains in the mixture [depending on the type of wine used], it is
considered drinking derech cheirus.(21)
2. Drink only grape juice.
Under extenuating circumstances one can fulfill his obligation by drinking
any chamar medinah,(22) which is a type of beverage served to important
guests.(23) Since there are various views as to what exactly constitutes
chamar medinah, a rabbi should be consulted.
QUESTION: At many Seders the recital of the Hagadah takes a long time. Is it
permitted to drink during that time?
DISCUSSION: It is permitted to drink water or soda between the first and
second cups.(24) A shehakol is recited over the water, unless the water was
on the table during Kiddush, or if one intended during Kiddush to drink
water or soda during the recital of the Hagadah.(25)
Coffee, tea, milk, or fruit juices may also be drunk between the first and
second cups,(26) but only if they will not require their own berachah. In
order for them to be covered by the ha-gafen recited over the first cup,
they would have to have been on the table during Kiddush or one would have
had to intend to drink them while reciting Kiddush. Since these beverages
are considered chamar medinah, reciting a separate berachah and drinking
them would make it appear as if one is adding an additional cup to the four
Wine and other intoxicating beverages should be completely avoided between
the drinking of the first two cups. It is permitted, however to drink wine
and all other beverages after the second cup is drunk and throughout
Shulchan Orech when the meal is served.
1 O.C. 333:3.
2 Several gedolim, among them the Gaon of Vilna, the Chasam Sofer and the
Brisker Rav, were reported to have spent a good part of the night searching
their houses for chametz.
3 Sha'arei Teshuvah 433:2; Da'as Torah 433:2; Chochmas Shelomo 433:1; Harav
S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in Mevakshei Torah Ohr Efrayim, pg. 532); Kinyan Torah
2:122; The basic idea is quoted by Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 432:12.
4 Siddur Pesach K'hilchaso 13:1.
5 See Pnei Yehoshua (Pesachim 50a) for a third reason for this prohibition.
6 Mishnah Berurah 468:1. According to this reason, even when erev Pesach
falls on Shabbos it is forbidden to do work on Friday.
7 Beiur Halachah 468:1.
8 Mishnah Berurah 468:5.
9 Rama O.C. 468:2.
10 Mishnah Berurah 468:7.
11 Mishnah Berurah 468:5. Some mention that it is proper to shower/bathe and
polish shoes before chatzos as well, but this is not mentioned by the
12 Mishnah Berurah 468:7. Towels and children's clothing which became dirty
(or were discovered to be dirty) after chatzos and are going to be needed
during Yom Tov may be machine-washed even by a Jew.
13 Orchos Rabbeinu 2, pg. 56, quoting an oral ruling by the Chazon Ish.
14 Rama O.C. 468:2 and Mishnah Berurah 8. Lengthening and shortening a hem
is also permitted.
15 The wine of choice is one that is favored by the drinker. If he has no
preference, then any red wine (including Tokay wine) may be used; O.C.
472:11. One who mixes two wines in order to produce a red color should
preferably pour the white wine into the red and not vice versa; based on
Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 318:65.
16 Some poskim hold that in addition to derech cheirus, the drinking must
also be derech simchah, and only wine meets that criterion; see Pri Megadim,
Mishbetzos 472; Chok Yaakov 472:25; Mikraei Kodesh 35.
17 Harav M. Feinstein (Kol Dodi 3:8); Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (Halailah Hazeh,
18 See Teshuvos v'Hanhagos 2:243, who reports that the Brisker Rav and the
Tchebiner Rav used grape juice for the four cups; Harav C. Kanievsky (quoted
in Siddur Pesach K'hilchaso 2:3, note 25) reports the same about the Chazon
Ish; Harav Y.Y. Fisher (Halailah Hazeh, pg. 9); Chazon Ovadiah, pg. 125.
19 She'arim Metzuyanim b'Halachah 118:1, based on the wording of the Rambam
and Shulchan Aruch Harav 272:17 that the drinking of the four cups must be
20 Preferably, one should not use reconstituted grape juice, since many
poskim hold that ha-gafen is no longer recited on it; Harav S.Z. Auerbach
(Minchas Shelomo 1:4); Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (Vezos ha-Berachah, pg. 116).
21 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Mevakshei Torah Ohr Efrayim, pgs. 445 and 571);
Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (Halailah Hazeh, pg. 9).
22 Mishnah Berurah 472:37.
23 Igros Moshe O.C. 2:75.
24 Mishnah Berurah 473:16.
25 O.C. 174:2.
26 While this is permitted, it is not appropriate to take "coffee breaks"
while the Hagadah is being recited.
27 Shulchan Aruch Harav 473:13. See Mishnah Berurah 473:16.
Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and
Project Genesis, Inc.
Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne
Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily
Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.
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