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Weekly Halacha

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.


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 obligation?

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 areas.(4)

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 the Seder.(7)

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 volume.

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 prescribed ones.(27)

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 poskim.

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, pg. 9).

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 "pleasant".

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.

The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L'zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available--please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross

The series is distributed by the Harbotzas Torah Division of Congregation Shomre Shabbos, 1801 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118--HaRav Yisroel Grumer, Marah D'Asra



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