Rabbi Alfred Cohen

Rabbi, Cong. Ohaiv Yisroel of Blueberry Hill, Monsey, N.Y.
Journal of Halacha & Contemporary Society, Fall 1993

Probably the busiest and most hectic day of the year in every Jewish household is Erev Pesach, the day preceding Passover, for it entails getting rid of the last smidgen of chametz as well as preparing for the Seder. Moreover, it is a day during most of which one may not eat chametz, yet matzoh is likewise forbidden, straining the ingenuity of the food preparer. This year there will be an added complication, as this year erev Pesach occurs on the Sabbath, which has requirements and restrictions of its own. This paper will explore the problems which may arise from these dual requirements and advance various solutions.

Before we begin, let us note the happy circumstance that the additional complication of observing the Sabbath on this so-busy day prior to Pesach brings with it some unexpected rewards: Having spent the day before Pesach resting, and refreshed by the Sabbath tranquillity, all will be able to participate in the Seder at night with true appreciation.

Eating Chametz
As noted, for most of erev Pesach it is forbidden to eat bread (chametz), and yet matzoh is also not allowed. The Shulchan Aruch rules that "it is forbidden to eat bread [on erev Pesach] from the tenth hour and on." How then can we fulfill the Sabbath obligation to partake of three meals, each of which is accompanied by two loaves of "bread"? Whether the "bread" be chametz or matzoh, when can it be eaten?

There are a number of ways to meet this requirement. We can suggest a few, all of which have variations and permutations, briefly summarized as follows: We can eat challah at all three meals; we can use egg matzoh for all the meals; we can use challah Friday night and early Shabbat morning, and egg matzoh for the third meal in the afternoon; or (if we don't want to use egg matzoh), we can use challah Friday night and early Shabbat morning, and skip the third meal. As we shall see, each of these solutions has its own problem, yet there are various reasons to recommend each one.

Using Chametz
One solution is to get up very early, daven, and then before the tenth hour, eat a meal at which two loaves of bread or challah are served. Indeed, this is the counsel of the Shulchan Aruch:

When erev Pesach occurs on Shabbat, we search the house [for chametz on the 13th [Thursday night] and destroy all [chametz] before Shabbat, but we leave over food for two meals which are required on Shabbat, but the time for the third meal is after Mincha [and, as we shall see, there is a halachic problem in eating a meal after Mincha before the Seder].

Although this scenario takes care of the problem of having a meal on Shabbat with two breads, it does introduce the problem of getting rid of chametz on Shabbat. The usual ways of disposing of chametz, by burning or by sale, cannot be employed on Shabbat. Large pieces of chametz which are difficult to destroy may be given to a non-Jew or else deposited in the garbage by non-Jew. Cleaning the dishes and putting them away is also a problem. In a modern vein, Rav Sternbuch has suggested that it would be desirable to use paper or plastic dishes which could be discarded after the meal, thus obviating the need to get the regular dishes clean on Shabbat and put them away.

If for some reason, none of these options is feasible, the person should declare he is disowning any remaining chametz, cover it so that it is not visible, and burn it on Chol Hamoed.

It is a mitzvah to eat warm foods on Shabbat, but the Shulchan Aruch warns that one should be careful not to cook chametz foods which will stick to the pot, since it will not be possible to clean it properly before Pesach. Further nuances at this unusual meal include serving cold food which won't stick, so that it will not be necessary to scrape out the plates or pot. Then, later in the day; one can fulfill the mitzvah of eating warm food by eating food cooked in Passover utensils, on dishes which will be utilized for the rest of the Passover holiday. According to the Mishnah Berurah, this is the way they used to do it in Europe.

Some of these practices are minor, but others involve severe biblical infractions. Rav Ovadia Yosef records that what to do on this Shabbat has long been a problem; an earlier rabbi of Alexandria, Egypt, had already bemoaned the mistakes arising out of ignorance, when

... Erev Pesach fell on the Sabbath, and how much anguish I have in my heart at the prohibitions and errors that occurred on this Sabbath due to the eating of chametz, because they were unable to be careful properly concerning crumbs of chametz and cleaning the house and the like, aside from the lack of Sabbath joy, inasmuch as they had to eat between the oven and the stove; furthermore, many were late in reciting the prayers on Shabbat, and it is possible that they ate after the time when it is prohibited.

There are those who advise being scrupulous to rinse out the mouth very well, so that no chametz remains. What about false teeth? Rav Ovadia Yosef sees little reason to do anything special with the teeth: since the food that one eats is not hot enough to be a problem halachically I (otherwise he wouldn't be able to take it into his mouth) and since the teeth are not porous, little more than cleaning I them well is required. In an aside, he wryly mentions an individual who was unwilling to accept this lenient ruling and proceeded to deposit his false teeth in boiling water to "kasher" them - cracking them, and making it impossible for him to eat all Pesach! However, Chok Leyisrael does take a stricter view of the matter.

Using Matzoh
One way to avoid all the problems attendant upon using chametz at the meal is simply to use matzoh for lechem mishneh. But the Jerusalem Talmud denigrates a person who eats matzoh on the day before Pesach "as if he had relations with his fiancee in his father-in-law's house." Does that mean that it is forbidden to eat matzoh during the entire day? What is the law? Actually, there are three opinions as to when the prohibition of eating matzoh begins:

(A) From Six Hours and On. This time limit coincides with the time when eating of chametz is forbidden on erev Pesach. In effect, whenever I may not eat chametz I may also not eat matzoh. If we accept this understanding of the rule, it would be permitted to use matzoh at the Friday night meal and also for the meal (or meals) very early on the morning of the Sabbath, but not for a meal later in the day.

(B) The Entire Day. This view holds that for the entire 24-hour period before Pesach, eating matzoh is precluded. In this case, we could not use matzoh at any of the Sabbath meals before Pesach. The Magen Avraham considers this to be the proper view.

(C) During the Day Only. Although one could use matzoh on Friday night, it would not be permissible any time during the daylight hours. Many accept this as the proper rule to follow.

In point of fact, R. Moshe Feinstein forbids eating matzoh during the day of erev Pesach and discourages its use even for the Friday night meal preceding. However, he cautions that one should not reprimand someone who does employ the matzoh option on Friday evening. Furthermore, if there is cause for concern that by using chametz on Friday night and Shabbat morning it will raise serious difficulty in removing all the chametz properly before Pesach (in a hospital, for example), one may certainly use egg matzoh throughout the day of erev Pesach and recite all the usual blessings thereon.

In addition to these strictly halachic criteria, there are also certain customs which are observed by many: some people stop eating matzoh from the beginning of the month of Nissan, while others stop after Purim. However, no custom can ever be instituted which would have the effect of barring performance of a mitzvah. Therefore, if there were no other way for them to carry out the requirement to have three meals with lechem mishneh on this Shabbat, these persons, too, could use matzoh.

Which Matzoh Is Forbidden
Considering the opposition of Chazal to eating matzoh before the proper time, it becomes essential to define precisely what qualifies as "matzoh" under the rubric of halacha. ln the context of the rabbinic dictum, it is clear that only that product which is worthy to be eaten at the Seder is included in the category of matzoh which may not be eaten on the day preceding Pesach. The only matzoh which can be used at the Seder to fulfill the mitzvah of matzoh is "a poor man's bread" - flat bread which is made from a mixture of flour and water only. If juice or eggs are added to or substituted for the water in the mix, it is called "matzoh ashira" (egg matzoh), and is not suitable for the Seder. Similarly, plain matzoh which has subsequently been cooked or fried does not qualify for the mitzvah of "matzoh" at the Seder. Thus, all these, which are technically not "matzoh" according to the halacha, are exempt from the stricture against eating matzoh on erev Pesach. Accordingly, egg matzoh could be used for lechem mishneh, the two breads at the Sabbath meals.

There is a halachic difficulty attendant upon using egg matzohs as the two loaves of bread required for the meals on Shabbat: According to many rabbis, egg matzoh cannot technically be classified as "bread" requiring washing the hands, reciting the blessing hamotzi, and followed by birkat hamazon, since unlike real matzoh, it is made with eggs and/or juice instead of just plain water with the flour. Nevertheless, even if egg matzoh is not "bread" within the definition of the term, it can still take the place of bread at a meal, provided that it is used instead of breach and that a sufficient amount is consumed. This is the rule any time cake, crackers, or any baked goods are eaten in sufficient quantity to qualify as a meal.

How much egg matzoh is required so that it can substitute for real bread? Here, there is a difference of opinion among the poskim: ( a) Some say that "one who eats a volume of cake equal to four (or three) eggs...must treat the cake as bread." (b) There are those who "conclude that the amount of one meal equals somewhat more than the volume of twenty-one eggs," and only someone who eats this equivalent of cake should recite hamotzi. (c) Most poskim, however, reject both these opinions, one as being too meager, the other as being far too large. In their opinion, cake or egg matzoh "is measured in terms of the quantity that is generally eaten during the course of a full mea1." This is the opinion of Rav Moshe Feinstein and most other poskim.

According to some authorities, another type of matzoh which might be considered permitted for use on erev Pesach is matzoh which is not matzoh shmura. The reasoning here is that since at the Seder we must use matzoh shmura, any other type of matzoh is disqualified and consequently could not have been intended by the rabbis castigating those who eat matzoh on erev Pesach.

In summation, Rav Ovadia Yosef, whose decisions are generally accepted by Sephardic Jews, rules that

...it is proper to destroy the chametz before Shabbat...and to use for Shabbat only utensils that are fit for Pesach...and on Shabbat to use only food and utensils reserved for Pesach, and one should fulfill the precept of meals for Shabbat with matzoh which is cooked in chicken or meat soup, in the following manner: after the food is wholly cooked, let him remove it from the fire, and while the food in the pot is still extremely hot, let him put into the pot several pieces of matzoh, as much as he needs, in such a way that the matzoh thoroughly soaks up the flavor of the food, and then he can use this to fulfill the mitzvah of three meals.

He prefers the use of re-cooked or fried matzoh to egg matzoh, since the halacha is not clear as to how much egg matzoh must be eaten for the blessing hamotzi and for Grace after Meals.

However, if one decides to adopt the option of using egg matzoh as the "bread" at the three meals on the Shabbat, which is an option permitted or even suggested by some, it is evident that this would solve the problem for all three meals; furthermore, it would not be necessary to get up early to daven so as to eat chametz before the time when it is no longer permitted.

Seudah Shelishit
Till now, we have discussed the ways in which it is possible to meet the requirement to eat the first two meals on Shabbat the one on Friday night and the one on Shabbat morning. As for the third meal, that has its own unique questions.

Mishna Berurah raises the option of dividing the early morning meal (before the tenth hour) into two, by making a blessing on two challahs of bread, eating, reciting Grace, then washing again, eating from another two challahs, and reciting Grace again. This solution, although ingenious, may not be halachically feasible, first of all, the third meal of Shabbat should really be eaten after Mincha. Secondly, it is questionable whether it is permitted to break up what is essentially one meal by reciting birkat hamazon and then immediately washing and making another blessing on bread. This may be a case of beracha she-aina tzericha, reciting blessings for no reason, which is quite a serious matter. There would have to be an interval between the end of one meal and the beginning of the next. Considering that we are very pressed for time so early on the morning of erev Pesach, leaving a sufficient interval between these two early meals may be problematic. Thirdly, it may be possible to dispense with bread altogether and fulfill the requirements of the third meal by eating something else:

[The third meal] has to be eaten with "bread", but there are those who say that one can make the meal with those things which accompany bread, such as meat or fish, but not with fruit. And there are those who say that one can make [the meal] out of fruit. But the first opinion is the major one, i.e., that one should make a meal with bread unless he is too full, or in a situation where it is impossible for him to eat bread, such as on erev Pesach which comes out on Shabbat, when it is forbidden for him to eat bread after Mincha.

The Mishnah Berurah, Orach Chaim, maintains that it is preferable to eat one meal that really satisfies the hunger, and is a true meal, rather then breaking up the meal into two. However, other authorities, including the Vilna Gaon, advise that the early morning meal should be interrupted and followed by another meal.

It is the decision of the Shulchan Aruch that for the third meal, one should use egg matzohs for the two loaves. But the Ramo does not permit this choice for Ashkenazi Jews, opting instead for a meal without bread of any type:

In our [Ashkenazi] countries, where it is our custom not to eat matzoh ashira... one should fulfill [the obligation to have] a third meal with various types of fruit or with meat and fish.

This ruling by the Ramo is the source of considerable discussion among the rabbis. Here he categorically rejects the option of using egg matzoh, yet, when the Shulchan Aruch, as quoted above, suggests that on erev Pesach which falls on Shabbat, it might be a good idea to use egg matzoh - the Ramo makes no demurrer! In the face of conflicting directives by this major posek, many authorities conclude that the Ramo means to be strict about egg matzoh only for Pesach itself, and not on erev Pesach.

It is custom to recite the Torah portion dealing with the Paschal sacrifice at the conclusion of this third meal.

Handling the Matzoh
If a person decides to use regular challah for the meal, but is afraid that he will be unable to consume the entire two loaves (and have difficulty disposing of them on Shabbat), he might want to employ the option of substituting a well wrapped matzoh instead of the second loaf of challah. Indeed, this is the advice given by the Chazon Ish. This would seem to present a good solution - except that we possibly run into the problem of muktza


Muktza may not be moved on Shabbat. Generally, something is considered muktza if it cannot or will not be used on Shabbat (for example, a carpenter's hammer, a telephone). Can we use matzoh for the second bread at the meal on Shabbat, when on this Shabbat we are certainly not allowed to eat matzoh? The rabbis make an interesting distinction in this regard: matzoh shmura, which is what people will be eating at night at the Seder, is certainly muktza on the Shabbat of erev Pesach. However, regular matzoh can be given to a young child to eat even today, and therefor it is not muktza; it can be moved, it can be placed on the table and subsequently removed.

Setting The Table For The Seder
On a Sabbath or Festival, it is not permitted to make any preparation for after the Sabbath, even if it will be a Festival at night. Therefore, one should not set the table for the Seder nor make any other preparations until the conclusion of Shabbat. However, the Shulchan Aruch makes an exception on Shemini Atzeret, which is the last day people eat in the succah. The next day is Simchat Torah, and the Shulchan Aruch permits removal of utensils from the succah on Shemini Atzeret, to be brought into the house. The Ramo cautions that although the utensils may be brought in from the succah, the table should not be set in the house until after nightfall.

Why does the halacha permit removing objects from the succah, when it appears that it is in preparation for using them in the house on the next day? According to the Chayei Adam, this is only a concession because it would be very difficult to clean up the succah at night, in the dark. Furthermore, if one has not completed the preparations, it is not considered preparing.

Apparently, it is permitted to do anything which will be very difficult to undertake later on (for example, the wine is in the cellar, which is very dark). Not only that, but if bringing in the utensils from the succah or the wine from the cellar will make the house look sloppy, it would even be permissible to put them away in their proper place. This is not done in preparation for the next day but in honor of the Sabbath itself.

Although there are some lenient opinions, most rabbis do not permit one to change into clothing for the Seder on Shabbat. But having a non-Jew set the table for the Seder is permitted.

The Seder Plate
In the special situation when erev Pesach occurs on Shabbat, all preparations for the Seder should be completed on Friday- Since Ashkenazim do not actually eat the egg and the shankbone on Pesach (since they are roasted), they should also be prepared before Shabbat, not on the holiday. However, if one forgot, they should be roasted on Saturday night and eaten during the day on Sunday. And if one forgot to make the charoset, it may be done on Saturday night, albeit with a shinui (modification of technique). Somewhat different is the case of marror, for we do not want it to lose its bitter taste; therefore, we make it on Saturday night, with a shinui or else make it on Friday and store it in a sealed container.

Bedikat chametz
When erev Pesach falls on Shabbat, we search the house for chametz on Thursday evening, since we are not able to go around with a candle on Friday night. What if one forgot to do it on Thursday? It has been suggested that one should do it on Friday night, having a non-Jew carry the candle. But others object, claiming that the person will be so concerned lest a fire begin, he will not have his mind on searching for chametz properly. Therefore, Rav Braun rules that he should just not do the search; undoubtedly, the house has been thoroughly cleaned and checked already.

Fast Of The Firstborn
In remembrance of their miraculous salvation when all the firstborn of Egypt were smitten, it is the practice for the firstborn to fast on erev Pesach. What is to be done this year, since they cannot fast on Shabbat? Terumat Hadeshen and Maharil rule that the fast should be observed on the previous Thursday, but others maintain that since the fast is only a custom, and the custom cannot be observed on the proper day - it should not be done at all. In citing this law, the Shulchan Aruch records both opinions:

If erev Pesach occurs on Shabbat, there are those who say that the firstborn should fast on Thursday, and there are those say that they do not fast at all.

It is interesting to note that, in a departure from the established practice of Sephardic Jews to follow the second option when two are listed, in this case Rav Ovadia Yosef rules that the firstborn should fast on Thursday. For Ashkenazim, Rav Moshe Feinstein has issued the same ruling based on the Ramo.

Working On Friday
In general, it is forbidden to go to work after midday on any erev Pesach. Two reasons are given for this stricture: (1) to prepare for the Festival and (2) this is the time when the paschal sacrifice was brought, which makes it a holy time, when work is forbidden. If we accept the first reason as the true rationale, then going to work should be forbidden on Friday afternoon in our case, since that is the time one should prepare for Pesach. However, if the second reason is really the central one, there would be no reason to desist from work on Friday - the paschal lamb was sacrificed on erev Pesach even when it was a Sabbath. Thus, no special restrictions attend Friday afternoon. Following this second line of thought, Rav Yosef permits work on Friday afternoon.

There is one mitzvah of erev Pesach which we have not discussed in this paper - how the Passover lamb was sacrificed if it occurred on a Shabbat. Unfortunately, this is one mitzvah of Pesach which we do not yet have the z'chut of experiencing. May the Redeemer come speedily and bring us all back to our glorious Temple, where we will be able to fulfill this as well as all the other mitzvot of Pesach, the Festival of our Redemption.

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