Apr 2, 2007

A late look at a couple of Pesah customs

The common custom is not to eat matza from Rosh Hodesh Nissan until Pesah night. The purpose of this minhag is in order to increase ones desire for matza at the seder and he will enjoy it that much more. If he has been eating matza prior to Pesah, the matza is nothing special and he will enjoy it less at the seder.

Having grown up in the yeshiva world, that custom is universally accepted and I kept it as well. Since leaving my parents house, I, over time, have picked up many "customs" that I did not know about prior. Most of my minhagim I kept over time, some I dropped and have come back to as I got older, some I dropped and never thought about - just assuming we did it wrong before out of ignorance. I have since realized, and been told so in discussion with various Rabbonim, that the yeshiva world is the greatest destroyer of minhagei yisrael, as everyone tries and feels the need to fit in and conform they all too often drop their own minhagim and adopt foreign minhagim...

I looked into the custom of not eating matza before Pesah. I did not do a completely comprehensive search, but enough to come to a conclusion.

The Rama in 471:2 of the shulchan aruch says Matza that one can fulfill his obligation with at the seder is prohibited from eating the whole day on the 14th of Nissan.
The Mishna Brura 11 says the reason for this prohibition is in order to differentiate between the eating of pre-Pesah and Pesah. Meaning, if one eats matza straight through with no break, one cannot tell on Pesah that he has done a mitzva of eating matza. So we take a day off of matza to delineate when the mitzva is a mitzva and when eating matza is just for your enjoyment.
The Mishna Brura in 12 says there are those whose custom it is to not eat matza from Rosh Hodesh Nissan.

That custom has taken root in the yeshiva world and most people who are products of the yeshiva world refrain from eating matza from Rosh Hodesh, myself included.

I have a number of books of customs of the German communities. I searched through all of these books and have not found any mention of such a custom of refraining from eating matza from Rosh Hodesh Nissan.

I am now convinced that Jews of German descent do not have such a custom and we simply should adhere to the prohibition of not eating matza on the 14th of Nissan. That is not a custom, but an actual Rabbinic prohibition.

The thing is, it is bad enough we have to eat matza for 7 days. Who desires to eat matza before Pesah when you don't have to? But I now know that I do not have to be so careful and refrain when I could "nosh" on the matza...

An interesting custom I just found: I found in the compilation of minhagim by Machon Moreshes Ashkenaz a minhag to eat kneidlach on pesah. By calling it a minhag it means it is not just a common food eaten, but there is an actual minhag to eat kneidlach (matza balls). They write that "A Pesah food that been accustomed to eat throught all the German communities is Kneidlach made from matza meal. The Ashkenzaik gedolim were not concerned about matza shruya (a.k.a. gebrokdts), especially on our thin matzas which have no crumbs of flour. And furthermore, the opposite is true. One who refrains from eating any desirable food that has been accustomed to eat from earlier times has annulled simchas yom tov m'd'oraisa .

So when you are eating your kneidlach (if you eat gebrokdts), you are not just eating a great Pesah food, but you are continuing an actual custom and fulfilling your mitzva of simhas yom tov.
B'Teavon and Hag Sameah


  1. Maybe it's just a stab at us chassidim. . .

  2. "The thing is, it is bad enough we have to eat matza for 7 days. Who desires to eat matza before Pesah when you don't have to"

    hey -I buy extra, and after pesach, my friends drop off their extra, because I LOVE the stuff. burnt shemurah hand made is the best!!!

  3. moi - it could very well be... :-)

    shaya - I like it too, but not that much. The week of pesah is fine..

    mizellie - welcome back and thanks.


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