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Daily Moroccan Halachot

Rabbi Mordechai Lebhar, author Magen Avot
Redacted by Dr. Emile Amzallag


Daily Halachot Topics

Why do the Firstborn Fast?

The Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 470:1) rules that firstborn males fast on the eve of Pesah and the source of this law is Masechet Sofrim (21:3). At face value this requirement seems puzzling since nothing calamitous happened to the firstborn Jews in Egypt, and on the contrary, they were quite fortunate. Rabbi Yosef Messas (Mayim Haim, § 179) discusses this contradiction and even cites the Talmud Yerushalmi (sv. “Arvei Pesahim”) which suggests that the firstborn do not fast. He explains that this disparity resulted in the widespread practice for people not to fast and to discharge their obligation to fast by attending a Siyum (the completion of a tractate of the Talmud). A Siyum has the status of a Seudat Mitzvah, which has the Halachic ability to exempt people from certain restrictions in certain circumstances, including fasting.

Rabbi Ben Zion Abba Shaul (Ohr LeZion, vol. III, Hilchot Ta’anit Bechorot) rules differently and says that since the Shulhan Aruch was clear about the obligation to fast, a firstborn must do so. If fasting were to have a deleterious effect on the person, such as arriving to the Seder famished and being affected adversely by the wine, only then would he permit one to attend a Siyum during the day and to eat afterwards. Furthermore, he explains that the reason a firstborn must fast is because of the principle that when one is a beneficiary of a miracle, one is subject to a concomitant loss of merits. When the firstborn in Egypt were spared by Hashem, they lost some of their merits and therefore fasting is a hedge against that loss. Other rabbis explain that, even though Hashem passed over the Jewish homes, the Angel of Death could have acted recklessly and still killed the Jewish firstborn. The miracle was that the Angel of Death acted as planned and spared the Jews, and this is commemorated by fasting.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer, vol. IV, § 42) responds to a question regarding whether eating food that was used at a Siyum, even though one did not attend the Siyum, could exempt one from fasting. He responds to the contrary and says that in order to benefit from the exemption to fast, one must physically attend a Siyum.
Summary:    A firstborn male may rely upon attending a Siyum in order to be exempted from fasting on the eve of Pesah.


      taanit bechor

What Happens if One Forgot to Say “HaMelech HaMishpat”?

**Dedicated to the Hatzlaha of the Rach HaNolad of Emile and Galia Amzallag and Mazal Tov to the new boy**

The period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is known as Aseret Yeme Teshuva, during which there are several changes in the Amida. These changes reflect this period of the year in which we reaffirm Hashem’s kingship over us. One of these changes is in the blessing of Hashiva, which normally ends of “Melech Ohev Tzedaka UMishpat” but is modified to “HaMelech HaMishpat”. The Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 583:1) rules that if one forgot to end off the blessing of Hashiva with “HaMelech HaMishpat” or if one is unsure how one ended it, as long as one did not finish the Amida, one must return to the blessing of Hashiva. The Rama, however, says that by mistakenly saying “Melech Ohev Tzedaka UMishpat” one is still making a reference to Hashem as “Melech”-King and therefore one need not go back and repeat the blessing. We follow the Shulhan Aruch except in cases of doubtful blessings (“Safek Berachot”), and the Ben Ish Hai, the Kaf HaHaim and the rabbis of Morocco agree here with the Rama’s stance.

Rav Ovadia Yosef questions the concern over doubtful blessings in this instance and says that indeed, incorrectly ending the blessing of Hashiva may itself be a blessing in vain. He therefore agrees with the position of the Shulhan Aruch and says one should go back and repeat the Amida as of Hashiva. Rabbi Ben Zion Abba Shaul retorts that we can rely on the principle of being lenient with blessings in cases of doubt (“Safek Berachot Lehakel”), therefore ex post facto “Melech Ohev Tzedaka UMishpat” is considered as being the proper blessing. As such, he says that there is no need to go back to the blessing of Hashiva and on the contrary, if one does go back and repeat the blessing, this may be considered a possible blessing in vain.

Summary: According to the Moroccan custom, one does not go back to the blessing of Hashiva if one forgot to say “HaMelech Hamishpat” during Aseret Yeme Teshuva.

      HaMelech HaMishpat

Pat Israel During the Ten Days

During Aseret Yeme Teshuva the Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 603:1) states that one who normally eats bread products baked by non-Jews (Pat Akum/Nochri) should eat food baked by Jews (Pat Israel). Many products nowadays, such as cookies or bread, may have a Kosher certification but are not Pat Israel. Although it may seem like one is accepting an insincere and unrealistic stringency upon oneself, doing so is symbolic of one’s deep desire to be at such a spiritual level. Therefore, even if one cannot maintain such a stringency after Yom Kippur, one is showing Hashem what one’s ultimate ambition is.

The Magen Avraham explains that in previous generations, people would be strict about eating food that was ritually pure, and the Ben Ish Hai followed this practice. Nowadays this practice is uncommon.

The Arizal speaks of fasting during Aseret Yeme Teshuva as another stringency. Nowadays, our physical and spiritual strengths are diminished and fasting on Tzom Gedalia suffices. The study of Torah, however, is another means to achieve Teshuva in place of fasting and therefore one should make an effort to increase one’s learning.

Summary:  One should make an effort to eat Pat Israel during Aseret Yeme Teshuva.

      Pat Israel

Drinking After Afikoman

The Mishna (Pesahim 10:8) states that one may not partake of desserts or similar foods after eating the Korban Pesah, which is now symbolized by the Afikoman, and this is codified in the Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 478:1). The Rambam (Hilchot Hametz Umatza 8:9) explains that this is so that the taste of the Korban Pesah (or nowadays, the Matza) remains in one’s mouth after the Seder.

The Mishna Berura (O.H. 478:2) explains that there is a debate among the Poskim as to whether drinking beverages after the Afikoman falls into the same restriction as food, and concludes that one should be strict and only drink water or similar liquids if needed. Similarly, the Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 481:1) writes that after the four cups of wine, one should not drink anything, except water. Nevertheless, the following Halacha (Orah Haim 481:2) states that after the Seder, one should remain awake to learn the laws of Pesah and to further delve into the Exodus from Egypt. As such, it would appear to be a challenge to learn after a long Seder while not being able to drink coffee or tea, which could aid in keeping one awake and focused.

The HIDA (Birke Yosef, § 481 & More BaEtzba, § 211) writes that the custom is to permit coffee or tea after the Afikoman, but that sugar should not be added. Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (Hagada) writes that one may use sugar. The Mishna Berura (ibid.) says that one should not have any intoxicating beverages and that in addition to water, one may have similar drinks, which nowadays would apply to juices or soft drinks.

Summary:   One may drink water, coffee, tea, juices or soft drinks after the Afikoman and the four cups of wine. One should learn about Pesah after the Seder until one becomes sleepy.


      drinking after afikoman

Daily Halachot – sample title

There is a general prohibition to have a non-Jew perform a forbidden labor (Melacha) on Shabbat, either by telling them directly or by having it done on one’s behalf. This is because the non-Jew is an agent of the Jew and by association, the Jew is complicit in the performance of such a labor. Another reason for this prohibition is because the labor is a mundane, weekday-type of act which is not appropriate on Shabbat, as is alluded to in the verse (Yeshaya 58:13) “Asot Heftzecha” (lit. “Your [mundane] affairs”).

Regarding having non-Jews work on Shabbat, there are three types of workers. The first category is a partner who owns a percentage of a company. Such a person may work on Shabbat because one is doing it not for the Jewish partner’s gain, but rather mainly for one’s own gain.  A second category is a contractor, who is a worker who is contracted to do a specific task or project for a set fee. An example of this is a mechanic, who is paid a set amount to perform a specific job on the car.  Again, since the non-Jewish contractor is working on one’s own time and work on any day, including Shabbat, by one’s own choice, this would be permitted. In fact, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Hazon Ovadia, Shabbat I) rules that one may leave one’s car before Shabbat if one does not specify what day it should be worked on, even if it ends up being repaired on Shabbat. The third category is a salaried employee who gets paid hourly, monthly or the like and who, by working on Shabbat, is specifically being paid for the work performed on Shabbat. An example is a receptionist, who is paid a specific amount for every hour worked. This type of worker relationship is categorically forbidden on Shabbat.

The Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 243:1) qualifies the rule regarding a contractor by saying that a contractor may not perform the job in a public place such that onlookers will think that the Jew hired the worker as a salaried employee. For example, an IT specialist may not come into one’s office one Shabbat to work on a specific computer issue as it may appear as though this person is a wage worker who is being paid specifically for the hours worked on Shabbat.

Summary: One may have benefit from the labor of an equity partner or a contractor that was performed on Shabbat. One may not employ a salaried employee for work on Shabbat.

Daily Halachot – The Pesach Seder – Yachatz and Magid

The section that follows Karpas is Yachatz. In Yachatz we cut the Matza into two pieces and the reason for this is given in the Gemara: “Darko Shel Ani BePrusa” (Pesahim 115b). In other words, a poor person (symbolized when we recite Ha Lachma Anya) is not accustomed to eating from a whole loaf of bread but rather from a partial loaf. As such, we break it in half: One piece is included in the blessing of Al Achilat Matza, and the other half is hidden for the Afikoman. At this point the Moroccan custom is to recite some verses in Arabic:
“Hagda qsm l’lah allab’har, ala tnas ltreq, hen cherju jdudna mn masar. Ala yid Sidna oun’Bina, Mussa bn ‘Amram, ‘Ala slam oursa, hen fiqhum ughathum mlkhdma se-iba alhouriya. Hagda yfiqna HaKadosh Baruch Hu, venomar amen.” 

“This is how G-d split the sea into 12 paths when our ancestors went out of Egypt by the hand of our master and prophet Moshe son of Amram, may peace be upon him. Just as G-d redeemed and saved our ancestors from slavery. In this same manner HaKadosh Baruch Hu will take us out , let us say Amen.”

The Ben Ish Hai says that we should break the middle matza into a big piece, shaped like the Hebrew letter vav, and into a smaller piece, shaped like the Hebrew letter dalet. The larger piece is hidden under the tablecloth as if one is watching over the Korban Pesach. As well there is a universal custom to hide the Afikoman and for the children to search for it.
The next section in the seder is Magid in which we relate the HagadaMagid must be recited together by all those present and in a language that is understood by the participants.  Magid is not simply a ritual that should be recited in Hebrew, but is the transmission of the story of the exodus from Egypt and should therefore be recited in whatever language is understood. As well, Magid should be chanted like a song since it is a form of prayer; indeed the Moroccan custom is to recite it with a special tune. There is an obligation to transmit the story of the exodus to our children and so the essential part of Magid is to teach them them all about what is mentioned there. Every child should be taught about the exodus and should be included in the seder according to his age and intellect.

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