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Pesachim Essentials- an Introduction by Gitta Neufeld

Click here for the full Introduction to Masechet Pesachim

Structure of Pesachim

Follows a chronological sequence:

  • Chapter 1
    • Requirement to search for chametz
    • Requirement to dispose of all chametz before noon of Erev Pesach
    • Prohibition to eat or benefit from chametz (takes effect at noon on Erev Pesach midioraita)
  • Chapter 2
    • What does ownership of chametz mean?
    • What may be used for matzah?
    • How is matzah prepared?
    • What may be used for maror?
  • Chapter 3
    • Mixtures containing chametz
    • Chametz that is unfit for human consumption
  • Chapter 4
    • Working on the afternoon of Erev Pesach
  • Chapters 5-8
    • The Korban Pesach and its laws
  • Chapter 9
    • Pesach Sheini
  • Chapter 10
    • The Seder night and its procedures


Pesach Mitzvot

Rambam lists over 20 mitzvot connected to Pesach (not including the laws of the musaf and shelamim offerings that were also brought, and the laws of aliya leregel):

  • Positive
    • To rest on the first day of Passover鈥擵ayikra 23:8
    • To rest on the seventh day of Passover鈥擵ayikra 23:8
    • To destroy all chametz on 14th day of Nissan鈥擲hemot 12:15
    • To eat matzah on the first night of Passover鈥擲hemot 12:18
    • To relate the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim on that night鈥擲hemot 13:8
    • To slaughter the korban at the specified time鈥擲hemot 12:6
    • To eat the korban pesach with Matzah and Maror on the night of the 15th of Nissan鈥擲hemot 12:8
  • Negative
    • Not to do prohibited labor on the first day of Pesach鈥擵ayikra 23:8
    • Not to do prohibited labor on the 7th day of Pesach鈥擵ayikra 23:8
    • Not to eat chametz on the afternoon of the 14th day of Nissan鈥擠evarim 16:3
    • Not to eat chametz all seven days of Pesach鈥擲hemot 13:3
    • Not to eat mixtures containing chametz all seven days of Pesach鈥擲hemot 12:20
    • Chametz should not be seen in your domain seven days鈥擲hemot 13:7
    • Chametz should not be found in your domain seven days鈥擲hemot 12:19
    • Not to slaughter the korban while in possession of chametz鈥擲hemot 23:18
    • Not to leave the fat overnight鈥擲hemot 23:18
    • Not to eat the korban meat raw or boiled鈥擲hemot 12:9
    • An apostate must not eat from it鈥擲hemot 12:43
    • Not to take the korban meat from the confines of its group鈥擲hemot 12:46
    • A permanent or temporary [non-Jewish] hired worker must not eat from it鈥擲hemot 12:45
    • An uncircumcised male must not eat from it鈥擲hemot 12:48
    • Not to break any bones from the korban Pesach鈥擲hemot 12:46

Not to leave any meat from the korban Pesach over until morning鈥擲hemot 12:10


Chametz and its prohibitions

The Torah prohibits chametz, but only in general terms.聽 It does not tell us what can become chametz, exactly what that means, or if the issur applies to things that won鈥檛 be eaten.聽 It also does not聽 specify how and when chametz must be removed from one鈥檚 possession, or how extensive the checking for chametz should be.聽

Anything made of 鈥渢he five species of grain鈥 can become chametz.聽 These species are: 聽讞讬讟讛, 砖注讜专讛, 砖讬讘讜诇转-砖讜注诇, 讻讜住诪讬谉 讜砖讬驻讜谉.

There are various ways to define these categories. 聽The Steinsaltz says:

The five species of grain native to biblical Israel: three types of wheat and two types of barley.

o聽聽 Wheat:

搂聽 聽砖讬驻讜谉 shifon 鈥 einkorn;

搂聽 讻讜住诪讬谉 Kusmin 鈥 farro; and

搂聽 讞讬讟讬诐 岣ttim 鈥 durum or bread wheat.

o聽聽 Barley : distinguished by the number of rows of grain in each stalk.[2 or 6]

搂聽 聽砖注讜专讬诐 Seorim and

搂聽 砖讬讘讜诇转 砖讜注诇 Shibbolet shual,

Modern grains such as oats, spelt and rye have been included in the 鈥淔ive鈥 because they can be used to make chametz.

It鈥檚 interesting to note that Professor Felix wrote an article saying that 砖讬讘讜诇转-砖讜注诇 was NOT oats (as it is called that in modern Hebrew), and Rav Shlomo Zalman Orbach began making a 鈥淪hehakol鈥 on his morning oatmeal.聽 He stopped doing that when his father-in-law, Rav Elyashiv, complained that he was changing a centuries-old practice.[1]

The Schottenstein says:

o聽聽 Wheat聽 聽讞讬讟讛

o聽聽 Barley 砖注讜专讛

o聽聽 Spelt 聽讻讜住诪讬谉

o聽聽 Rye 聽砖讬驻讜谉

o聽聽 Oats 砖讬讘讜诇转 砖讜注诇

For the science nerds:

Einkorn Farro Durum Barley
Einkorn is the oldest wheat known to scientists, and is considered man鈥檚 first wheat.聽 The term einkorn is derived from the German language and interpreted to mean 鈥渟ingle grain鈥. Einkorn wheat is known in taxonomy as either Triticum boeoticum (wild wheat), or Triticum monococcum (domesticated species). Domesticated and wild forms of wheat may be considered either as separate species, or as Triticum monococcum鈥s subspecies. Einkorn is the most primitive form of wheat on Earth. It contains only 14 chromosomes, whereas modern wheat contains 42.[2] Farro is an ethnobotanical term for three species of hulled wheat: spelt (Triticum spelta), emmer (Triticum dicoccum), and einkorn (Triticum monococcum). Hulled wheat is wheat that cannot be threshed.

Emmer is by far the most common variety of farro grown in Italy, specifically in certain mountain regions of Tuscany and Abruzzo. It is also considered higher quality for cooking than the other two grains and thus is sometimes called “true” farro[3].

Durum wheat, also called pasta wheat or macaroni wheat (Triticum durum or Triticum turgidum subsp. durum), is a tetraploid species of wheat. It is the second most cultivated species of wheat after common wheat, although it represents only 5% to 8% of global wheat production.It was developed by artificial selection of the domesticated emmer wheat strains formerly grown in Central Europe and the Near East around 7000 BC, which developed a naked, free-threshing form.Like emmer, durum wheat is awned (with bristles). It is the predominant wheat that grows in the Middle East.[4] Barley (Hordeum vulgare), a member of the grass family, is a major cereal grain grown in temperate climates globally. It was one of the first cultivated grains, particularly in Eurasia as early as 10,000 years ago.

Spikelets are arranged in triplets which alternate along the rachis. In wild barley (and other Old World species of Hordeum), only the central spikelet is fertile, while the other two are reduced. This condition is retained in certain cultivars known as two-row barleys. A pair of mutations (one dominant, the other recessive) result in fertile lateral spikelets to produce six-row barleys.[5]

The prohibitions involved in chametz are:


  • Eating 讗讻讬诇讛 : The Torah prohibition of eating chametz begins at mid-day (6 鈥渉ours鈥) of Erev Pesach. The Rabbis extended that prohibition to the 4th or 5th hour (11b). If someone intentionally eats chametz on Pesach, he is subject to the punishment of karet. If he eats it in the presence of witnesses and after having been warned that it is prohibited (eidim vehatra鈥檃h), he receives malkot (lashes).聽 If he eats it inadvertently, he must bring a korban chatat. The karet and chatat penalties only apply to chametz eaten on Pesach itself.
  • Benefit 讛谞讗讛: One may not benefit from chametz on Pesach (for example, selling it to a non-Jew or using it as animal feed).聽 The issur begins at the same time as the prohibition to eat chametz.聽 However, there is no karet penalty for violation.
  • Possession 讘诇 讬专讗讛 讜讘诇 讬诪爪讗: One may not own chametz. This is actually a violation of two separate commandments: Shemot 13:7 and Shemot 12:19. Although violation only occurs if the chametz is actually yours, full ownership is not required. If one is legally liable for someone else鈥檚 chametz, this is considered ownership.聽 There is a dispute as to when this prohibition takes effect 鈥 midday on Erev Pesach, or Pesach itself.聽 Rashi鈥檚 view is that it is midday on Erev Pesach (4a).

There is also a positive mitzva of 讛砖讞转讛, eliminating the chametz, which goes into effect at midday on Erev Pesach, based on Shemot 12:15. Rambam and Rashi hold that 鈥渆limination鈥 can be effected by nullifying the chametz in one鈥檚 possession (讘讬讟讜诇 讞诪抓) 鈥 declaring it to be worthless to you.聽 Tosafot hold that one must actually remove the chametz, requiring actual destruction of any chametz.聽 If the chametz is destroyed, there is a dispute (21a) as to how to destroy it.



There is a Torah-based requirement to eat matzah on the first night of Pesach (in Chutz La鈥橝retz, there is a rabbinic requirement for the second night as well). Matzah must be made of the 鈥渇ive species,鈥 and the dough may not ferment or rise.聽 The matzah for the mitzvah of eating matzah (the 1st/first 2 night[s]) must be made l鈥檚hem mitzva 鈥 for the specific purpose of the mitzvah 鈥 by being guarded against leavening (shimur l鈥檚hma).聽 There is no obligation to eat matzah on the other days of Pesach 鈥 but if you want to eat grain products, they cannot be chametz.

Korban Pesach

The Korban Pesach, while subject to the laws of all sacrifices, has additional restrictions and details.聽 All korbanot require:

  • Slaughtering
  • Collection of blood in a sanctified vessel
  • Placement on the mizbeach
  • Sprinkling of the blood on the mizbeach

The korbanot are divided into various subcategories, and the Korban Pesach is included in some of these categories, and subject to those laws as well.聽 In addition, there are many laws which are unique to the Korban Pesach.

All other korbanot Korban Pesach
Slaughtered at any time during the day Slaughtered on the afternoon of Erev Pesach
Eaten throughout the day and the following night (only until midnight as a Rabbinic restriction) Eaten only at night (according to one opinion, only until midnight as a Torah based restriction)
Meat can be prepared in any manner Meat must be broiled before it is eaten
  • To be eligible to eat the Pesach, you need to 鈥渞egister鈥 in advance for that specific animal.
  • All the people 鈥渞egistered鈥 for a korban must eat it as a group.
  • Someone who is uncircumcised may not eat from the
  • If someone has failed to circumcise his son (or slave) without the exemption of danger, he may not eat of the korban.
  • The bones may not be broken
  • If one fails to bring a Korban Pesach, the punishment is (This is one of the 2 positive commandments which incur karet for lack of fulfillment. The other is brit milah.)
  • If someone is unable to offer the Korban Pesach on Erev Pesach, s/he can fulfill the obligation on Pesach Sheini.



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