Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Who should fast the day before the Seder?

Yerushalmi Pesahim 10:1 records that Rabbi used to fast on the day before Pesah because he was a first born.  By contrast, R. Yonah, despite being a first born is said to have disregarded this practice.  The practice is presented as normative and common in Massekhet Soferim 21:1.

Regarding the scope of this practice, the discussion centers around how precisely we track the practice with the midrashic memory of who died in the plague of the first born in Egypt.  The Torah says—כי אין בית אשר אין שם מת, that there was no house without someone who died.  This suggests a very expansive definition of who died in the plague, since it was certainly not the case that every house had a first-born son born to its father, which would be the standard definition of first born in the context of inheritance and the patriarchal societies of the day.  Midrashic sources thus suggest a much broader scope to the plague.  Shemot Rabbah 18:3 describes the plague of the first born as affecting all first born, both matrilineal and patrilineal.  It goes further, suggesting that first born daughters were killed as well, and that only Bityah, Pharaoh’s daughter, was saved on account of Moshe.  Peskita Rabbati cites R. Abba b. Hama  as saying that a house lacking a first born would see its head of household (גדול הבית) struck down.  [The Mekhilta has a different approach to the phrase כי אין בית אשר אין שם מת, suggesting a desecration of already dead first-born and their tombs resulted in a feeling of catastrophe and death in every Egyptian home.]

Note that these various categories are different in terms of their resonance with other legal categories.  Patrilineal first-born are significant with respect to inheritance, the בכורה follows the first born of the father, irrespective of how many prior children a given wife has had with other men.  Matrilineal first-born are significant with respect to פדיון הבן, the redemption of the first born son.  In that context, only the mother’s first born is relevant, such that a father’s first child in a second marriage where the wife already had a child with another man is exempt.  By contrast, female first-born never otherwise have a legal status, and the same goes for head of household (outside of some peripheral laws related to mourning and the start of shiva).  This unevenness plays a role for some later interpreters in deciding which parts of these midrashim should be actualized in the context of the fast the day before Pesah.  On some level, the question is: Should the set of people who fast be seen as derivative of other categories in halakhah, or should the aggadah and the social realities it assumes and describes drive the practice?

Ra’aviah II:525, based on these midrashim, says that the first born of either the father or the mother must fast, since the plague in Egypt was all-encompassing of both types of first born.  However, he says that heads of household need not fast; we do not go that far in putting the midrash’s mythic memory into practice.  Shulhan Arukh OH 470:1 follows this view.

The children of kohanim/b’not kohanim and levi’im/b’not levi’im are exempt from פדיון הבן.  However, Responsa Maharil #14 says that these first born should fast—even if they are not the father’s first-born, such that they have no legal status of a first-born in any area of law—since at the time of the plague in Egypt, they had no special status vis-à-vis regular first born sons and therefore must fast to reflect gratitude and trepidation for having been saved from the plague.

Agudah Pesahim #91 follows the midrash in saying that first-born daughters must fast as well.  Responsa Maharil #14 reports that his father-in-law in fact made his daughter, Maharil’s divorcee (!), fast on the day before Pesah.  However, Sefer Maharil Erev Pesah #4 seems to suggest that most legal authorities did not require this.  Shulhan Arukh OH 470:1 reports the view of the Agudah.  Rema states that it is not the practice to require daughters to fast.  Gra grounds this in the fact that we have no evidence of the Torah ever prescribing a special legal status to the female first-born in any other area.

Finally, the laws of first-born are more broadly affected by miscarriages and stillbirths.  In general, any woman who has miscarried a significant way through her pregnancy or who has a stillbirth does not redeem the next son born to her.  However, Magen Avraham states that a first-born son after a miscarriage still fasts on the day before Pesah, since he is still a first-born for purposes of inheritance (through his father, presuming he is indeed his father’s first born).  He here appeals to other areas of law to fill in details with respect to this fast.  Hok Ya’akov leaves unresolved the case of a Caesarian-section birth, since such a child neither has a פדיון הבן nor is considered the first-born for purposes of inheritance (an interesting discussion in its own right).  Based on reinforcement from other legal categories, it would seem we should exempt, and yet based on the person’s social status and how they would have been regarded at the time of the plague of the first born in Egypt, they would certainly have been treated as a first born.  Kaf Hahayim says we should resolve this doubt leniently and not require such a person to fast.  Shevut Ya’akov II:16 clarifies that any live birth, even if the child dies within 30 days, is considered the first-born for purposes of eliminating the status of subsequent children from that category.


In many contemporary communities, this fast is deliberately evaded by attending a celebration completing learning, a tradition that goes back to at least the 16th century.  In this context, we might think not about who is expected to fast, but onto whom we project expectations of first-born status and how we maximize our tangible connection to our memory of the plague of the first-born.  We perhaps most fully feel the after effects of כי אין בית אשר אין שם מת by making sure that at least one person from every home, and especially all of our first born sons and daughters, begin the day before Pesah at minyan and joining in to an experience of meaningful learning.  We can thus enter, one home at a time, into Pesah with a profound sense of gratitude for our redemption through God’s hands.

37 comments:

Jeremy Friedman said...

I see the contemporary practice of evading fasting as a move towards R. Yonah. Still, this is somewhat of a compromise because, as Rav Eitan pointed out, we are still maintaining some element of cognizance and gratitude that "our" first born children were saved.

EMT said...

Jeremy, that is a reasonable read, certainly of what was going on in the 16th century, when fasting was still in vogue in many ways. [Though it would be interesting to see if there was a dip at that time in enthusiasm around fasting more generally.) In our own time, there is also probably some dimension of חולשה ירדה לעולם and reflection of a society that is overfed and generally avoids fasting whenever it can.

Jeremy Friedman said...

Here seen in Chacham Ovadia (kitzur yalkut yosef 270:19):
יט יש נוהגים שאם נולד למי שהוא בן בכור זכר, האב מתענה במקום בנו עד שיגדל. ואם גם האב בכור, האם מתענה במקום הבן עד שיגדל. ויש אומרים שאין לנהוג בחומרא זו בזמנים אלו, שירדה חולשה לעולם, ואף אם יהיה נדמה לאב או לאם שיוכלו להתענות לפי שעה, מכל מקום בלילה לא יוכלו לעשות הסדר כמשפטו, לספר ביציאת מצרים שהיא מצוה מן התורה, ולשתות ד' כוסות, ולאכול ד' כזיתים של מצה, וב' כזיתים של מרור...

amine lahragui said...

I appreciate you and hopping for some more informative posts. happy new year 2016 new year 2016 happy new year 2016 images feliz año nuevo 2016 imagenes de año nuevo 2016 feliz año 2016 happy new year images 2016 new year 2016 images new year images 2016 bonne année 2016

rohit said...

happy new years eve 2016

happy new year pics 2016

Merry Christmas images 2015

happy new year 2016 whatsapp status

Ankit Das said...

Thanks alot for uploading it...
Happy New Year 2016



Happy New Year eCards

Ankit Das said...

Great article.... Thanx a lot for uploading...
Keep uploading stuffs like it....
To know about tech related topics...
Visit my blog...

TechWorld

Ankit Das said...

Happy Valentines Day 2016

Valentines Day Images

Happy Valentines Day Images

Rose Day SMS

Rose Day Quotes

Rose Day Wishes

asds said...

http://wishesquotesgreetings.com/
wishesquotesgreetings.com
wishesquotesgreetings
Wishes Quotes Greetings

Happy Birthday Quotes
Happy Birthday Wishes
Happy Birthday Messages

Valentines day 2016
Happy Valentines day 2016
Happy Valentines day
Valentine's day 2016

Happy Valentine Day Quotes For Husband
kiss quotes for her
kiss quotes for girlfriend

happy propose day
valentines day quotes
happy valentines day quotes
happy valentines day quotes

asds said...

kiss quotes for boyfriend
anti valentines day quotes
anti valentines day quotes

propose day sms
short valentines day poems

valentines day poems for her
valentines day poems for girlfriend
Happy Rose Day Quotes SMS And Sayings

Happy Propose Day SMS - Messages For Him And Her
Valentines Day Quotes
Happy Chocolate Day Love Quotes

Happy Chocolate Day Sms Messages
Valentines Day Gifts For Her
Cheap Valentines Day Cards

Cute Valentines Day Quotes
Valentines Day Poems For Him
Happy Valentines Day Whatsapp Messages

Valentines Day Ideas For Kids
Valentines Day Pick Up Lines
Happy Chocolate Day Quotes For Him And Her

happy valentines day quotes
valentines day quotes
Happy Valentine Day Quotes For Husband

asds said...

Inspirational Love Quotes
Love Quotes
Inspirational Quotes

http://www.inspirationallovequotesimages.com/
inspirationallovequotesimages.com
inspirationallovequotesimages

inspirational love quotes images
love quotes images
inspirational quotes images

best love quotes
short love quotes
famous love quotes

inspirational quotes about love
inspiring love quotes
short quotes

short inspirational quotes
Uplifting Bible Verses
Bible Verses About Family

Inspirational Bible Verses
Encouraging Bible Verses
Birthday Greetings For Husband

good night quotes
happy mothers day quotes
Inspirational Business Quotes

Life Changing Quotes
Short Life Quotes
Funny valentines day quotes
Happy Valentines Day Quotes

asds said...

Inspirational Quotes
Love Quotes
Photoshop Tutorials
happy mothers day quotes
happy mothers day messages
happy mothers day poems

mothers day quotes from daughter
mothers day quotes from son
mothers day quotes from husband to wife

mothers day quotes from family
mothers day quotes
mothers day messages

mothers day poems
mothers day poems from daughter
funny mothers day quotes

funny mothers day messages
funny mothers day sayings
mothers day sayings

mothers day love quotes
inspirational mothers day quotes

asds said...

Happy Mothers Day
Happy Mother's Day
Happy Mothers Day 2016
Happy Mother's Day 2016
Mothers Day 2016
Mother's Day 2016
Happy fathers Day
Happy father's Day
Happy fathers Day 2016
Happy father's Day 2016
fathers Day 2016
father's Day 2016
father's day
fathers day

fathers day quotes
fathers day messages
fathers day poems

asds said...

Happy fathers Day
Happy father's Day
Happy fathers Day 2016
Happy father's Day 2016
fathers Day 2016
father's Day 2016

Happy Father's Day 2016 Quotes
fathers day quotes
fathers day messages
fathers day poems

Easter Quotes From The Bible
Happy Easter Quotes
Easter Quotes

Sanjay Raj said...

st patricks day images for whatsapp
st patricks day saying quotes
st patricks day images, pictures, wallpapers, photos, quotes, sayings & greetings
st patrick's day greetings
st patricks day food
st patricks day poems for preschoolers
st patricks images


st patricks day crafts
st patrick day parade
st patricks day funny
st. patrick’s day parade
st patricks day jokes
happy st patricks day images
happy st patricks day

ipl 9 live score said...

this blog is really helpful. i found very interesting things here.
happy mothers day 2016 quotes
happy mothers day 2016 quotes messages sms pictures
happy mothers day 2016 quotes from daughter
happy mothers day 2016 images
happy mothers day 2016 pictures
happy mothers day 2016 GIFT IDEAS for mother

Happy Day said...

this blog is really helpful. i found very interesting things here. i HAVE FOUND THE ANSWER OF MY SOLUTION HERE.
fan movie box office collection earning reports
fan movie total box office earning
fan movie box office collection
shah rukh khan's fan movie expected total box office collection
fan movie 1st day EXPECTED box office collection
fan movie first weekend box office collection
fan movie weekend box office earning reports
fan movie ADVANCE TICKET BOOKING ON BOOKMYSHOW.COM

Karan Arora said...

Mothers Day 2016 Slogans
Funny Mothers Day 2016 Slogans
Happy Mothers Day 2016 Slogans

Ankit Das said...

Want to know regular updates of Euro Cup 2016????
Get Euro Cup live Streaming,Euro Cup 2016 Schedule,Euro Cup 2016 Fixture,Euro Cup 2016 Live Streaming,Euro Cup 2016 Live Stream,Euro Cup 2016 Live Score.
Venue-France,From 10th june-10july. 24 teams,10 stadiums. Stay updated. Watch England vs Slovakia Live Streaming.

Akshi Sharma said...

Wimbledon 2016
Wimbledon live stream
Wimbledon live streaming


Wimbledon 2016
Wimbledon 2016 live scores
Wimbledon live streaming

Akshi Sharma said...

Fathers Day Whatsapp Status
Fathers Day Wishes From Son
Fathers Day Wishes From Daughter
Best Fathers Day Images Hd
Happy Fathers Day 2016
Fathers Day 2016
fathers day 2016 sayings
happy fathers day poems 2016

Shreya Mandal said...

You article is describe in a good manners with best possible way and now I am follow your site on daily basis and I like a very much your blog, so keep posting with such a nice article. Have a look on Wales vs Belgium Live Streaming




Rahul said...

Useful quotes and messages thanks for sharing.

Friendship Day SMS
Happy New Year 2017 Messages
Birthday Wishes Quotes
floyd mayweather
Best Christmas Quotes
Awesome Whatsapp Status

Sub Karaoke said...

Good (Y)
Chuyển văn phòng trọn gói
Dịch vụ taxi tải hà nội
Chuyển nhà giá rẻ

ipl 9 live score said...

Happy Halloween Pictures 2016
Happy Halloween 2016 Images
Happy Halloween 2016 Pictures
Happy Halloween 2016 Photos
Happy Halloween 2016 Wallpapers
Happy Halloween 2016 Quotes
Happy Halloween 2016 Greetings

Ranjit Ram said...

Want to know about Veterans Day,which is a day to celebrate the great officers of the US army,just checkout my blog Happy Veterans Day and stay updated.

Valentine Greetings said...

Valentines Day images
Valentines Day megashare
Valentines Day diy
someecards Valentines Day
Valentines Day jordans

ayesha said...

Visit us now to view & share beautiful collection of Best Images of
rose day images

adsense said...

Visit us now to view & share beautiful collection of Best Images of
happy chocolate day 2017

rashmi panwar said...

Vivo T20 Ipl 2017
Happy Birthday Cakes Candles
Happy Birthday Wishes In Hindi
DJ Duvvada Jagannadham Trailer Video
Happy Birthday Wishes In Hindi
Inspiration Images In English
Bolly Times
Lovely Hd Images
Happy Holi Images
Happy Holi Wishes In Hindi

Dooiitt Tube said...

Best Outfits For Young ladies, Womens and Girls
We Have Some For You In Your Budget For more…
Plz visit:-Designer Lehenga

Anushka Sharma said...

Oh! Amazing employment with the editorial. I locate few helps over here related by this post to accomplish my task nicely. I highly recommend this. Thanks a lot…

blouse neck design
birthday wishes for best friend

Dooiitt Tube said...

Have Lovely and Beautiful Salwar Suit And Many More…
We Have Some For You In Your Budget For more…
Plz visit:- Designer Dress

Dooiitt Tube said...


Have Lovely and Beautiful Salwar Suit And Many More…
We Have Some For You In Your Budget For more…
Plz visit:- Bridal Sarees

Priyanshu Fashion said...

As India celebrates its 70th Independence Day on 15 August 2017, its citizens rejoice celebrating a different kind of freedom - the freedom to travel, explore, and unwind. The Indian citizens are all perked up for a much awaited long weekend during Independence Day.
Please visit Independence Day

India is known worldwide for its rich heritage and cultural beliefs. For the richness and sweetness attained, the country pays tribute to various people who played an influential role in this attainment.
Please visit Independence Day Status

Harsh Kumar said...

15 August Hindi Speech 2017
15 August Hindi Shayari Images 2017
15 August Hindi Nibandh
15 August Hindi Bhashan 2017
15 August Hindi Speech 2017
15 August 2017 Images
15 August Telugu Speech
15 August Bengali Speech
15 August Tamil Speech
15 August Marathi Speech
15 August Kannada Speech
15 August Malayalam Speech
15 August Gujarati Speech
15 August Punjabi Speech
15 August Urdu Speech
15 August Hindi Anchoring Script
15 August Hindi Speech 2017
15 August Hindi Bhashan 2017
15 August Hindi Shayari 2017
15 August Hindi Nibandh
15 August Hindi Status 2017
15 August Telugu Speech
15 August Kannada Speech
15 August Bengali Speech
15 August Malayalam Speech
15 August Tamil Speech
15 August Gujarati Speech
15 August Speech In Punjabi
15 August Speech In Urdu
15 August Speech In Punjabi
15 August Hindi English Anchoring Script
Happy New Year 2018 Images Wallpapers Greetings Card Wishes Quotes Messages Shayari SMS
Happy New Year 2018 Images
Happy New Year Images
Happy New Year 2018 SMS
Happy New Year 2018 Status
Happy New Year 2018 Whatsapp Images
Happy New Year 2018 Pictures
Happy New Year Hindi Shayari 2017
Happy Rakhi Images 2017
Happy Rakhi Hindi Shayari
Happy Raksha Bandhan Hindi Shayari Messages
Its Wiki News Time

Niya Shah said...

A movie is used for an entertainment of busy people.
By seeing movie person experiences refreshment from their day to day life.
For watching movie plz visit following site:-
kingsman-thegoldencircle
kingsman: the golden circle