Sunday, April 13, 2008

Taken aback

Our rabbi does not accept the opinion, held by some other rabbis, that one is permitted to use egg matzah for the motzi blessing over bread on Shabbat Erev Pesach, a Sabbath that falls on the day before Passover. His opinion is that, since egg matzah is a form of matzah, it's forbidden until after the Seder. So last night, just before Maariv (evening service), the rabbi, the cantor, my husband (chair of the Ritual Committee) and I (a Ritual Committee member) were trying to figure out how the congregation was going to fulfill the requirements for making the motzi over actual bread at both lunch and seudah shlishit (the third meal, usually a late-afternoon snack) next Shabbat/Sabbath, given that the last hour for eating chametz is around 10:30 AM here in New York City.

The rabbi suggested that we break for kiddush with motzi over bread after the P'sukei D'Zimra (Verses of Song, consisting largely of biblical quotes) section of Shacharit (Morning Service).

"That makes sense," I said. "You did once tell me that, once I recited the section from "la-asok b'divrei Torah" through "v'talmud Torah k'neged kulam," and then recited all three paragraphs of the Sh'ma, I could eat anything I wanted."

The rabbi clarified that I could eat only m'zonot (non-bread grain products, such as cereal or cake), not bread, at that point in the prayers (a major detail that I'd forgotten, but I'd been waiting for after kiddush to make motzi anyway).

"Oh. In that case, what's the difference whether we break after Birkot HaShachar (the Morning Blessings) or P'sukei D'Zimrah (which comes immediately thereafter)? Either way, we're not yotzei (we haven't fulfilled our religious obligation) until after the Amidah."

At that point, the cantor piped up, "Why don't we do kiddush and motzi before the Chazarat HaShashatz (repetition aloud of the Amidah prayer said silently)?"

"Great!" I said. "Then we can do seudah shlishit before the Torah reading."

The rabbi agreed, and asked the cantor to begin Maariv.

I was quite taken aback by that conversation.

For openers, why on earth did the rabbi suggest that we break for bread after P'sukei D'Zimrah? Why did it not occur to the rabbi that we wouldn't be yotzei (plural: yotzim?) until after the Amidah?

For closers, the last time that Pesach began the evening after Shabbat, the previous rabbi had it all planned: We would start the service early, break for bagels after the Amidah, and send the Shabbos goy (a non-Jewish employee) out of the building immediately thereafter with every last scrap of chametz. And that's exactly what happened. Yet here we were, a week before Pesach, and the current rabbi had not only not figured out how the congregants were going to fulfill their Shabbat obligations, as he interpreted them--I think the previous rabbi allowed egg matzah for seudah shlishit--he hadn't even thought about he was going to fulfill his own Shabbat obligations. After all, he, too, was going to be in synagogue, with us congregants, at the last permissible time for eating chametz. He actually told my husband and the cantor that he would go along with any plan they came up with, as if it were no concern of his.

Am I make a big deal out of nothing?

Related: Who leads the siyum in your synagogue? See especially my response (comment #18?) to Noam's e-mailed comment.


Blogger katrina said...

To be honest, Shira, I think you are overreacting a bit. From this and your siyyum post, which I admit is not a representative sample of anything, it seems to me that you don't like your rabbi much as a rabbi and administrator (I can't tell whether you like him as a person). That's normal. Rabbis are often disorganized, and your previous rabbi was probably an exception to the rule in that he was. Also, you said that your shul is dying, which I know from experiences my family members have had means that you do not exactly get the pick of the litter where rabbis are concerned. When peole don't like their rabbis, every thing the rabbi does has the capacity to piss them off. Don't fall into this trap! Just chalk it up to his disorganization and be glad you had this discussion BEFORE Shabbat.
Chag Kasher v'Sameach!

Mon Apr 14, 05:09:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Maya Resnikoff said...

I kind of question the halakhic legitimacy of what you reported- the traditional position is that you should finish shacharit and I believe torah reading (but I'm less sure on that one- I'm pulling a bit of a blank right now) before eating bread.

Yes, it's leaving planning to the last minute, and making it difficult by holding a somewhat unpopular position in regards to matzah ashira, but these things do happen. It isn't ideal, but it's the sort of compromise that's made that seems odd to me, more than that the discussion is happening now, I think.

Mon Apr 14, 07:23:00 AM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way big deal out of nothing.

All I would do is wash and bench and wash again- eat your meal and bench- the meal does not necessarally have chometz- you just eat the bread over bags- and then flush it.

Mon Apr 14, 08:08:00 AM 2008  
Blogger rivkayael said...

actually we Sephardim (just to jazz things up a bit) don't consider egg matzah to be bread at all, which is why I probably will not be saying ha-motzi on egg matza. Instead, I will eat a piece of bread outside the front door and trash the rest. I don't think egg matza is considered matza at all...?

Mon Apr 14, 09:16:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Elie said...

My experience - admittedly restricted to Orthodox Shuls - is that minyan is held early enough so that the service can complete and people get home and have their first meal before chametz becomes forbidden. E.g., my shul has only a hashkama (7:00) minyan this Shabbos.

For seudas shlishis, there are varying customs; personally I have it early afternoon and use fruit and other non-mezonos foods. Others wash and bench twice in the morning, doing something in the middle (e.g. taking a walk outside) to serve as a separartion.

Stopping davening in the middle - at any point except perhaps before musaf - seems rather bogus to me. But I would agree that your Rabbi is probably more disorganized than negligent. Admittedly, he doesn't seem like great match for a shul like yours. He would perhaps be better suited for one with a larger and more self-motivated congregation (you and hubby excepted!) where, to use your earlier example, there would be plenty of volunteers for making a siyum without the Rabbi having to push hard to drum one up and/or do it himself.

Mon Apr 14, 09:45:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Outvoted again (see my linked post re the siyum bechorim)--that's two for two.

Katrina, I should probably take your advice--resign myself to the fact that this rabbi is the best that our dying and broke congregation can afford, and stop kvetching.

RivkaYael, that's precisely the problem with matzah ashira/egg matzah--not even the Ashkenazi rabbis can decide what "matzah" that contains eggs and fruit juice is. Some say it's bread, others say it's cake. Therefore, there's disagreement concerning whether one is permitted to make motzi over it or not.

Hesh, flushing the leftover chametz down the toilet works only if you're at home. If you're in synagogue, you need enough chametz to feed at least 30 people, and that quantity would clog the plumbing.

Debka_Notion and Elie, you may very well be right about breaking for motzi before Musaf, which would be after, not before, the Torah reading. To be honest, I don't think that occurred to any of us. (I was thinking it would be all right since people often make kiddush during the Torah on Simchat Torah, but I guess one wouldn't usually make motzi at that point.) We were thinking in terms of logistics--the sad reality is that we frequently don't have enough men for a Torah reading even at 10 AM, and must wait. What are the odds that we could get this crowd to syagogue even half an hour earlier than our usual 9 AM start time on any day other than the High Holidays? If there's a better solution to this problem that would work for our congregation, none of us has been able to think of it.

Mon Apr 14, 10:57:00 AM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our minyan starts at 6:30 am this year, so that everyone is finished with davening and can eat a normal meal by 9:30 - and flush the remaining chametz away.

I think you need to find a very "left wing Orthodox" synagogue to belong to - one where they don't frown on a woman's minyan. You seem to care much more about the halachic details of things than the other congregants and the Rabbi of your shul.

Mon Apr 14, 11:51:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

WBM, my husband and I have discussed the possibility of becoming baalei t'shuvah/"returnees" to Orthodox Judaism, but neither of us is really ready at this time. In addition to the obvious problem that I'm a hard-core egalitarian, my haskafah/religious perspective tends to be rather unorthodox, not to mention unOrthodox, which would force me to keep my big mouth shut in order to "pass"--and you may have noticed that shutting up is not one of my strong points. :)There's also the interesting challenge of dealing with different levels of observance in a marriage--my husband, while better at, and more interested in, Jewish learning than I, came from a completely non-observant family and chose as an adult to become a regular synagagogue attendee, and is probably as observant now as he's willing to be at this time. Hey, he not only puts up with me keeping a kosher kitchen, he even helps me schlep the kosher-for-Passover food home from another neighborhood and gets the boxes of Pesach pots, etc., down from atop the bookcases, so I can't complain. :)

Mon Apr 14, 01:26:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a novel idea: Eat your chametz outside - no worries about clogging plumbing and the birds can eat any crumbs that fall!

Tue Apr 15, 10:30:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Our community has no eruv, so we can't eat outside. Actually, we might be able to get away with eating under the synagogue's entrance canopy, but I wouldn't swear to the halachic status of that area.

Tue Apr 15, 10:52:00 AM 2008  
Blogger rivkayael said...

Ok finally I got Ramat Orah's schedule to add to the many comments here.
7:30-9:15: Shacharit
9:15: light seudah. I assume with motzi.
9:45: Mussaf
10:15: Shabbat HaGadol drasha
11: kiddush

I think kiddush can also be considered seudah slishit.

Another Orthodox shul I frequent is beginning davening at 6:30 am, for the sake of not rushing a Shabbat davening. Everyone eats at home there. The rabbi said that some people have the minhag of soaking a machine matzah in chicken soup or something, and saying motzi over that. Since the soaked matzah cannot be used for mitzvah of seder, it passes.

Tue Apr 15, 05:15:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

RivkaYael, we can't even get enough men for a Torah reading by 10 AM half the time, as I was saying. So an early minyan just won't work here--no one will show up that early. But I'm intrigued by the idea of making motzi over wet matzah. Is that mutar/permissible?

Tue Apr 15, 09:05:00 PM 2008  
Blogger rivkayael said...

Could you just daven at home?
(I'm sorry to have to suggest this...) You are right that you are not yotzei until you have davened the shemonei esrei. What was the resolution of the matter?

On the question of wet matzah--I know this is how one tradition holds and it is permissible by some people (which is why some people bentsch on some types of Pesach granola). I know at least one other family that wet their matzah to get around the korech folding problem at the seder. And lastly--sephardic matza is soft. If it weren't so late I'd say look into that (since sephardic matza is not permissible for Ashkenazic use at the seder).

Wed Apr 16, 01:45:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Davvening/praying at home presents two problems:

1) It's isolating to be home all day on a Shabbat, rather like being sick.

2) More important, my husband is chair of the Ritual Committee! It's bad enough that *I* often davven at another shul/synagogue, but for *him* not to show up is practically catastrophic, especially given that, at this point, he's practically taking turns chanting the haftarah with only one other guy. (I can only chant the haftarot that I already know--I can't chant one on the spot, and am currently having just enough problems with my throat [acid reflux and recurring polypses] that the repeated practice necessary for learning any new haftarah is not necessarily advisable.)

The resolution was as given in the post: We'll break for kiddush with motzi over bread after the silent Amidah, then do the Chazarat HaShashat/repetition of the Amidah aloud, then do seudah shlishit with motzi over bread. That was the best solution we could come up with at the time.

I'm intrigued by the "wet matzah" approach. Those who don't believe in eating "gebrokts" (any food made from matzah that has been wet, such as matzahh brei or kneidach/matzah balls) might not accept this, but my family eats gebrokts. Personally, I think the Sefardim have it right--in my decidedly-non-rabbinic opinion, there's no really good reason not to eat either kitniot or "soft matzah." Really, what's so chametz about unleavened lafa bread or (kosher) moo-shoo pancakes (a Chinese wrap, for the uninitiated--I think it's made with rice).

Wed Apr 16, 03:27:00 PM 2008  
Blogger rivkayael said...

See here--soft matza in Talmudic times!

The thing is: even the non-brokking people would *not* consider gebrokts as chametz. So you can eat soaked matzah (or Sephardic matzah) even for that Shabbat meal and not worry about throwing it out by 10:40 am. (though you should stop eating it by then) Rice wraps are not eligible for motzi.

Eh that being said, chag kasher v'sameach :).

Wed Apr 16, 05:01:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Thanks for the link and other info. So gebrokts are not chametz, they're just a borderline item, like kitniot?

Wed Apr 16, 05:44:00 PM 2008  
Blogger rivkayael said...

kitniyot is not chametz. gebrokts is not chametz. kitnityot is minhag and so is gebrokts.

(ducks flying tomatoes)

Quite interestingly, all my RIETS friends living alone are far less neurotic than their mothers in Pesach wonder people tell them that "you and your shulchan arukh are going to treif up my kitchen". :P

Thu Apr 17, 12:10:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Bless my husband for lending him his ancient laptop, now that my desktop is down for the count. But this antique takes forever to do just about anything! Excuse me while I attempt to publish this comment for the third time:

Thank goodness my family never worried about gebrokts. (I don't know whether they were even aware of that minhag/custom.) Kitniot, on the other hand . . . We Ashkenazim go nuts at Pesach time. A former rabbi of mine used to say that Pesach was a holiday for obsessive-compulsives. There's a grain of truth in that--assuming that said grain is under rabbinical supervision. :)

I'm happy to hear that your Yeshiva University rabbinical school friends are reasonable men. Keeping kosher is challenging enough without chumrot/extra stringencies.

Thu Apr 17, 08:45:00 PM 2008  

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