For the week ending 3 April 2004 / 12 Nisan 5764

Pesach Questions

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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Parents With Bread

From: I. M. Burns

Dear Rabbi

I am living with my parents now and they do not keep mitzvot nor Shabbat nor the holidays. They are respectful but they just don't know and can't be bothered to learn. Pesach is coming up. I am trying to arrange with them to go out to a kosher Hotel for the first two nights (including the Seder - hope that works out) but as far as cleaning for Pesach I don't know what to do. My parents may/may not want to clean up, and even if we try to, I'm convinced they will bring chametz [leaven] in at some point (knowingly or not). What should I do?

Dear I. M. Burns,

The Torah prohibits owning chametz on Pesach. This is derived from the verse "Nothing leavened may be seen in your possession." This prohibition applies only to chametz which you own. It does not apply to someone else's chametz even if it's in your house. Assuming that your parents own (or rent) the house and assuming that all the chametz in the house belongs to them, it is their responsibility to get rid of the chametz, not yours.

Of course, chametz which you personally own you have to get rid of before Pesach. Also, any of your personal belongings in which you might put chametz require a pre-Pesach search. For example, pockets and knapsacks should be checked for forgotten candy bars or half-eaten sandwiches. But since you are a "guest" in your parents home i.e., you have no ownership or legal rights over your room you wouldn't say the blessing when searching for chametz.

I spoke to Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, shlita, and he said that a child may stay at his parents home for Pesach even if they haven't removed their chametz. The best scenario would be if you could agree with your parents to keep the house chametz-free. That way, your parents will be doing a mitzvah, and also, neither you nor your parents will accidentally eat any chametz. But this must all be done in a way that causes no friction between you and your parents and conveys no disrespect to them whatsoever.


  • Exodus 13:17, Tractate Pesachim 5b
  • Chayei Adam 119:18, Chok Yaakov, Orach Chaim 436
  • After the Return, Rabbi Mordechai Becher and Rabbi Moshe Newman, p. 80

The Riddle in the Middle

From: Neil Reznik in Valley Forge, PA

Dear Rabbi,

Why is the afikomen taken from the middle matza during the Seder rather than from the top or bottom matza?

Dear Neil,

On the first night of Pesach, we say two blessings over the matza. The first blessing, hamotzi, is the usual blessing we say when eating bread. Since this blessing is always best to say on a whole "loaf," we therefore put an unbroken matza on top of the stack.

The second blessing, al achilat matza, is the special blessing we say for the commandment to eat matza on this night. This blessing applies especially to the broken matza, because this matza symbolizes our broken, impoverished state as slaves in Egypt. Since this blessing is the second one, the broken matza is second in the stack.

The third matza is included in order to complete lechem mishne, the requirement on Shabbat and festivals to use two whole loaves instead of one, and it goes on the bottom. According to widespread custom, this bottom matza is let to slip from the hands before the second blessing is said.


  • Mishnah Berura 473:57, 475:2

What's Not In A Name

From: Marsha in NYC

Dear Rabbi,

Why is Moses' name not mentioned in the Haggada?

Dear Marsha,

The Torah attests, "Moses was the most humble person on the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:3). It should be no surprise, then, that the world's humblest person omitted his name from the story, and instead he attributed all the credit to G-d.

Your question raises an interesting point. After a full year in the desert, the Jewish People celebrated the Pesach festival. They offered the Paschal lamb and ate matza and maror bitter herbs. But when it came time to tell the Pesach story, who did they tell it to? To whom did they relate the plagues and miracles, the Strong Hand and Outstretched Arm? Everybody was there! Everyone saw it with their own eyes!

Only one person had children who did not personally experience the going out of Egypt - Moses! Moses' two sons were in Midian during the Exodus. Moses, therefore, was the first person in history to relate the Pesach story to children who didn't know it first-hand.

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