The Israeli Shabbat after Pesach conundrum
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Sichat Yosef

The Israeli Shabbat after Pesach conundrum

In Yerushalayim that I finally reached after two years of COVID-caused absence, I am facing a halachically interesting Shabbat.

Hussein Jabar, left, meets Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, finance minister Moshe Kahlon and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau to purchase Israel's chametz, 2018. Photo: Times of Israel
Hussein Jabar, left, meets Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, finance minister Moshe Kahlon and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau to purchase Israel's chametz, 2018. Photo: Times of Israel

AS we all know while the Torah prescribed Chag Hamatzot as a seven-day festival that we refer to as Pesach (even though technically from a Torah perspective Pesach is Erev Pesach, the day of bringing the paschal lamb, while the seven-day festival is Chag Hamatzot, the festival of unleavened bread), in the Diaspora the festival is eight days. Owing to calendric difficulties all biblically prescribed festivals except Yom Kippur gain an extra day. However even today all festivals in Israel are observed as per biblical prescription, meaning that Pesach lasts for only seven days. For those living in Israel, this Shabbat, the second one on this Pesach for us in Australia, is technically already after Pesach.

What is the halachah as far as visitors to Israel such as myself are concerned? Regarding any yom tov should we keep it as in “Chutz la’aretz” with an extra day or, as long as we are physically in Israel, only the biblically mandated number of days as our Israeli brethren do?

The reality is that this is a question regarding which differing views exist. I personally keep two days which has been the tradition for millennia. However unless one has a tradition it is incumbent on every visitor to Israel at the time of any yom tov to discuss the matter with their rabbi.

Putting that aside however, this year the issue of the end of Pesach in Israel is subject to significant practical halachic problems because that eighth day is Shabbat. Given that all chametz is prohibited (and any in the house has been sold) for the duration of Pesach which ends at nightfall on Friday night, there is no way to run out and get Challah for Shabbat. Nor with the chametz sold is there a way to start using chametz groceries etc from the pantry on this Shabbat. Yet do we want an eighth day observed as Pesach in Israel? It could even raise another halachic question of “bal tosif – not adding” to Torah laws, although if done out of necessity rather than intent that would not be such an issue.

Some have a solution of using some items that are in the category of kitniyot. The term kitniyot refers to grain-like items that are not actually one of the five basic cereal grains used in the manufacture of flour. Examples are rice, beans and corn that are not used in the Ashkenazi tradition but are permitted by Sephardi authorities. Albeit that Ashkenazim do not consume such on Pesach there is no prohibition against owning them as is the case of actual chametz – that is accordingly sold pre-Pesach – so one could certainly have such accessible in the house. Accordingly while in place of two challot one will again eat matzot at the meal, in order to distinguish this Shabbat from Pesach one might include in the menu a product incorporating soy or even a can of beans that has a hechsher that it is appropriate for Pesach for Sephardim who eat kitniyot on Pesach.

However that while that relates to items in cans or packets held over Pesach there is another interesting question to which the answer is far from straightforward.

Firstly, a reminder to all readers wherever you may be. As the last days of Pesach are Friday and Shabbat it is necessary to make “Eruv Tavshilin” on Thursday. Why? Unlike on Shabbat, cooking on yom tov (from a previously lit flame) is permitted. Normally however, one may only cook on a yom tov day for that day.  However given the strictness of Shabbat laws one has to prepare in advance. Halachah therefore provides that if yom tov falls on Friday, if one commences Shabbat cooking before the yom tov (through a ceremony called Eruv Tavshilin – involving already setting aside on Thursday two foods for Shabbat consumption, usually a boiled egg and challah roll), one is then permitted to “continue to” cook on Friday for the Shabbat that follows. Part of the reasoning for allowing this is that you could cook anyway on that Friday more than you require for the Friday on the grounds that even if without extra cooking you have enough for your household, you may have visitors and need food ready for them. So whether here or in Israel one might prepare a pot of, say, meat and potatoes on Friday and have it on Shabbat.

But in light of that reasoning, an interesting halachic question arises in Israel where Shabbat is actually not Pesach and kitniyot are permitted. Could one prepare on Friday a cholent with beans that Ashkenazi Jews including any visitors may not eat on the Friday? After all where the excuse regarding possible visitors does not apply the eruv tavshilin serves no purpose. It is an open question with some ruling negatively while others say since Sephardi visitors can visit (not uncommon in Israel) an Ashkenazi family can make it and then consume it on the Shabbat.

Having said all that it remains a fact that Shabbat, April 22, while the last day of Pesach in Australia, is not Pesach in Israel. Accordingly, shule services are those of an ordinary Shabbat. This includes the Torah reading.

So while in Australia we will read “Aser T’aser” (Devarim 14:22 — 16:17)   that includes a section relating to yamim tovim, in Israel one will already read parashat Acharei Mot which we in the Diaspora read only the following week. As a result Israel will continue to be one parasha ahead of the Diaspora until we come to a week with double parashiyot that can be joined in the Diaspora (allowing us to catch up) though read separately in Israel. As this year is a leap year when the otherwise double parashiyot in Shemot and Vayikra are already separate anyway to allow for the readings necessary on the extra four Shabbatot of a leap year, we are in a situation where from now until July 29 (Menachem Av 2) the Diaspora will be a week behind Israel. On that Shabbat the Diaspora will read Matot Mas’ei while Israel will just read Mas’ei (having read Matot the previous week).

Chag sameach,
Shabbat shalom,
Yossi

Yossi Aron OAM is The AJN’s religious affairs editor.

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