Monday, April 02, 2007

Eliezer Brodt - Pesach Drasha of the Rokeach

The Pesach Drasha of the Rokeach
by Eliezer Brodt

Every once in a while we are privileged to have the venerable printing house Mikezei Nerdamim release something special from the great rishonim (aside from their great journal Kovetz Al Yad). Last year they published the drasha of R. Eliezer Rokeach for Pesach edited by Professor Simcha Emanuel. In this post I would like to discuss some of the many things of interest in the work and also comment on the great job of Simcha Emanuel did in general with this work.

This drasha seems to have been an actual drasha that the Rokeach said although it is pretty obvious from the length that it was not said at one time but probably broken up over a few times. The style of the drasha is mostly halacha and a bit of aggdah in the beginning and also scattered in the middle and end. He goes through many halchos of Pesach starting with koshering the utensils getting rid of the chametz and baking the matzos. He than continues on at great length to discuss all the aspects of the Seder. Then he deals with what to do if one finds chametz on Pesach and he ends with some halchos of Yom Tov in general.

First I would like to mention some of the interesting points found in the actual drasha. First, the Rokeach records that his family custom was when they burned the chametz they would do so with the lulavim and hoshanos which they had saved from Sukkos. [1]. While talking about the minhag to bake matzos Eruv Yom Tov he writes do not bake the matzos for the second night until the second night because of chavivah mitzvah bi’shaytah (pg 92). He writes that if the Yom Tov falls out on Shabbos we do not smell hadassim for besamim on Motzei Shabbos because there is no loss of the extra soul as the soul remains for the duration of Yom Tov. (pg 93). Professor Emanuel points out that others disagree with this point and hold one does in fact make a blessing on the besamim when Saturday night is still Yom Tov. While talking about the washing for karpas he writes that one should make a ‘al nitelas yadaim (pg 96) whereas we today do not. [2] He than goes on to say that we eat a full kazais for karpas something we also do not do – we eat less than a kazais. [3] (pg 97, 152). He notes his family minhag was to hold the cup of wine during the recitation of v’hei she’umdah (pg 99 and pg 126) [4]. He than goes on to describe how his family pours out the wine when we say the ten plagues. (pg 101 see also pg 127). The importance of this last custom is that until the publication of this drasha, although many have recorded this custom in the name of the Rokeach, it appeared in none of his writings (as I plan on discussing at length in a forthcoming article). In regard to washing mayim achronim although others argue he writes one should wash (pg 106). [5]

Another point worth mentioning about this sefer and this edition is the inclusion of Professor S. Emanuel excellent and lengthy notes. He discusses and provides additional sources for various things mentioned in the drash such as making matzos with pictures on them (pg 129-134), about the nussach of the Haggdah that some said רבון עלומים וכו' after ביד חזקה (pg 53- 57) [6] and reasons for the issur of kitnyot (pg 51). One very interesting thing which he points out is the difference about how a name is spelled in various manuscripts. Specifically, whether the Rokeach’s father-in-law was Eliezer or Elazar. If it was Elazer than it turns out that the Rokeach, whose first name was also Elazer, apparently ignored the will of his teacher, Rebbi Yehuda ha-Hassid – who disallows such marriages. Although, most likely, the Rokeach was married prior to coming in contact with Rebbi Yehuda ha-Hassid, his practice demonstrates that people, prior to Rebbi Yehuda ha-Hassid’s pronouncement did not observe this custom. (pg 57- 59). In addition to this Professor Emanuel has included excellent exstensive notes and comments throughout the drasha. He references many important points related to the issues the Rokeach says also including interesting sources from manuscripts.

Aside from this small work (152 pages) containing this very important drasha of the Rokeach it also includes many important pieces of information in regard to the Rokeach in general and especially to two works of his that until now were unknown. There is a lengthy discussion about a sefer of the Rokeach on shecitah and treifos as well as another sefer - Sefer Ma’seh Rokeach – and the many new items for it.


[1] Page 79. For further on this custom see Sefer HaMaskil pg 33-34; the important comment of R Honig in Yerushasanu pg 208-209; Sefer Kushyuos pg. 168-169 and the notes therein; D. Sperber, Minhagei Yisrael, vol. 2 pg. 193.

[2] See also the Haggdah Shivivi Eish in Me’orot HaRishonim, pg 152; see also Y. Tabory, Pesach Dorot, pg 216- 244.

[3] See also Y. Tabory, Pesach Dorot, pg 264-265.

[4] See also Haggdah Shivivi Eish pg 109.

[5] See also Tabory, pg 244-249.

[6] See also Pirush Miyuchas l’Rashi in the Torat Hayyim Haggdah, pg 110.

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