The Pesach Drasha of the Rokeach
by Eliezer Brodt
By way of introduction, in the Shulchan Aruch it is written that thirty days before Pesach one should learn the halachos of Pesach. As Pesach is fast approaching, it is appropriate to discuss anew a post from five years ago, of which this is an update.
Every once in a while we are privileged to have the venerable printing house Mekizei Nirdamim release something special from the great rishonim (aside from their great journal Kovetz Al Yad). Five years ago they published a critical edition of a Pesach Drasha of R. Eliezer Rokeach of Worms for the first time, 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 in general on the great job of Simcha Emanuel did with this work.
One of the reasons why I am updating this post is I was just told by Mekezei Nirdamim that they only have a few remaining copies and it will not be reprinted. I am selling copies for $16, while supplies last. For more information feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Part of the proceeds of this sale will be going to help support the efforts of the Seforim Blog.
This drasha seems to have been an actual drasha that the Rokeach delivered, although it is pretty obvious from the length that it was not said at one time but probably a compilation of a few derashos recited at different times. The style is mostly halacha, with a bit of aggadah in the beginning and also scattered throughout. He goes through many halachos of Pesach starting with kashering the utensils, getting rid of the chametz, and baking the matzos. He then 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 halachos of Yom Tov in general.
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 (p.79).  While talking about the minhag to bake matzos Erev Yom Tov he writes that one should not bake the matzos for the second night until the second night itself, because of chavivah mitzvah bi’shaatah (p. 92).  He states that one should go to the Mikvah before Yom Tov. 
The Rokeach 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. (p. 93).[4a] In a note Professor Emanuel points out that others disagree with this point and hold that 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 ‘al nitelas yadaim (p. 96), whereas today we do not.  He then goes on to say that we eat a full kezayis for karpas, which is something we also do not do – we purposely eat less than a kezayis.  (p. 97, 152). He notes his family minhag was to hold the cup of wine during the recitation of vehi she’amdah (p. 99 and p. 126) , the common custom today.
He describes how his family poured out the wine when they said the ten Makkot (p. 101, see also, p. 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 acharonim at the seder, although others argue he writes one should wash (p. 106). 
In addition to all this Professor Emanuel has included extensive notes and comments throughout the drasha, which are excellent. These provide additional sources for various things mentioned in the drasha, also including interesting sources from unpublished manuscripts.
To list some of the topics that he deals with in the notes: Making matzos with pictures on them (pp. 129-134), about the nussach of the Haggdaah that some said רבון עלומים וכו after ביד חזקה (pp. 53- 57) , and reasons for the prohibition of kitniyos (p. 51).
One very interesting thing which Emanuel 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 Elazar than it turns out that the Rokeach, whose first name was also Elazar, apparently ignored the will of his teacher, Rebbi Yehuda ha-Hassid – who disallows such marriages in his famous Tzavaah. Although, most likely, the Rokeach was married even 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 or even know of this custom. (pp. 57- 59). Emanuel than brings early evidence that part of the Tzavaah were strictly for the family.
In this work we find an early source not related to Pesach but to Shavous – such as to eat Milchigs (p. 39, 110). 
Aside from this small work (152 pp.) 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 were unknown. There is a lengthy discussion about a sefer of the Rokeach on shechitah and treifos as well as another sefer - Sefer Ma’aseh Rokeach.
 For more information on this special, 150-year old publishing house, see the pamphlet printed by them in 1964, called Chevrat Mekizei Nirdamim.
 For further on this custom see Sefer HaMaskil pp. 33-34; the important comment of R. Honig in Yerushaseinu 1 (2007), pp. 208-209; Sefer Kushiyos pp. 168-169 and the notes therein; D. Sperber, Minhagei Yisrael, vol. 2 p. 193. See also what I wrote in Yerushaseinu 2 (2008), p. 219.
 For general sources on baking Matzos on Erev Pesach see Rabbi. G. Oberlander, Minhag Avoseinu Beyadeinu, pp. 327-255.
 For a very detailed discussion of this topic see my Bein Kesseh Le-assur, pp.48-96.
[4a] See; Shmuel and Zev Safrai, Haggadas Chazal, pp.54-55.
 See; Haggadah Shevivei Eish, p. 152; Y. Tabory, Pesach Dorot, pp. 216- 244. See also what I wrote in my Bein Kesseh Le-assur, p. 152.
 See; Y. Tabory, Pesach Dorot, pp. 264-265.
 See; Haggadah Shevivei Eish p. 109.
 See; Tabory, ibid, p. 244-249.
 See; Pirush Meyuchas le-Rashi in the Torat Hayyim Haggadah, p. 110; Shmuel and Zev Safrai, Haggadas Chazal, pp. 84-85; Simcha Emanuel, "'When God Descended to Egypt': The Story of a Passage in the Passover Haggadah," Tarbiz 77:1 (2008): 109-132 (Hebrew).
 See; Y. Ta-Shma, "Prohibition of Kitniyot on Pesach," Early Franco-German Ritual and Custom (Jerusalem: Hebrew University Magnes Press, 1992), pp.271-282 (Hebrew); Rabbi. G. Oberlander, Minhag Avoseinu Beyadeinu, pp. 410-438.
 On all this see also my Likutei Eliezer, pp. 51-53.
 See; Rabbi. G. Oberlander, Minhag Avoseinu Beyadeinu, pp.623-647. I hope to return to this topic shortly.