08. One Inquires about the Laws of Pesaḥ Beginning Thirty Days before Pesaḥ

We inquire about and expound upon the laws of Pesaḥ beginning thirty days before Pesaḥ. We learn this from Moshe, who on Pesaḥ itself explained the matter of Pesaḥ Sheni, the make-up date for those unable to bring the Paschal offering, which takes place thirty days later. The main reason for this is that all of Israel had to prepare animal sacrifices as Pesaḥ approached, examining them to be certain that they were free of disqualifying blemishes (Pesaḥim 6a; Avoda Zara 5b).

This enactment was not canceled even after the Temple was destroyed; it is proper to study the laws of Pesaḥ thirty days before the holiday arrives. As is well known, Pesaḥ has very many laws, pertaining to preparing the home for Pesaḥ, seeking and destroying ḥametz, baking the matza, and the Seder. Some Rishonim maintain that the enactment applies specifically to Torah scholars, enjoining them to prioritize answering practical questions about the upcoming holiday. According to this view, there is no universal obligation to set a fixed time for studying the laws of Pesaḥ (Ran and Rashba). Nevertheless, since many Rishonim maintain that it is indeed obligatory to set a fixed time for studying the laws of Pesaḥ beginning thirty days before Pesaḥ, it is proper that every individual do so, beginning on the 14th of Adar (Purim). It is also proper for schools and yeshivot to set a fixed time for studying the laws of Pesaḥ during this period.

There is a dispute amongst halakhic authorities about whether one is obliged to study the laws of the other holidays thirty days in advance. Some say that this enactment was established primarily for preparing the animal sacrifices, and such sacrifices were in fact brought on the three pilgrimage festivals – the olat re’iyah (pilgrimage burnt-offering), shalmei ḥagiga (pilgrimage peace offerings), and shalmei simḥa (festival peace offerings) – and it is therefore proper to study the laws of each festival thirty days in advance. Others say that the practice today primarily concerns Pesaḥ, since its laws are so numerous and strict (MB 429:1).[1]

These differences of opinion and distinctions concern advance preparations for the holidays. On the holidays themselves, however, there is an ancient enactment of our teacher Moshe to study the laws and spiritual meanings of that holiday (Megilla 32a, MA 429:1).


[1]. Tosafot on Avoda Zara 5b, s.v. “ve-hatnan” states that even after the destruction of the Temple this decree was not nullified. MB and BHL 429:1 reinforce the opinion that one must learn the laws of Pesaḥ thirty days before and rejects Ran’s opinion since most Rishonim disagree with him. This is also the opinion of many Aḥaronim, including SAH 429:1-3, which explains the issue thoroughly and states that this is a rabbinic decree (as opposed to the opinion of Baḥ, which states that it is a Torah law). Conversely, see Yabi’a Omer 2:222, which explains that Ran and Rashba maintain that the essence of the decree is to first answer a person who asks about the laws of Pesaḥ, since he is asking about a pertinent issue, and that this is the opinion of most Rishonim. (There is also debate about the position of SA itself: some infer that it concurs with Ran from the fact that it only mentions the term “inquire”; others reject this inference.) In practice, I used the terms “mitzva” and “proper” since not everyone agrees that this is an obligation. Moreover, even though according to Baḥ this is in fact a Torah obligation, most authorities view it only as a rabbinic decree.

It is also worth noting that some authorities maintain that the main obligation is for rabbis and Torah teachers to begin teaching the laws of Pesaḥ thirty days before the festival, but there is no obligation on each individual. This is what Ḥok Yaakov states in 429:1, 3, adding in the name of Roke’aḥ, Raavan, and Kol Bo that even the reading of Parashat Para right after Purim was established to remind the people to purify themselves for the upcoming Pesaḥ. Similarly, many Aḥaronim write that this is the reason for the establishment of the custom to teach the laws of Pesaḥ on Shabbat Ha-gadol, as recorded in SAH and MB 429:2. Nevertheless, according to most authorities there is still a mitzva for every individual to delve into the laws of Pesaḥ during the thirty days prior to the festival. BHL rules accordingly. However, there is arguably a greater obligation for rabbis and teachers.

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman