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Introduction & Glossary


It was taught in the academy of Eliyahu: One who reviews halakhot every day is assured a place in the Next World, as it states: “His ways are forever” (Habakkuk 3:6). Do not read this “ways” [“halikhot”], rather “laws” [“halakhot”]. (Nida 73a)

Daily study of halakha demonstrates that every facet and epoch of one’s life is connected to the godly ideals whose parameters are described by halakha. One who studies halakha daily connects his temporal, mundane activities to the world of eternal truth. Thus he will be part of the Next World. (Rav Eliezer Melamed, Preface to the Hebrew Peninei Halakha Series)

Over the course of the past two decades, Rav Eliezer Melamed’s Peninei Halakha has evolved from a radio program into a well-known and widely accepted Israeli halakhic code. Its twelve volumes (and counting) adorn the shelves of countless shuls and are the textbook of choice for teaching halakha in dozens of schools. In all, over 300,000 individual volumes of Peninei Halakha have been sold.

Peninei Halakha owes its success in large part to three guidelines that shape Rav Melamed’s composition. Firstly, he begins each topic by defining and elucidating its basic principles before moving on to the practical details. He thus distinguishes between the general and the specific, between the primary and the secondary. Secondly, he anchors his discussions in relevant contemporary issues, thus demonstrating how theoretical ideas impact the details of halakhic practice. Finally, he uses clear and accessible language to explain the theoretical and theological roots of halakha.

The result of these guidelines is a code of law that is crystal clear in its presentation, concise in its formulation, and well-organized. These qualities are attested in the approbations of many leading Torah scholars and former chief rabbis of Israel:

“It is composed in a manner that makes for easy comprehension and is made concrete through the use of examples from the contemporary reality. This is accompanied by explanations that make the material beloved by its audience and teach the love of God and man.” (Rav Shaul Yisraeli z”l, Rosh Yeshiva of Merkaz Harav and author of Eretz Ĥemda and other works)

“I attest that Rav Eliezer Melamed invests days and nights clarifying the halakha and its rationale logically and with great erudition.” (Rav Shlomo Goren z”l, former Chief Rabbi of the IDF, Tel Aviv, and the State of Israel)

Rav Melamed’s book is of great value. He adroitly elucidates and illustrates the principles and reasons for the mitzvot and laws he addresses, and then he encompasses the vast details of the issue at hand, presenting both its principles and its specifics in a clear light. (Rav Avraham Shapira z”l, former Rosh Yeshiva of Merkaz Harav and Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel)

The content is written well and organized beautifully. Each word is placed on a foundation, so that the reader may read it quickly. (Rav Mordechai Eliyahu z”l, former Rosh Yeshiva of Merkaz Harav and Sephardic Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel)

I am impressed by his clear and readable style. He wisely chose relevant halakhic issues and problems of paramount importance to contemporary students of the Torah. He presents the foundations and basics in an organized fashion, to the point that his conclusions are virtually self-evident. (Rav Nachum Eliezer Rabinivitch, Rosh Yeshiva of Birkat Moshe – Maale Adumim)

The effort invested by Rav Melamed in assembling and reworking the material so that it is of use to those who populate the study halls as well as those who love and support Torah and wish to base lives of sanctity on a halakhic foundation – can be discerned between the lines of the work. (Rav Dov Lior, Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva of Kiryat Arba – Ĥevron)

You have blazed a singular trail in elucidating the depth and breaths of halakha by first considering the basis of each matter. By explaining the fundamental parameters and rationale of the halakha, you provide great clarity for each issue, down to the last detail. (Rav Zalman Baruch Melamed, Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva of Beit El, and father of Rav Eliezer Melamed)

Rav Melamed’s rulings relate to both Ashkenazic and Sephardic practice and chart a mainstream course rooted in practical common sense even while presenting other positions, whether lenient or stringent, and treating them with due respect.

Yeshivat Har Bracha is proud to present this translation of Rav Eliezer Melamed’s work on the laws of Pesaĥ, the first volume of the eventual translation of the entire series, to the English-speaking world. Although various portions of Rav Melamed’s halakhic writings have appeared in English in the past, online and in print, the reader will find that the present re-launch of the series will standardize style and usage and exhibit the accuracy, clarity, and concision typical of the Hebrew version of Peninei Halakha (for example, the list of kitniyot species that appears in section four of Chapter 9 is the result of hours of research, including consultation with linguists and botanists). We hope that our efforts yield a clear, readable, and thorough presentation of the laws of Pesaĥ.

Many people contributed to the preparation of this volume for publication, and we would like to express our gratitude to them. The initial impetus to translate Peninei Halakha into English came from Yonatan Behar, and Rabbi Maor Cayam was instrumental to transforming the idea into a reality and first publishing Rav Melamed’s works in English. The present volume was first translated by Yehoshua Wertheimer and Moshe Rapps. After undergoing editing, it was proofread by Nechama Unterman who, together with Dr. Yocheved Cohen, has been indispensible to the difficult and occasionally frustrating task of formulating stylistic guidelines for rendering a halakhic work into English. The editorial team at Koren/Maggid Publishers, specifically Tomi Mager and Rabbi Reuven Ziegler, gave this volume its current form and design. Their invaluable guidance ensured that the final product meets the needs and tastes of its English-speaking audience. The creation and presentation of high-quality, compelling Torah content is part and parcel of the vision of Koren and its publisher, Matthew Miller. We hope that Peninei Halakha takes its place on Koren/Maggid’s ever-expanding and increasingly comprehensive bookshelf.

Rabbi Yogev Cohen, Director, the Peninei Halakha Project

Rabbi Elli Fischer, Editor, the English Peninei Halakha Series

Tishrei, 5774


afikomanlit. dessert; the portion of matza eaten to conclude the Seder meal
aĥsheveia principle whereby one’s actions indicate that he assigns subjective significance to an otherwise insignificant object
al ha-sovawhile satisfied
bal yera’ehthe prohibition against ĥametz being seen in one’s possession on Pesaĥ
bal yimatzeithe prohibition against ĥametz being found in one’s possession on Pesaĥ
basar be-ĥalavthe forbidden mixture of milk and meat
batei midrashTorah study halls
batel be-rovrendered insignificant by the majority
batel be-shishim rendered insignificant as less than one sixtieth of a mixture
be-di’avada level of performance that ex post facto satisfies an obligation in a less-than-ideal manner
bedikasearch; often used as shorthand for bedikat ĥametz
bedikat ĥametz the mitzva to search for ĥametz in order to eliminate it from possession before Pesaĥ; see chapter 4
beit dinrabbinical court
beit knesset synagogue
ben yomoless than 24 hours (the time it takes for absorbed taste to become foul) removed from last use
berakha a formal blessing recited before eating or performing a mitzva, and on other occasions
berakha aĥaronaa blessing recited after eating or drinking
berakhale-vatala a blessing in vain
Birkat Ha-mazonknown as the “grace after meals”; the berakha aĥarona consisting of four berakhot recited after a bread-based meal
bi’ur ĥametz the elimination of ĥametz
bli nedera verbal caveat that ensures that an undertaking does not acquire the status of a vow
de-Oraitabiblically mandated
Eretz Yisraelthe Land of Israel
Erev Pesaĥlit. the eve Pesaĥ; the day preceding Pesaĥ, on which Israel is obligated to offer the korban Pesaĥ
gebroktssee matza sheruya and sec. 8:2
ĤagHa-matzotthe Festival of Unleavened Bread; the biblical name for Pesaĥ
Hagadathe central text of the Seder, the central part of which retells the story of the Exodus
hagala immersion in boiling water; see chapter 10
halakhathe collective body of Jewish law; an individual Jewish law
ĥalla the mitzva to give a part of a large batch of dough to a kohen
Hallelchapters 113-118 of Tehilim, all of which are thanksgiving psalms, recited on Jewish holidays
Hallel Ha-gadolTehilim chapter 136; the “Great Hallel
ĥametzcereal grain that leavened; see chapter 2.
ĥametz gamurabsolute ĥametz, in which the leavening process has been completed
ĥametz nuksheh“hardened ĥametz”; see section 2:5
ĥametz she-avar alav ha-Pesaĥĥametz that belonged to a Jew during the holiday
ha-motzithe berakha over bread
ha-motzi leĥem min ha-aretz“Who brings forth bread from the earth”; the formula for the berakha on bread
ĥaroseta sweet paste made of fruits and nuts eaten at the Seder to commemorate the clay mortar our forefathers made when they were enslaved in Egypt
hasavareclining; see 16:10-11
hatarat nedarimthe annulment of vows before a rabbinical court
heavy libunsee libun
hefsekA problematic interruption between two acts or recitations that must be performed or recited together
heteira balait absorbed permissible matter
Ĥol Ha-mo’edthe intermediate days of Sukkot and Pesaĥ, on which certain weekday activities are permitted
ĥozer ve-ne’or“reawakened”; the reversal of nullification in which a nullified ingredient regains its former status; see sections 7:2-3
ĥutz la-aretzcountries outside of Eretz Yisrael
irui“pouring”; one of the ways taste is transferred; an intermediate phase between kli rishon and kli sheni
isura balait absorbed forbidden matter
karet extirpation, the most severe biblical punishment
karpasthe vegetable eaten at the beginning of the Seder
ke-bole’o kakh poltotaste is released from a vessel in the same manner that it was absorbed; see sec. 10:3
kezayit (pl. kezeytim)a olive’s bulk, a standard halakhic measure of volume or weight; see sections 16:23-24
kiddushthe invocation of the sanctity of a holy day with blessings over a cup of wine
kinyanan act that effects an acquisition or another change in status
kitniyotnon-ĥametz species that may not be eaten on Pesaĥ according to Ashkenazic custom; see chapter 9
klirishon the vessel in which food was cooked; see section 10:8
klishenithe vessel into which hot food was transferred; see section 10:8
korbana sacrificial offering
korbanĥagiga a sacrifice offered at each of the three pilgrimage festivals
korban Pesaĥthe Paschal offering
korekh matza and maror eaten together to commemorate the practice of Hillel the Elder in Temple times; see section 16:28
kosshelberakha a cup of wine linked to the performance of a mitzva
kvisha“pickling,” or the absorption of taste through prolonged soaking; see section 10:14
leĥem mishnehthe two whole loaves of bread/matza over which the berakha of ha-motzi is recited at Shabbat and Yom Tov meals
leĥemoni“poor man’s bread”; how matza is described in Devarim 16:3
le-khatĥilaab initio; a level of performance that satisfies an obligation in an ideal manner
le-shem matzat mitzva“for the sake of the matza of the mitzva”; the required intention one must have when baking matza to be used for the mitzva
libunheating a vessel by fire to the point that absorbed taste is incinerated
light libunheating a utensil by fire to the point that a piece of straw or thread placed on the opposite side of the utensil becomes blackened from the heat
Ma nishtana“Why is this night different?”; a series of questions that the children ask at the Seder
Ma’arivevening prayers
Magidthe part of the Seder in which the story of the Exodus is recounted
MakatBekhorot the Plague of the Firstborn
marit ayin “appearances”; an action that must be avoided because it may give a false impression of being a violation
maror the bitter vegetable that must be eaten at the Seder
Mashi’aĥthe Messiah; the restorer of the Davidic dynasty
matzaunleavened bread eaten by Jews on Pesaĥ
matza ashiramatza that was kneaded in a liquid other than water, colloquially known as “egg matza”; see section 8:1
mayim she-lanuwater drawn before nightfall and kept overnight in a cool place, later to be used in matza
mekhiratĥametz the sale of ĥametz to remove it from Jewish possession before Pesaĥ; see chapter 6
melakhaproductive work of the type prohibited on Shabbat and Yom Tov
melakha gemura full-fledged work; see section 13:2
melolugmava measure of liquid; enough to fill the drinker’s mouth with one cheek inflated
mezonotfood that is made from grain but is not bread, or the berakha recited on such foods
mikveh a ritual immersion pool
mila unit of distance; it takes 18 minues (22.5 according to some, and 24 according to others) to walk a mil
Minĥathe afternoon prayers
minĥa gedola 5.5 seasonal hours before sunset; the earliest time to recite the afternoon prayers
minĥaketana 2.5 seasonal hours before sunset
nat bar nattaste that has been absorbed into a medium twice removed from its origins
nat bar nat bar nattaste that is thrice removed from its origins
netilatyadayim ritual hand washing
Nisanthe first month of the Jewish year
notar uneaten portions of a sacrifice left over until the morning, which must be incinerated and may not be eaten
noten ta’am bar noten ta’amsee nat bar nat
noten ta’am li-fgamsomething that imparts foul taste
olat re’iyaa burnt-offering sacrificed in honor of one of the three pilgrimage festivals
pidyon ha-benthe mitzva of redeeming the [firstborn] son
plataa warming tray used to reheat foods on Shabbat
prashalf a loaf of bread; see section 16:25
reshutvoluntary, optional
revi’ita liquid measure equal to a quarter of a log, calculated by most to be c. 75 ml
safeka case of uncertainty or doubt
safek de-rabananan uncertainly about a rabbinic ordinance
se’or a leavening agent that one uses to make dough ferment
Se’uda shlishitthe obligatory third Shabbat meal
se’udatmitzvaa festive meal celebrating the fulfillment of a mitzva
Sederthe banquet on the first night of Pesaĥ that includes several special recitations, customs, and mitzvot
sefirotmystical “emanations” through which God created and sustains the world
sfek sfeikaa double uncertainty
sha’ah zmanita seasonal hour; one-twelfth of the time between sunrise and sunset (or between sunset and sunrise)
Shabbat Ha-Gadolthe Shabbat immediately before Pesaĥ
Shaĥarit the morning prayers
shali’aĥproxy or agent
she-heĥeyanu“Who has given us life”; a berakha recited at specific significant occasions
Shekhinathe divine presence in this world
shi’ura standard halakhic measurement for weight, distance, or volume
shi’ur akhilat pras the time it takes to eat half a loaf of bread; see section 16:25
shmura matzamatza that has been guarded from becoming ĥametz; see section 1:2
siyummasekhet a se’udat mitzva occasioned by the completion of a tractate of the Talmud
Ta’anitBekhorot the Fast of the Firstborns; see section 13:3
tefaĥima handbreadth; a halakhic measurement equal to c. 8cm
tefillin phylacteries; black leather boxes and straps containing parchment scrolls, worn during weekday morning prayers
terumaa priestly gift contributed from one’s produce
tum’aritual contamination/impurity
Tzafunthe part of the Seder in which the afikoman is eaten
tzeit ha-kokhavim the appearance of three distinct stars, marking nightfall for various halakhic purposes
yadsoledet bo hot enough to cause the hand to recoil, somewhere between 45ºC and 71ºC
Yaĥatzthe part of the Seder in which the middle matza is broken and the larger part designated as the afikoman
Yom Tovthe festivals of biblical origin during which melakha is prohibited
yom tov sheni shel galuyotthe extra day of Yom Tov observed in the Diaspora
zeh ve-zeh goreman effect produced by multiple factors
zero’a a piece of roasted or boiled meat or poultry, preferably a shankbone, placed on the Seder plate

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