Erev Pesach this year falls on Shabbat. How should one prepare for the holiday and what should one eat on Shabbat?
This is a rather rare occurrence; it has happened only eleven times in the twentieth century. The main laws are as follows:
1) The fast of the firstborn: According to R. Yosef Karo, once the fast is pushed off, it is pushed off entirely. According to the Rema, the fast is moved up to the Thursday before Pesach, and this is the accepted Ashkenazic practice. Thus Ashkenazim should conduct a siyyum on Thursday, the 12th of Nissan, in order to enable the firstborn to eat.
2) The search for the hametz: This ceremony is performed on Thursday evening and the hametz is burned on Friday morning. Technically, it could be burned at any time on Friday since it is not Erev Pesach, but it is burned at the usual time at the end of the fifth hour (10:28 a.m. in Jerusalem) in order not to confuse people the following year.
3) The Shabbat meals: This is the main problem connected with Erev Pesach which falls on Shabbat. On the one hand, according to the Yerushalmi (Pesahim 10:1, fol. 37b) it is forbidden to eat matzah on Erev Pesach in order to eat it at the seder with a hearty appetite. On the other hand, it is difficult to keep hallot in the house on Shabbat when all of the remaining hametz was already burned on Friday morning. Furthermore, it is forbidden to eat hametz on Shabbat morning – which is Erev Pesach – after the fourth hour of the day (9:10 a.m. in Jerusalem).
Indeed, this situation is already mentioned in the Mishnah (Pesahim 3:6), Tosefta (ibid. 3:9, 11) and Bavli (ibid. 49a and parallels) but those sources are not entirely clear and, as a result, four solutions have developed over the years:
1) Rabbi Yitzhak ibn Giyyat (Spain, d. 1089) ignored the Yerushalmi mentioned above or was not familiar with it and ruled that one should eat matzah at all of the Shabbat meals. This custom seems to have disappeared because it contradicts the Yerushalmi.
2) The second approach is based on Pesahim 13a and parallels, which says that one leaves enough hametz for two meals – one on Friday night and one on Shabbat morning before the fourth hour of the day, after which one recites “kol hamira” at the end of the fifth hour, as one does every year. This approach has been followed for hundreds of years, but it is quite inconvenient because one must eat in a corner away from the Pesach dishes and one must make sure no crumbs fall on the floor. Furthermore, one must wake up very early in the morning in order to pray and finish eating hametz by 9:10 a.m. (in Jerusalem) and then discard the hametz outside of the house. Rabbi Eliyahu Hazzan (d. 1908) and others have already criticized this method because of the problems of crumbs, sweeping the house, the prevention of Oneg Shabbat and the fear lest one eat hametz after the permitted time. Therefore, it is preferable to look for another solution.
3) Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef has suggested a third approach – to use matzah, which has been recooked in soup. After the soup cools off, one removes it in whole pieces and dries it out. It can then be used for the second and third Shabbat meals while regular matzah can be used on Friday night because the prohibition in the Yerushalmi does not pertain to the night before Pesach. This method is halakhically valid, but it is difficult to adopt for practical reasons because most Jews will not have the time or patience to follow this complicated procedure.
4) The fourth approach is the simplest and the preferred method – to use “matzah ashirah” (egg matzah) at all three Shabbat meals since it is neither hametz nor real matzah. It is already mentioned by the Maggid Mishneh (Spain, 14th century) and by Rabbi Yosef Karo. The latter only rejected it for practical reasons, since not everyone could bake egg matzah. R. Haim Palache relates that this was the practice in Ismir in the nineteenth century and it was followed by Rabbi Eliyahu Hazzan mentioned above and by Rabbi Joseph ben Walid. In the twentieth century, it was recommended by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, by my grandfather Rabbi Mordechai Ya’akov Golinkin z”l, the Av Bet Din of Boston for many years, by my father Rabbi Noah Golinkin, by Rabbi Shlomo Goren, Rabbi Kassel Abelson and others.
As for the third Shabbat meal (seudah shelishit), it is possible to be stringent like the Rema and eat only fruit, meat and fish. But it is also possible to eat egg matzah all day long following the custom of Rabbeinu Tam, Rabbi Yosef Karo and Rabbi Yehezkel Landau.
In conclusion, in our day the fourth custom is preferable. One should search for the hametz on Thursday night, burn the hametz and recite “Kol Hamira” on Friday morning and eat egg matzah on Pesach dishes at all three Shabbat meals.
Rabbi David Golinkin