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Shabbat Parashat Tzav | 5770

Ask the Rabbi: The Effect of Sleeping on the Afikoman

Question: At our seder, during the meal, some people start dozing off, and some have considered taking a nap so that they will have strength to finish the seder. Isn’t there a problem that if you fall sleep, you can’t eat the afikoman? Is there a way around that?


Answer: Your assumption has some basis in the sources, but halacha l’ma’aseh, the ruling is much more lenient than you imagine. We will take a look at the primary source and several machlokot (halachic disagreements), and then sum up the practical halacha.

The mishna (Pesachim 120a) says: “If some slept, they may eat; if all, they may not eat. Rabbi Yossi says: If they dozed off, they may eat; if they fell asleep, they may not eat.” The mishna certainly refers at least to the eating of the Korban Pesach, and, explains the Rashbam (ad loc.), it is a stringency based on the idea that, after the break of sleeping, it looks as if he is eating in two different places, which is forbidden for the Korban Pesach.

The first machloket to consider is whether this applies only to the Korban Pesach or even to afikoman, the matza we eat at the end of the meal, which is modeled after the korban, which was eaten on a relatively filled stomach. Most Rishonim (including the Rashbam, ibid.) say that it applies also to the afikoman, and the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 478:2) rules this way. The gemara (120b) strongly indicates that this is so, as it tells of an exchange between Abayei and Rabba about whether the latter slept too much to continue eating. Since they lived after the time of the Beit Hamikdash, this would indicate that the halacha lives on regarding afikoman. Tosafot (Pesachim 119b) differs, saying that it applies only to Korban Pesach and says that the gemara was exploring only the parameters of sleeping based on a parallel but different application (the beginning of a fast).

Another machloket is whether Rabbi Yossi, like whom we pasken, who introduced the distinction between dozing off and sleeping, added a leniency, namely, that only when everyone fully sleeps is it a problem (Rambam, Chametz U’matza 4:14). The Rosh (Pesachim 10:34) says he came to be stringent, that if even a minority of the group fully sleeps, they may not continue. The latter approach reads more easily in the aforementioned story, and although several opinions agree, the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) says that only if everyone (or one person eating alone) sleeps is there a problem. Thus, this is not much of a problem, as it is rare that a whole group at a seder actually falls asleep (deeply enough that if one asked him a question, he would not respond- gemara ibid.).

Let us present yet another strong reason that this matter is almost never a problem. Almost all authorities agree that the problem of being in two places applies only to the Korban Pesach and its modern counterpart of the afikoman. However, if everyone falls asleep before the afikoman, they can get up and eat the afikoman (Rama, OC 478:2). Although the Shulchan Aruch sounds like he is stringent on this point, it is apparent from the Beit Yosef that he agrees, as Sephardic poskim understand and rule (see Kaf Hachayim, OC 478:9). Additionally, the Pri Chadash claims that only if one already ate his required k’zayit of afikoman would we tell him to stop eating.

While the problem regarding not being able to eat the afikoman is basically theoretical, it still might be better not to nap. The Kaf Hachayim (OC 473:133) says that it is improper to take a serious break, which includes sleeping, from the beginning of the seder until the end of Hallel. However, this is only a preference and one would have to balance the pros and cons according to his situation. Recall that one who sleeps during a meal should do netilat yadaim when he awakens without a beracha and if he goes to sleep in bed, he must make Hamotzi again as well (Mishna Berura 178:48).

On the subject of afikoman unnecessary stringencies, we remind afikoman snatchers and snatchees that a lost afikoman may be replaced by another matza (Rama, OC 477:2).



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