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Shabbat Parashat Acharei Mot| 5771
Ask the Rabbi: Is it enough to eat less than a k’zayit of karpas?by Rav Daniel Mann
Question: I know that we are supposed to eat less than a k’zayit of karpas, but I am not clear why. What happens if someone does have a k’zayit?
Answer: This question features the overlap of a few areas of halacha.
The first question is whether it is indeed enough to eat less than a k’zayit of karpas, as in general, such an amount is not considered halachic eating. The Rambam (Chametz U’Matza 8:2) actually requires eating a k’zayit, but we accept the Rosh’s opinion that it is unnecessary because the mitzva is not a classic one of eating karpas but of incorporating it in the order of observances (see Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 473).
We prefer not having a k’zayit to avoid two doubts regarding berachot. If we ate a k’zayit, it would be unclear if we would need a beracha acharona after eating it for the following reason. Usually one makes a beracha acharona on what he eats before a meal (Mishna Berura 176:2). However, one of the exceptions is when the beracha he made before that food exempts him from a beracha on a food that would normally take a beracha during the meal. That linkage connects the two eatings and allows Birkat Hamazone to relate to the food before the meal (ibid.). Regarding our case, there is a machloket about the reason for the consensus that there is no beracha of Borei Pri Ha’adama on maror. The Rashbam (Pesachim 114b) says that it is because the beracha made on karpas covers it. This is not simple given that the (hopefully) long section of maggid separates the two. If it does cover, then karpas is connected to the meal, making a beracha acharona on it unnecessary, even if he ate a k’zayit. Indeed, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 473:6), while suggesting to eat less than a k’zayit, says that no beracha acharona is made even if one ate a k’zayit of karpas (see Mishna Berura 473:56).
The Gra (to OC 473:6) claims that the Rama would not agree to connect karpas and maror because he considers the delay for Maggid a halachic break. Evidence of this is the Rama’s ruling requiring a new beracha for the second cup of wine (see Shulchan Aruch and Rama, OC 474:1). According to this approach, the Rama does not require Borei Pri Ha’adama on maror because of the Ri’s opinion (Tosafot, Pesachim 115a) that, since it is eaten after Hamotzi, maror is subsumed under the meal. Thus there is no connection between the berachot on karpas and on maror and if one were to eat a k’zayit of karpas, he would need a beracha acharona. Another reason to require a beracha acharona is that the break is too long for Birkat Hamazone to relate back to it (Ohr Zarua, cited in Chazon Ovadya 18). Even after a full meal, one should normally bentch within 72 minutes of the end of the eating (Shulchan Aruch, OC 184:5). Because of all of these varied opinions and the fact that we strive to avoid doubt especially regarding berachot, it is better to have less than a k’zayit of karpas. (On less than a k’zayit there is a beracha rishona but not a beracha acharona– Shulchan Aruch, OC 210:1).
Based on what we have already seen, there is another benefit for not having a k’zayit of karpas. If we were to believe that a beracha acharona was called for on the karpas, then most agree that it ends the efficacy of the beracha rishona (the Magen Avraham 190:3 is a notable exception). Therefore, the Borei Pri Ha’adama on karpas would not cover the maror, which is pertinent if we do not accept the aforementioned Ri, that maror is subsumed under the meal. It would be improper to unnecessarily require an extra set of berachot, and we would not want a doubt as to whether there should be one (see Chazon Ovadya, op. cit.)
Another interesting point is that having less than a k’zayit makes it questionable whether there is a need for netillat yadayim before it (see Biur Halacha to OC 473:6). However, since we anyway do not make a beracha on the netillat yadayim (because it is only on a dipped vegetable, not bread), this doubt does not concern us.
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