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Can one find the afikoman, share it with everyone at the table to eat, but still have a late dessert at the table during the songs at Nirtzah? Especially as the deserts all have matzah meal in them!
Answer by Jamie Weisbach
The Mishnah (Pesahim 8:8) teaches that it is prohibited to have an “afikoman” after the Korban Pesah. This comes to be understood in the Talmud Bavli as prohibiting eating any food after the Pesah, because it must be eaten “l'sovah” -- as the final part of the meal that fully satiates hunger, (Pesahim 70a, Pesahim 119b). The important question is what relevance this has in a world without a Temple: does this apply only to the Korban Pesah, such that in a time when we don’t eat it, there is no obligatory final bite of the meal, or is there a way to map this concluding moment of the meal onto practices that we can still observe?
There are two statements brought in the name of Shmuel making opposite claims in this regard (Pesahim 119b-120a). In the first statement he claims that in our times, matzah fulfills the role of the Pesah -- just like in the time of the Temple, the final bite of the meal had to be from the Korban Pesah so it’s flavor would linger in the mouth, so too in our time, the final bite of the meal must be matzah, so that this flavor may linger in the mouth. In Shmuel’s second statement, he says the exact opposite: after matzah, there are no limits on what one may eat, and there is no mandatory final taste of the meal in our times.
All major poskim (Rif, Rambam, Rosh, and others) follow the first statement of Shmuel and prohibit eating any food after the matzah eaten at the end of the meal, and they only differ on the bediavad implications of missing it, eating it improperly, etc. Consequently, the Shulhan Arukh (OH 478:1) prohibits eating any food after the final afikoman. This is an important way of trying to imagine ourselves eating the Korban Pesah -- by treating a simple piece of matzah as the final flavor that must linger in our mouths, we mimic at least part of the form of the Pesah meal that used to be the central aspect of this night.
All of the above applies to all foods -- but what about desserts made from matzah? Could they be considered part of the afikoman itself and therefore not a violation of the prohibition on eating after the afikomen? A baraita in the Pesahim (119a) permits eating as many cakes, fried dough, and other food as you want, as long as you have a bite of matzah at the end. The Bah (OH 477:1) points out that all of the cakes and fried dough mentioned here must also be kosher for Passover, and nonetheless, the Gemara requires a bite of plain matzah at the end. From this, the Bah learns that the afikoman must consist of matzah that is kosher for the fulfillment of the mitzvah of matzah -- meaning that it is made with flour and water only and was carefully guarded for the purpose of fulfilling the mitzvah. Because of this, you should make sure all the desserts you want are eaten prior to the afikoman. Ideally, you would also refrain from any beverages other than water, once the four cups of wine have been drunk. But where there is a strong desire/need for other beverages, perhaps as part of keeping people engaged for a long and joyful Nirtzah, there are opinions that permit enjoying non-alcoholic beverages that are not too strongly flavored, and will not fully remove the flavor of the matzah from your mouth, like tea, ginger ale, apple juice, (MB 481:1), or coffee (Be’er Heitev OH 481:1). (Something with a more potent taste, like apple cider, should be avoided.
Do all Ashkenazi sources consider saffron to be kitniyot? Are there ways to exercise caution and still eat saffron as a Jew who avoids kitniyot?
Answer by Beth Levy
The Mahril says that there is a minhag not to eat saffron on Pesah due to the fact that wheat and yeast is often added by saffron producers in order to improve its appearance. This minhag is codified by the Rema (OH 467:8) . The Mishnah Berurah there adds that even when saffron is grown at home people refrain from eating it because of ma'arit ayin, due to the fact that saffron is most commonly imported from abroad.
The concern therefore is not about kitniyot but rather actual hametz. The OU says that if saffron has undergone special checking it can be eaten on Pesah. Given the strong Ashkenazi minhag, if you would like to use saffron over Pesah, it makes sense to ensure that it has a KLP hekhsher. But if you have specific information about a saffron producer that leads you to be totally confident that it is untreated, you could argue that the modern food market is not subject to the same concerns of ma'arit ayin, given that people understand that the same foods can be processed in very different ways. That would allow you to use the product even without a hekhsher.
Do you have to finish certain stages of the Seder by certain points, like eating the afikomen by midnight?
Answer by Matthew Anisfeld
Mekhilta d’Rabbi Yishmael (Chapter 12) records a debate about the latest time at which one may eat from the Paschal lamb. Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya claims that it must be eaten by hatzot (midnight), whereas Rabbi Akiva considers it permissible to eat it throughout the time of hipazon (haste), which Rashi (Pesahim 120b) takes to mean until the morning. Rava (Pesahim 120b) notes that the Paschal lamb was meant to be eaten with matzah (Bamidbar 9:11) and argues that according to Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya, one would only be able to fulfill one’s obligation to eat matzah before hatzot. Consequently, there is a broad assumption throughout the Rishonim that this debate between Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya and Rabbi Akiva also controls the halakhah regarding the final time at which one can fulfill one’s obligation to eat matzah.
This debate continues throughout the Middle Ages. Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hametz U'Matzah 6:1) and the Ba’al HaIttur (Aseret HaDibrot - Hilkhot Matzah U’Maror 135) rule in accordance with Rabbi Akiva. Rabbeinu Hannanel (Pesahim 120b), Tosafot (Megillah 21a), Smag (Mitzvot Aseh 40), Rabbeinu Yeruham (5:4) all rule in accordance with Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya. Rosh (Pesahim 10:38) and Ran (on Rif, Pesahim 27b) both express uncertainty about the halakhah and say, therefore, that one should be careful to follow Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya. (See Biur Halakhah 477 for a more comprehensive list of Rishonim who rule either way in this debate.)
So far, we have been talking about the latest time at which one can fulfill the mitzvah to eat matzah. Does this debate also apply to the latest time at which one can eat the afikomen? In his commentary on the Talmud, Rashbam (Pesahim 119b) explains that the afikomen is eaten in memory of the matzah that was eaten with the Pesah. For this reason, Rosh (Pesahim 10:38) notes that it was Rabbeinu Tam’s practice to eat the afikomen before hatzot, and Ran (on Rif, Pesahim 27b) and Tur (OH 477:1) also rule accordingly.
The Shulhan Arukh (OH 447:1) rules that one should be careful to eat the afikomen before hatzot. That said, there are reports that a number of great Aharonim, such as the Hatam Sofer and the Netziv, were not careful about this; they would eat the afikomen after hatzot with no qualms (Pninei Halakhah, Pesah 16:31, note 29)
Tosafot (Megillah 21a s.v. l’atuyay) contrasts Matzah with Hallel: whereas one must ensure that one finishes eating the afikomen by hatzot, one need not be so stringent with regard to Hallel. Somewhat puzzlingly Rashba (Responsa #445) and Ran (on Rif, Pesahim 27b) quote the Tosafot as saying that one ought to be careful to recite Hallel before hatzot.
This stringent view is codified by the Rema (OH 447:1), but a number of Aharonim note the one-sided nature of this view. (Hok Ya’akov 447:3, Pri Hadash 447:1). Therefore, poskim tend to treat this view is treated as an ideal, but non-essential practice. (Shulhan Arukh HaRav OH 447:6, Mishnah Berurah 447:7).