Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Achilah Gassah - The Halakhot of Eating

Achilah Gassah which can be translated as, "disgusting eating," is a halakhik concept that is defined by the legal parameters of eating. There is a question if Achilah Gassah saitisfies the halakhik requirements of eating. Now I hope that at least one of my loyal reasers is saying, "What in the world is a halakhik requirement of eating? It's really not that complicated - either I am eating or I am not!" Then I would have the opportunity to respond and say, "Wow that is a great question. But you should know by now that nothing is simple in the wide world of halakhah."

One of the interesting qualities of the halakhik system is that even simple actions like eating and drinking require precise legal definitions. Many of you may be familiar with the annual challenge to consume an olive's amount of matzah so fast that you might actually travel backwards in time. The reason for the need to quickly eat an unusually large amount of matzah is that people are trying to fulfill the legal requirements of eating. Most people would agree that eating a crumb of matzah would not accomplish the mitzvah of eating matzah. Thus it is reasonable to asy that there should be a minimum amount of matzah that you must eat at the seder. The only question in how much do you need to eat?

Chazal tell us that there is a halakhah l'Moshe m'Sinain (a very old halakhah) that in general, the minimum volume for eating is the volume of an olive. (כזית) I can hear your hearty laugh reverberating through cyberspace, "That is such a small amount of matzah, I have nothing to worry about on Seder night." Alas my poor friend, as I mentioned earlier - nothing is simple in the world of halakhah. The truth is that you must eat an olive's worth of lfour, which could be anywhere from a half a machine made matzah, to an entire box. Check with your LKR (Local Kabbalistic Rabbi) for specific guidelines. 

All of this brings us back to the topic of Achilah Gassah. The Gemara tells us that you cannot fulfill a mitzvah of eating with Achilah Gassah. So make sure that you are still a alittle hungry for the afikomen at the end of the seder. You don't want to finish your night of matzot and mitzvot with an act of Achilah Gassah.

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