Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Riddle of the Giant Kezayis Defense

A study of the views of all the Rishonim on the kezayis, as described in my monograph on the topic, shows very clearly that the Rishonim of Sefard held the kezayis to be the size of a regular olive, and the Rishonim of Ashkenaz only said differently because, as some of them explicitly admitted, they had never actually seen an olive. Not to mention the fact that all botanical and archeological evidence shows that olives were always the same size. Given all that, why are most Poskim still claiming that a kezayis is substantially larger?

I can understand Poskim who want to follow internal protocol rather than relying on science - but the views of the Rishonim themselves, such as Rashba, Ritva, Ravyah and the view in Piskei Rabboseinu SheBeAshkenaz, show that a kezayis is (shock!) the size of a regular olive. And it's not as though the large shiurim for kezayis have been canonized in either Chazal or Shulchan Aruch. Nor does it appear to be a matter of formal minhag; Poskim weigh up the views of the Rishonim and Acharonim, and draw their own conclusions.

So what is going on? Some of these Poskim are undoubtedly simply unaware of the all the Rishonim's views, and other relevant information. But I would think that at least some have been made aware of them, either via my monograph or similar information published elsewhere. So why is there no word of Poskim ruling in that way? Is it something akin to Maharam Schick's refusal to give up on metzitzah be'peh, against Chasam Sofer's policy, due to his seeing it as coming from people with a dangerous agenda? Is it caution, or fear, about issuing a ruling that appears radical and/or not frum enough?

If anyone can show my monograph to a Posek and ask for a comprehensive explanation as to why he would rule that a kezayis is larger than an olive, I would very much like to hear what it is!

57 comments:

  1. Thank you for the discussion on the kezayis. As usual with your writings, i learn a lot.

    It needs to be pointed out how incredibly important this topic is …as it proves, once again, that the mesorah is NOT as powerful and as reliable as many make it out to be. After all since the kezayis in halakha was/is so central, the mesorah should really have made this whole discussion moot.

    “ellah mai”

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  2. I don't think Reform or Conservative Jews ever made an issue out of the size of a kezayit. :-) But to a lot of these poskim, I'm sorry to say, anything "outside," including you, may as well be.

    Or take the claim that R' Elyashiv now says that "no Ashkenazi ever ate soft matza," when, of course, they did.

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  3. While the kezayis hasn't gotten bigger, the average daily caloric intake for an adult certainly has over the past century.

    So there's a rationalist limmud zechus on those who intutively think the olive's worth of food cannot possibly be an adequate amount for keviyas se'uda.

    And remember, for most of the year the larger kezayis measure is l'kula as far as brachot (and tuma - if that were widely applicable today).

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  4. No need to ask anyone. Rav Avigdor Neventsal (former rav of the Old City of Jerusalem, RSZA's talmid muvhak) in Be'itshak Yikarei (mishna brura end of vol 5) says that there is an oral tradition according to which the Chazon Ish thought that me'ikar hadin the volume of a cazayit is a regular olive. Do you want me to ask him directly ? Kol tuv

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  5. I noted that in my monograph. My question was with regard to those Poskim who take a different view.

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  6. It seems to me it has more to do with the galuthi-minded obsession of the modern Jewish world to stick to the ethno-halachik distinctions that developed in exile. Poskim have "allegiance" to a particular ethnic galut identity whether ashkenazi, hungarian, polish, sephardi (although not relevant in this case), French, the baalei tosfos etc.

    If they never saw an olive and had no idea what it looked like, this ghetto-minded approach says, we cannot simply consult the living tradition that always knew the size of an olive (sephardi poskim, let's say), we have to perpetuate the confusion and perpetuate ignorance and misinformation in our day because we are OBLIGATED to pasken like this particular group of scholars of our ethnic group and to follow the "minhag avos."

    Similar sentiment is behind statements like "we don't pasken like the rambam" whenever a clear rendering of a gemara is stated in Rambams name with a superior explanation to the so-called "standard halacha" and people don't want to hear it.

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  7. I think to a certain degree the answer is that the groups you are talking about take the idea of הלכה כבתראי seriously. The fact that this is what we do is sufficient not to revise it, unless the impetus for change come from inside. Then that becomes the הלכה כבתראי.

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  8. The problem is, why aren't sources from the Rishonim considered "coming from the inside"? Again, it's not as though it's a canonized halachah - when you hear Poskim talking about, they are clearly weighing up the Rishonim and Acharonim and reaching their own conclusions.

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  9. But only weighing THEIR rishonim and THEIR aharonim (read, their ethnic grouping).

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  10. Rabbi Slifkin, I don't see why you should think some of the Poskim should have been able to so easily hear of your monograph that in the absence of finding the information elsewhere it could have reached them first, or that even if some have done more plowing they would feel forced to accept the views of those who say an olive was always the same size? You are looking at things from the position that if science as you see it says something that's the end of the story. They are thinking in terms of mesorahs without science paskening between them. Your puzzlement is puzzling.

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  11. I specifically noted that, ASIDE from the science, the views of the Rishonim (which admittedly only came to light relatively recently) also show that there is no reason to believe that a kezayis is larger than an olive.

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  12. >The problem is, why aren't sources from the Rishonim considered "coming from the inside"?

    This gets into who is saying it. When that guy ran around with his life's mission to get people to say "morid ha-geshem" instead of "gashem," it worked because of who he was. If it was, ich veis, a liturgical expert at YU then it wouldn't have worked.

    This is an accept the truth from whatever the source issue, and the "we do not accept the truth from whatever the source" camp needs certain conditions to be fulfilled before it can look at issues.

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  13. Exactly... in other words, the suggestion that I raised in the post, that it is similar to the Maharam Schick and metzitzah b'peh.

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  14. Rabbi Slifkin,
    Last week Rabbi Eliezer Melamed visited our congregation, and he said exactly what you say here: the Gaonim held the ke'zayis to be an olive, and the Ashkenazim were unfamiliar with olives. However, there are is Halachik formalism, and the ke'zayis is now considered a more important quantity - worth of eating. Of course the Hazon Ish is off mark, since the ke'zayis is not supposed to be filling.

    This discussion and other post's on your site, really put the mesorah in bad light. If poskim and "great" rabbis don't pass on the mesorah as required, how can we trust it?

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  15. What about the reviis? What would the shiur be according to the reshonim you discuss?

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  16. The same question applies if the posekim who pasken that motzei shabbos is x amount of time after the sh'kia will permit you to do a melacha if you actually see three stars, without regards to the official time printed in the luach.

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  17. It seems to me that the Kazayis issue is of a piece with wearing black hats, heavy wool coats in the summer and the metzizah bepeh issue.

    The Haredi world takes pride in its being fundamentally alien, not of this world. The more "counter-cultural" a custom the better, even to the point of absurdity.

    While in the goyishe velt a kaziyis is an olive, Charedi leaders enjoy telling their faithful that *bei uns*, an olive is the size of a cantaloupe and they get pleasure from sitting at the seder and measuring absurdly large amounts of matzah that must be eaten in a certain period of time.

    In other words, the kazayis issues reflects an act of protest by an insecure community that sees itself as embattled. That is why common sense, logic and even a proper understanding of halakha is irrelevant.

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  18. Once you've popularized (if not "canonized") a ritual practice that seems more machmir than the one it replaced, it's hard to go back.

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  19. hard to go back imho because it then raises the question of oether mesorahs - so it's better to take the legal formalism approach (e.g if the chachmei hamesora understood the rambam to mean x, it doesn't matter if we now think he meant y)
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  20. Do, in fact, modern Sephardi poskim hold a kayit is the size of a modern (medium?) olive? Who and where? I'm intending to ask my Rav a sheila, and as I don't believe he has special expertise in this area, I would like to be able to cite a particular posek. This helps us on low-carb diets during Pesach ;-).

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  21. Baruch Hashem there are rabbis out there such as Rabbi David Bar-Hayim who hold that a k'zayith is indeed the size of an olive.

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  22. Btw, what is the recommended donation amount for this pamphlet? Thank you.

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  23. >Exactly... in other words, the suggestion that I raised in the post, that it is similar to the Maharam Schick and metzitzah b'peh.

    Not necessarily. You accurately described the MBP issue as one of a suscpicion that "coming from people with a dangerous agenda." This is not a fear of accepting the truth so much as it is a tactical response to a challenge. I would compare it more similarly to the findings of Yehuda Feliks - whom no one would say had a "dangerous agenda." He was/ is ignored because he was just not seen as part of the conversation, at least not really.

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  24. R' Natan's thesis on the zayit certainly rings true. If the Ashkenazi poskim were at all familiar with the olive they wouldn't debate whether it was 1/2 or 1/3 the volume of an egg. Actually, it is less than the latter unless you assume that the eggs in their time were smaller than the current average size. The latter presumption is what largely explicates the view of the Nodah Biyehudah, the Gra, and the Ba'al Hatanya that halachic egg volumes need to be doubled in order to correspond to volumes based on the standard length measurement (that and an overly generous estimate of thumb (etzba) widths). Using our eggs (large or extra large sizes, and a realistic measure of the etzba and ama) the discrepancy is removed and our eggs can be used to determine the shiur of a revi'it (1.5 eggs). Rav Moshe Feinstein has made and published such measurements.

    His beit medrash, on the other hand, has also posted minimum shiurim of matzoh in years past that are based on the volume of matzoh meal. I question both the measurement (since the volume of a given weight of matzoh meal is dependent on packing density, i.e., is the cylinder with the matzoh meal tamped down or not) and its rationale. I fail to see the need to eliminate those small air pockets (blisters) in matzohs since those are an inevitable and integral part of the matzoh. A better measure would be to waterproof a matzoh piece by wrapping it in, say, Saran wrap and lowering it into a graduate cylinder of water after clipping on a weight. The volume rise just due to the matzoh is then the volume of that weight of matzoh. Taking a generous measure of a zayit volume and translating it to the equivalent weight by means of the above measurement will give the minimum weight corresponding to a zayit volume. Knowing how much a whole matzoh weighs will then tell you what fraction of a whole matzoh corresponds to a zayit volume.

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  25. I'm surprised your article did not touch on the fact that the Noda Biyehuda was reputed to be exceptionally tall - perhaps seven feet - and that he used his own thumbs in his calculations, which would explain some of the discrepancy.

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  26. Think about it this way, it is possible that some olives grow large. (For example: http://matt.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/the-worlds-largest-olive/)

    Since there are such instances where some olives are 2-3 or more times the size of regular olives there is always the *possibility* that these were the olives referred to. Also, there is always the possibility that "Ki"zayis means something similar to, but not exactly like an actual zayis.

    I have read so many explanations where a Rav will ask, "When it says ki(whatever) does it mean just like (whatever) or similar, but different than (whatever). So, the kizayis doesn't necessarily mean exactly like an olive, but similar to an olive, maybe 2-3 times larger than an olive.

    With so many possibilities even if you prove a common olive was a specific size, that would not be good enough to remove all doubt as to what the "ki"zayis refers to. Therefore, everyone follows the posek they follow.

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  27. I would compare it more similarly to the findings of Yehuda Feliks - whom no one would say had a "dangerous agenda." He was/ is ignored because he was just not seen as part of the conversation, at least not really.

    That case is different. He was using a different methodology to resolve the question: scientific findings. I am referring to using the same methodology that Poskim are using - looking at what the Rishonim say!

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  28. "ome of these Poskim are undoubtedly simply unaware of the all the Rishonim's views, and other relevant information."

    You have on other occasions claimed poskim were unaware of some philosophical views if rishonim. At that point I thought you may have a point. Now you claim poskim are unaware of rishonims hakachic views? So the Noha Bihuda and Chazon Ish, for example were unaware of these rishonim? You're kidding, right?

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  29. Not kidding in the least. First of all, they were discovered and published after the Noda b'Yehuda's time. Second, they are passing comments on different sugyas, not discussions about the size of a kezayis. Do you have any idea how many writings of the Rishonim there are??? It's simply impossible for anyone to know all of them!

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  30. Listen Rabbi, I think you're being a tad presumtuous here. I read your monograph and it is a fine piece. But Rabbi Chaim Benish has written essnetialy the same thing, with the same reasonings and proofs, and it was printed in the קובץ בית אהרן וישראל I believe in 2004 and in the newer editions of מדות ושיעורי תורה as an addendum. Anyone could show his monograph to a posek with the same question. (and would carry more weight given your unfortunate blacklisting in some circles). I'm sure he changed some minds (like mine) but things don't move that quickly.

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  31. Rabbi Slifkin, can you tell us (those who haven't yet read your k'zayit article) which poskim you're referring to? Every posek that I have heard from (admittedly, all from the MO/YU variety) have stated that the size of an olive is the size of an olive (or the size of 1/2 or 1/3 of an egg).

    Are there poskim who hold that one would not be yotze without eating entire matzas?

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  32. Interesting comments here. This is yet another example of losing the forest for the trees. Zayith is an olive. When the chachamim say that you need to have x amount of food to qualify as a minimum "kzayith" - that refers to an amount that is basically the size of an olive (the "basically" aspect comes in because the foodstuff in question is not of the same material as an olive). Less than that is considered not substantial enough to count in the same way. But the kzayith amount is a sizable cheekful of food that can "count" for these purposes as real eating, not just nibbling or chewing. Kzayith does not mean some otherworldly food-type that is shaped like an olive but the size is anything you can imagine and that the chachamim coded this into the Talmud because they did not want to name alien produce. It really means similar to the size of an olive. Not greatly larger and not greatly smaller but also they cannot say an exact olive size because no one is measuring.

    What results from this is that the actual amount is something we eyeball. It does not require bringing a scale to the table and weighing out portions, nor the accurate volume measure which requires submerging in water. You look at it, its a substantial piece like an olive, that's it!

    If the designated size of the portion or bite becomes a largescale investigation and scientific exercise or even an activity of any kind that takes place at the seder table, we have lost the forest for the trees and devote our energies to the wrong pursuits completely losing sight of the point of the seder. Imho of course.

    Those who are worried about "The Mesorah" (tm) shouldn't be - because this mitzvah developed textually through the renderings of torah scholars over the ages just like all the other ones did. Nobody "got the mesorah wrong" one day and broke some kind of chain. Over time different opinions developed and scholars innovated based on novel interpretations of the classic sources, the same texts that everyone always had. And with dispersion and isolation came lesser clarity and agreement on what these sources say - that's exactly the explanation for why machloketh grew in the first place - also why mishna had to be compiled and why gemara - and no one seems to have a problem with any of that. What singles out this mitzvah? Just because it's something people happen to obsess about (and triumphally assert) today? Is this process only a problem when one of the innovations was based on a clear (to us anyway) error?

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  33. Listen Rabbi, I think you're being a tad presumtuous here. I read your monograph and it is a fine piece. But Rabbi Chaim Benish has written essnetialy the same thing,

    My question was with regard to his article too, as well as that of R. Hadar Margolin.

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  34. Every posek that I have heard from (admittedly, all from the MO/YU variety) have stated that the size of an olive is the size of an olive (or the size of 1/2 or 1/3 of an egg).

    Jenny, 1/2 or 1/3 of an egg is much, much larger than an olive - that's the whole point!

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  35. Eliyahu said...

    This discussion and other post's on your site, really put the mesorah in bad light. If poskim and "great" rabbis don't pass on the mesorah as required, how can we trust it?


    This is the wall I've run up against. In my mind being religiously observant is very dependant on the idea of a reliable mesorah. At some point I felt that both the mainstream Sephardic and Ashkenazic traditions were not reliable and I turned to the Baladi Yeminite / Rambamist mesorah looking for something more reliable and "authentic". After spending some time studying MT new issues came up which caused more doubts. It seems to me that already in the time of Rambam and the Rishonim there where serious problems with the reliable transmission of the mesorah, for instance not knowing how to blow the shofar properly. Taking it to it's logical ( although potentially absurd ) conclusion, if the mesorah can't properly transmit the size of an olive or how to blow the shofar, two very simple yet very important concepts, how can I trust anything from our mesoret?

    IIRC, Rav Slifkin made a comment at one point that he was planning on addressing this issue of how to justify an Observant lifestyle in the face of a potentially unreliable mesorah - I assume from a Rationalist p.o.v.

    Avigdor Loeb said...

    Do, in fact, modern Sephardi poskim hold a kayit is the size of a modern (medium?) olive? Who and where? I'm intending to ask my Rav a sheila, and as I don't believe he has special expertise in this area, I would like to be able to cite a particular posek. This helps us on low-carb diets during Pesach ;-).


    The measurements index from the Makbili edition of the Mishneh Torah ( which is basically the only reliable laymans edition in print ) lists ka'zayit as less than one third of a medium chicken egg. I actually scanned the index to a pdf and could e-mail it to you if you want.

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  36. I know that this off topic, But Nachum mentioned this. In Australia there is a debate on what precisely is Rav Eliashiv's position on soft Matzah. Some of the correspondence can be seen here (http://www.realmatza.com/harav-elyashiv.html)

    What you will see is Rav Ze'ev Weitman insisting that Rav Elishiv has OKed the use of Soft Matza on Pesach, and stating
    "זאב וייטמן to rabbi

    אני יודע על דברים ששמעתי מהרב אלישיב להיתר והרב מורגשטיין אמר בשמו שאסור כך שאני לא מתפלא שגם בנושא המצות הוא עושה אותו הדבר."

    i.e. people (in this case Rav Morgenstern) speak in Rav Eliashiv's name the opposite of Rav Eliashiv's position.

    The moral is, unless it is in writing, you cannot rely on what is attributed to a particular person.

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  37. Nachum here is what Rav Weitman (Kashrut Mashgiach for Tnuva) says Rav Eliashiv's position on Soft Matza is.

    לרבי מאיר שלום רב,

    ביקשתי מחבר לקחת את המצות שהשארת לי לרב יוסף שלום אלישיב שליט"א והרב אלישיב ראה את המצות ואמר שהצורה והרכות שלהן איננה מעכבת ואיננה מפריעה לכשרותן."

    "ברור לי שהוא אמר את דבריו גם לאשכנזים"
    "I am positive that HaRav Elyashiv said this in relation to Ashkenasim"

    ,בברכה
    זאב וייטמן

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  38. This may be relevant to this discussion: I just noticed that all the Haskamot for the Makbili MT are all from Sephardic Rabbi's or Chabad Rabbi's. Rav Ovadia Yosef, Rav Mordechai Eliyahoo, Rav Amar, the Rav of Kfar Chabad, etc... Why didn't any prominent Ashkenazi Rabbi's give Haskamot to this endeavor?

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  39. Robert,

    Why do you believe Judaism rests and falls based on the reliability of a mesorah? Isn't independence (lo ba'shamayim hi) one of the key aspects of halacha? In other words, we follow psak even if perhaps we suspect that all the rishonim or even Chazal may have gotten this or that point "wrong"?

    Regarding the mesorah of Torah miSinai, we know for certain the Jews of the Second Temple era believed it. The question is what Jews before that believed, and then you enter into the whole debate about whether one trusts what books like Tehillim and Melachim (and earlier books) say.

    I don't see any need for believing that we today, in 2011, have a "mesorah" regarding anything whatsoever.

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  40. For the person who suggested wrapping the matza in saran wrap and measuring volume with displacement, it has already been done in a much more accurate way by Rabbi Heinemann of the star-k in Baltimore. See here:
    http://www.star-k.org/kashrus/kk-passover-seder.htm

    He comes out with a much larger volume measurement of a matzah then what you see. Which basically cuts the shiur in half even for the machmirim.

    By the way, R. Chaim Naeh of shiurim fame, held that the air bubbles don't count, but most poskim did not agree (except for very large air pockets). It is pretty much an explicit mishna in uktzin.

    The Sephardic practice of estimating with weight obviously excludes air space, and it is a huge chumra. But, it is mentioned by the Kaf Hachaim in the name of the Chida, and accepted by R. Ovadia Yosef. (Although, it is explicitly contradicted by the Shulchan Aruch where he says to measure shiur challa by displacing water with eggs.)

    The Avnei Nezer and R. Chaim of Volozhin paskened that a kezayit is very small like an actual olive. I believe there are contemporary rabbonim who follow that, but I don't know of any big names.

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  41. Robert, flipping through my edition, I see haskamot from R' Herschel Schachter, R' Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, R' Dov Lior, R' Nachum Rabinovich, and R' Eliezer Schick, who's a Breslover in Brooklyn. None are Sephardim or Lubavitch, and some of the other haskamot may not be either.

    Also note that the measurements given there are not in modern measures. We know that eggs were smaller in the past, as R' Slifkin says.

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  42. >That case is different. He was using a different methodology to resolve the question: scientific findings. I am referring to using the same methodology that Poskim are using - looking at what the Rishonim say!

    Then in any case you're different from the MBP question. That wasn't solely a halachic debate about sources. But you are more similar to my hypothetical YU professor who specializes in liturgy and has cogent textual proofs about how to read words of tefillah. Will he be listened to? No.

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  43. Nachum, I opened my edition and you're right. I happened to be looking at the website for the book and *there* they only list the aforementioned haskamot, not sure why. My bad.

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  44. >But Rabbi Chaim Benish has written essnetialy the same thing, with the same reasonings and proofs, and it was printed in the קובץ בית אהרן וישראל I believe in 2004

    it was in 1994:
    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=13108&st=&pgnum=107&hilite=

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  45. And see here:
    http://www.zomet.org.il/?CategoryID=290&ArticleID=387

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  46. R. Slifkin,

    I didn't read your monograph in detail (and it was a while ago) but did you consider the extent to which the post enlightenment quest for standardization in weights in measures, which really got going in the 18th century, had an impact on the way that poskim thought about shiurim?

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  47. Daniel T., not enough information is given on the star-k website to evaluate the accuracy of rav Moshe Heineman's matzoh volume measurement. However, it should be more accurate than the "matzoh meal" method. The problem is the advice given for the shiur of a revi'it and a zayit. The article claims that a revi'it corresponds to 3.8 fl.oz. That is the volume of 2 eggs according to their measurement. Actually, a revi'it is 1.5 eggs, or 2.9 fl.oz. - not 3.8. The second problem is that they list a minimum shiur for matzoh as 1/3 of a hand-matzoh or 1/2 of a machine one (1/4 of a 'hand' and 1/3 of a 'machine' for korech). However, according to rav Heineman's measurement, a hand-matzoh has the volume of 3 eggs, then a zayit would have the volume of 1/6 of a matzoh according to the opinion that an halachic zayit is 1/2 an egg volume (1/9 of a matzoh if the 1/3 egg volume is accepted). According to their measurements, a machine matzoh has the volume of 2 eggs, then a zayit is, at most, 1/4of the matzoh. I fail to understand why the consideration of doubling egg volumes is even contemplated. It has been empirically established that the 'doubling' shita has no relevance to our eggs. Nor is there a mimetic tradition of using such large measurements at the seder. This is a yeshivish practice of recent vintage.

    The above doesn't address the issue that a real average olive is much less than 1/3 the volume of the average egg of today. While the size of eggs has increased markedly in recent centuries due to extensive breeding practices, the size of olives has, apparently, not changed since historic times. For this reason, considering an olive to be 1/2 of our large size egg should be sufficiently stringent that 'doubling' should have no place. Of course, if one is a 'hasid' of the Chazon Ish or the Brisker Rav, other considerations may apply. I recall, however, an article by Avi Greenfield on shiurim that the testimony of someone who was a guest at the seder of the Hazon Ish and saw that the matzoh portions handed out were much less than the zayit volume that he had proposed.

    The above, notwithstanding, I am not a rav, much less a posek, so please don't treat me as some kind of authority.

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  48. Robert: Maybe they think that good Litvaks don't need to see the haskama to buy it, but others do? :-)

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  49. How large was a kezayis in Ashkenaz for Yom Kippur in the days before Ashkenazic poskim had seen an olive?

    Gary Goldwater

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  50. "robert said...

    This may be relevant to this discussion: I just noticed that all the Haskamot for the Makbili MT are all from Sephardic Rabbi's or Chabad Rabbi's. Rav Ovadia Yosef, Rav Mordechai Eliyahoo, Rav Amar, the Rav of Kfar Chabad, etc... Why didn't any prominent Ashkenazi Rabbi's give Haskamot to this endeavor?"

    That's basically in line with what I was referring to with some of my earlier comments here.

    Because "we don't pasken like him." (except when it comes to citing him dishonestly as a supposed support for kollel learning when it's not even a plausible application - Ooops!)

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  51. Oh, well, I take part of that back then.

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  52. I have spoken to a number of people about this, and almost always they express ridiculous, outlandish ideas to defend the larger kezaith (such as people have become smaller so we have to keep the proper ratio!). When it comes to rebbeim I believe similar factors inform such a reaction, and these include:

    -the perception that if one says differently than great rabanim and posqim of previous generations, it's as if you're saying you're better or smarter than they are.

    -people have become dumbed down and don't believe in their ability to use what's between their ears to actually reach a conclusion, especially if it's at variance with what at least some gedolim who are the sole bastions of daas Toirah say.

    -a general anti-intellectual, rational worldview.

    One must not expect rabanim to act as rational, disembodied brains. In this case as in many others it's really hashqafa which runs the ship.

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  53. "For the person who suggested wrapping the matza in saran wrap and measuring volume with displacement, it has already been done in a much more accurate way by Rabbi Heinemann of the star-k in Baltimore. See here:
    http://www.star-k.org/kashrus/kk-passover-seder.htm"

    I don't see the explanation on that page of what has been done, or how it is more accurate....

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  54. The strange thing about all this is that the enlarged shiurim of the Chazon Ish (really, the Noda Biyehuda) were themselves going against the mesorah in Eastern Europe and were, indeed, largely ignored until fairly recent times.

    Indeed, I once saw a bachur straight out of Lakewood ask R. Meiselman to use a bigger becher for kiddush as the one he was about to use was "too small." R. meiselman later mentioned that the rejected becher had been R. Chaim's.

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  55. Y. Aharon,

    I agree with your critique of the star-k shiurim. I quoted simply for the immense value of an accurate volume measurement of contemporary matzah. Once you have that, you can take whichever CC value you choose for a kezayis and calculate how much of a single matzah it is. In addition, I wanted to show that the inflated matzah shiurim are not only because of a chumra on the size of a zayis, but also because of an inaccurate volume measurement for matza. So, even if one, for some reason, would decide to fulfill the half betzah measurement or double-half betzah, they would not have to use some of the super inflated published measurements.

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  56. I didn't intend to belabor the shiurim issue given that R' Natan and R' Gil have provided sufficient information for people to make their own judgments. The post on the 'Torahmusings' blog cites the basic view and realistic measurements brought down by Rav Mordechai Willig on the zayit and egg volumes. Just keep in mind that a revi'it is 1.5 egg volumes and that some require that a zayit volume each of the top and broken middle matzoh be eaten - plus a zayit for the afikomen, for the marror, and for the korech 'sandwich'. While the latter is a rabbinic custom which would allow leniencies, practically speaking, it's hard to fit a zayit worth of marror into small pieces of matzoh.

    The big or bigness problem is the doubling of egg sizes coupled with the treatment of a zayit as 1/2 that volume, which some poskim have adopted - even if reluctantly. That requirement is not based on reality and has no basis in the talmud or Rishonim. While some major Acharonim have advocated or supported the doubling stance, I can't imagine that figures such as the Nodah Biyehuda (the originator), the Gra, and the Alter Rebbe (Shneur Zalman of Liady) would have continued their stance in the light of more modern commercial eggs. While egg sizes may have possibly shrunk between talmudic and 18th century Eastern Europe times, they have certainly increased since then due to breeding and feeding practices. A leading posek in Lithuania at the turn of the 20th century, the Aruch Hashulchan, testified that eggs in Lita during his lifetime virtually doubled in size due to the arrival of and cross-breeding with imported hens which produced larger eggs. Harav Yisroel Meir Kagan (the Mishna Berurah) in his Biur Halacha brings the argument that the doubling requirement is unrealistic and conflicts with the talmudic estimate of a revi'it (one cheekfull). Hence, the doubling stance of the Hazon Ish and, apparently, the Brisker Rav are minority opinions that aught not prevail against the physical reality. The physical reality is that our large size eggs have a volume which agrees with realistic measurements of length (etzba)using the talmudic conversion of 1 revi'it = 10.8 cubic etzba'ot.

    While my opinion carries little enough weight, those who wish to follow the doubling stance should do so quietly and certainly not make a fuss over it at the seder.

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  57. Rabbi Slifkin-

    Rav Willig has an article in this year's "Pesach to go" by YU that (implicitly) addresses your question. (The full article can be found here: http://www.yutorah.org/togo/pesach/articles/Pesach_To-Go_-_5771_Rabbi_Willig.pdf )
    He starts off by acknowledging that an olive is 3-7.55 cc but then never really addresses the issue. He just follows the halakhic sources, starting with the Shulchan Aruch's ruling that kzeyais = 0.5 egg. He does cite Rav Beinish, but only to establish the size of an egg (45 cc without the shell) and the density of matza (1/2 that of water). Lechatchila, he urges following the Tzlach, resulting in a shiur of 45 cc. He permits smaller shiurim (17 cc or 7.5 cc), but apparently only "in cases of illness."

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