Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Why On Earth Would One Eat A Kezayis?

The reaction of many people to my conclusions about the kezayis is one of shock, followed by the question: "So do you yourself really eat such a small portion of matzah and maror?"

This is a very strange question. It also sheds light on problems caused by the evolution of the large kezayis-shiur.

Why on earth would I, or anyone, only eat an olive-sized portion of matzah and maror? The mitzvah comes late at night, after a really long day, when I haven't eaten for hours. Any normal person will eat much more than an olive-sized portion!

The kezayis is a minimum. The halachah says that eating anything less than a kezayis is just not called an act of eating. But any ordinary act of eating is obviously more than the bare minimum!

Does anyone build a sukkah ten tefachim high?!

So why do people wonder if people like me will be eating an olive-sized portion? Probably because the evolution of the large kezayis, along with the change from traditional matzah to Ashkenazi matzah (a.k.a. concrete) and from traditional maror (wild lettuce, sowthistle, etc.) to horseradish, has made eating a kezayis such a tricky and stomach-challenging ordeal that this is all that people aim for. Kezayis becomes not the minimum, less than which is simply not an act of eating, but rather the challenge, the goal. And people become so focused on eating the right quantity that this becomes the main thing that they think about!

But when you eat traditional matzah, and traditional maror (which was the normal hors d'oeuvre in antiquity), and a kezayis is a kezayis, why on earth would anyone only eat a kezayis?

46 comments:

  1. Because a Kezayis is now so big, it's too much to eat without forcing yourself. Oh the irony.

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  2. An excellent point, that tends to get lost amid all the others.

    DF

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  3. What do you say then about the Kezayis you need to eat for Afikomen when you are NOT hungry? All tongue and cheek aside, do you rely on your understanding of the size an olive, or do you eat more?

    Ronny

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  4. >Does anyone build a sukkah ten tefachim high?!<

    Munchkins?

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  5. כל המרבה הרי זה משובח

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  6. The only time a large kezayis ever came in handy was on Yom Kippur, for a diabetic family member.

    On a related note, for a celiac without access to oat matzah, the "real" kezayis is much more helpful.

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  7. Also consider that the "l'hat'hila" way to eat the k'zayit is in one swallow (after thoroughly being chewed, thank you). This doesn't make sense at all with enlarged sizes.

    The 1/2 loaf time measure is also meant to be a b'di'avad elongated time measure for eating. Now people struggle to eat their minimum amount within the maximum time allowance!

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  8. You can save a lot of money on shmura matza if the whole family follows Rabbi Slifkin's approach.

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  9. Maybe you'd eat only a kezayis of Matzoh because wheat, especially the genetically modified semi-dwarf strain currently being marketed as "wheat" is horrible for your health.

    See the book "Wheat Belly" by William Davis for details.

    The stuff is just horrible for your health.

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  10. This all proves,beyond any doubt,that Yidden invented Obsessive Compulsive disorder.

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  11. Anything more than a Kezayit is Bal Tosif!

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  12. "The 1/2 loaf time measure is also meant to be a b'di'avad elongated time measure for eating. Now people struggle to eat their minimum amount within the maximum time allowance!"
    As was noted by my rebbe, this does not make sense regardless of what you consider the shiur to be--whatever the kezayis is, תוך כדי אכילת פרס is the amount of time it takes to eat 8 כזיתים. So if your kezayis is the size of an egg, you still have the time it takes to eat 8 of those. in other words, the larger the kezayis, the longer you have to eat it.

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  13. Rabbi Slifkin, do you and your family have yemenite style matzah on passover? (Ie "traditional matzah")? Do you make your own or buy it somewhere? For a few years now I have been meaning to get try some real matzah but never remember to order/buy it in time. So instead I'm left with the burnt thin cracker "shmura chabura" stuff.

    I think what people are wondering about is, when you set your "stop watch" after the bracha, do you make sure to eat that olive sized piece before considering yourself "yotzee" the mitzvah ( and henceforth press stop on the mental stopwatch, mission complete) OR do you stuff your face within a set time period with 10 times the size of that olive piece so you can be absolutely 100% totally certifiably certain you satisfied the mitzvah. Yes, that's what they are asking. That is how crazy it's gotten. Even people who agree to your premise that kezayith is really like a zayith, are asking this sort of question.

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  14. It also sheds light on problems caused by the evolution of the large kezayis-shiur.

    A intended pun, I am sure.

    Re: your question.
    Matzoah and Marror are the least appatising aspect of the seder meal. Wo wants to fill up on these obligations prior to my wifes scrumptious food?

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  15. " peretz mann said...
    This all proves,beyond any doubt,that Yidden invented Obsessive Compulsive disorder."

    Obsessive Compulsive disorder, has no similarity to any strange practices of Orthodox Jews.

    A person who has Obsessive Compuslive disorder will do the same activity numerous time, unsure if they had previously done the activity, or if they done it well enough.

    Chumraites, on the other hand, do intense calculations, but once they are satisfied with the answer, they are satisfied and only do the behavior one time.

    Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a real medical illness, and should not be made fun of, in relation to people who do not in fact exhibit any traits of said symptom.

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  16. I thought the reason you don't only eat the size of an actual olive was because you feel that once the halacha is set down, it is set down and it shouldn't be changed, and changing halacha opens a pandoras box?

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  17. Student V - you can get some spharadi matzah at www.softmatza.com

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  18. Hard to grasp people's shock at Rabbi Slifkin's position. I tend to believe that besides Rabbi David Bar-Hayim and Rabbi Slifkin that there are quite a few other rabbis who hold the same (quite reasonable) position but choose not to advertize it.

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  19. Chanokh - you joke, but the question "can you eat more than a k'zayis without violating Baal Tosif" is actually taken up by the gemara (IIRC; at the very least by the m'forshim).

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  20. @Amateur:
    While Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is certainly not something to be spoken about lightly, the fact that chumros seem to constantly be intensifying (for example, the size of a kezayis, the types of clothes needed to be worn to be considered tzni'us, etc.) seems comparable to compulsions. Jews as a whole worry that their current practice is not satisfactory, so they adopt additional chumros. The next year, they worry that those chumrot might not be satisfactory, and the cycle continues. Like actual OCD, this state of being is not healthy.

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  21. Interesting question. Ballpark slaughter weight for a lamb these days in the USA is ~100 lbs (~45kg) which would yield a bit over 30 lbs raw meat. Even roasted well done, with ~50% shrinkage, if you had 50 or 60 people subscribed for a korban, that's a fair amount of meat per person, certainly more than a zayit sized k'zayit.

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  22. E - it was never set down. Jonathan- they are sold out.

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  23. > Why on earth would I, or anyone, only eat an olive-sized portion of matzah and maror?

    Well because there's also the soup, the salad, the gefilte fish, the brisket, the desert and the afikoman to get through for starters. Pace yourself sir!

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  24. Aside from all the ridiculous satire and leitzanus, R' Moshe has adequately proscribed the requirements for all of the seder foods, succinctly laid out on the laminated colored sheet available everywhere. These are not minimums or maximums, they are the required amounts, and there is no dispute about it. R' Moshe was the final word on it.

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  25. @Rabbi Slifkin Concrete? Ashkenazic matza is easier to eat than the soft Sephardic ones. The soft ones taste bad and are hard to chew. At least the other ones are crackers.
    Also, it seems that there were soft matzos in Europe. Mishna Brura 486:3 refers to soft matza as he states that if there is a whole than one must squeeze the matza when measuring a zayis, but if there is no space one need not squeeze the matza. He is obviously referring to soft matza.

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  26. May Rabbi Slifkin have an especially joyous seder as a just reward for his having encouraged through these posts a more enjoyable seder among others.

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  27. This all proves,beyond any doubt,that Yidden invented Obsessive Compulsive disorder.

    OCD = Orthodox Compulsive Disorder

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  28. I fully agree - the reason we don't eat the minimal amount is that eating itself is the fulfillment of an important Mitzvah. You can eat a reasonable amount, clearly surpassing the minimum, without resorting to measuring tape and a stopwatch. And still have room for Matza ball soup (which is not actually a mitzvah to eat, technically speaking).

    Again, unless you are ill, then you need to know how little you can get away with.

    (We like our crispy hand-shmura, not a hardship at all. With some lettuce Marror and a LOT of Charoset, quite an enjoyable Mitzvah)

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  29. CAN SOMEONE PLZ TELL ME HOW LARGE THE RATIONALLIST SHIURIM FOR MATZAH/MAROR/ARBAH KOSOS ARE IN UNDERSTANDABLE #'S?

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  30. @ amateur;

    Gadol avoni min`soh.

    Go to a shteible some time,and watch nitilas yadayim. You`ll see what I mean.

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  31. Yoel B - It's not such an interesting question. Of course they ate more than a k'zayit! It was dinner for the night. Most adults will consume a 12oz steak with no difficulty and restaurants usually offer larger steaks for those with the appetite. All you are showing is that they commonly ate more than the minimum shiur, but it's not all indicative as to what the minimum shiur was.

    The difficulty with Matza and why this essay is so popular is that for many people (1) Matza is difficult to eat. (2) Even more so to eat large quantities dry in about three minutes. (3) If you eat the Chazon Ish style shiurim, as was encouraged in my yeshiva, and you do it two nights in a row(chutz l'aretz), you send up being sick for the next few days.

    Overall, making for a very unpleasant holiday.

    Furthermore, when from a very early age the rationale for these shiurim completely defied logic, you begin to question what on earth theses people were thinking.

    I'm reminded of a joke I heard: A bocher gets married, and his new kallah makes a brisket for their first Shabbos together. He notices that his wife did not cut off the end of the brisket and gets very upset as the kallah, and the kallah claims that she's never heard of such a practice. They go to the rebbe's house, and the bochor says to the rebbe, "I have been like a son in your house for many years, I have always seen the Rebbetzin cut off the ends of the brisket, please explain to my wife that this is the halacha." The rebbetzin smiles and says "I cut off the ends becasue I don't have a pot big enough."

    Chag Kasher V'samayach

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  32. Kezayis becomes not the minimum, less than which is simply not an act of eating, but rather the challenge, the goal.

    Brilliant point! Simple and so utterly obvious that honestly I can't believe I haven't heard it said before.

    Chag sameach!

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  33. Followup question... I was explaining your point at the Seder, and it occurred to me the question of the Karpas. One is supposed to eat less than a kezayit of Karpas so as not to be required to make an after-bracha. But if less than a kezayit is not even an act of eating, what do we make of this halacha/custom? Thanks...

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  34. "The only time a large kezayis ever came in handy was on Yom Kippur, for a diabetic family member."

    There is also the more general question what Beracha to say. On less that a Kezayit you dont necessarily say HaMotzi.

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  35. I was using an Artscroll Hagada for both Sedarim. It seemed like they used egg instead of olive as their measuring unit for how much Matza to eat. Is this common?

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  36. I consider myself a rationalist Jew. I eat more than what I consider a kazayit, even at the cost of filling myself up, because I consider the twice yearly opportunity to fulfill a mitzva d'oraita(*) to be more enjoyable than filling myself up on good food that has no special halachic status. On the other hand, matza makes my wife sick, so I encourage her to eat the minimal measure that makes a kazayit.


    (*) According to Rav Willig of YU, the more matza you eat in fulfillment of the mitzvah during the seder, the greater the mitzvah. My own feeling is that eating a minimal amount in order to leave more room for shulchan orech might be considered disrespectful to the mitzvah of eating matzah.

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  37. "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a real medical illness, and should not be made fun of, in relation to people who do not in fact exhibit any traits of said symptom."

    While you may be correct about particular individuals, there are others about whom you are wrong. Some were instrumental in creating our current abnormal approach to religion. For example, as I recall, the Brisker Rav used to repeat shema numerous times, worried that his kavanah had wandered, before being able to continue. Many others are just victims: people who have to go to the bathroom several times before davening, women unable to become "tahor," etc. Halachic stringencies and OCD are overlapping entities which reinforce each other.

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  38. Dr. Alan Nadler, in an article in JID, basing himself on the biography of the Satmar Rebbe by R. Dovid Meisels, argued that the Rebbe exhibited some of the symptoms of OCD.

    In many of his letters the Steipler deals with and tries to help people suffering from OCD. One symptom that arises often is people compulsively repeating the Shema lest they made some minor error.

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  39. Larry Lennhoff said:
    ...twice yearly opportunity to fulfill a mitzva d'oraita...

    While I can admire your zealous performance of a mitzvah d'oraita, although I question R' Willig's thesis, let's not lose sight of the fact that the second seder is entirely d'rabanan.

    I had heard in yeshiva, in the context of eating massive k'zaitim, that if need be just eat a piece of gefilte fish for Shulchan Aruchoch so that you'll have an appetite for your Afikomen. In my own humble opinion, it's an insult the the Ba'alei Hagaddah to diminish Shaluch Oruch to a bite of food because of distortions to the amount eaten before and after.

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  40. @David Meir:
    Like you said, karpas is a minhag--not a mitzvah. We don't have to worry about finding the minimum amount necessary to be considered eating because there is no Halachah that demands that we eat it. My assumption is that it's another prop used at the Seder to enhance the experience of retelling Yetzi'as Mitzrayim--this one just happens to involve consuming something.

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  41. "Probably because the evolution of the large kezayis, along with the change from traditional matzah to Ashkenazi matzah (a.k.a. concrete) and from traditional maror (wild lettuce, sowthistle, etc.) to horseradish, has made eating a kezayis such a tricky and stomach-challenging ordeal that this is all that people aim for. "

    At my Seder this year, I added a 16th step; . . .Marror, Korech, Xantac, Shulchan Orech. . .

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  42. Furthermore..

    My chavrusah told me once about one fellow who was obsessing one morning in the shema.
    He couldn`t get past `venosati eisav`. Finally,he just said `zolst legen gruz.`

    Like the poster says,you don`t have to be crazy to work here,but it helps.

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  43. David Meir:
    "and it occurred to me the question of the Karpas"

    IIRC, the Gra endorses just this question in requiring a kezayis of karpas...

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  44. If you a eat a sweet the size of an olive on it's own with nothing else, do you say a brochah achronah?

    If you are makpid to have less than a kesayis of karpas, how on earth do you ensure this?

    How long is c'dei achilas p'ras?

    I'm not trying to be facetious; I'm pretty much convinced now thaan an kezayis really is "like an olive" and not "like an *olive*", but I keep thinking of tricky halachic ramifications and, of course, there is no Rav I can ask for p'sak on them.

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  45. A nibble of karpas does not seem to be too difficult...

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  46. @joshwaxman:
    I've heard that nibbles in the time of Chazal were bigger than the nibbles we take nowadays.

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