Monday, March 28, 2011

Minhag Yisroel vs. Gra : 2 Matzot vs. 3 Matzot

Rav Herschel Schachter states:

. A matter of halacha which has been accepted for centuries can not be overturned, unless one can demonstrate that there simply was an error involved from the very outset.


  1. Rif Rambam paskened 2 matzos at the Seder as per simple read of the Talmud.
  2. Gaonim have a tradition for Lechem Mishnah on Yom tov
  3. Rosh/Tosafos say 3 - that sugya is superseded by the requirement of Lechem Mishneh
  4. Rema says 3 ratifying Minhag Ashkenaz
  5. Bet Yosef says that minhag is like Tosafot and Rosh and paskens 3 despite his stated rule re: Rif/Rambam - Minhag Yisrael prevails nevertheless
  6. Shleah - as cited by kaf Hachayyim says the only way to be yotzei lechal hadei'os is to use 3.
Question: how did the GRA revert it back to 2?
  1. Were Rosh, Rema, Shulchan Aruch, Shelah all beta'us?
  2. If so does this impact their reliability on other matters of Halachah?
  3. Did the Gra feel bound by the norms Minhag Yisrael - or by his read of the Talmud?
  4. For those who have already switched to 2, should they switch back to 3 - since the shita of 2 goes against the norms of Halachic canons as posited by RHS? ""one can demonstrate that there simply was an error" . i.e the error here is going against Minhag Yisroel.
  5. Is there ever a time limit on overturning Minhag based upon error? IOW how many centuries of practice makes perfect or is it ALWAYS subject to revision based upon a better read of Talmud.
  6. How do recently discovered girsaot of old manuscripts play into this? Are they demonstrative of earlier errors and therefore dispositive of minhaggim?

Note: This was posted on NishmaBlog onThursday, April 15, 2010

Apparently some readers previously took my questions as requests for information or opinions. They were primarily rhetorical in nature and I was not expecting any specific answers, just a contemplation of the parameters

In other words, Its' great when A Gadol [EG RHS] pontificates a principle, but what are the realistic parameters of this principle? Do we think this is really a consistent Meta-Principle that applies globally? The rhetorical questions poitn out that such pronouncments may be a nice rhetorical fourish, but what valence do they have in p'saq? It's like Kol Yisra'el Yesih lo Heleq l'olam Habba. A great platitude, but it's meaning is not quite what it says, because along comes several mishnayot qualifying the generlization.


Kol Tuv / Best Regards,