Parsha Halacha

Parshat Bo

Eating the Afikoman before Chatzot

Reasons, Opinions, and Halacha

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The Torah portion of Bo discusses the Exodus and the Pesach sacrifice (Korban Pesach) which the Jewish people brought on the night before their redemption.[1] In subsequent years, starting with the first year in the desert[2] and until the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, the Jewish people brought this sacrifice on the day before Pesach (Erev Pesach). This was the only sacrifice obligatory on all Jewish people, men, women, and children (who were old enough to be educated).[3] In addition, it is only one of two positive mitzvot that incur a punishment if one does not observe them,[4]the other one being the brit milah. It is noteworthy that both of these mitzvot were prerequisites whose performance was essential for the Jewish people to be redeemed from Egypt.[5] In addition, the Midrash says that the final redemption will also be in the merit of these two mitzvot.[6]

This article will discuss the proper time for eating the Pesach sacrifice as well as the Afikoman.

Last Time for Eating the Pesach Sacrifice

The Mishnah says[7] that one may eat the Pesach sacrifice only until midnight (chatzot) on the first night of Pesach. The Talmud says[8] that this is the opinion of Rabbi Elazer ben Azariah. Rabbi Akiva holds, however, that one may eat the Pesach sacrifice until the morning.

Rabbi Elazer ben Azariah’s opinion is based on the verse[9] which says “And eat the meat on this night – בַּלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה.” We find that the term “on this – הַזֶּה” refers to midnight as the plague of the firstborn is also referred to as הַזֶּה (see Exodus 12:12 – And I will pass through Egypt on this night – הַזֶּה), and it took place at midnight.

Rabbi Akiva bases his opinion on the verse that says that the Korban Pesach should be eating “in haste – בְּחִפָּזוֹן”,[10] which can be understood to mean that one may eat the Pesach lamb until the time at which they had to hastily depart, which was the morning.

To Protect from Sin

Some say[11] that, in practice, Rabbi Akiva agrees that one may eat the Pesach sacrifice only until midnight as the rabbis made that decree to ensure that one does not continue to eat it after dawn, which would be a serious violation. Others say[12] that, according to Rabbi Akiva, one may eat the Pesach sacrifice up until dawn and that there was no Rabbinic decree regarding this matter.


The Rambam writes[13] that the halacha follows the view of Rabbi Akiva that by Torah law one may eat the Pesach sacrifice until the morning but by Rabbinic law one must finish eating it by midnight. This ruling is based on a Mishnah[14] and on the fact that the halacha generally follows Rabbi Akiva over any one of his colleagues.[15]

Others say[16] that the halacha follows Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah’s view and that, even by Torah law, one must eat the Pesach sacrifice before midnight. They base this ruling on the fact that several Mishnayot rule in accordance with this opinion.[17]

Eating Matzah and Afikoman before Midnight

The Torah compares the eating of Matzah to the eating of the Pesach sacrifice. As such, the Talmud says that, according to Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, one must eat the Matzah at the Pesach seder before midnight.[18]

In practice, the Shulchan Aruch rules[19] that one should also be careful to eat the Afikoman before midnight. The Vilna Gaon explains that even the authorities who follow the view of Rabbi Akiva that by Torah law the Pesach sacrifice may be eaten until dawn agree that by Rabbinic law one should finish it before midnight. As such the Matzah, which is compared to the Pesach, should also be eaten before midnight. This is especially relevant to the Afikoman which we eat at the end of the meal to remind us of the Pesach sacrifice.

Reciting Hallel before Midnight

Some say[20] that one should also complete Hallel and the drinking of the four cups of wine before midnight. As the Shulchan Aruch HaRav writes,[21] “All the four cups of wine that our Sages ordained may similarly be drunk only… during the time when it is fit to partake of Matzah, for all the practices established by our Sages were ordained in a manner resembling Scriptural practices.” As such one should drink all four cups in the optimal time to eat matzah – before midnight.

In practice the Chabad custom is not to be particular to complete the Hallel before midnight.[22] This follows the opinion of Tosfot[23] who says that one need not be particular about reciting Hallel before Chatzot since reciting Hallel (and drinking the four cups) is of Rabbinic origin.

Missed Midnight

One who missed midnight should eat the Afikoman after midnight as there are opinions that the mitzvah of Matzah lasts until the morning.[24]

If one did not eat the Matzah at the beginning of the Seder (Motzie Matzah) before midnight, he should eat that matzah without reciting a blessing since one should not recite a blessing in situations of doubt.[25]

Second Night

The Chabad custom is to not be particular to finish the Afikoman before midnight on the second night of Pesach in the Diaspora.[26] This is similar to the custom (mentioned above) not to be particular about reciting the Hallel, which is a Rabbinic mitzvah, before midnight, as all of the mitzvot of the second seder are of Rabbinic origin.[27]

The Condition of the Avnei Nezer

The Avnei Nezer writes[28] that the reason one may not eat anything after the Afikoman is so that the taste of the Afikoman should remain in one’s mouth until the last time to fulfill this mitzvah. According to Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah this means until midnight, which is when the plague of the firstborn took place, whereas according to Rabbi Akiva it means until dawn, which is when the Jewish people had to hurriedly prepare to leave from Egypt. As such, he recommends that if one is running late and it is nearly midnight and he has not yet eaten (or finished eating) the meal of the Seder (Shulchan Orech), he should do the following:

Eat a kezayit of Matzah and have in mind that, according to Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah that it is the Afikoman whereas according to Rabbi Akiva, it is not the Afikoman. Then he should not eat anything until midnight. After midnight he may resume eating after which he should have another Afikoman in accordance with the view of Rabbi Akiva.

How it Works

If one follows the above formula, he has fulfilled all of his obligations according to all opinions.

●      According to Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, who says that the last time for the Afikoman is midnight, he ate the Afikoman before midnight and fulfilled his obligation 100 percent. After midnight Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah permits eating other food since the time of the mitzvah of Matzah is over and there is no need to keep the taste of the Matzah in one’s mouth after that point. As such, the fact that he ate a meal (and another “Afikoman”) is of no consequence.

●      According to Rabbi Akiva who says that one may eat the matzah until the morning, his first Afikoman was not considered an Afikoman and he was therefore allowed to finish his meal and eat the “real Afikoman” after midnight.

In Practice

While Rabbi Moshe Feinstein questioned the ruling of the Avnei Nezer,[29] the Brisker Rov praised his approach and added that one need not make an explicit condition when eating these two Afikomans.[30]

May We Merit to Eat the Pesach Sacrifice in Jerusalem, This Year!


[1] Exodus, chapter 12

[2] Numbers 9:1 but see Rashi (based on Kiddushin 38) that they did not bring the Pesach sacrifice in subsequent years in the desert. See Tosfot D.H. Ho’il on Kiddushin 37b. See also Yevamot 71b and 72a

[3] See Rambam, Laws of Korban Pesach 2:4

[4] See Sefat Emet, Shabbat HaGadol 5660

[5] Pirkei DeRabi Eliezer, 29:11 and 12

[6] Ibid

It is not clear how we will be worthy of final redemption in the merit of the Pesach sacrifice since there is no Beit HaMikdash in which to sacrifice in the time of exile. Some quote the Gaon of Vilna as saying that if the Jewish people would bring the Pesach sacrifice even once before the building of the Beit HaMikdash, Moshiach would come immediately (HaTinok by Rabbi Avaraham Maimon HaLevi, page 225). See Mishnah, Eiduyot 8:6  about sacrificing before the building of the Beit HaMikdash.

[7] Zevachim 56b

[8] Ibid 57b

[9] Exodus 12:8

[10] Ibid 12:11

[11] Implication of Abaye in Zevachim ibid

[12] Implication of Brachot 9a. See Penei Yehoshua as to why the sages may not have made a decree in this instance.

[13] Laws of Korban Pesach 8:15

[14] Megillah 20b

[15] Eiruvin 46b see Magid Mishnah on Laws of Chametz Umatzah 6:1

[16] Tosfot D.H. Ve’I Ba’it Eima on Zevachim, ibid

[17] See Zevachim 56b, Brachot 2a as interpreted by Brachot 9a and Pesachim 120a

[18] Ibid

[19] O.C. 477:1 see also Shulchan Aruch HaRav 458:2

[20] Ran on Pesachim 27b and responsa of the Rashba, vol. 1, siman 445 quoting Tosfot.

[21] 472:2. The Vilna Gaon on 477:1 connects these two concepts,

[22] Sefer HaMinhagim Chabad

[23] D.H. La’Atuyei on Megillah 21a cited in Chok Yaakov 477:3

[24] Mishnah Berurah 477:6 see Rambam, Hilchot Chametz Umatzah 6:1

See also Yalkut Biurim on Pesachim 120b, footnote 112, who quotes several authorities who permit eating the Afikoman after midnight even in the first place, in certain circumstances.

[25] Mishnah Berurah, ibid

[26] Likutei Diburim vol. 3 page 401a, quoted in the footnotes to Shulchan Aruch HaRav 477:6

[27] See sources quoted in Yalkut Biurim on Pesachim 120b, footnote 114.

[28] Responsa O.C. 381

[29] Quoted in Metivta (Peninei Halacha in Aliba Dehilchata), Zevachim 57b

[30] Quoted in ibid

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach!

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