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Thought for the Day: Wait... How Big Are Those Eggs?

Based on the results of my usual scholarly research into such matters (first or second hit on google), I have discovered that there are 4.5 medium eggs in a cup.  Which means (not higher math) that 1.5 medium eggs is ⅓ cup.  Which means, ipso facto, that a r'vi'is of wine (or anything else, for that matter) ought to be 2.7 or so ounces.  In fact, the small shiur is 2.9 ounces; easily within the error bars of my exhaustive research and analysis.

There is a machlokes Rambam and Rashi as to how many olive volumes add up to one egg.  The Rambam says three, Rashi two.  That means that a k'zayis of matzah should be roughly an ounce or a bit more... about enough so the crumbled matzah would fill a shot glass (more or less, depending on where you drink).  So why are we all eating a whole box of matzah by ourselves each seder?  (Or at least it feels like that for the next few days...)

You can thank the Tzlach, R' Yechezkel Landau (1713-1793) [aka Noda b'Yehudah], Chief Rabbi of Prague.  Chazal tell us that the volume of a r'vi'is is (2 etzba'os wide) x (2 etzba'os deep) x (2 + ½ + ⅕  etaba'os high).  The Tzlach measured a r'vi'is using both methods and come up that either our eggs are smaller or our fingers are bigger than at the time of Chazal.  The more reasonable conclusion was that eggs had gotten smaller, so... the k'zayis mentioned in the gemara becomes the equivalent volume as one of our medium eggs, not half (Rashi) nor a third (Rambam).  The poskim over the centuries have concluded that we need to be machmir like the Tz'lach for d'oraisos, but can be meikel like the pashtus for d'rabanans.

So there you have it.  The smallest shiur would put the k'zayis at ⅓ (ala Rambam) of today's eggs; which comes to approximately 0.3 oz (ala Google). The largest shiur would put the k'zayis at ½ (ala Rashi) of yesteryear's eggs (ala Tzlach); which comes to 0.9 oz (ala Google).  R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, z"tzl, distinguishes between the obligations on the first and second day, and also the first and second k'zayis for the mitzva matzah. Your mileage may vary; CYLOR.

I personally wonder if eggs in America, some 200+ years after the Tzlach in Europe, haven't gotten bigger; after all, the chickens are bigger and better fed. Food for thought, anyway.


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