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Thought for the Day: Chatzi LaShem, Chatzi Lachem

I'll honest.  I can be a  bit of a smart alec.  We spent Pesach (including tosafos pesach before and after to prepare/clean up) in Boca Raton.  I never remember whether it is East or West Boca, so I just say, "the new side."  My children are part of a new, young community under the leadership of R' Light, congregation Yagdil Torah.  I haven't met much of the actual congregation because I have only gone for Yom Tov, when the regulars are gone and the snow bird wanna bees are there.

Before ma'ariv of the first seder night, Rabbi Light wanted to make a point.  "What are the three mitzvos d'oraisa that we will fulfill tonight?"  After some discussion (no, maror is only d'rabanan now a days), we came to: (1) sipur y'tzi'as mitzrayim, aka "hagada"; (2) achilas matzah; (3) simchas he'chag.  His point was, of course, that the evening should not be lacking in simcha.  A very nice message, so at least I kept my smart alecky remarks to a private conversation.

"What about birkas ha'mazon?", I asked.  "I meant mitzvos specific to the festival."  "Well... technically you are allowed to fast on Shabbos and the other Yamim Tovim if you get more pleasure from fasting than from eating.  Given there is a mitzvah of achilas matzah on leil Pesach, though, one must bentch; so arguably the obligation to bentch is also a mitzvah d'oraisa that is specific to the festival."  "I hear you."  I, of course, mostly hid my smug grin as I wished the rav a hearty "good yom tov!"

I was wrong on at least two counts.  First, the mitzvah d'oraisa of achilas matzah only requires a k'zayis of matzah.  Birkas ha'mazon does not become a torah obligation until one eats a k'bei'ah; twice that amount.  Of course it is true that we eat lots and lots of k'zaysim, so we do raise our level of obligation to bentch up to the d'oraisa level; that's only because we want to fulfill the d'rabanan obligation to cover our bases and stay out of safeik.  Hardly a mitzvah d'oraisa specific to the night; even according to a smart alec.

More to the point and completely deflating my attempt at humor, though, was the detail of "chatzi laShem, chatzi lachem".  The Torah tells us to devote half our time on Yom Tov to spiritual pursuits  -- davening and learning, and half our time to physical pursuits -- eating and drinking in celebration.  The Mishna Brura notes that while on other Yamim Tovim one may fast (if that gives him more pleasure or is a ta'anis chalom), that is not an option on Shavuos; at least not prefered.  R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo on P'sachim, Vol 2, 68, 2) explains the reason: we have to show to all that we are excited to celebrate the day on which the Torah was given; celebration means food and drink.  Even if you personally get more geshmack out of learning than eating, not everyone sees things that way.  So... turns out there is an obligation to bentch on Shavuos also.

That's another reason I keep my smart alecky remarks (relatively) quiet... smaller crowd in front of whom to be embarrassed.

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