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Thought for the Day: How Much of What to Eat at the Seder/Why I Like NPR

I am going say something about a report I heard in NPR this morning.  First, though, get it all out of your system... NPR = National Palestinian Radio, blah blah biased reporting, blah blah liberal agenda, blah blah; in fact, let me give you more ammunition: How Do I Hate NPR? Let Me Count the Ways.  Ok... got it out of your system?  Great, now I can make one point without getting sidetracked.  Regardless of how you view the reporting on NPR, one thing is certain: NPR is considered a serious news service and the listeners are by and large educated.  

What I heard this morning was an analysis of what a presidential candidate's favorite movie says about them.  Donald Trump likes "Citizen Kane", Ted Cruz likes "The Princess Bride", and Hillary Clinton likes the Wizard of Oz.  NPR had an invited movie critic and political analyst report that: (1) Trump likes strong male leads who do what they want without concern for others; (2) Cruz is pandering to the young female vote and probably lying; (3) Clinton... gawrsh... anyone who isn't inspired by a candidate who loves the "Wizard of Oz" must be a closed minded, ignorant, fanatical conservative.  (Oops... there I go ranting...)

When do I listen to NPR, you are wondering?  On the way home from beis medrash where I have just spent  a couple of hours of intense labor in building a relationship with the Creator through t'filah and learning his Torah.  Very detailed work and one needs to work to maintain the larger perspective.  Listening to just a few minutes of what they think is important is a great shot in the arm.

In order to minimally fulfull one's obligation at seder, one must eat matzah and maror.  (May we soon merit also worrying about the korban Pesach.)  The word "eat" has very specific requirements in terms of both volume that must be consumed and time span in which consumption must be completed.

The time span is known as כדי אכילת פרס; which literally means the time it takes to consume half (פרס) a loaf of a certain measure (3 or 4 eggs) of bread.  However, just as the English unit of length (the "foot") as a literal meaning that is is of interest historically but now means something very specific, so to the measure of כדי אכילת פרס.  The must stringent interval is two minutes, the most common (by my exhaustive research) is four minutes.  After that you need reasons to allow leniency and the shorter the better; the longest interval I have seen is nine minutes.

How much do you need to eat?  If it is in response to a regular bracha on food, such as on celery/parsley/potato or ha'motzi, then any amount will do.  If, however, it is response to a bracha specifically on eating (... על אכילת), then you need to eat a size that the Torah calls אכילה.  Here again, though the measure is named כזית/the size of an olive,  that is only interesting for historical reasons.  That means that for the two brachos we make before matzah (motzi and על אכילת), you should only need to eat one כזית and a tiny bit more.  However, since there is a machlokes about which matzah -- top or broken -- is the motzi matzah and which is the mitzvah of אכילה matzah, you need to eat two כזיתים.  Maror is interesting.  Again, the bracha is on אכילה, so a כזית is required.  I say interesting, because you might think you could fulfill the mitzvah by eating a whole plant, even if it were less that an כזית.  You might think that because eating a whole plant/berry/whatnot might obligate you in a bracha acharona.  However, the Mishna Brura (buried in the Sha'ar HaTziyun) says that you still need a כזית because our Sages wanted you to eat enough to serve as a memorial, and less than a כזית is not memorable enough.

My children (and grandchildren, soon, I presume...) have another name for כזית: Abba!  That's way too much!

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