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Shabbat Pesach 5776

Ask the Rabbi: Roasted Foods on Pesach

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: Is it permissible to eat roasted food at the seder, and if not, what is included?

: Eating roasted meat at the seder is one of the cases that the mishna (Pesachim 53a) says depends on the local minhag. However, in this matter there is presently quite a bit of uniformity in minhag among edot (communities based on ethnic origin, which, these days, is more important than locality).

The gemara (ibid.) explains that we do not want to do things that look like we have sanctified something as a korban in place of the Korban Pesach. It says that all agree that it is forbidden to eat a roasted complete lamb or to say that an animal or piece of meat is set aside for Pesach (which has a double meaning – the holiday or the korban). Those who have the minhag not to eat any roasted meat on this night extend the reach of this concern further than those whose minhag is to eat most roasted meat. Interestingly, while the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 476:1-2) presents both minhagim, he does not take clear sides, nor does the Rama. However, Acharonim, both Ashkenazi (Mishna Berura 476:1) and Sephardi (Chazon Ovadia, Pesach II, p. 103) say unequivocally that the minhag is to not eat roasted meat. (I understand that Yemenites do eat roasted meat.)

There are some important details to add, including some about which there is not unanimity. The prohibition is on all meat that requires shechita, which includes poultry but not fish (Shulchan Aruch ibid. 2). The standard approach is that pot roast (without the addition of a significant amount of liquid – see Shevet Halevi IX:120) is considered roasted (Magen Avraham 476:1 Mishna Berura 476:1). When the meat was both roasted and cooked, we usually follow the last process that was done, as it determines how the meat appears, which is the main issue (ibid.). While this approach sometimes indicates strictness and sometimes leniency (depending on which was last), there is room for leniency in cases of need (ibid.), which makes sense considering the whole topic is a minhag. (If meat was first totally cooked and was then only heated up without gravy, this is not a problem (see Shaarei Teshuva 476:1 and Chazon Ish OC 37:14), as long as the reheating did not alter its texture to the point that it might seem roasted.)

There is some question as whether the prohibition is only at the seder (or sedarim in chutz la’aretz – Mishna Berura ibid.) or even the next day (see Ben Ish Chai I, Tzav 30). However, the consensus is that it is only at seder night – the time that the Korban Pesach would have been eaten (Mishna Berura ibid.; Yechaveh Da’at III:27).  

There is an interesting dilemma regarding foods from the seder plate, specifically the z’roa (forearm) of an animal and an egg, which are reminders of the Korban Pesach and Korban Chagiga, respectively (Shulchan Aruch, OC 473:4). The Shulchan Aruch says that the z’roa is roasted and the Rama says that the egg is roasted, as well. Because the z’roa is roasted, it should not be eaten at the seder (Yechaveh Da’at ibid.), whereas the egg can be eaten because it is not meat (Mishna Berura 473:32). According to those who cook the z’roa, the Pri Megadim (473, MZ 4) says that it is still forbidden because the fact that it represents the Korban Pesach increases the chance of confusion with it. He says that we don’t forbid eating the egg even though it represents another korban because the egg has other significances (see Rama, OC 476:2). However, one may be lenient if indeed the z’roa was cooked and not roasted (Yechaveh Da’at ibid.).

The prohibition on eating the z’roa raises another issue (although not this year, when the seder is on Shabbat). If one did not roast the z’roa before Yom Tov, there is a question how one can roast it at night, given that one can only cook things on Yom Tov that he will eat (Magen Avraham 473:8). The Magen Avraham says that in such a case, one should have in mind to eat it during the day meal. The Maharshal (cited, ibid.) suggests to cook it, rather than roast it, and then eat it that night.
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