SECTION 470 The Fast of the Firstborn on the Day Before Pesach (1-9)

סימן תע שֶׁהַבְּכוֹרוֹת מִתְעַנִּין בְּעֶרֶב פֶּסַח וּבוֹ ט' סְעִיפִים:

1 It is customary for the firstborn to fast1 – and complete [their fast]2 – every [year] on the day before Pesach to recall the miracle of [the Jewish firstborn] being saved from the Plague of the Firstborn.

Even one who is only his father’s firstborn or his mother’s firstborn3 should fast. [The rationale is that] the Plague [of the Firstborn] affected all [the Egyptians’ firstborn, even those with such parenthood,4] for [such individuals] are deemed firstborn [children within the context of Torah Law]: One who is [only] his father’s firstborn is called a firstborn with regard to his rights to ancestral property5 and to inheritance rights.6 And one who is [only] his mother’s firstborn is called a firstborn with regard to [the obligation to] redeem the firstborn.7 Even a kohen or a Levite who is [only] his mother’s firstborn, who is not [considered] a firstborn regarding the [mitzvah to] redeem the firstborn – for [both a kohen and a Levite] are exempt from the [mitzvah to] redeem the firstborn8 – must fast. [The rationale is that this person] is still considered a firstborn; it is only that the Torah exempted him from having to be redeemed.

א נוֹהֲגִין הַבְּכוֹרוֹת לְהִתְעַנּוֹתא,1 וּלְהַשְׁלִיםב,2 בְּכָל עֶרֶב פֶּסַח, זֵכֶר לַנֵּס שֶׁנִּצּוֹלוּ מִמַּכַּת בְּכוֹרוֹת.ג וּמִתְעַנִּין אֲפִלּוּ הַבְּכוֹר מֵאָב בִּלְבַדד אוֹ מֵאֵם בִּלְבַד,ה,3 שֶׁבְּכֻלָּם הָיְתָה הַמַּכָּה,ו,4 שֶׁכֻּלָּן נִקְרָאִין בְּכוֹרוֹת, הַבְּכוֹר מֵאָב נִקְרָא בְּכוֹר לְנַחֲלָה5 וִירֻשָּׁה,ז,6 וְהַבְּכוֹר מֵאֵם נִקְרָא בְּכוֹר לְעִנְיַן פִּדְיוֹן הַבֵּן.ח,7

וְאַף בְּכוֹר מֵאֵם שֶׁהוּא כֹּהֵן אוֹ לֵוִי, שֶׁאֵינוֹ נִקְרָא בְּכוֹר לְעִנְיַן פִּדְיוֹן הַבֵּן, שֶׁהֲרֵי הוּא פָּטוּר מִפִּדְיוֹןט,8 – אַף עַל פִּי כֵן צָרִיךְ לְהִתְעַנּוֹת,י שֶׁמִּכָּל מָקוֹם בְּכוֹר הוּא אֶלָּא שֶׁהַתּוֹרָה פְּטָרַתּוּ מִפִּדְיוֹן:יא

2 When a woman miscarried and afterwards gave birth to a viable son, that son is not deemed a firstborn with regard to [the obligation to] redeem the firstborn.9 [The rationale is that this child] is not “the first issue of the womb” since [his mother’s] womb had already experienced a [previous] issue. Nevertheless, [such a person] is considered a firstborn regarding inheritance10 and [therefore,] he must fast. Therefore, if [in the above instance,] the person’s father had already fathered a viable child from another wife, this person is not [considered] a firstborn [at all], neither with regard to inheritance nor with regard to [the obligation to be] redeemed. [Hence,] he need not fast.

ב אִשָּׁה שֶׁהִפִּילָה נֵפֶל וְאַחַר כָּךְ יָלְדָה בֶּן קַיָּמָא,יב אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאוֹתוֹ הַבֵּן אֵינוֹ נִקְרָא בְּכוֹר לְעִנְיַן פִּדְיוֹן,יג,9 שֶׁהֲרֵי אֵינוֹ "פֶּטֶר רֶחֶם", שֶׁכְּבָר נִפְטַר רַחְמָהּ,יד מִכָּל מָקוֹם, הֲרֵי הוּא בְּכוֹר לְעִנְיַן נַחֲלָה,טו,10 וְצָרִיךְ לְהִתְעַנּוֹת.

לְפִיכָךְ אִם נוֹלַד לְאָב זֶה בֶּן קַיָּמָא כְּבָר מֵאִשָּׁה אַחֶרֶת, וְאִם כֵּן בֵּן זֶה אֵינוֹ בְּכוֹר לֹא לְנַחֲלָה וְלֹא לְפִדְיוֹן – אֵין צָרִיךְ לְהִתְעַנּוֹת:טז

3 There is an authority who maintains that even firstborn females must fast because the Plague was also visited upon [the firstborn Egyptian females].11 This is not the custom in these countries. Similarly, in houses where there is no firstborn [son], the eldest son need not fast even though the Plague was also visited upon [Egyptians of that status.12 The rationale is that] since the Fast of the Firstborn is primarily a mere custom, it is not customary to treat it so stringently. For the warning [given to the Egyptians] and [the subsequent description of] the Plague in the Torah only explicitly mention the firstborn males.

ג יֵשׁ מִי שֶׁאוֹמֵריז שֶׁגַּם הַנְּקֵבוֹת בְּכוֹרוֹת מִתְעַנּוֹת, שֶׁגַּם בָּהֶם הָיְתָה הַמַּכָּה.יח,11 וְאֵין נוֹהֲגִין כֵּןיט בִּמְדִינוֹת אֵלּוּ. וְכֵן בְּבָתִּים שֶׁאֵין בָּהֶם בְּכוֹר – אֵין גְּדוֹלֵי הַבַּיִת מִתְעַנִּין,כ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁגַּם בָּהֶם הָיְתָה הַמַּכָּה.כא,12 דְּכֵיוָן שֶׁעִקַּר תַּעֲנִית הַבְּכוֹרוֹת אֵינוֹ אֶלָּא מִנְהָג – לֹא נָהֲגוּ לְהַחֲמִיר כָּל כָּךְ,כב מִפְּנֵי שֶׁעִקַּר הַהַתְרָאָה וְהַמַּכָּה הַכְּתוּבָה בַּתּוֹרָה בְּפֵרוּשׁ – לֹא הָיְתָה אֶלָּא עַל הַבְּכוֹרִים הַזְּכָרִים:כג

4 It is customary for a father to fast instead of his firstborn son when [his son] is still a minor. [This is the custom] until [the son] comes of age, at which time [the son] should fast by himself.

When a person has two sons who are firstborn who are minors, i.e., one is the father’s firstborn13 and one is the mother’s firstborn, [which she bore to him],14 the father’s fast counts for both of them.

ד נוֹהֲגִין שֶׁהָאָב מִתְעַנֶּה תַּחַת בְּנוֹ הַבְּכוֹר כְּשֶׁעֲדַיִן הוּא בְּכוֹר קָטָן,כד עַד שֶׁיִּגְדַּלכה וְאָז יִתְעַנֶּה הוּא בְּעַצְמוֹ.כו וּמִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ שְׁנֵי בָּנִים קְטַנִּים וּשְׁנֵיהֶם בְּכוֹרוֹת, הָרִאשׁוֹן הוּא בְּכוֹר לְאָבִיו13 וְהַשֵּׁנִי בְּכוֹר לְאִמּוֹ14 – הֲרֵי תַּעֲנִית הָאָב עוֹלָה בְּעַד שְׁנֵיהֶם:כז

5 All the above15 applies when the father himself is not a firstborn. If, however, [the father] is a firstborn, and as such he must fast on his own account, his fast does not count for his son. Instead, [the son’s] mother must fast instead of her son until he comes of age.

There are authorities who maintain that the mother does not have to fast, because the father’s fast [counts not only for himself, but] also counts for his son. [The rationale is that] this fast is merely to recall the miracle, and one commemoration suffices for both [father and son]. One may rely on this opinion when [the mother’s] discomfort is involved, and certainly, if she is pregnant or nursing.

Even if a woman does not have a husband who will fast for her son, she need not fast if she is pregnant or nursing and the fast causes her discomfort. Similarly, a woman within 30 days of childbirth [need not fast] even if she does not feel discomfort.16 Nevertheless, if a woman fasted [even] once for her son’s sake and intended to continue doing so until her son came of age, it is as if she took a vow17 to fast. [If the mother now desires not to fast,] she must release [the vow] by making a [formal] request [of the court] and [expressing] regret [to the judges].18

ה וְכָל זֶה15 כְּשֶׁאֵין הָאָב בְּכוֹר, אֲבָל אִם הוּא בְּכוֹר וְצָרִיךְ לְהִתְעַנּוֹת בְּעַד עַצְמוֹ – אֵין תַּעֲנִיתוֹ עוֹלָה בְּעַד בְּנוֹ, אֶלָּא הָאֵם מִתְעַנָּה תַּחַת בְּנָהּ הַקָּטָן עַד שֶׁיַּגְדִּיל.כח

וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִיםכט שֶׁאֵין הָאֵם צְרִיכָה לְהִתְעַנּוֹת, שֶׁתַּעֲנִית הָאָב עוֹלָה גַּם בְּעַד בְּנוֹ, כֵּיוָן שֶׁתַּעֲנִית זֶה אֵינוֹ אֶלָּא לְזֵכֶר לַנֵּס, וְזִכָּרוֹן אֶחָד עוֹלֶה לְכָאן וּלְכָאן.ל וְיֵשׁ לִסְמֹךְ עַל דִּבְרֵיהֶם בִּמְקוֹם צַעַר, וְכָל שֶׁכֵּן אִם הִיא מְעֻבֶּרֶת אוֹ מֵנִיקָה.לא

וְאַף אִם אֵין לָהּ בַּעַל שֶׁיִּתְעַנֶּה בְּעַד בְּנוֹ – אֵינָהּ צְרִיכָה לְהִתְעַנּוֹת אִם הִיא מְעֻבֶּרֶת אוֹ מֵנִיקָה וְיֵשׁ לָהּ צַעַר מִן הַתַּעֲנִית. וְכֵן יוֹלֶדֶת כָּל שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם,לב אַף שֶׁאֵין לָהּ צַעַר.16 וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם, אִם הִתְעַנֵּית כְּבָר פַּעַם אַחַת בְּעַד בְּנָהּלג וְהָיָה אָז בְּדַעְתָּהּ לִנְהֹג כֵּן לְעוֹלָםלד עַד שֶׁיִּגְדַּל בְּנָהּ – הֲרֵי תַּעֲנִית זֶה עָלֶיהָ כְּנֶדֶר,17 וְצָרִיךְ לְהַתִּירָהּ עַל יְדֵי שְׁאֵלָה וַחֲרָטָה:

6 A firstborn [who is fasting] should recite [the passage] Aneinu19 in [the blessing] Shomei’a Tefilah in the Afternoon Service. If there are ten firstborn praying together [with others who are not firstborn], and one of [the firstborn] is the sheliach tzibbur, he should recite [the passage] Aneinu in [the blessing] Shomei’a Tefilah when repeating the Shemoneh Esreh, as is the law with regard to fast days undertaken by individuals.20 Nevertheless, as an initial preference, it is desirable not to have a firstborn serve as the sheliach tzibbur when ten firstborn are praying together [with others who are not firstborn. The rationale is that] there are authorities who maintain that it is not proper to mention a communal fast in the repetition of the Shemoneh Esreh, since it is [the month of] Nissan. See sec. 429[:9].21

ו הַבְּכוֹרוֹת אוֹמְרִים "עֲנֵנוּ" בְּ"שׁוֹמֵעַ תְּפִלָּה" בִּתְפִלַּת הַמִּנְחָה.לה,19 וְאִם עֲשָׂרָה בְּכוֹרוֹת מִתְפַּלְּלִין בְּיַחַד וְאֶחָד מֵהֶם שְׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר – מַחֲזִיר הַתְּפִלָּה יֹאמַר "עֲנֵנוּ" בְּ"שׁוֹמֵעַ תְּפִלָּה",לו כְּדִין תַּעֲנִית יְחִידִים.לז,20

וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם, לְכַתְּחִלָּה טוֹב שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיֶה הַבְּכוֹר שְׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר כְּשֶׁעֲשָׂרָה בְּכוֹרוֹת מִתְפַּלְּלִין יַחַד, כִּי יֵשׁ אוֹמְרִיםלח שֶׁאֵין נָכוֹן לְהַזְכִּיר הַתַּעֲנִית בְּצִבּוּר בַּחֲזָרַת הַתְּפִלָּה, כֵּיוָן שֶׁהוּא חֹדֶשׁ נִיסָן, עַיֵּן סִימָן תכ"ט:לט,21

7 When the day before Pesach falls on Friday, the firstborn should fast on that day.22 However, when [the day before Pesach] falls on Shabbos, the fast is moved forward to the preceding Thursday.23

If it is difficult for [some firstborn] to fast on [that] Thursday because the search for chametz is conducted that night, they have many rooms to check, and one is not allowed to eat a meal before [conducting] the search,24 they may taste a small amount of [food] before searching. [The rationale is that] it was only forbidden was to [partake of] an entire meal. (See sec. 232, [where] the amount considered as “a taste” is defined.)25 Alternatively, [the firstborn] may instruct others with carrying out the search on their behalf, and [the firstborn] will [be permitted to] eat [immediately after nightfall].26

ז אִם חָל עֶרֶב פֶּסַח בְּעֶרֶב שַׁבָּת – מִתְעַנִּין הַבְּכוֹרוֹת בּוֹ בַּיּוֹם.מ,22 אֲבָל אִם חָל בְּשַׁבָּת – נִדְחֶה לְיוֹם ה' שֶׁלְּפָנָיו.מא,23 וְאִם קָשָׁה לָהֶם הַתַּעֲנִית בְּיוֹם ה', כֵּיוָן שֶׁבַּלַּיְלָה בּוֹדְקִין אֶת הֶחָמֵץ, וְאֵין רַשָּׁאִין לִסְעֹד קֹדֶם הַבְּדִיקָה,מב,24 וְיֵשׁ לָהֶם הַרְבֵּה חֲדָרִים לִבְדֹּק – יְכוֹלִים לִטְעֹם מְעַט קֹדֶם הַבְּדִיקָה, שֶׁלֹּא אָסְרוּ אֶלָּא סְעוּדָהמג (וְשִׁעוּר טְעִימָה עַיֵּן סִימָן רל"במד,25), אוֹ יְצַוּוּ לְאַחֵר לִבְדֹּקמה וְהֵם יֹאכְלוּ:26

8 In a place where there is no prevalent custom [to the contrary], the firstborn may partake of a feast associated with a mitzvah27[and free himself from the obligation of fasting].28 However, may blessings light upon those who are stringent [and refrain from doing so].

In these countries, however, it has already become customary to be stringent.29 Therefore, [a firstborn] who desires to eat at a feast associated with a mitzvah must be released [from the obligation to fast] by making a [formal] request [of the court] and [expressing] regret [to the judges. The rationale is that] he fasted once on the day before Pesach and at that time he intended to continue doing so forever. [True,] at that time, there was no feast associated with a mitzvah in the city. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that he fasted because this was the [local] custom. Since [he accepted the local customs and] these customs [also include the practice of] not eating at a feast associated with a mitzvah, [adhering to] this custom became incumbent upon him like a vow, because he had the intent of conducting himself in this manner forever. May blessings alight upon one who is stringent and does not [avail himself of the option of] making a [formal] request [of the court] and [expressing] regret [to the judges so that he can] eat [at such feasts].

However, the principals at a circumcision – i.e., the mohel,30 the sandek,31and the father of the child – may eat,32 (even without making a [formal] request [of the court] and [expressing] regret [to the judges]), because [the day] is a [personal] festival for them. [License to eat is granted to them, provided] they “loan out” the fast [to another day] and “repay” [their debt] by fasting after Pesach.33 (Alternatively, they may release their vow) by making a [formal] request [of the court] and [expressing] regret [to the judges].

A person [who is not a firstborn, but] is fasting on behalf of his son,34 may eat at [the feast celebrating] a circumcision even though he is not one of the principals at the circumcision, provided he makes a [formal] request [of the court] and [expresses] regret [to the judges].

ח בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁאֵין שָׁם מִנְהָג יָדוּעַ – יְכוֹלִין הַבְּכוֹרוֹת לֶאֱכֹל עַל סְעוּדַת27 מִצְוָה.מו,28 וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם, הַמַּחֲמִיר – תָּבוֹא עָלָיו בְּרָכָה.מז

אֲבָל בִּמְדִינוֹת אֵלּוּ כְּבָר נָהֲגוּ לְהַחֲמִיר.מח,29 לְפִיכָךְ, מִי שֶׁרוֹצֶה לֶאֱכֹל עַל סְעוּדַת מִצְוָה – צָרִיךְ לְהַתִּיר לוֹ עַל יְדֵי שְׁאֵלָה וַחֲרָטָה,מט דְּכֵיוָן שֶׁהִתְעַנָּה פַּעַם אַחַת בְּעֶרֶב פֶּסַח וְהָיָה אָז בְּדַעְתּוֹ לִנְהֹג כֵּן לְעוֹלָם, אַף שֶׁאָז לֹא הָיְתָה סְעוּדַת מִצְוָה בָּעִיר, מִכָּל מָקוֹם מִן הַסְּתָם הִתְעַנָּה עַל דַּעַת הַמִּנְהָג, וְכֵיוָן שֶׁהַמִּנְהָג הוּא שֶׁלֹּא לֶאֱכֹל עַל סְעוּדַת מִצְוָה, אִם כֵּן נַעֲשָׂה זֶה הַמִּנְהָג עָלָיו כְּנֶדֶר, כֵּיוָן שֶׁהָיָה אָז בְּדַעְתּוֹ לִנְהֹג כֵּן לְעוֹלָם. וְהַמַּחֲמִיר שֶׁלֹּא לֶאֱכֹל אַף עַל יְדֵי שְׁאֵלָה וַחֲרָטָה – תָּבוֹא עָלָיו בְּרָכָה.

אֲבָל בַּעֲלֵי הַבְּרִית, דְּהַיְנוּ הַמּוֹהֵל30 וְהַסַּנְדָּק31 וַאֲבִי הַבֵּן,נ כֵּיוָן שֶׁיּוֹם טוֹב שֶׁלָּהֶם הוּאנא – יְכוֹלִין לֶאֱכֹל (אַף בְּלֹא שְׁאֵלָה וַחֲרָטָה), עַל יְדֵי שֶׁיִּלְווּ הַתַּעֲנִית וְיִפְרְעוּ תַּעֲנִית אַחֵרנב לְאַחַר הַפֶּסַח,נג,33 (אוֹ יַתִּירוּ הַנֶּדֶרנד) עַל יְדֵי שְׁאֵלָה וַחֲרָטָה.

וּמִי שֶׁמִּתְעַנֶּה בְּעַד בְּנוֹ,34 אַף שֶׁאֵינוֹ מִבַּעֲלֵי הַבְּרִית – יָכוֹל לֶאֱכֹל עַל הַמִּילָהנה עַל יְדֵי שְׁאֵלָה וַחֲרָטָה:

9 One who is of an extremely delicate constitution, to the extent that if he eats during the day, he will not be able to eat matzah with appetite at night, should fast on the day before Pesach so that he will be able to eat matzah with appetite at night.35 [In that way, he will be able to] fulfill the mitzvah,36“In the evening, you shall eat matzos,” with appetite.37

ט מִי שֶׁהוּא אִסְטְנִיסנו כָּל כָּךְ שֶׁאִם יֹאכַל בַּיּוֹם לֹא יוּכַל לֶאֱכֹל בַּלַּיְלָה מַצָּה לְתֵאָבוֹןנז – יֵשׁ לוֹ לְהִתְעַנּוֹת בְּעֶרֶב פֶּסַח,נח כְּדֵי שֶׁיֹּאכַל מַצָּה לְתֵאָבוֹן בַּלַּיְלָה,נט,35 לְקַיֵּם מִצְוַת36 "בָּעֶרֶב תֹּאכְלוּ מַצֹּת"ס לְתֵאָבוֹן:סא,37