Pesach Alone: Your Questions Answered by Rav Mechel Steinmetz

Pesach Alone: Your Questions Answered by Rav Mechel Steinmetz

By Yochonon Donn


Boro Park – Erev Pesach was the most crowded day of the year at the Beis HaMikdash, when the entire Klal Yisroel gathered to offer the korban Pesach. In fact, the Gemara says that the only time the bracha of Boruch Chacham Harozim was recited on seeing 600,000 Yidden was on Erev Pesach in the Bais HaMikdash.

This year, the opposite is happening. It appears to be the first time in historical memory when Yidden will be alone on Pesach. The coronavirus, and its deadly aftermath, has led to an unprecedented and unanimous psak from rabbanim that people stay at home and not leave, even for the sedarim at parents.

As a result, many halachos, minhagim and mesoros that are built around a chabura, a public gathering, must be reimagined this year.

Rav Mechel Steinmetz, the Skvere dayan of Boro Park and one of the neighborhood’s leading halachic authorities, gave over clear guidance in an interview.

The dayan reviewed this before publication and approved it.


What should a bechor do on Erev Pesach if he cannot hear a siyum?


The best thing would be is for them to make a siyum on a masechta in Shas. If that is hard, they could, b’dieved, rely on making a siyum on a masechta in Mishnayos. They should take a masechta, such as Brachos or Megilla, finish it on Erev Pesach and may then eat.

If that is also hard they he could hear a siyum by telephone. If he knows of a friend who is making a siyum, he could call him and listen to it by phone. This is based on a psak of Rav Shomo Zalman Auerbach who rules that this could be done.

If even this cannot be done, and a bechor feels that it is hard for him to fast, he may rely on the poskim who rule that it is more important that a person be well enough to participate in the Seder, eat matzah and drink the dalet kosos. He should redeem his taanis by giving to tzedakah the amount of how much his daily meals costs. This is about $10 to $12.

These heteirim are only for this year.


What should someone do if he can’t safely burn the chometz on Erev Pesach at home?


According to halacha, biur chometz is by getting rid of it any way. But it is preferable to burn it. If someone can, they should at least burn the ten breadcrumbs. If not, he should flush it in the bathroom.


The poskim say that the lulav and other minim should be burned with the chometz on Erev Pesach. Some have a minhag of also burning the leftover oil from the Chanuka lecht. This year, when people are not burning chometz, what should they do with these?


Wrap it in two or three layers and place it in the garbage. This is not a bizayon mitzva since it gets burned anyhow in the garbage.


There are many people who have mountains of chumros on Pesach, but find it hard to do this year because they are cooped up at home and have a houseful of children to care for. What should they do?


For this year they don’t have to do it. They don’t even need to be mattir neder since with Hashem’s help they will continue their chumros next year.


On the first two nights of Pesach, the chassidishe kehillos and those who follow the minhagim of the Arizal recite the full Hallel with a bracha right after Maariv before going home. May they say it b’yechidus as well?


Yes. Everyone should say it as they do every year. If they say it every year with a bracha they should say it with a bracha this year as well. If they say it every year without a bracha they should say it this year also without a bracha.


We start saying Morid Hatal on the first day of Pesach. There are two questions arising from this.

Firstly, the halacha is that one is only allowed to say it by Mussaf if the gabbai announces it beforehand so as not to have a situation where some people remember to say it and other forget. Can people who follow the minhagim of Sefard and the Arizal start Morid Hatal by Mussaf if there is no gabbai?


Since this year there is no tzibbur, then you don’t have to wait for the gabbai and everyone may start Morid Hatal by Mussaf.


Secondly, the minhag in Chutz La’aretz is to say piyyutim during Chazaras Hashatz. May someone davening b’yechidus say those piyyutim?


Why not? If someone is not in middle of Shemona Esrei, of course he could say it.


Even the end, where it says the Shem Hashem, “She’atah hu Hashem ... Mashiv haruach...”?


Yes. As long as he’s not in middle of Shemona Esrei.


Many people enjoy reciting the Yehi Ratzon before Brich Shmei at krias haTorah. May they say it b’yechidus as well?


Yes. That’s not a problem.


What about Yizkor?


Yizkor may be said b’yechidus. This is the halacha as brought in Shulchan Aruch and the poskim agree on this.


On the second night, Yidden who follow the minhag of the Arizal return to shul for Sefiras Haomer. This year, since they will be saying it at home, do they have to say it right after Maariv so as not to forget?


No. You should ask your wife or someone else to remind you, or place a note where you will see it so you won’t forget. I don’t want people to give up on the minhag of chassidim to say sefira after the Seder.


This year’s calendar is always difficult for people, with Pesach ending on Thursday night and Shabbos preparations beginning right away. This year it will be even more complicated, because so many people will be stuck at home. May women cook extra on Chol Hamoed for both the second days of yom tov and for Shabbos?


Yes. They’re allowed to add more fish and meat in the pot for Shabbos. It is not permitted to cook on Chol Hamoed explicitly for Shabbos after yom tov, but it is permissible to add food.


This year, many people are juggling the mitzvos of kibbud av and Venishmartem meod l’nafshoseichem. What should someone do if his parents want him to visit on yom tov?


There is indeed a great mitzva of kivvud av v’eim. But since he is putting himself — and his parents — in a tremendous sakana, he should not visit without consulting first with a rav and a doctor.

Hashem should help that he could visit them for next year on Pesach. The real kibbud av v’eim this year is by staying home.

One very important thing: People must listen to whatever the doctors say. If they say to take medicine they should take it, even if it’s chometz and even if they are not in an sakana. They should also take vitamins if the doctor says to. This is very important.


We said in the haftora on Shabbos Hagadol, “v’heishiv lev avos al bonim v’lev bonim al avosam,” that Hashem will bring together the hearts of parents and children. I once said in jest that on this Shabbos, with so much going on at home, parents get upset at the children or the opposite. So Hashem gives a bracha that He will turn their hearts back to each other.

But this year we are zocheh that Hashem is giving us a bracha according to its most simple meaning — that children should be able to meet once again with their parents.

May Hashem help that Klal Yisroel has a kasher’n and freileche Pesach.

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