Kenneth Cohen

The Challenge of Halacha

The Pesach holiday is challenging on many levels. There is a great deal of physical exertion in preparing for this special celebration. And there is also a financial challenge in getting rid of our Chametz and the added expense of purchasing Kosher for Passover products.

But a third challenge is where our Fear of Heaven, יראת שמים, is tested. There was once an information sheet handed out to members of a specific congregation, titled, “Do it right on Pesach night.”

It gave a detailed description as to how to fulfill each particular Mitzva during the Seder. It listed how much wine was needed in order to properly fulfill the drinking of four cups of wine. It also included the amount of Matza and Maror, Bitter Herbs, needed to be consumed in order to fulfill those Mitzvot. In short, the specifics were taught down to the last milliliter.

Some might not understand the necessity to be so picayune. Others may think it to be foolishness. But these details reflect an overall attitude as to how we view Halacha, Jewish Law.

A G-d fearing Jew understands and believes that the Oral Law was given on Mount Sinai. This is the power given to the Rabbis to implement Torah law. It has been codified primarily in the Shulchan Aruch, and these are the guidelines that observant Jews fulfill.

When one studies the Talmud, which is an analysis as to how these laws are formulated, he has a better appreciation for all of the details set forth by the Rabbis.

Therefore, when the Seder night arrives, the specifics are not viewed as a challenge, but a fulfillment of what their fear of Heaven demands of them.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at
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