On Pesachim 4a there is a discussion about the ideal time to search the house for leaven. Bringing the example of Abraham, it first suggests to search early in the morning, but R' Nachman bar Yitzchak says that one should rather search in the evening (which in accordance with the halakhah), because:

  • people usually stay at home at that hour and
  • it is ideal to perform the search at the light of the candle.

Right after this it is said:

אָמַר אַבָּיֵי: הִילְכָּךְ, הַאי צוּרְבָּא מֵרַבָּנַן לָא לִפְתַּח בְּעִידָּנֵיהּ בְּאוּרְתָּא דִתְלֵיסַר דְּנַגְהֵי אַרְבֵּסַר — דִּלְמָא מָשְׁכָא לֵיהּ שְׁמַעְתֵּיהּ, וְאָתֵי לְאִימְּנוֹעֵי מִמִּצְוָה.‏

Abaye observed: Therefore a scholar must not commence his regular session in the evening of the thirteenth breaking into the fourteenth, lest his studies absorb him and he come to neglect his religious duty.

Soncino translation

When learning this we were slightly puzzled, because syntactically these two reasons should logically imply the following prohibition. So does this statement have anything in common with people staying at home or the candles, which directly precede it? Or does it simply refer to nighttime in general?

2 Answers 2


My rabbi suggested the explanation of the Tzelach:

שם אמר רנב"י בשעה כו' ואור הנר כו'. י"ל תרתי טעמי ל"ל (למה לי) ובחדא סגי, ועוד מאי דסמיך ליה אמר אביי האי צורבא מרבנן כו', אינו ענין לטעמי' הללו, ועל משנתינו עור לי"ד ה"ל לקבוע דבריו.‏
There said R' Nachman bar Yitzchak, “in a time” etc. and “the light of the candle” etc. It might be said, why do I need two reasons when one is enough? Furthermore, why is it juxtaposed to “Abaye said, this Torah scholar” etc., this is not related to these reasons, and our mishnah “on the eve of fourteenth” didn't state his words.

והנה, כאשר הבינותי מדברי הר"ן, פירוש הגמרא כך הוא, בשעה שבני אדם מצויים ואור הנר, כלומר ואור הנר ג"כ מצוי אז, לפי שב"א צריכין אז לנר להשתמש לאורו, ולכן נר מצוי אז בבתיהם, משא"כ (מה שאין כן) בשעה אחרת, אפשר לא יהא נר מצוי לו.‏
And behold, as I understood from the words of the Ran, the interpretation of the gemara is like this: “when people are found at home” “and the candlelight,” that is to say “and the candlelight” is also there then, because people need then the candle to use its light, so candle can be found at that time in their houses, which is not like this at another hour, it is possible that there wouldn't be a candle.

וא"ת מאי מעליותא דנר,לזה אמר ואור הנר יפה לבדיקה.‏
And should you say, what is the excellence of the candle? For this he said “and the candlelight is favourable for the search.”

ונראה דשני הטעמים צריכי, לפי שמטעם בני אדם מצויין יהא כל הלילה זמן בדיקה, ודי אם יבדקנו קודם עלות השחר.‏
And it seems that two reasons are necessary, because of the reason “people are found” the whole night would be the time of the search, and it would be enough if we searched before dawn.

לכך צריך לטעם שאור הנר מצוי אז, וזה דוקא בתחלת הלילה, שהיא זמן סעודה, ומאן דאית ליה סעודתא נכלי' כעין יממא ויש לו נר.‏
Therefore, the “because the candlelight is there” reason is needed, and it is especially at the beginning of the night, because it is a time of meal, and the one who has a meal should eat like during the day and he has candle.

וטעם הנר מצוי לחודו אי אפשר לומר, דהרי מ"ט אור הנר מצוי אז. לפי שבני אדם מצויין בבתיה', (ו)צריך להם אור הנר להאיר חשכת לילה.‏
And the reason “there is candle” on its own cannot be said, because why can candlelight be found then? Because people are in their houses, and they need the candlelight to illuminate the darkness of the night.

ושני הטעמים לדבר א' נתכוונו, ולפי זה שפיר אמר אביי הלכך, דאי ממשנתינו לא שמענו רק שיבדוק אור לי"ד, וכל הלילה הוא אור ל(י)"ד, אבל לטעמי' דרנב"י שפיר אמר הלכך, דדלמא משכא שמעתתא ובין כך יכלה נר שבביתו, ואתי לאמנועי ממצות בדיקה לאור הנר.‏
And the two reasons were intended for one thing, and because of this it is right that “Abaye said therefore,” because from our mishnah we didn't learn just that one should search in the eve of the 14th, and the whole night is the eve of the 14th, but for the reasons of R' Nachman bar Yitzchak it is right that he said “therefore,” because he may be engrossed in the studies and in the meantime his candle in his house will be over, and he would come to neglect his duty of searching at the candlelight.

ובזה מתורץ קושיית הב"ח, שהקשה מ"ש (מאי שנא) מק"ש שמותר ללמוד קודם ק"ש. ולדידי ניחא, דבשלמא ק"ש יכול לקרות אח"כ, משא"כ (מה שאין כן) כאן שיש חשש שיכלה הנר שהכין. והט"ז בסי' תל"א נדחק בזה, והנלע"ד (והנראה לפי עניות דעתי) כתבתי.‏
And in this stands the answer to the question of the Bach, who raised the question, why is it different from the recital of the Shema, as it is permitted to learn before the recital of the Shema. And for me it is fine, because it is right that one may say the Shema afterwards, which is not like this here, as there is a concern that the candle will be over which he prepared. And the Taz on 431:2 is a strained answer, and it seems in my humble opinion as I wrote.

This is my own translation, and I would much appreciate corrections and suggestions to improve it!


You ask whether Abaye's observation not to start learning on the evening of the 13th going into the 14th is related to people being at home at that hour or the fact that it is ideal to perform the search with the light of the candle or is it unconnected with those reasons.

It seems that the Pnei Yehoshua touches on this question when he says:

דלמאי דס"ד מעיקרא היה באפשר לומר דלעולם אור היום טפי עדיף מאור הנר אלא כיון דתקנו זמן הבדיקה בליל י"ד משום זריזות או משום שמתחיל הזמן תקנו שיבדוק לאור הנר וא"כ לא היה מקום לאסור ליפתח בעידנא שאף אם יעבור ואתי לאמשוכי כל הלילה אפ"ה יבדוק למחר אור היום משא"כ השתא דקאמר ר"נ ב"י שאור הנר יפה לבדיקה טפי מאור היום דע"כ זה עיקר הטעם לר"נ דאי משום שבני אדם מצויין בבתיהם יבדוק בהשכמה קודם יציאתו מביתו דאז יותר מצויים בבתיהם אלא ע"כ דעיקר הטעם דאור הנר יפה לבדיקה וא"כ לא ליפתח כו' כנ"ל

We thought initially that daylight is better for searching than using a candle. Then they fixed the time for searching as nighttime for whatever reason and they instituted that searching should be done with a candle. Even so there was no reason not to start learning on the night of the 13th because even if one got involved in the learning there was always the following morning to do the search. But now that Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak says the light of the candle is better for searching than daylight and that is the main reason of Rav Naḥman (because if the reason was that people would be found at home he could just as well search in the morning). So we see that the main reason for searching at night is because it is ideal to perform the search with the light of the candle.

So one should not start learning on the evening of the 13th going into the 14th because it is ideal to perform the search with the light of the candle.

This is also the way the Sefaria translation understands it

The Gemara cites an answer to its initial question of why the search for leaven is not conducted in the morning. Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak said: One searches for leaven in the evening as it is a time when people are found in their homes, and they have the opportunity to perform the search. And furthermore, the light of the lamp is favorable for conducting a search specifically at night. As the search is conducted with a lamp, it is preferable to search at night.

  • I'm afraid I might not have been able to make clear my point (suggestions for editing are welcome). How do being home and the candle imply (hence the conjunction therefore) that we shouldn't learn in the evening? I'm not asking about the reasons for searching during the night. Dec 26, 2021 at 19:48
  • I wrote, "So one should not start learning on the evening of the 13th going into the 14th because it is ideal to perform the search with the light of the candle." Use of the candle is the cause not to learn in the evening. Pnei Yehoshua does not see being home as the cause not to learn in the evening. Dec 26, 2021 at 19:57

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