Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Reclining as a Sign of Freedom

It is common to view heseiba - reclining - as the alternative to sitting, in large part because of the additional question (the one not mentioned in the Mishna or either Bavli or Yerushalmi) -- "that on all other nights we eat whether sitting or reclining, but on this night, only reclining."

There is an interesting alternate take, in Yerushalmi Pesachim 68b:

אמר רב לוי ולפי שדרך עבדים להיות אוכלין מעומד וכאן להיות אוכלין מסובין להודיע שיצאו מעבדות לחירות

Thus, the alternative to reclining is standing, since servants eat while standing. Indeed, the shamash often eats while standing (he is omed aleihem). Indeed, a later din on the same page is that
ר' סימון בשם ר' יהושע בן לוי אותו כזית שאדם יוצא בו בפסח צריך לאוכלו מיסב

In Bavli Pesachim, the same sugya, it is explicitly the shamash - in Bavli Pesachim 108b:

תא שמע דאמר ריב"ל השמש שאכל כזית מצה כשהוא מיסב יצא מיסב אין לא מיסב לא שמע מינה בעי הסיבה שמע מינה

Thus, besides seeing the requirement of heseiba - reclining - we also see that in general the shamash would in general eat standing.

As I said above, this is an interesting thing to think about when reclining, and realizing how exactly it symbolizes cherut - freedom.

Once they are reclining, thus showing that this is a permanent meal, there are specific ways of reclining, etc..

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