Hasebah -Leaning On Pesach

The Daily Halacha Moment - Hasebah (Leaning) 👨 🛏


״כל השונה הלכות בכל יום - מובטח לו שהוא בן העולם הבא״ (נידה עג ע״א, מגילה כח:)


“Anyone who studies Halachot every day is guaranteed that he is destined for the world-to-come” (Megilla 28b, Niddah 73a)


Question:

Why do we lean?

Who is obligated to lean?

What is the correct way to lean?


Answer:

During the Seder we need to feel that we are free and do so by leaning in a comfortable and royal position.


There is an obligation to lean when one drinks the four cups of wine and eats the Matzah of Motzei Matzah, Korech, and Afikoman. [1]


In the time of the Gemara women were exempt from leaning unless they were an Isha Chashuva (a woman of stature). [2] Even though nowadays all women are considered women of stature, Ashkenazi women don't have to lean because they can rely on the Ravyah. [3] However, the practice of Sephardic women is to lean. Nonetheless, after the fact if she didn't lean she does not have to go back as men do. [4]

One who leans without supporting oneself on something has not fulfilled his obligation of hesebah. [5] Similarly, hesebah must be performed by leaning on one’s left side. If one leaned on his right side, it is as if he did not lean at all. [6] Even a left-handed person must lean to the left. However, if he accidentally leaned on his right side, he does not have to drink again. [7]


Sources:

[1]. This is brought down in the Gemara in Pesachim 108a, Shulchan Aruch 473:2; 475:1,477:1.

[2]. See Gemara Pesachim 108a.

[3]. The Rama in 472:4 concludes that the practice is that women don't lean because they rely on the Ravyah that nowadays there's no obligation to lean at all.

[4]. Shulchan Aruch 472:14. See also Chazon Ovadia, Pesach, vol. 2, pg. 6.

[5]. Ohr LeTzion, vol. 3, 15:1.

[6]. Shulchan Aruch 472:3; Chazon Ovadia, Pesach §2, p. 9, halachah 8. The Mishnah Berurah §10 points out that there are essentially two reasons why one must lean to the left as opposed to the right: One reason is because one might choke on his food, as the windpipe is open when leaning on the right side. Another reason is because one needs to hold the matzah, marror, and the four cups in his right hand, and this can only be done if he is leaning to the left.

[7]. Rama 472:3. The Mishnah Berurah §11 points out that even though he will not be able to hold the matzah, four cups, etc. in his stronger hand, which is his left hand, it is nevertheless preferable that he lean to the left since the danger of choking overrides the preference of holding the mitzvot in one’s stronger hand. See also Kaf HaChaim §23; Ohr LeTzion, vol. 3, 15:1; Chazon Ovadia, Pesach §2, p. 9, 9; and ibid., Responsa 1:15.


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