Chicago Chesed Fund

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Bananas for Karpas

 This is just a bagatelle, but interesting nonetheless.

 A friend told me that his father always used celery for Karpas, and he strongly dislikes celery. There are two reasons for this strong dislike. One, because celery is not a barbecued rib. Two, it is celery.  He is already dreading the Seder because of the inexorable approach of the celery. So he asked, can he use a different vegetable?

I answered him that yes, he can use anything upon which you make a borei peri ha'adama. If he likes to dip Terra Chips into saltwater, he can use Terra Chips. He can use a banana, he can use pineapple. (Some poskim say that you make ha'adama on Papaya too because the stem is relatively soft and hollow. I strongly disagree. It can grow twenty feet tall and lives for years, and there are no early sources that consider the quality of the stem/trunk to be a factor. But if you follow Harav Ovadiah and not me, you can use a papaya, too. For an excellent discussion of the bracha on Papaya and the issue of Orla, this article from the OU.)

But his question reminded me of a story with the Chasam Sofer. 

After stealing the Afikoman, the Chasam Sofer's son, later known as the Ksav Sofer, asked his father, why do we do this? Why do we steal the Afikoman? His father said nothing. He asked again; again no response. He realized that his father was not going to answer the question, and he did not ask again.

The following night, the Chasam Sofer told him, now I will answer your question.

The reason we steal the Afikoman is because it says by yetzias Mitzrayim "ולכל בני ישראל לא יחרץ כלב לשונו "  Not a dog will bark at any of the Israelites, at man or beast ....

The Gemara (Psachim 113a) says 

 לא תדור במתא דלא צניף בה סוסיא ולא נבח בה כלבא 

Do not dwell in a city where no horses neigh nor dogs bark.

and Rashi explains

סוסיא - משום דהוא נטירותא בקרתא מאויבים ומגנבים:

Horses: because (by reacting audibly to strangers)  they provide safety from enemies and thieves.

So we see that dogs are a shmira from ganovim. That means that when the dogs are not barking, ganovim can do whatever they want. That being the case, by Yetzias Mitzrayim, ולכל בני ישראל לא יחרץ כלב לשונו, nothing would be safe from Jewish Ganovim. To commemorate that miracle, we steal the afikoman.

Why didn't I tell you this answer yesterday? Because you need to know that the first rule is to respect minhagim, even if you have no idea why the minhag makes sense. You do it with full faith. After you learn to defer to and properly respect minhagim, then I can tell you the reason for the minhag.

(I suspect that the question had been asked dismissively, implying that it was a foolish minhag, and the Chasam Sofer needed to correct this attitude.)

Back to Karpas. If you really dislike celery, you're welcome to use whatever you want. There is some benefit to doing precisely what your father did at the Seder.  But the truth is, there are minhagim and there are minhagim. I think the choice of vegetable for Karpas is really not important, and you can choose whatever you enjoy. And if you choose to dip a banana into saltwater, instead of the mundane celery or potato, you can be sure that you are going to get questions from the younger members of the family - and that is exactly what you are trying to do!


I mentioned 'bananas' because I thought the image of using bananas for karpas was comical. It was that or strawberries in pink Himalayan saltwater. If you do want to go with bananas, I recommend banana chips. 

But, in a cosmic coincidence, Reb Sass tells me that he heard that Harav Pinchas Teitz of Elizabeth davka used bananas for Karpas.  He did so to publicize the fact that the proper bracha on bananas is indeed ha'adama, and by using them for Karpas, the word would get out. How do you like that?

I just got an email from eidim ne'emanim that Rav Teitz did indeed use a banana. It was not his innovation, though. It was the idea of his father in law, Rav Elazar Mayer Preil z’l, and Harav Teitz decided it was a good idea, and adopted it. I even got advice on how to do it like the Teitzes: Bring the banana to the table whole, and peel and slice it right before dipping, so it does not oxidize.


Reb Tzvi was kind enough to direct our attention to the shitta of my uncle, Reb Dovid Feinstein zatzal.  I saw it in the Artscroll "Laws of the Seder" that he authored.  Notable points there on page 35:

1. That the optimal mitzva is to use a vegetable that grows above ground, in that a root is not called a yerek. This excludes potatoes and carrots.

2. A fruit, even if you make ha'adama on it, would not be called a yerek, and, as such, is not lechatchila for Karpas.  This excludes cucumbers and tomatoes.

3. That Karpas should be raw, not cooked, because according to some the Karpas should stimulate the appetite, and according to the first teretz in Tos Eiruvin 55b, only raw vegetables do that, while cooked vegetables satiate. This would exclude cooked potatoes. 

4. That since onions are rarely eaten raw in the US, the bracha on onions is here and now shehakol. 

HOWEVER, my father in law, as did his father, uses cooked potatoes and Reb Aharon used raw onions. Since I grew up using potatoes, and I married into the Reb Reuven side of the family, I feel comfortable recommending banana chips and strawberries.

NOTE: My wife reminded me that my father in law, out of respect for his brother, has been using both celery and potatoes ever since Reb Dovid publicized his opinion. Guess what we're having alongside potatoes this year.

IF you want to be really serious about your karpas - more serious than, for example, the Chofetz Chaim, then maybe you should do what many yekkes do, and use Parsley. As Reb Dovid points out, the Gemara never uses the word Karpas in the context of the seder, only Yerek. But since we call it karpas, the fact is that the Rishonim in other places generally say that Karpas is parsley. See Rav and Yachin on Mishna Sheviis 9:1, Rashi Sukka 39b.  Some say that it is cress or celery.  Parsley, if you can get it without insects, is perfect almost lechol hadei'os. I personally do not understand why you make a haadama on it - for men, it's a garnish, not a food, but I am alone in that opinion.


  1. Love the idea of strawberries in pink Himalayan saltwater. Definitely going to try that out this year if I can find Himalayan salt!

    1. email me your address and you'll have it before Pesach.

  2. Two thoughts:
    1) Anyhthing Hadama works, however Rav Dovid Feinstein explaind that karpas means green. Potatoes / radishes were a stand-in in Russia where green wasn't an option.
    2) if Papaya is haeitz you have a serious orlah issue. (commercial Papaya 'trees' only have a 2-3 year life span because production declines rapidly thereafter). Which is why the poskim are busy making it hadama.

    1. As for papayas- I admit that I was not aware of the average productive life of papayas. Of course, the orla issue would only be problematic in Israel, while in chutz laaretz, it would be safek orlah, despite the rov and despite ikva and despite chazak d'meiikara, as you know from shmaitsa 1:2. But in Israel, it certainly would be a problem. Still, I don't see how the threat to the Israeli papaya industry justifies making this tree into a tomato.

    2. Thank you very much for the reference to Reb Dovid's Shitta. I learned many things from reading that paragraph in the Artscroll Laws of the Seder authored by Reb Dovid.
      As everyone knows, Reb Dovid had kal hatorah kulah on his fingertips and was quietly faithful to the truth under all circumstances. I do want to mention, though, that my father in law, lehavdil bein chaim lechaim, his brother, Reb Reuven, uses potatoes, as did his father, which according to Reb Dovid is not optimal in that it is neither a yerek nor raw. UPDATE: My wife just reminded me that, Feinsteins being Feinsteins, my father in law, out of respect for his brother, now uses BOTH POTATOES AND CELERY for Karpas. We were just at the fruit and veg store. We bought 100 pounds of potatoes and a bag of guess what else.....
      And Reb Ahron used raw onion, contrary to Reb Moshe's shitah, brought there, that because in the US most people do not eat raw onions, the bracha is now shehakol. I will, bl'n, update the post. Thank you again.

  3. Pesachim 39 lists the "yerek" acceptable for use as maror, and on the list is tamcha, which at least some folks identify as horseradish (MB 473:36).
    What's the difference between horseradish and potato in terms of being a yerek?

    1. That's a bomb kashe, especially since Reb Moshe was makpid on horseradish as the true tamcha, and Reb Dovid says the same in chapter 19:12 on page 47 - he brings the mishna about yerakos for maror, and says that Tamcha is horseradish. Too bad I can not ask him.

  4. >>>That Karpas should be raw, not cooked, because according to some the Karpas should stimulate the appetite, and according to the first teretz in Tos Eiruvin 55b, only raw vegetables do that, while cooked vegetables satiate. This would exclude cooked potatoe

    Catching up on learning hil pesach, I don't think the proof from Tos Eiruvin 55 works. See Chol Yaakok in siman 471 re: vegatables, quoted in MB l'halacha, that Tos is talking about eating b'keviyus, l'lafes es ha'pas. In that context, there is a difference between cooked and raw vegetables, but stam eating a pachos m'k'zayis there should be no chiluk.

    Quite honestly, I am surprised/perplexed that R' Dovid should have missed this CY and wonder if I am missing something.

    1. Reb Dovid felt that the Chok Yaakov was not convincing. The reason was that according to the C'Y, when Tosfos asks the stira between the Gemara there in Eiruvin says yerek satiates and the Gemara in Tolin says that vegetables stimulate the appetite, he should have answered a general with bread/without bread answer. But Tosfos just focuses on the raw/cooked difference, implying that is the only difference. Similar to the Elya Rabba. True, according to Reb Dovid, I would have to forgo my erev Pesach pot roast and potatoes.

    2. Thanks, that answers the question on R' Dovid.
      The downside of putting this in an Artscroll is that without all this discussion the layperson will never realize it is against both CY and MB, and they will not realize it is a stira to the potatoes on erev pesach and to using horseradish as the yerek for maror. I dont know if an english language book for the masses is the place for hidurim like these.
      Anyway, chag kasher v'sameiach in advance!