Today’s daf (Pesachim 120b) records a disagreement between Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah and Rabbi Akiva concerning the time up to which the Korban Pesach was eaten.
According to Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah, since the phrase בלילה הזה is used both in reference to the Korban Pesach (see Shemot 12:8) and the smiting of the firstborns (ibid. verse 12), we learn that just as the smiting of the firstborn occurred until midnight, so too, the Korban Pesach must be eaten by midnight.
However, Rabbi Akiva disagrees with this conclusion and, based on Shemot 12:10 (which states that ‘you shall not leave any of the Korban Pesach until morning’), as well as the fact that the Bnei Yisrael left Egypt בחפזון (in haste) in the morning, he rules that the Korban Pesach may eaten until morning.
Reflecting on this debate, Rabbi Yaakov Kanievsky once suggested (although it should be noted that later on in life he did reconsider this approach) that this disagreement can help us understand a seemingly irrelevant detail mentioned in the Haggadah where we are taught that Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon were reclining in Bnei Brak on Seder night and were discussing the Exodus until the morning. Specifically, why it was important to be told that this episode occurred in Bnei Brak?
Rabbi Kanievsky explained that it may be argued that the duty to speak about the Exodus (סיפור יציאת מצרים) only exists at a time when Bnei Yisrael were dutybound to eat the Korban Pesach, and in light of the disagreement found in today’s daf, it seems clear that Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah rules that this mitzvah should end at midnight, whereas according to Rabbi Akiva, this mitzvah continues till morning. But according to this reasoning, why didn’t Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah excuse himself at midnight since, based on this logic, he ruled that the mitzvah no longer continued after this point?
The answer offered by Rabbi Kanievsky is in the fact that this event occurred in Bnei Brak which we are told was Rabbi Akiva’s city (see Sanhedrin 32b). Given this, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah respected the custom of the city where he was located and he continued to speak about the Exodus until morning – notwithstanding the fact that he himself may have thought that the mitzvah previously ended at midnight.
What we learn from here is that when we are a guest in someone else’s home, both during the year and especially on Seder night, it is important to show respect toward the owner/s of the home – and the customs of that home.