Thursday, March 30, 2023

Bar Ilan Professor Solves Age Old Issue: How Big Was the Talmudic Egg? Was The Shiur of the "Chazon Ish" Correct?


As the Jewish holiday of Passover approaches, new questions about eggs, an important component in the festive seder feast, are being answered.

When in history were the first eggs eaten and what size were they? The answers have emerged from a new study, published in the scientific journal JSIJ, conducted by Prof. Zohar Amar, an expert in ancient flora and fauna from Bar-Ilan University’s Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology. Back in 2019, we reported his discovery: Israeli Scientist Reveals First Temple Period Eggs Differ Little Than Today’s Fare On the Passover Plates of Jerusalem Residents. His research is more
complete now and was recently published (שיעור “כביצה” לאור המציאות הקדומה – seventh PDF document down on the list of Bar Ilan University’s Dept. of Jewish Studies published articles for 2022).

Due to their delicacy and fragility, eggs are generally difficult to preserve and, therefore, a rare archaeological find. In his in-depth study, Prof. Amar surveyed 15 of the most ancient, well-preserved eggs ever found in and outside of Israel.

The earliest evidence examined is large eggshells from the First Temple period uncovered during excavations of the City of David. Eggs dating to the Roman period and the Middle Ages were also studied. These eggs, completely intact, were well-preserved because they were found in septic tanks and sewage

According to the findings of the study, chicken eggs became a significant part of the food basket only during the Hellenistic-Roman period, and their size at the time was different than thought until now. Further, Amar’s analysis of historical sources revealed that the average egg volume in all periods was 40-44 cc, less than that accepted in Jewish law (Halakha). This new data may carry important halakhic implications, as various halakhic rulings are determined according to the size of an egg, for example, the directive to eat matzah “the size of an olive” during the Passover seder. According to different halachic opinions, this is calculated as between a quarter to half an egg.

“The eggs are smaller than what is accepted nowadays according to the calculation of 57 cc made by the late halachic scholar Rabbi Avraham Chaim Naeh,” explains Prof. Amar. “The late leader of Haredi Judaism in Israel, Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, also known as the Chazon Ish, thought that modern-day eggs were smaller, and twice the size in the past, approximately 100 cc.”

The eggs’ relatively small volume existed until the middle of the twentieth century. Their size and volume increased only in recent generations, following the cultivation of hen breeding.

David writes news at


Garnel Ironheart said...

It always bothered me that some of the biggest poskim who made decision on the size of an olive never actually saw one.

Anonymous said...

Silly.People would try to bring to his attention back then,he wasn't fazed