What is ‘Silka’ and Why Is It Important in Your Pesach Kitchen?

A newly published kovetz published by Kollel Mayan Chai contains a number of divrei Torah printed from manuscript including never-before published responsa by a legendary Chabad rov, ma’amorim by Reb Hillel Paritcher and a shiur from Rav Y.B. Soloveitchik.

Silka – סילקא is the Aramaic name of a vegetable of some kind that is mentioned several times in Shas and Shulchan Aruch, but Poskim are divided not only as to what it is, but also as to whether it can even be definitively identified today. This article aims to shed new light on identifying Silka, according to the Alter Rebbe, using new evidence. 

Silka arises in diverse contexts such as Hilchos Brachos (infra), customary foods on Rosh Hashanah (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 583:1) and is incidentally also topical around Pesach time, when Rava would eat Silka (Pesachim 114b). Perhaps most practically, in our sugya in Basar BeChalav (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 96:1) Silka is considered to have the same Din as a Davar Charif, such as an onion, meaning that if it touches meat or milk it becomes like the meat or milk that it touched.

The difficulty inherent in identifying Silka is that a tradition is required, as Rabbi Moshe Feinstein wrote (Igros Moshe Yoreh Deah II 25): “What he’d like to know, what is Silka … but what this is is not known to us … and similarly most of the species mentioned in Gemara, their interpretation isn’t known and one needs a tradition passed down from person to person, that they can show each thing, ‘this is this species and that is that species'”.

The discussion in Poskim begins with the Shach (ad loc 1) who equates Silka with another Aramaic term, Teradin – תרדין. The Pri Chodosh (ad loc 1) says the same and adds that this is also called אסילקא”ס in an unspecified language. It seems both feel that Silka is a known species, but the Pri Megadim (ad loc Sifsei Da’as 1) cites both and writes, “but notwithstanding all this, I do not know what it is and I have not seen it until today”. 

The matter is further complicated with regard to the Alter Rebbe’s opinion. In Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim (ibid) the Alter Rebbe says that Silka is Teradin and in Luach Birchos HaNehenin (5:1, 9:16, 10:18) he clarifies that Teradin is that which is called Burekas (which means beets in several Slavic languages, such as Ukrainian). However, Rabbi Yissocher Ber of Rogatchov (Tzemach Tzedek Sha’ar HaMiluim 5724 pg. 57) wrote to the Tzemach Tzedek to ask about this: “And regarding Silka and Teradin, whether it is what we call Burekas … And so I heard from several Rabbonim who attribute this to the Alter Rebbe, that in his Birchos HaNehenin that was first printed in Shklov 5560 [that is, the Luach Birchos HaNehenin] it says that Teradin in Yiddish is Burekas. However, later I heard that this was an error made by the copyist or the printer and that’s the reason why in the [Seder] Birchos HaNehenin which was printed later this was omitted.” The Tzemach Tzedek’s response (Yoreh Deah 271) does not directly address the Alter Rebbe’s opinion and rules that since the matter is left in doubt, one should be machmir. 

Fortunately, in the Hagahos of Rabbi Eliezer Arlozorov printed in the Kovetz of Kollel Mayan Chai this matter finds clarification. He quotes there from the Aruch HaShulchan (ad loc 6) who writes, citing the Pri Megadim (supra), “And know that Silka is Teradin, but this species is unknown in our country”. Rabbi Arlozorov then comments upon this, “I saw in the holy handwriting of the Maharil, brother of the [Alter] Rebbe that Silka is Burekas”. 

The Maharil is of course among the most reliable sources for opinions of the Alter Rebbe, so this would seem to finally provide us with a conclusive identification of Silka as Burekas – beets. 


This article is based on a Kovetz recently published by Kollel Mayan Chai. The Kovetz contains a number of precious manuscript Divrei Torah published there for the first time.

Among these manuscripts, much use was made of the Teshuvos Eliezer, a complete sefer of responsa by Rabbi Eliezer Arlozorov, a Chabad Rav in Romny, Ukraine, that was prepared for print but never saw the light of day and languishes in the National Library of Israel. Two simanim were prepared for print in the Kovetz: one regarding the controversy around the name of the sefer Sdei Chemed and another containing hagahos on the Aruch HaShulchan on Basar BeChalav. We combined with these hagahos notes that he already published in Hagahos Eliezer in 1902. The latter was published with an appendix regarding the identification of the plant termed Silka in Aramaic arising from his comments there. This article was a condensed version of that appendix. 

Other Divrei Torah published from manuscript include a series of Ma’amarim from the famed chossid Rabbi Hillel Paritcher and a shiur from Rabbi Y B Soloveitchik (in honor of his 30th yahrtzeit coming up on 18 Nissan).

Several Rabbonim also contributed to the Kovetz, such as Rabbi Moshe Weinberger shlit”a, Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff shlit”a, Rabbi Yakov Klass shlit”a and Rabbi Reuven Boshnak shlit”a. The Kovetz also contains original content from the Avreichim in both English and Hebrew.

Alongside the expected Pilpulim and Heoros on the Kollel’s areas of study, such as Basar BeChalav and Maseches Gittin (this year’s masechta), there are also accessible halachic articles in English. For example there is an article on why we don’t have to tovel keilim after pesach, even though they were sold to a non-Jew, and an article charting the history and sources of Kitniyos (with particular attention to the Tzemach Tzedek’s position regarding Kitniyos in a time of great need). 

This Kovetz is the fifth one published by Kollel Mayan Chai and is in honor of Pesach. The Kollel was founded in honor of Ruchama Chaya Fruma Bas R’ Dov Pinchas A”H Bistritzky. It comprises a minyan of Lubavitcher yungerleit, hosted by Rabbi Yoseph Vigler’s Mayan Yisroel center in Flatbush. Ably headed by the Rosh Kollel, Rabbi Menachem Kahn, the Avreichim focus on studying the Piskei Dinim of the Rabbeim and their students. Several of the Avreichim also give back to the community in the form of regular chavrusas and shiurim. 

To see the Kovetz click here. The Kovetz begins with the Hebrew section, for English scroll to the end. 

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