Beit Midrash

  • Pesach
To dedicate this lesson
Chapter Three-Part One

The Mitzva of Getting Rid of Chametz


Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

1.The Mitzvot Associated with Getting Rid of Ĥametz
Whoever did not remove the ĥametz from his home by midday of the fourteenth of Nisan is in violation – every single moment that he delays – of the positive commandment of removing the ĥametz (MB 443:1). Furthermore, from the moment the Pesaĥ holiday begins, he is in violation of two prohibitions: bal yimatzei, as it is written, "Seven days there shall be no se’or found in your homes" (Shemot 12:19), and bal yera’eh, as the Torah declares, "Matzot shall be eaten seven days; and no ĥametz of yours shall be seen, and no se’or of yours shall be seen within all your borders" (ibid. 13:7). Thus, by fulfilling the mitzva of getting rid of the ĥametz we are saved from two prohibitions: bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei – that ĥametz should be neither seen nor found in our possession. 1
The prohibition against ĥametz on Pesaĥ is unique in that it is not only forbidden to eat it, but it is forbidden even to keep; whoever keeps it in his home violates the two prohibitions of bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei. 2
The Torah’s language, "no ĥametz of yours shall be seen, and no se’or of yours shall be seen within all your borders" (Shemot 13:7), shows that there is no prohibition against a Jew having a gentile’s ĥametz or ownerless ĥametz in his domain. It says " of yours" – you are not allowed to see ĥametz that belongs to you specifically, implying that the ĥametz of gentiles and ĥametz that is ownerless are permissible.
We have learned that one violates the prohibitions of bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei only by possessing ĥametz that is the property of a Jew, as it is written, "no ĥametz of yours shall be seen" (Shemot 13:7). Yet, at first glance, there is a difficulty here, for it is written, "there shall be no se’or found in your homes" (ibid. 12:19), implying that it is forbidden to have ĥametz in a Jewish home under any circumstances. The Sages explained that, indeed, if the ĥametz belongs to a gentile, and the Jew has not undertaken the responsibility of its safekeeping and guaranteeing its return, then it is not forbidden to have it in the Jew’s domain, as it is written, "and no ĥametz of yours shall be seen." If, however, the Jew accepted responsibility for the item, then it is considered like his own, and the prohibition applies. This is what the Torah intended when commanding: "there shall be no se’or found in your homes" (Pesaĥim 5b).
It is a positive Torah commandment to eliminate all ĥametz from our possession before Pesaĥ, as it is written, "Yet on the first day you must remove the se’or from your homes" (Shemot 12:15). The oral tradition teaches that we are to clear out the ĥametz by midday of the fourteenth of Nisan, Erev Pesaĥ. This ruling is supported by the verse, "You shall not slaughter the blood of My sacrifice over ĥametz" (ibid. 34:25), which is interpreted to mean that one may not slaughter the Paschal sacrifice while there is still ĥametz in his possession, and the time for slaughtering the Paschal sacrifice begins at midday on the fourteenth of Nisan (see Pesaĥim 4b; MT, Laws of Ĥametz 2:1). Men and women are equally obligated in this mitzva, as they are concerning all of the mitzvot of Pesaĥ.
The mitzva of removing the ĥametz is the first in a series of mitzvot connected with Pesaĥ. As noted, ĥametz on Pesaĥ is a metaphor for the evil inclination, and one has to clear out the ĥametz from the house in order to experience the sanctity of the Pesaĥ sacrifice and the eating of the matza properly. Therefore, the first of the preparations for Pesaĥ is removal of the ĥametz.
2.The Prohibition against Ĥametz One Owns
Therefore, if a gentile lives in a Jew’s courtyard, even if the Jew owns the courtyard and the gentile works for the Jew, the Jew does not have to clear out the gentile’s ĥametz. Similarly, if a gentile deposited ĥametz in a Jew’s house for safekeeping before Pesaĥ, the Jew need not clear it out, as long as he is not responsible for the ĥametz. However, he must erect a partition at least ten tefaĥim (handbreadths) high in front of the ĥametz, to make certain that he does not forget and eat of it (SA 440:2). Alternatively, he may lock it up and hide the key, or close it in a cabinet and tape the doors shut, so that if someone should come to open them, he will be reminded of the prohibition against ĥametz.
Similarly, a Jew may let a gentile enter his home on Pesaĥ, carrying his ĥametz with him. It is forbidden, though, for the Jew to eat with the gentile at the same table, lest the Jew forget and eat of the gentile’s ĥametz. Even if he puts something on the table to remind himself not to take ĥametz from the gentile, there is still concern that a crumb of ĥametz may get mixed into the Jew’s food. However, if the gentile eats at the table first, a Jew may clean the table thoroughly of all the ĥametz crumbs and then eat matza there (SA 440:3; MB ad loc. 18).
3.Ĥametz That Has Been Guaranteed by a Jew and the Status of Stocks
Therefore, if a Jew guaranteed the return of ĥametz that was deposited with him, it becomes like his, and he is not allowed to keep it in his home or courtyard, but must return it to the gentile or clear it out. In a situation where he cannot return it to the gentile and clearing it out will cause him a loss, he should sell the ĥametz together with the place it is stored, to a different gentile (SA 440:1; MB ad loc. 4). However, if the Jew undertook the protection of a gentile’s ĥametz that remains in the gentile’s possession, then the Jew does not violate any prohibition (MB 440:7). 3 Thus an insurance company owned by a Jew may insure gentiles’ ĥametz, because it remains in their possession (She’arim Metzuyanim Be-halakha 114:29).
Furthermore, if a Jew deposited ĥametz with a fellow Jew for safekeeping, each of them is under obligation to clear it out – the depositor, since he owns the ĥametz, and the recipient of the deposit, since by undertaking to safeguard it he becomes like an owner (SA 440:4). Even if he did not undertake its safekeeping, he is required to clear it out. 4
If one bought stock in a company that owns ĥametz, and Pesaĥ arrived, if he has the authority to express his view about how to manage the company’s affairs – what to sell and what to buy – then it is considered as if he owns the ĥametz, and he violates bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei on account of it. But if he is not authorized to express an opinion, then he is like everyone who invests in stocks – the company owes him a percentage of its value, but its property is not considered his, and he does not violate any prohibitions on account of its ĥametz holdings. Accordingly, those who invest money in mutual funds or pension funds do not violate any ĥametz prohibitions, even though the managers of the funds may invest part of the money in a company that owns ĥametz, since this ĥametz is not considered the property of the investor (She’arim Metzuyanim Be-halakha 114:28). 5
^ 1.. Let us summarize the opinions regarding the times of the onset of the ĥametz prohibitions. The removal and destruction of the ĥametz must be done by midday of the fourteenth (perhaps according to Ha-ma’or the mitzva begins at midday, but according to the rest of the Rishonim, on the Torah level the removal and destruction of the ĥametz must be completed by midday). There is a dispute regarding the starting times of the other mitzvot connected to ĥametz. Regarding the prohibition of eating ĥametz, R. Yehuda maintains that the prohibition begins at midday of the fourteenth, and R. Shimon maintains that the prohibition of eating ĥametz, on the biblical level, begins at the onset of the Pesaĥ festival. Most Rishonim adopt the view of R. Yehuda that the eating prohibition begins at midday of the fourteenth, but there are those who adopt the view of R. Shimon that the eating prohibition begins at the start of the holiday. Regarding the prohibitions of bal yeira’eh and bal yimatzei, most Rishonim are of the opinion that these prohibitions begin at the onset of the Pesaĥ festival, while a minority hold that these prohibitions begin at midday of the fourteenth.
Additionally, note that one who participated in the Paschal sacrifice (korban Pesaĥ) while he still had at least a kezayit of ĥametz in his possession, violated a Torah prohibition, as it says: "You shall not slaughter the blood of My sacrifice over ĥametz" (Shemot 34:25). If he was warned about this and still did it on purpose, he incurs the penalty of lashes (MT, Laws of Korban Pesaĥ 1:5).
^ 2.. R. Zevin explains in Mo'adim Be-halakha (chapter on ĥametz and matza) that there is a dispute about the parameters of these negative commandments. According to Rosh (Pesaĥim 1:9), any ĥametz that can possibly be seen, even if in reality it is not seen, would cause a person to violate bal yeira’eh. It turns out then, that anyone who is in possession of at least an olive-sized piece of ĥametz violates two prohibitions: bal yeira’eh and bal yimatzei. However, according to Kessef Mishneh (on MT, Laws of Ĥametz and Matza 1:3), one who keeps any type of ĥametz in his possession violates bal yimatzei, but he would only violate bal yeira’eh if he actually sees the ĥametz. See also Bedikat Ĥametz U-vi’uro ch. 1 n. 16.
^ 3.. The Rishonim disagree about these laws. According to Ri, the ĥametz is considered to be in a person’s possession only if he accepted the responsibilities of a paid custodian. According to Behag, however, he is considered the owner of the ĥametz – and thus in violation of the halakha – even if he only accepted the responsibilities of an unpaid custodian. SA rules in accordance with Ri and cites Behag as "others say." MB (8) states that it is preferable to follow the opinion of Behag. According to Rambam, even if one did not accept any responsibility for the ĥametz, if the gentile is powerful and will forcibly extract compensation for the Jew destroying the ĥametz, the ĥametz is considered owned by the Jew, and he would be considered in violation. According to Raavad, he is not in violation, but the predominant view is that of Rambam. In all these cases, if the ĥametz remained over Pesaĥ, one may eat it be-di’avad, since the prohibition of using ĥametz that existed on Pesaĥ is only rabbinic, and in an uncertain situation we are lenient.
^ 4.. Regarding a Jew who deposited his ĥametz with another person, SA 440:4 rules in accordance with R. Yona that even if the custodian accepts responsibility over the ĥametz, since the ĥametz still belongs to the owner, it is the owner’s responsibility to destroy it. This is the opinion of other poskim as well. According to Ramban and Ran, since the ĥametz is not in the owner’s possession and the custodian accepted responsibility for it, the owner of the ĥametz does not transgress any prohibition. As for the custodian, SA 443:2 states that if the owner of the ĥametz did not come to collect it before Pesaĥ, the custodian should preferably sell the ĥametz to a gentile in order to preserve its value. If he did not do so, the custodian is obligated to destroy the ĥametz. MB ad loc. (14) explains that according to Baĥ and MA, the reason for this obligation is that every Jew is responsible for his fellow Jew ("kol Yisrael areivim zeh la-zeh"). Gra’s opinion on the matter is that even if the custodian did not accept responsibility for the ĥametz, he still has a Torah obligation to destroy it, as it is forbidden to harbor a Jew’s ĥametz in one’s home. This is also the opinion of Tziyun Le-nefesh Ĥaya ("Tzlaĥ") and Beit Meir.
^ 5.. There are those who are stringent in this matter and sell their shares of ĥametz-owning companies and companies that insure ĥametz, and many ĥametz-sale documents contain a clause that includes these types of situations (see Piskei Teshuvot 440:1).
את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר