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Beit Midrash Pesach

Chapter Four-Part Five

What Houses We Need To Check?

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10. One Who Travels
If one travels abroad before Pesaĥ and plans to return home after Pesaĥ, his performance of bedikat ĥametz depends on when he departs: if he departs within thirty days of Pesaĥ, i.e., from Purim onward, he must search his home for ĥametz before leaving. That he will certainly nullify his ĥametz has no bearing, because, as we have learned, the Sages ordained that in addition to bitul ĥametz, one must perform bedikat ĥametz, and since he is still at home within the thirty days before Pesaĥ, the mitzva of bedikat ĥametz already applies to him. Therefore, he must perform bedikat ĥametz on his last night at home. However, he does not say a berakha over this search because it is conducted before the time the Sages ordained for searching (as explained in 3:4 above).
If one leaves home more than thirty days before Pesaĥ, i.e., before Purim, he need not perform a search before he leaves. Then, on Erev Pesaĥ, he must nullify all of the ĥametz in his possession so that he does not transgress by possessing ĥametz. When he returns home after Pesaĥ, he must physically dispose of all of the ĥametz in his home.
However, if at the time of departure one intended to return to his home before Pesaĥ, the Sages ordained that he must perform bedikat ĥametz before leaving, even if he sets out at the beginning of the year. This is because something could go wrong on his journey, preventing him from returning in time for bedikat ĥametz (Pesaĥim 6a, according to Rambam). However, if one appoints a shali’aĥ to search on his behalf on the night of the fourteenth in case he is unable to return in time, he is not required to search before his departure. Nowadays, when one can make a phone call from anywhere in the world, one need not search before setting out on a trip because even if he is unable to return in time for bedikat ĥametz, he can ask a friend or relative to search on his behalf (see Sidur Pesaĥ Ke-hilkhato 12:13).
The poskim differ over what should be done when one was supposed to perform bedikat ĥametz before traveling but forgot to do so. Some say he must return and others say he need not. Therefore, if it is very difficult for him to return, and he cannot find a shali’aĥ to perform bedikat ĥametz for him, he may rely upon his bitul ĥametz (BHL 436:1, s.v. "zakuk"). Then, after Pesaĥ, he must burn or destroy the ĥametz he nullified, because if he derives benefit from it after Pesaĥ, he demonstrates that his nullification was insincere. The same applies any time one nullifies ĥametz but does not remove it – the Sages forbid eating or deriving benefit from it after Pesaĥ (SA 448:5). The best thing to do when one forgot to search his house before traveling is to rent it to a gentile and sell him all of the ĥametz.
11.Does Renting One’s Entire House to a Gentile Exempt It from Bedikat Ĥametz?
Some families leave home for the entire Pesaĥ holiday, and the question arises: Can these people exempt themselves from cleaning and searching for ĥametz by selling or renting their entire house to a gentile?
The poskim differ on this issue. Some take the lenient position that since the house is not actually in the owner’s possession on Erev Pesaĥ, he is not obligated to search it (Ĥok Yaakov; Gra’s understanding of Tur and Rema). Many others, however, take the stringent position that since the owner lives in this house during the thirty days prior to Pesaĥ, it becomes incumbent upon him to perform bedikat ĥametz there. Only if he moves to another house in which he will become obligated to search for ĥametz will he be exempt from searching the house he rented or sold to the gentile (SA 436:3, MA ad loc., and SA Ha-Rav’s understanding of Tur and Rema). In addition, it is inappropriate for one to avoid performing the mitzva of bedikat ĥametz.
In practice, in order to satisfy all opinions, one should sell or rent his entire house except for one room, and in it he fulfills the mitzva of bedikat ĥametz. Once one has fulfilled the mitzva of bedikat ĥametz in this room, all poskim agree that there is no need to search the rooms that have been sold or rented to a gentile.
In Eretz Yisrael, it is forbidden to sell a house to a gentile (SA YD 151:8), and it must therefore be made clear in the sale of ĥametz contract that a rental is being transacted. In addition, the homeowner must sell the ĥametz in all of the rented rooms, and by doing this, he becomes exempt from searching these rooms. 8
When possible, it is best to rent one’s house before the night of the fourteenth, because some poskim maintain that if, on the night of the fourteenth, the rooms are still in the homeowner’s possession, he becomes obligated to search them (Mekor Ĥayim and Ĥayei Adam). When it is difficult to rent out the house before the night of the fourteenth, as most rabbinical authorities execute the sale (and rental) on the morning of the fourteenth, one may rely on the lenient opinions. Since he intends to rent out these rooms, there is no longer a fear that he will violate bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei, and he therefore need not search them (Binyan Olam, Ĥatam Sofer, as cited in MB 436:2).
The utensils and the stove should be cleaned of all substantial ĥametz before Pesaĥ, for if this is not done, it will be necessary to clean them after Pesaĥ in order to avoid eating ĥametz she-avar alav ha-Pesaĥ (ĥametz that remained in a Jew’s possession during Pesaĥ). However, it is not advisable to sell the utensils to a gentile, because this will necessitate immersing them in a mikveh after Pesaĥ, in keeping with the law regarding utensils bought from a gentile. To sell the ĥametz on them, or absorbed into them, makes no sense at all, as will be explained in 6:4 below.
12.Bedikat Ĥametz after the Proper Time and the Status of One Who Rents a Hotel Room
The Sages ordained searching for ĥametz on the night of the fourteenth of Nisan. If one did not search at this time, he is required to do so on the fourteenth by day, and to say a berakha over the search. If one did not search before Pesaĥ at all, he must search on Pesaĥ, with a berakha. The fact that he nullified his ĥametz before Pesaĥ does not change this, because he is still required to fulfill the Sages’ enactment, and secondly, because there is a possibility that he will come across some ĥametz during Pesaĥ and, forgetting the prohibition, eat it. If, after Pesaĥ, one suddenly realizes that he did not perform bedikat ĥametz, he must do so, in order not to violate the rabbinic prohibition of ĥametz she-avar alav ha-Pesaĥ. This search, however, requires no blessing (SA §435).
One who rents a hotel room has the status of a tenant. This is because he pays for the room, it is at his disposal, he receives a key to lock and unlock it, and strangers and hotel personnel are only allowed to enter with his permission. Therefore, he is commanded to recite a berakha and search his room on the night of the fourteenth, and afterward he must nullify any ĥametz in his possession that may have gone undiscovered. One who checks into a hotel during Pesaĥ must inquire whether the rooms were searched for ĥametz. If they were not searched for ĥametz, but were merely cleaned in the routine manner, the guest himself is obligated to search. In this case, no berakha is required.
A hospital patient is required to search his room and his closet on the night of the fourteenth. However, no berakha is said over this search, since the room is not at his disposal; at any time he can be moved to a different room, and other patients can be moved into his room. 9
A hotel owner is required to perform bedikat ĥametz in every room of his hotel, and if it is difficult for him to do this himself, he can hire a shali’aĥ. Regarding rooms rented to gentiles, or to Jews who do not perform bedikat ĥametz on the night of the fourteenth, a problem arises. On the one hand, the rooms are rented to them, and the owner cannot force them to keep halakha and search for ĥametz. On the other hand, if they vacate during the holiday, he will have to search their rooms immediately and remove any ĥametz left behind, and he might not have time to do this. The solution, therefore, is to sell or rent all the hotel rooms to a gentile before Pesaĥ, and to have the hotel owner serve as an intermediary during Pesaĥ between the gentile and the guests.
13. Synagogue, Dormitory, and Yeshiva
Synagogues and batei midrash (Torah study halls) require bedikat ĥametz on the night of the fourteenth, because people sometimes eat ĥametz in them. This is true even of synagogues where people generally do not eat, for children sometimes enter them with ĥametz (SA 433:10). However, when it comes to saying a berakha over this search, there is some uncertainty. Therefore, it is best that the person responsible for searching the beit knesset first search his own home, and when saying the berakha there, intend to include the synagogue. 10
Boys or girls living in a dormitory and paying for this facility have the status of tenants, and if a kezayit of ĥametz remains in their room during Pesaĥ they violate bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei. Therefore, they are obligated to search their rooms before Pesaĥ, and if they will be staying there during Pesaĥ, they are required to search on the night of the fourteenth with a berakha. If they leave the dormitory a number of days before Pesaĥ, they are required to search on the night before they leave, without reciting a berakha. 11
The responsibility for searching the rest of the rooms and halls in the yeshiva belongs to the yeshiva administration. It is also possible for them to sell the rooms to a gentile and thus exempt themselves from the obligation to search.
One who buys or begins renting a home before Pesaĥ must search it even if he has not yet occupied it, because the previous resident may have left some ĥametz there. Since the house is in his possession, this ĥametz will cause him to violate bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei. If he owns another house where he will be fulfilling the mitzva of bedikat ĥametz, he can sell or rent out the new home to a gentile and thus exempt himself from the obligation to search it (see section 11 of this chapter above).
14. Ĥametz Buried under a Pile of Dirt and the Question of Searching a Storeroom
If ĥametz is buried under less than three tefaĥim (24 cm) of stones, dirt, and the like, it is not considered to have been disposed of, and it must be uncovered and disposed of before Pesaĥ. This is because it is possible for a dog to smell it and dig it up.
However, if the ĥametz is covered by more than three tefaĥim, it is considered to have been disposed of and does not cause one to transgress bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei. Therefore, it need not be dug up and disposed of. Bitul ĥametz is nonetheless required, because it is possible that some of the stones will be moved during Pesaĥ, and the ĥametz will no longer be covered by three tefaĥim, causing the person to violate bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei. 12 Likewise, in a case where ĥametz falls into a pit in one’s yard, if it is the sort of pit one does not generally enter, one may nullify the ĥametz without extracting and disposing it.
Accordingly, if ĥametz is stuck behind a wall cabinet and impossible to remove without first taking the cabinet apart or emptying it out and moving it, one need not remove the ĥametz. In this case, one may rely upon its bitul (SAH 333:19). If ĥametz is located where it can only be removed with some difficulty, one may pour bleach or soapy water on it until it is no longer fit for consumption, and hence no longer considered food (not even for an animal). Once this has been done, it need not be removed.
A storage room where one keeps articles not in use or merchandise that he does not intend to use until after Pesaĥ need not be searched for ĥametz. It is sufficient to nullify any ĥametz that might be there. However, if one wishes to fill the storage room during the thirty days prior to Pesaĥ, he must search it first, because the obligation to prepare for Pesaĥ has already taken effect. If one did not search it beforehand, it must be thoroughly searched for ĥametz on the night of the fourteenth (SA 336:1). If it is difficult to move all of the storeroom’s contents in order to carry out the search, one may sell or rent it to a gentile and thus exempt oneself from the obligation to perform bedikat ĥametz there.




^ 8.. SA expresses the same opinion as Avi Ezri. The Aĥaronim disagreed regarding the opinion of Tur and Rema. According to MA (436:17) and SAH, one is only exempt from the bedika if the gentile will actually enter his house before Pesaĥ. According to Ĥok Yaakov and Gra, even if the gentile will not actually enter the house, since the Jewish owner declared the ĥametz in it ownerless, there is no need for bedikat ĥametz. MB 436:32 seems to lean toward a strict ruling (see SHT ad loc. 31-32).
In Israel, where it is forbidden to sell a house to a gentile, one is permitted to rent his house. However, Mekor Ĥayim 437:4 and Ĥayei Adam 119:18 in the name of Eliya Rabba state that one who rents his house to a gentile still must conduct bedikat ĥametz. Nonetheless, it seems that if one sells all of the ĥametz in his house, even these poskim would agree that no bedika is required. This is the opinion of Ĥatam Sofer §136 and Hilkhot Ĥag Be-ĥag 6:20 (pp. 103-104), Noda Bi-Yehuda, SAH, and Kitzur SA. Another benefit of renting one’s house is that it is done wholeheartedly, as is written in Beit Shlomo 2:91 and Zekher Yehosef §238.
^ 9.. This is what Sidur Pesaĥ Ke-hilkhato 12:8 states regarding a hotel, and this is what Torat Ha-yoledet 43:1 states regarding a hospital. See also Piskei Teshuvot 437:1-2, which brings other sources regarding this matter.
^ 10.. The opinion of most poskim is that he should recite the berakha, since it is a mitzva. See MB 433:43 in the name of SAH. But AHS 433:12 states that one of the reasons for bedikat ĥametz is to prevent violation of bal yeira’eh, and since a synagogue does not belong to any one individual, no one would violate bal yeira’eh on any ĥametz that remains there. Accordingly, there is no mitzva to check the synagogue, and thus no berakha should be recited. See Maharsham 5:49. Nonetheless, if the synagogue or beit midrash belongs to one particular individual or to several partners, according to all authorities he/they must check it with a berakha. However, if the synagogue owner had already recited the berakha in his house, he need not recite another berakha in the synagogue.
^ 11.. Ĥazon Ish states that even if yeshiva students will not be in their rooms over Pesaĥ, it is preferable for them to check their rooms on the night of the fourteenth with a berakha. This opinion is quoted in Sidur Pesaĥ Ke-hilkhato 12:9. Some authorities debate whether the yeshiva student is considered a renter, since the yeshiva administration can switch him to a new room at a whim (see Piskei Teshuvot 437:4). However, it appears that yeshiva administrations generally do not transfer older students to new rooms without prior agreement. Therefore, this is similar to a standard rental agreement where there are conditions that if breached result in the cancellation or abrogation of the rental agreement. Thus, older yeshiva students are considered renters of their rooms.
^ 12.. I have written in accordance with the opinion of Rashi, Ran, and the majority of poskim that if the ĥametz is covered by more than three tefaĥim it is considered destroyed, and one would not violate bal yimatzei with this ĥametz. However, the opinion of Sefer Mitzvot Katan is that if it is covered by something that is generally moved, the ĥametz would indeed be considered in the owner’s possession and he would violate bal yimatzei. In such a case, he would only be exempt from destroying the ĥametz if he nullified it verbally.
In a case where the ĥametz is covered by less than three tefaĥim, one would be required to remove the ĥametz, as I have written, but only if one is certain that there is ĥametz under this particular covering. Even if there is a danger of snakes and scorpions, he still must take a shovel and remove the covering to expose and destroy the ĥametz. However, if one merely suspects that there is ĥametz under the covering but is not certain, he is not required to check for the ĥametz if there is a danger of snakes and scorpions, and is only required to nullify the ĥametz verbally. If there is no danger, though, he is required to check (SA 433:8, MB ad loc. 35). In any situation where one is required to check, he can exempt himself from checking by selling the item to a gentile.



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