Beit Midrash

  • Pesach
To dedicate this lesson
Chapter Seven-Part One

Ĥametz Mixtures


Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

1.Even a Drop of Ĥametz Renders Food Forbidden
In general, when a forbidden food becomes mixed with a permitted food, it is batel be-shishim (rendered insignificant if the forbidden food constitutes less than one sixtieth of the mixture); in such small quantities, it does not contribute flavor. At the level of Torah law, ĥametz is also batel be-shishim. The Sages, however, ordained that even a drop of ĥametz render a permitted food forbidden when mixed with it. Even if the quantity of permitted food is a thousand or ten thousand times greater than the ĥametz, the entire mixture becomes forbidden.
The Sages added this stringency because the Torah itself is more stringent about ĥametz than other forbidden foods. This is true in two respects: 1) generally, if one consumes a Torah-forbidden food, the punishment is malkot (lashes), but one who eats ĥametz incurs the more severe punishment of karet (extirpation); 2) whereas all other forbidden foods may be kept in one’s home, ĥametz can neither be seen nor be found in our homes throughout Pesaĥ. The Sages therefore continued in this direction by establishing a safeguard: even if a drop of ĥametz falls into a food, it is forbidden to consume or derive benefit from it. Another reason for this stringency is that all other forbidden foods are prohibited throughout the year, and we are therefore accustomed to distancing ourselves from them, but since we eat ĥametz all year long, we are liable to forget that it is forbidden on Pesaĥ. The Sages, therefore, are more stringent about ĥametz, so that everybody remembers to be careful about it.
This law, that even a drop of ĥametz renders a mixture forbidden, goes into effect with the onset of Pesaĥ. Before Pesaĥ, ĥametz is batel be-shishim like all other forbidden foods. Although the prohibition against eating ĥametz and the mitzva to dispose of ĥametz go into effect at midday on the fourteenth of Nisan, the law that ĥametz is not batel be-shishim does not take effect until Pesaĥ begins. This is because one who consumes ĥametz incurs karet only once Pesaĥ has begun, when the prohibitions of bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei take effect (SA 447:2). 1
2.Can a Mixture Containing a Drop of Ĥametz Be Salvaged?
As we have learned, the laws of ĥametz are uniquely strict: even a miniscule amount of ĥametz mixed with a permitted food renders the entire mixture forbidden for consumption or benefit. However, most poskim maintain that if the ĥametz is less than one sixtieth of the mixture, one may salvage its monetary value by selling it to a gentile. For example, if a kilogram of ĥametz falls into a metric ton of another food, it is permitted to sell the mixture to a gentile as long as one first throws away a kilogram of the mixture in order to avoid benefiting from the added ĥametz. This is because when the Sages forbade benefiting from such mixtures, their intention was to forbid benefiting from the ĥametz as well. Thus, if one disposes of a quantity of the mixture equaling the amount of ĥametz that was added, he does not benefit from the ĥametz, and he can then sell the mixture to a gentile. If a single wheat grain of ĥametz fell into a large amount of cooked food, it all becomes forbidden to eat and benefit from as long as it remains in a Jew's hands, but one may sell it to a gentile. It is not necessary to dispose of any of the mixture, because the wheat did not cause the price to rise (SA 467:10).
Rema (447:1), however, rules stringently in accordance with the opinion of a few Rishonim who maintain that since it is forbidden to derive benefit from the mixture, it is likewise forbidden to sell it to a gentile. Instead, the entire mixture must be destroyed. This is the practice of Ashkenazic Jews. However, if this will result in a very great loss, even those who follow the Ashkenazic custom may rely upon the opinion of those who permit selling the mixture to a gentile (MB 447:3). 2

^ 1.. According to She’iltot, Rabbeinu Tam, and Raz, ĥametz is similar to other forbidden foods and is batel be-shishim. All other poskim (including Rif, Rosh, and Rambam) maintain that ĥametz is not batel even in a thousand-to-one ratio, as per the opinion of Rava, following Rav, in Pesaĥim 30a. Even Rabbeinu Tam and Raz refrained from acting leniently (see Birur Halakha ad loc.). However, MB 447:2 states, citing Aĥaronim, that in a case where there are other factors that support a lenient ruling, She'iltot and Rabbeinu Tam can also be taken into consideration.
The aforementioned reasons for the strict nature of ĥametz are from Rashi, Rosh, Smak, Rabbeinu Yona, and many others. The first reason is the principal one, and therefore ĥametz becomes forbidden in the most minuscule quantities only once Pesaĥ begins. However, Rambam and Ramban explain that the reason a tiny amount of ĥametz is forbidden is that after Pesaĥ it will again become permitted, since on the Torah level ĥametz she-avar alav ha-Pesaĥ is permissible, and anything that will become permissible in the future (davar she-yesh lo matirin) is not batel in any mixture. According to this opinion, the tiniest amounts of ĥametz are forbidden as early as midday of the fourteenth, and this is indeed what Magid Mishneh claims is Rambam’s opinion. This is also the opinion of several Rishonim and Aĥaronim. It is possible, however, that according to this, ĥametz is not batel after midday on the fourteenth unless it is mixed with the same sort of food item (min be-mino). Kaf Ha-ĥayim 447:46 and Hilkhot Ĥag Be-ĥag 9:23 quote those who adopt this opinion. Nonetheless, even based on the rationale that we are used to eating ĥametz, there are still grounds to forbid even the tiniest amounts of ĥametz starting from midday of the fourteenth, as Ran writes.
SA adopts the opinion that tiny amounts of ĥametz only become forbidden once Pesaĥ begins, and most Aĥaronim accept this view.
^ 2.. There is a dispute as to whether or not one is forbidden to derive benefit from a mixture of ĥametz and non-ĥametz. According to Rif, Rosh, and the majority of poskim, ĥametz causes the entire mixture to become forbidden, whereas Ramban and Raavad maintain that the mixture is only prohibited for eating, but it is permissible to derive benefit from it. SA 447:1 adopts the former view.
However, according to Rif and Rosh, if one would discard the value of the ĥametz in the mixture, he would be permitted to sell the mixture to a gentile, since ultimately he obtains no benefit from the ĥametz; rather, he merely receives payment for the portion of the mixture that is not ĥametz. The overwhelming majority of poskim, including SA 467:10, agree with this. However, Rema writes in Darkhei Moshe 447:2 that Mordechai, Terumat Ha-deshen, and Mahari Brin all adopt a stringent approach – that the entire mixture must be burned. MB 447:3 states in the name of Aĥaronim that in a situation of potential severe monetary loss one may sell such a mixture to a gentile. Additionally, SHT 467:74 in the name of Beit Meir states that if one will suffer severe monetary losses despite selling the mixture to a gentile, he may even keep the mixture until after Pesaĥ, and then eat it or sell it to a Jew.
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