The Chametz prohibitions:
- There are six Torah commands [counted as part of the 613 Mitzvos] which involve the Chametz prohibition. Five negative commands, and one positive command. The following are the details of the Chametz related commands and prohibitions:
1. Prohibition of eating Chametz:
It is Biblically forbidden to eat Chametz beginning from midday of Erev Pesach. This prohibition is listed as three negative commands; 1) Not to eat Chametz on Erev Pesach after midday; 2) Not to eat Chametz during the seven days of Pesach; 3) Not to eat Chametz mixtures [i.e. Taaruvos Chametz] during the seven days of Pesach. One who eats Chametz on Erev Pesach, past midday, receives Biblical Malkus. However, the Kareis penalty for eating Chametz only begins at night. This law is elaborated on in Halacha 3 and within the section of Kosher for Pesach foods and products, in chapter 6.
שִבְעַת יָמִים מַצּוֹת תֹּאכֵלוּ אַךְ בַּיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן תַּשְׁבִּיתוּ שְּׂאֹר מִבָּתֵּיכֶם כִּי כָּל אֹכֵל חָמֵץ וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל מִיּוֹם הָרִאשֹׁן עַד יוֹם הַשְּׁבִעִי
2. Prohibition against benefiting from Chametz:
It is Biblically forbidden to benefit from Chametz beginning from midday of Erev Pesach. This law is elaborated on within the section of Kosher for Pesach foods and products.
3. Tashbisu-The command to destroy Chametz:
The positive command for one to destroy his Chametz begins to apply at midday of Erev Pesach. One who owns Chametz past this time transgresses this positive command, although is not liable for lashes. This law is elaborated on within the section of Biur Chametz.
4. Baal Yiraeh and Baal Yimatzei-The negative command against owning Chametz:
There are two negative commands against owning Chametz throughout the seven days of Pesach, starting from the night of the 15th. One who owns Chametz past this time, transgresses both of these negative commands, although he is not liable for lashes unless he purchases, or creates, the Chametz past this time. This law is elaborated on within the section of Cleaning for Chametz and Biur Chametz.
שִׁבְעַת יָמִים שְׂאֹר לֹא יִמָּצֵא בְּבָתֵּיכֶם כִּי כָּל אֹכֵל מַחְמֶצֶת וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מֵעֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל בַּגֵּר וּבְאֶזְרַח הָאָרֶץ.
מַצּוֹת יֵאָכֵל אֵת שִׁבְעַת הַיָּמִים וְלֹא יֵרָאֶה לְךָ חָמֵץ וְלֹא יֵרָאֶה לְךָ שְׂאֹר בְּכָל גְּבֻלֶךָ
5. Bedikas Chametz:
There is a Rabbinical obligation which requires one to search for Chametz in all his properties and then destroy it. Biblically, it suffices for one to merely disown the Chametz prior to midday of Erev Pesach. This law is elaborated on in the section of Cleaning one’s house for Pesach and the section of Bedikas Chametz.
A. The prohibition of eating and benefit:
It is forbidden to eat or benefit from Chametz, even if the Chametz is ownerless, or is owned by a gentile.
- From when: From midday of the 14th and onwards it becomes Biblically forbidden to eat or benefit from Chametz and one who does so transgresses a negative command. The sages added two more hours towards this prohibition in order to prevent one from transgressing if he gets mixed up on a cloudy day. Thus, they prohibited eating Chametz from the beginning of the 5th However, it is permitted to receive pleasure from Chametz until the beginning of the 6th hour. Thus, one may sell Chametz to a gentile during the 5th hour. As well one may feed it to animals and birds during the 5th hour. From the 6th hour all Chametz becomes forbidden in benefit even if it does not belong to him.
- What is considered benefit? Beginning from the 6th hour of the day of the 14th it is forbidden to sell Chametz to a gentile or give it to him as a present. It is forbidden to disown the Chametz [by declaring it hefker and placing it in a public area, and rather one must destroy any Chametz that he still has not removed from his home.] It is forbidden to feed Chametz to even a wild, disowned, animal [as one receives benefit by fulfilling his desire to satiate the animal’s hunger.] The Chametz of a gentile is also forbidden in benefit.
- May one smell bread that is baking? From the 6th hour it is forbidden to smell the baking of Chametz [as this gives one pleasure].
- Irregular benefit: Irregular benefit of Chametz is only Rabinically forbidden. However, if one needs to do so for the sake of medicine, then it is permitted. Thus, one may swallow capsules on Pesach even if they contain Chametz, and even if the pill has Chametz as a main ingredient.
- Is ownerless Chametz forbidden in benefit? Yes.
- May one feed ownerless Chametz to an animal?
- If one’s animal only eats Chametz foods what should he do with it on Pesach? He should sell the animals to a gentile.
- Does one have to move for Pesach if he lives near a bakery and will inevitably smell the Chametz? However he should not intend to receive pleasure from the smell.
- May one pass by a bakery even though he will inevitably smell the Chametz? Yes, he may do so long as he has no intention to smell the Chametz.
B. Owning-The prohibition of “Tashbisu” & “Baal Yiraeh Ubaal Yimatzei:”
- Owning Chametz: The Torah forbids owning Chametz on Pesach. This applies even if the Chametz will not be within one’s home over Pesach, but will be left elsewhere, in an area that one owns. Likewise, this applies even if the Chametz is hidden away in an area from which the Chametz is not visible. However, this only applies to Chametz that is within one’s property, either through ownership, rental, or borrowing. If, however, the Chametz is within an area that he does not own and he did not borrow, such as he placed the Chametz in the house of another person without his knowledge, then Biblically it may be left there over Pesach. However, Rabbinically he is obligated to destroy it, even if it is in another person’s possession without his knowledge.
- Liability on Chametz: If one does not own the Chametz but has liability over the Chametz, such as if the Chametz were to be stolen one would have liability to pay for the loss, it is nevertheless Biblically forbidden to have such Chametz in one’s property over Pesach. It is however permitted to have such Chametz left in the gentile’s property.
- Storing Chametz that one does not own: If one does not own the Chametz and does not contain liability over it, it is Biblically permitted to have the Chametz remain in one’s home over Pesach; although Rabinically it is forbidden to have such Chametz in one’s home unless it belongs to a gentile and one made a Mechitza in front of it.
- When does Baal Yiraeh and Baal Yimatzeh begin to apply? One only begins to transgress the commands of Baal Yiraeh and Baal Yimatzeah from the night of the 15th of Nissan and onwards, as the verse states “For seven days yeast shall not be found in your home,…and you shall not see yeast in all your property for seven days”. [Thus, we learn from the verse that] prior to the 7 days, one does not transgress a negative command if he owned Chametz in his house.
- Tashbisu-Destroying the Chametz from midday and onwards on Erev Pesach? Although one does not transgress a negative command when owning Chametz prior to the night of the 15th, nevertheless, [he is Biblically obligated due to a positive command, to destroy all Chametz from his home] from midday of the 14th and onwards. This obligation is called Tashbisu.
- If he did not destroy his Chametz [at that time], then he transgresses the positive command of Tashbisu for every moment thereon.
- The above obligation to destroy the Chametz by midday is only from a Biblical perspective, however Rabinically once the beginning of the 6th hour of the day has arrived one is to destroy the Chametz.
- Today the custom is to destroy the Chametz prior to the beginning of the 6th
- How does one fulfill the Mitzvah of Tashbisu-destroying the Chametz? Biblically, destroying the Chametz [in fulfillment of the Mitzvah of Tashbisu] means that one eradicates [Mashbis] and destroys the Chametz completely from the world until no other person can benefit from it.
- Disowning Chametz and leaving it in ones possession: Biblically, if one nullifies his Chametz and disowns it prior to the 6th hour of the day of the 14th, the Chametz may remain in his home throughout the entire Pesach. However, the Sages decreed that nullifying and disowning one’s Chametz before Pesach is ineffective, and hence Rabbinically remains within one’s ownership, until it is removed from one’s home and either is burnt or placed in a public area. One must thus clean all of his possessions from Chametz before Pesach.
- Disowning Chametz and removing it from one’s home: Prior to the 6th hour of the day, one can free himself from the prohibition of owning Chametz by giving or selling the Chametz to a non Jew, or by disowning the Chametz and placing in a public area.
- If he disowns the Chametz and leaves it in his house or building courtyard or lobby, then he transgresses the Rabbinical prohibition of Baal Yiraeh and Baal Yimatzeh, as Rabinically the Chametz must be placed in an area that is considered public to all, even after it is disowned.
- Even when placing the Chametz in an area that is public to everyone, one must leave it there with a full heart, without the intention to take back after Pesach. If he intends to retrieve the Chametz after Pesach then it is not considered disowned, and he thus transgresses on its ownership even when placed in the public area.
- After the beginning of the 6th hour it no longer helps to disown the Chametz in a public area and one must rather destroy the Chametz from the world in a way that no person can get benefit from it.
- Furthermore, even prior to the 6th hour, the disowning of the Chametz simply refrains one from transgressing ownership once the 6th hour arrives, however it does not fulfill the Mitzvah of destroying Chametz. It is for this reason that we burn the Chametz on Erev Pesach prior to the 6th hour, in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of destroying Chametz with at least some part of our Chametz that we own.
- Destroying the Chametz: After the beginning of the 6th hour it no longer helps to disown the Chametz in a public area and one must rather destroy the Chametz from the world in a way that no person can get benefit from it.
- It does not have to be destroyed to the point that animals cannot get benefit from it.
- Even prior to the 6th hour, the disowning of the Chametz simply refrains one from transgressing ownership once the 6th hour arrives, however it does not fulfill the Mitzvah of destroying Chametz. It is for this reason that we burn the Chametz on Erev Pesach prior to the 6th hour, in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of destroying Chametz with at least some part of our Chametz that we own.
- How to destroy the Chametz: The following are the valid methods of destroying the Chametz: Initially, the best method to be used is to burn the Chametz until it becomes charcoal.
- When burning the Chametz prior to the 6th hour, it suffices to burn it until it becomes unfit for a dog, and not until it becomes charcoal.
- If one cannot burn the Chametz it is valid to destroy the Chametz through any of the following methods: Break the Chametz into crumbs and then throw it into the wind or sea. If one finds kernels of Chametz then they are to be broken into 2/3 pieces and then thrown. If however there are many kernels, then it should be thrown as is. Alternatively, one can place the Chametz in a toilet [and flush it], even if the pieces are large.
All Chametz that one owns must be either destroyed, or disowned and removed from one’s home, or sold, by the time the 6th hour of the day arrives. One who continues owning the Chametz past the 6th hour transgresses a Rabbinical owning prohibition of Tashbisu. One who continues owning the Chametz past the 7th hour transgresses a Biblical owning prohibition of Tashbisu. One who continues owning the Chametz past the night of the 15th transgresses a Biblical owning prohibition of Baal Yiraeh and Baal Yimatzeh. Prior to the end of the 5th hour arriving it suffices to disown the Chametz and remove it from one’s home, or to sell it and leave it within one’s home behind a partition. From the 6th hour and onwards one is no longer able to disown or sell the Chametz, and any Chametz that remained in one’s possession must be completely destroyed from the world.
C. Bedikas Chametz-Understanding the obligation of cleaning the house for Chametz:
- Biblically, if one nullifies his Chametz and disowns it prior to the 6th hour he is not required to clean his house from Chametz, and the Chametz may rather remain in his home throughout the entire Pesach. Biblically, one is only obligated to check, search and destroy Chametz, if one does not want to nullify it and disown it [or did not do so for whatever reason and the 6th hour has already arrived]. In such a case then when the time of the Chametz prohibition arrives [the beginning of the 7th hour], he is Biblically obligated to search for it and destroy it.
- However, the Sages decreed that nullifying and disowning one’s Chametz before Pesach is ineffective and the Chametz hence remains within one’s ownership, Rabinically. One must thus clean all of his possessions from Chametz before Pesach just like he would Biblically be required to perform if he did not disown it.
D. One who finds Chametz on Pesach:
- If one sold his Chametz before Pesach: He does not destroy it, as the Chametz belongs to the gentile and thus it is even forbidden for him to do so, as this is stealing from the gentile. Rather one should make a Mechitza of ten Tefachim by the Chametz. If this is not possible, then one should push it with a stick into an area that is designated for the gentile, and has a Mechitza of ten Tefach. However, some Rabbanim allow one to burn the Chametz if he desires to, even though there is no obligation for him to do so, as the gentile is not particular if the Jew burns some of the Chametz, as long as he has in mind to pay the gentile back. However, even in such a case, one may not say a blessing over the Chametz, and if he does so it is a blessing in vain.
- If one did not sell his Chametz before Pesach: One who did not sell his Chametz before Pesach is required to destroy any Chametz which he finds past the 6th hour on Erev Pesach, throughout the seven days of Pesach, eight days in the Diaspora. This includes even less than a Kezayis of Chametz, and even if one had nullified it before Pesach. [Although in the latter case, if the Chametz is dirty then it does not need to be destroyed as explained in chapter 442.] Regarding if a blessing is to be recited: When destroying Chametz on Erev Pesach before the night of the 15th then a blessing is not said regardless of the amount being burned, or whether one had known of this Chametz at the time of the search done the previous night. When destroying the Chametz on Chol Hamoed then a blessing is only recited if all the following conditions were fulfilled: 1) One did not do Mechiras Chametz; 2) This Chametz was not found or known of during the Bedikah. 3) All the Chametz found and known of during the Bedikah has already been burned; 4) It is at least a Kezayis in size, or is not but one did not nullify this Chametz before Pesach; 6) The Chametz is Biblically considered Chametz.
- What to do if found Chametz on Shabbos or Yom Tov: The Chametz is Muktzah and may not be moved. One is to cover the Chametz until Motzei Shabbos or Yom Tov and then burn it [if he did not do Mechiras Chametz] or sweep into the area sold to the gentile.
- What does one do if he was searching through his Matzas and found a Kefula? The Matzah is considered Muktzah being that it is forbidden to be eaten. If one only noticed the Kefula while it was already in his hand then one does not need to immediately drop it, and may go place it down in the toilet and destroy it.
E. Buying Chametz after Pesach:
- The Chametz of a Jew which was owned on Pesach is forbidden in benefit for all Jews. Thus when buying Chametz from a Jewish owned store, one must verify that they have performed Mechiras Chametz before Pesach. The above requirement however only applies when buying Chametz that was manufactured before Pesach. If one does not know when the Chametz was manufactured then one may be lenient and permit the Chametz to be eaten, as by every Rabbinical prohibition, when there is doubt we are allowed to be lenient. However, there are opinions which prohibit eating any Chametz which even has doubt that was around on Pesach. Practically one should suspect for their opinion to not eat the Chametz, unless it’s a case of great loss [and the Chametz cannot be sold], however to benefit [i.e. sell] the Chametz is permitted according to all opinions.
F. May one touch Chametz on Pesach?
- Throughout the entire Pesach one is forbidden to touch Chametz, with exception to when one is doing so for the purpose of burning it. This prohibition includes even if one has a gentile’s Chametz in one’s home and wants to return it to the gentile. Thus, if a gentile left Chametz in one’s home, a stick should be used to get rid of it.
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