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Weekly Halacha

Selected Halachos relating to Parshas Metzorah/Shabbos Hagadol

By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt

The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.


BURNING CHOMETZ

IS BURNING REQUIRED?

There are two views in the Mishnah (1) concerning the proper procedure for fulfilling the mitzvah of tashbisu, the Torah's command to destroy all chometz on erev Pesach. The basic halachah is that tashbisu is accomplished by getting rid of chometz in any of the following ways: Burning it; crumbling it and throwing it to the winds; crumbling it and throwing it into an ocean or river; flushing it down the toilet (2). L'chatchilah, though, it has become customary to follow the view of R' Yehudah who holds that burning in fire is the only legitimate method of getting rid of chometz (biur chometz) (3). [In addition to the halachic consideration, kabbalistic and chasidic literature hold that there is a special significance to actually burning the chometz, as burning symbolizes the destruction of the evil inclination and the power of tumah (4).]

There is a debate among the achronim (5) whether the mitzvah of biur chometz applies if one does not happen to own any chometz. There are poskim who contend that one who does not possess any chometz should buy some so that he can fulfill the mitzvah of biur chometz. While many achronim do not agree with this stringency, all agree that it is proper to leave (and not sell to a non-Jew) at least a k'zayis (about 1 oz.) of chometz in order to properly fulfill the mitzvah of biur chometz (6). Since, as mentioned earlier, the proper way to fulfill the mitzvah of tashbisu is by burning the chometz, we shall review the relevant halachos:

HOW IS THE CHOMETZ BURNED?

The proper time to burn the chometz is during the fifth hour (7) of the day (8). The chometz must be completely burned - to the degree that even a dog would not be able to eat it (9) - by the time the fifth hour ends. [Chometz which has turned into charcoal is sufficiently burned (10).] A loaf of bread or a chunk of cake should be thinly sliced so that the fire will be able to consume it totally (11).

Several contemporary poskim (12) mention that it is not advisable to pour gasoline or other combustible materials over the chometz before burning it, for then the chometz becomes inedible - "destroyed" - by the gasoline, etc., rather than by the fire, and as mentioned before, this should be avoided. Note, however, that if the end of the fifth hour arrives and the chometz is not yet burned, gasoline etc. should quickly be poured over the remaining chometz so that it becomes inedible.

The daytime kol chamirah, which nullifies the chometz, is said after the burning of the chometz (13) but before the sixth hour of the day begins (14).

One who forgot or neglected to recite the proper blessing the night before during the search for chometz, may recite the brachah at the time of the burning (15).

CUSTOMS AND HIDDURIM OF CHOMETZ BURNING

There is a custom to burn other mitzvah items along with the chometz, e.g., the ten pieces of chometz that were hidden for the bedikah (16); the wooden spoon used for the bedikah (17); hoshanos (18) lulav (19); leftover oil and wicks from the Chanukah candles; fingernails (20).

The chometz should be thrown into the fire with one's right hand (21).

There is a view that holds that the fire must be started with wood (22), not gas, coal or paper.

It is preferable to burn the chometz in one's own yard or at least in one's own vessel (23). It is also preferable for one to burn his own chometz and not to appoint someone else to do it for him (24).

WHEN BURNING IS NOT AN OPTION

One who has a great deal of chometz left before Pesach and finds it impractical to burn it all, should not just deposit it in the garbage. The garbage is liable to remain on his property (in his garage, on his tree-lawn, etc.) after the time for biur chometz (25), and this could result in the violation of a Biblical prohibition (26). Even moving the garbage into the street does not solve the problem, since technically the chometz which is in the cans or bags is still "his property" (27). The poskim offer several possible solutions:

  • Before the deadline arrives, pour a chemical over the chometz which will render it completely inedible (28);

  • Leave the garbage cans on the street and renounce possession of them (by declaring them hefker in the presence of three adults). The cans may still be used on Pesach (29);

  • Include the garbage cans and their chometz contents with the items being sold to a non-Jew (30) (mechiras chometz). In this case, the garbage cans may not be used on Pesach (31).

CHOMETZ REMINDERS

Many people get rid of all of their actual chometz and assume that they have nothing to sell to a non-Jew. Even so, it is a good idea for them to sell their chometz because it is possible that they possess chometz without realizing it - in deodorants, shaving lotions or colognes which are chometz if they contain denatured ethyl alcohol.

Parents who have children in yeshivos or seminaries must remember to specifically include their children's chometz when selling or nullifying their own chometz.

One who owns shares of stock in a chometz food company (or in a conglomerate which owns such a company) should sell those shares to a non-Jew together with the rest of his chometz (32). Such stocks should not be bought or sold during Chol Hamoed.

At the time that the sale of the chometz becomes valid (when the rav is transferring the chometz to the non-Jew), the area in which the chometz is located must be accessible to the non-Jew should he want to inspect it. If it was inaccessible during the time of sale (e.g., the owner of the home was away and the house was locked and bolted), many Poskim (33) rule that the sale is void. One should discuss this issue with his rav.



FOOTNOTES

1 Pesachim 21a.

2 Mishnah Berurah 445:5. Although Chazon Ish (OC 118:3) hesitates, he, too, would agree that flushing it down a modern toilet is similar to throwing it in the ocean (Kinyan Torah 2:86).

3 Rama OC 445:1. If chometz is found after the sixth hour of erev Pesach [or during Pesach itself] all agree that burning is the proper method - Mishnah Berurah 445:6 and Shaar Hatzion 17.

4 See Kaf Hachayim 445:11.

5 See the various views in Minchas Chinuch # 9; Shulchan Aruch Harav 436:21; Mekor Chaim 431; Chelkas Yoav OC 20; Mahrash Engel 8:196; Divrei Chaim 1:9; Avnei Nezer OC 318.

6 Mishnah Berurah 445:10 quoting several poskim. See also Kaf Hachayim 445:18.

7 A halachic hour is one twelfth of the day. A day (for this purpose) is from 72 minutes before sunrise till 50 minutes after sunset. In Cleveland on April 21, the day begins at 5:25 and ends at 9:03. Each hour is 78 minutes long. The fifth hour begins 10:37 and ends 11:55.

8 There are some who advise not to burn it earlier than that time (see Hagadah Moadim Uzmanim), and indeed the custom is to burn it during the fifth hour. But surely if it is difficult or troublesome to wait till that time, the biur may certainly be done any time on the morning of the erev Pesach. Preferably, the biur should not be done at night - see Rama 445:1.

9 OC 242:2.

10 Mishnah Berurah 445:1.

11 Chazon Ovadia pg. 40.

12 Hagadah Moadim Uzmanim; Shu"t Be'er Moshe 5:122; Siddur Pesach K'hilchaso pg. 173.

13 Rama 434:2 - otherwise the burning will be done on chometz which is not his and the mitzvah will not be properly fulfilled.

14 Mishnah Berurah 432:12.

15 Mishnah Berurah 423:4.

16 Arizal (quoted in Kaf Hachayim 432:1).

17 Chok Lyisroel pg. 38 - See Rama 445:3.

18 Mishnah Berurah 445:7.

19 Kaf Hachayim 445:16.

20 Custom of the Chazon Ish (quoted in Orchos Rabbeinu pg. 104).

21 Orchos Chaim 451:1.

22 Rashsash (Shabbos 66a) quoted in Minchas Yitzchok 2:53 (who rules that one need not be particular about this); Chok Lyisroel pg. 40.

23 Teshuvos V'hanagos 1:192, based on the view of the Ramban who holds that the Biblical mitzvah of burning chometz applies only to chometz which is in one's own domain.

24 Kinyan Torah 5:37. See Mishnah Berurah 232:8 and 234:15.

25 Unless it was prearranged that the city will collect the garbage before the deadline arrives.

26 Several poskim hold that this is only a problem if there are large, clean pieces of chometz in the garbage cans; crumbs or soiled pieces of chometz are not a real problem, especially once they have been thrown onto the garbage - see Mishnah Berurah 442:33; Minchas Yitzchok 4:56; Kinyan Torah 2:87; 7:36.

27 If the cans belong to the city (outside of Israel) then there is no problem - Minchas Yitzchok 4:56.

28 Minchas Yitzchok 4:56; Shevet Halevi 1:137.

29 Chelkas Yaakov 3:165.

30 Teshuvos V'hanagos 2:211, quoting Harav Y.Y. Kanievsky.

31 Be'er Moshe 1:41; 3:74.

32 Minchas Yitzchok 3:1; Moadim Uzmanim 3:269.

33 Mishnah Berurah 448:12.


Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc. Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.

The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L'zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available--please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross jgross@torah.org.

The series is distributed by the Harbotzas Torah Division of Congregation Shomre Shabbos, 1801 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118--HaRav Yisroel Grumer, Marah D'Asra


 






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