Chapter: Pesaĥ

Introduction

It was taught in the academy of Eliyahu: One who reviews halakhot every day is assured a place in the Next World, as it states: “His ways are forever” (Habakkuk 3:6). Do not read this “ways” [“halikhot”], rather “laws” [“halakhot”]. … Continue reading

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Glossary

afikoman lit. dessert; the portion of matza eaten to conclude the Seder meal aĥshevei a principle whereby one’s actions indicate that he assigns subjective significance to an otherwise insignificant object al ha-sova while satisfied bal yera’eh the prohibition against ĥametz … Continue reading

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1. The Festival of Matzot and the Festival of Pesaĥ

The holiday of Pesaĥ has two different names in the Torah: Ĥag Ha-matzot (the Festival of Matzot)[1] and Ĥag Ha-Pesaĥ (the Paschal festival, or Passover).[2] These two names express two different meanings of the holiday: Ĥag Ha-matzot represents the revelation of … Continue reading

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2. The Festival of Freedom – the Revelation of Morality

Why did the people of Israel, before their appearance as a nation, first have to endure such terrible slavery in Egypt? The simple explanation is that Israel’s mission is to rectify the moral state of the world, and in order … Continue reading

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3. Spiritual liberation from Material Enslavement

Israel and Egypt are diametrically opposed. Egypt was an extremely materialistic society with a pagan worldview. The nation of Israel, on the other hand, is unique with its spiritual and abstract worldview. Thus, only Israel was able to accept the … Continue reading

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4. At the Exodus, the Material World Became a Vehicle for God’s Shekhina

The way this world is ordered, its material aspects gain prominence first and easily reach their complete, powerful expression. Spiritual elements, however, remain hidden; it takes a long time before their significance becomes discernible. It was thus natural that the … Continue reading

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5. The Meaning of the Prohibition against Ĥametz – Pride in Relation to God

The prohibition against ĥametz on Pesaĥ is especially stringent, for the Torah not only forbade eating it, but commanded that it not be seen nor found in our possession. Our Sages further forbade eating any food with even the slightest … Continue reading

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6. The Meaning of Matza

Matza, symbolizing our recognition that the spiritual roots of things are beyond our grasp even though God granted us the ability to operate within and improve the world, is the opposite of ĥametz. Therefore, on Pesaĥ, when we are engaged … Continue reading

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7. One Who Demeans the Holy Days

An important principle is articulated in Mishna Avot (3:11): “Rabbi Elazar Ha-Moda’i says: ‘One who desecrates holy foods, one who demeans the holy days … and one who expounds the Torah not in accordance with halakha, even if he has … Continue reading

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8. One Inquires about the Laws of Pesaĥ Beginning Thirty Days before Pesaĥ

We inquire about and expound upon the laws of Pesaĥ beginning thirty days before Pesaĥ. We learn this from Moshe, who on Pesaĥ itself explained the matter of Pesaĥ Sheni, the make-up date for those unable to bring the Paschal … Continue reading

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1. Four Mitzvot Concerning the Prohibition against Ĥametz

Four Torah commandments deal with the prohibition against ĥametz on Pesaĥ: three negative and one positive. The first prohibition is to refrain from eating ĥametz, as it is written, “And ĥametz shall not be eaten” (Shemot 13:3). Our Sages taught … Continue reading

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2. The Times When Ĥametz Is Prohibited by Torah Law and by Rabbinic Law

Although the prohibition against ĥametz applies primarily during the seven days of Ĥag Ha-matzot, from the fifteenth through the twenty-first of Nisan, nevertheless we were commanded to remove ĥametz from our homes at noon on the fourteenth of Nisan, Erev … Continue reading

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3. What Is Ĥametz and What Is Se’or?

The ĥametz that is prohibited by the Torah on Pesaĥ is any one of the five species of cereal grains that came into contact with water and fermented. The five species are wheat (ĥitta), barley (se’ora), oats (shibolet shu’al), rye … Continue reading

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4. The Definition of Leavening Dough

As we have learned, the difference between bread and matza is that the dough used for making bread has undergone a leavening process resulting from the fermentation of ingredients within the flour that have come into contact with water. In … Continue reading

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5. Ĥametz Nuksheh (Hardened Ĥametz)

The ĥametz that the Torah forbade is ĥametz gamur (absolute ĥametz), meaning that the leavening process has been completed, and the food has become edible. But if fermentation had begun but not concluded, and from the outset the food was … Continue reading

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6. Ĥametz So Spoiled That a Dog Would Not Eat It

Ĥametz that was originally fit for eating, but that became moldy or spoiled to the point that it is not fit for human consumption, is still considered ĥametz gamur, since it can still be used as a leavening agent. In … Continue reading

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7. Ways in Which There Is No Leavening

As noted, there are five types of grain that can become ĥametz after touching water. However, if they are roasted in fire, they can no longer become ĥametz, and in principle they may be mixed with water. Nevertheless, the Sages … Continue reading

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1. The Mitzvot Associated with Getting Rid of Ĥametz

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 … Continue reading

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2. The Prohibition against Ĥametz One Owns

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 … Continue reading

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3. Ĥametz That Has Been Guaranteed by a Jew and the Status of Stocks

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 … Continue reading

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4. How One Fulfills the Mitzva of Removing the Ĥametz

We clear the ĥametz out of our homes in two ways: in thought and in deed, that is, spiritually and in practice. The removal in thought is done through nullification (bitul) of the ĥametz, declaring it ownerless and considered as … Continue reading

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5. The Essence of the Mitzva

A fundamental question arose concerning the essence of the mitzva of removing the ĥametz: is the mitzva essentially to eliminate the ĥametz actively or is the main principle that no ĥametz remains in a Jew’s possession? According to the view … Continue reading

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6. When the Prohibitions of Eating and Benefiting from Ĥametz Begin

The mitzva of getting rid of the ĥametz must be carried out by midday of the fourteenth of Nisan. Every instant that a Jew keeps his ĥametz after that time he is in violation of the positive commandment to remove … Continue reading

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7. The Procedure for Getting Rid of Ĥametz

As we have learned, we clear the ĥametz out of our homes both in deed and in thought. The process of removal consists of four stages: search (bedika), nullification (bitul), elimination (bi’ur), and nullification once again. The process begins with … Continue reading

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1. The Time for Bedikat Ĥametz

As we learned in the previous chapter, one who possesses ĥametz on Pesaĥ transgresses two prohibitions: “no ĥametz of yours shall be seen” (Shemot 13:7), and “there shall be no se’or found in your homes” (ibid. 12:19). In order not … Continue reading

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2. Activities Rabbinically Forbidden before Bedikat Ĥametz

The Sages prohibited starting a task or a meal during the half hour before the time of bedikat ĥametz, out of concern that one might become caught up in these activities and forget to search for ĥametz. It is permitted, … Continue reading

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3. The Berakha

Before beginning to search for ĥametz, one recites the berakha “Who sanctified us with His mitzvot and commanded us concerning bi’ur ĥametz” (“asher kideshanu be-mitzvotav ve-tzivanu al bi’ur ĥametz”). Though the actual bi’ur ĥametz will not take place until the … Continue reading

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4. Places That Must Be Searched

Any property owned by a Jew that might contain a kezayit of ĥametz must be searched. Therefore, the kitchen and the dining room where people eat must be searched, and any room, storage space, or porch where people sometimes bring … Continue reading

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5. The Candle and the Flashlight

The Sages ordained that bedikat ĥametz be performed by candlelight, because candlelight is focused and effective for searching. During the day, the light of the sun detracts from the brightness of the candle, and it is difficult for the eye … Continue reading

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6. Must One Search for Less than a Kezayit of Ĥametz?

The purpose of bedikat ĥametz is to find pieces of ĥametz that are a kezayit or larger, for one only violates bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei if there is a kezayit or more of ĥametz in one place in his … Continue reading

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7. Do Books Require Bedikat Ĥametz?

According to several Aĥaronim, one is required to search all of his books, page by page, because a crumb of ĥametz might have fallen into one of them. These authorities maintain that the objective of bedikat ĥametz is to remove … Continue reading

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8. Do We Rely upon the Cleaning Done before Pesaĥ?

Most Jewish families clean their homes thoroughly before Pesaĥ. Any part of the house that was cleaned well, and into which people were careful not to bring ĥametz afterward, does not require a thorough search (Sha’arei Teshuva 433:1; Da’at Torah … Continue reading

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9. Hiding Pieces of Bread and Receiving Help from Family Members

It is customary hide pieces of bread before bedikat ĥametz, so that the person performing the search will have to discover them. Some maintain that this custom is meant to ensure that the searcher finds ĥametz, because if he does … Continue reading

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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 … Continue reading

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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. … Continue reading

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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 … Continue reading

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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 … Continue reading

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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 … Continue reading

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1. Bitul Ĥametz in the Evening and Morning

As we learned (above 3:4), one fulfills the mitzva of bi’ur ĥametz (disposing of ĥametz) in two ways, in action and in thought. The process of bi’ur ĥametz involves four stages. The first two, bedika and the first bitul, are … Continue reading

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2. The Significance of Bitul Ĥametz

As noted, the wording of our bitul ĥametz is in Aramaic because it was composed in an era when this was the vernacular. Yet one is free to recite it in Hebrew or any language he understands. If one utters … Continue reading

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