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.

[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.
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