11. Does Renting One’s Entire House to a Gentile Exempt It from Bedika?

Some families leave home for the entire Pesaḥ holiday, and the question arises: Can these people exempt themselves from cleaning and searching for ḥametz 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 Pesaḥ, he is not obligated to search it (Ḥok 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 Pesaḥ, it becomes incumbent upon him to perform bedikat ḥametz there. Only if he moves to another house in which he will become obligated to search for ḥametz will he be exempt from searching the house he rented or sold to the gentile (Avi Ha-ezri, SA 436:3, MA ad loc., and SAH’s understanding of Tur and Rema). In addition, it is inappropriate for one to avoid performing the mitzva of bedikat ḥametz.

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 ḥametz. Once one has fulfilled the mitzva of bedikat ḥametz 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 ḥametz contract that a rental is being transacted. In addition, the homeowner must sell the ḥametz 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 14th, because some poskim maintain that if, on the night of the 14th, the rooms are still in the homeowner’s possession, he becomes obligated to search them (Mekor Ḥayim and Ḥayei Adam). When it is difficult to rent out the house before the night of the 14th, as most rabbinical authorities execute the sale (and rental) on the morning of the 14th, 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, Ḥatam Sofer, as cited in MB 436:2).

The kelim and the stove should be cleaned of all substantial ḥametz before Pesaḥ, for if this is not done, it will be necessary to clean them after Pesaḥ in order to avoid eating ḥametz she-avar alav ha-Pesaḥ (ḥametz that remained in a Jew’s possession during Pesaḥ). However, it is not advisable to sell the kelim to a gentile, because this will necessitate immersing them in a mikveh after Pesaḥ, in keeping with the law regarding kelim bought from a gentile. To sell the ḥametz 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 Ha-ezri. The Aḥaronim 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 Pesaḥ. According to Ḥok Yaakov and Gra, even if the gentile will not actually enter the house, since the Jewish owner declared the ḥametz in it ownerless, there is no need for bedikat ḥametz. MB 436:32 seems to lean toward a strict ruling (see SHT ad loc. 31-32).

In Eretz Yisrael, where it is forbidden to sell a house to a gentile, one is permitted to rent his house. However, Mekor Ḥayim 437:4 and Ḥayei Adam 119:18 in the name of Eliya Rabba state that one who rents his house to a gentile still must conduct bedikat ḥametz. Nonetheless, it seems that if one sells all of the ḥametz in his house, even these poskim would agree that no bedika is required. This is the opinion of Ḥatam Sofer §136 and Hilkhot Ḥag Be-ḥag 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 §91 and Zekher Yehosef §138.

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