05 – Bitul and Bi’ur Ḥametz

01. Bitul Ḥametz in the Evening and Morning

As we learned (above, 3:4), one fulfills the mitzva of bi’ur ḥametz (disposing of ḥametz) in two ways, in action and in thought. The process of bi’ur ḥametz involves four stages. The first two, bedika and the first bitul, are performed on the evening of the 14th of Nisan. The second two stages, bi’ur and the second bitul, take place the following morning. Having discussed the laws relating to bedikat ḥametz in the previous chapter, we shall now address bitul ḥametz.

After bedikat ḥametz, we immediately rid ourselves of the ḥametz by nullifying it mentally. To make this process easier, a formal declaration of nullification – bitul ḥametz – was composed. This declaration is in Aramaic because it was composed at a time when most Jews understood only Aramaic. It reads (according to the Ashkenazic rite):

Kol ḥamira ve-ḥami’a de-ika bi-rshuti, de-lo ḥazitei u-delo bi’artei, li-vtil u-lehavi hefker ke-afra de-ar’a.

This declaration can also be said in Hebrew:

Kol ḥametz u-se’or she-yesh bi-rshuti, she-lo re’itiv ve-shelo bi’artiv, yivatel ve-yehei hefker ke-afar ha-aretz.

In English:

All ḥametz and leaven in my possession that I have not seen and have not eliminated shall be nullified and become ownerless, like the dust of the earth.

The Sephardic version mentions only ḥametz, which includes leaven, and only nullification, which includes renunciation of ownership (see Ḥazon Ovadia, p. 32).

Following the actual bi’ur ḥametz on the morning of the 14th (see section 3 below), we perform a second bitul ḥametz. Even though we already annulled the ḥametz at night, after the bedika, that bitul applied only to ḥametz we did not find in our search, and of which we remain unaware. It cannot, however, apply to the ḥametz we still intend to eat, since such ḥametz is important to us. We likewise cannot nullify the ḥametz we found in our search, because we intend to dispose of this by burning. Moreover, applying our evening bitul ḥametz to the ḥametz we still plan to eat would reveal the insincerity of our bitul and render it ineffective.

Therefore, in the evening we nullify only the ḥametz we did not find in our search, not the ḥametz we set aside for the remaining ḥametz meals and to be burned. But since we might misplace or overlook some of this remaining ḥametz, so that we do not violate bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei, we nullify the ḥametz a second time. One must make sure to nullify the ḥametz by the end of the fifth seasonal hour of the day, for with the onset of the sixth seasonal hour it is forbidden to derive any benefit from ḥametz, and it can no longer be nullified (SA 434:2).

The wording of the morning nullification is slightly different from that of the evening. In the evening we nullify only the ḥametz that was not found during the search, while in the morning we nullify the ḥametz in its entirety. It reads:

Kol ḥamira ve-ḥami’a de-ika bi-rshuti, de-ḥazitei u-delo ḥazitei, de-bi’artei u-delo bi’artei, li-vtil u-lehavi hefker ke-afra de-ar’a.

This declaration can also be said in Hebrew:

Kol ḥametz u-se’or she-yesh bi-rshuti, she-re’itiv ve-shelo re’itiv, she-bi’artiv ve-shelo bi’artiv, yivatel ve-yehei hefker ke-afar ha-aretz.

Or in English:

All ḥametz and leaven in my possession that I have seen and that I have not seen, that I have destroyed and that I have not destroyed, shall be nullified and become ownerless, like the dust of the earth.

02. The Meaning of Bitul Ḥametz

The bitul ḥametz text is in Aramaic because it was composed when this was the vernacular. Yet one is free to recite it in Hebrew or any other language, as long as he understands what it means. If one utters the declaration in Aramaic without understanding its general significance as an act of bitul, thinking instead that it is an Erev Pesaḥ prayer, he has not nullified his ḥametz (MB 434:9).

The Rishonim explain the significance of the bitul (nullification) in two ways. Rashi and Ramban explain that human beings have the power to nullify ḥametz. This capacity is unique to the context of ḥametz, since according to the Torah ḥametz is entirely insignificant during Pesaḥ. It is forbidden to derive benefit from it, and consequently it is like the dust of the earth. In one respect alone does ḥametz retain significance during Pesaḥ: if it remains in one’s home, he transgresses the law of bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei, but if the owner nullifies his ḥametz before it becomes forbidden, his intention is in accord with the Torah’s intention, so even if ḥametz remains in his possession during Pesaḥ, he will not have violated bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei.

Tosafot explain that the bitul is effective because it renders the ḥametz ownerless (hefker), and the Sages teach that bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei apply only to ḥametz one owns, not to ownerless ḥametz.

Thus, according to the first explanation, the nullification focuses on the ḥametz itself, while according to the second explanation, the nullification is directed at the owner, who relinquishes his ownership over the ḥametz. The Ashkenazic version of the declaration takes both explanations into account, and therefore mentions both nullification and renunciation of ownership. The Sephardic version mentions only nullification, which includes renunciation, for if something is nullified it consequently becomes ownerless.

03. Laws Regarding Bitul Ḥametz

Most Rishonim agree that, in principle, it is not necessary to recite the bitul ḥametz aloud. It is possible to nullify the ḥametz “in one’s heart,” i.e., to mentally regard his ḥametz as null and consider it as the dust of the earth. Preferably, however, one should express the bitul verbally, because this makes it clear and explicit. Moreover, some Rishonim maintain that the bitul must indeed be pronounced aloud. All poskim agree that it is not necessary to pronounce the bitul in the presence of others. Nonetheless, some people are meticulous about reciting the bitul in the presence of their family, to remind them of the mitzva.[1]

The bitul must be sincere. One must agree in his mind that the ḥametz is null and void forever, and that he will not use it even after Pesaḥ. If one intends to use the ḥametz after Pesaḥ, the bitul is not effective, and he violates bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei. Even if he renounces ownership of his ḥametz and places it in a completely open domain, he must not intend to reclaim it after Pesaḥ, for if he does, his renunciation is not wholehearted (MB 445:18).[2]

As mentioned above (3:4), according to the Torah, one can dispose of his ḥametz by merely nullifying it, and even if one were to keep ḥametz of great value in his possession, he may nullify it and would not transgress bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei as long as he makes a firm mental commitment that the bitul is absolute and that he will never again derive benefit from the ḥametz. However, the Sages were concerned that the bitul might not be wholehearted, so they ordained that we physically eliminate the ḥametz from the home. Be-di’avad, however, if one forgets to eliminate his ḥametz, and when Erev Pesaḥ arrives he is far from his home, he may rely on the bitul alone – but as soon as he returns home he must destroy the ḥametz. Even if he returns after Pesaḥ, he must remove the ḥametz, for if he fails to remove it, he proves that his bitul was not wholehearted (SA 448:5; MB ad loc. 25).

In principle, it is possible to nullify ḥametz through a shali’aḥs. However, preferably the owner of the ḥametz should perform the bitul himself, as some authorities maintain that only the owner of the ḥametz has the power to nullify his ḥametz (SA 434:4; MB ad loc. 15).


[1]. According to Tur §436, Ramban, Ran, and Maharam Ḥalawa, bitul in one’s mind is sufficient. SAH (434:7 and Kuntrus Aḥaron) explains that even though these authorities believe that nonverbal nullification suffices on a Torah level, they still maintain that on a rabbinic level preferably one should nullify the ḥametz verbally. According to Ritva and Beit Yosef, based on the Yerushalmi, one must verbalize the bitul. However, SA 437:2 states: “He nullifies it in his heart and this is sufficient.” BHL 437:2 states that there are two opinions on the matter, and Gra agreed that nullification in one’s mind is sufficient. Whatever one nullifies to himself is considered hefker, as per Tosafot’s explanation that the purpose of the nullification of ḥametz is to deem it ownerless. Even though generally if one wants to declare his property ownerless he must do so in front of three others, as per rabbinic injunction, in this case the Sages deferred to the Torah standards of hefker and allowed one to make the declaration to himself.

[2]. See Bedikat Ḥametz U-vi’uro 6, n. 7, which cites Responsa R. Akiva Eger that if one verbalized the declaration to make his ḥametz ownerless, it becomes ownerless, even if he did not make the declaration wholeheartedly. Thus, anyone can claim his ḥametz, and the former owner is not able to claim that he did not mean what he said. Perhaps, according to MB 445:1, in the name of SAH, although legally another individual can acquire the ḥametz, if the original owner did not nullify his ḥametz wholeheartedly, the ḥametz remains in his possession until someone else actually claims it (as opposed to becoming ownerless right away).

04. The Custom of Bi’ur Ḥametz by Burning

As we have learned, in addition to bitul ḥametz, the Sages ordained the active elimination of all ḥametz remaining after breakfast on the morning of the 14th, and any ḥametz that was found during bedikat ḥametz (including the ten pieces of bread that were hidden before the search). Technically one may eliminate the ḥametz in any number of ways, for example: by crumbling it and scattering it into the wind, the sea, or a river (SA 445:1); by pouring bleach or some other substance on it, thus rendering it unfit to be eaten by a dog before the prohibition of ḥametz takes effect, for then it is not considered ḥametz food, so it need not be eliminated (SA 442:9); by placing it, before the prohibition takes effect, in an ownerless public domain; or by flushing it down the toilet, whereby it no longer remains in the house (MB 445:18).

Nonetheless, the holy people of Israel customarily enhance the mitzva of eliminating the ḥametz via burning it. Nothing eliminates ḥametz better than fire. Furthermore, there are poskim who maintain that the mitzva to dispose of ḥametz must be fulfilled by burning.

Those who wish to enhance this mitzva further must make sure to nullify the ḥametz after burning it, since if they nullify it beforehand, the ḥametz will no longer be considered theirs, and they will lose the enhancement of bi’ur by burning. One must therefore be careful to leave enough time after burning the ḥametz to nullify it, for after the fifth hour of the day it is no longer possible to nullify ḥametz (as we learned above 3:6). Hence, as soon as a kezayit of ḥametz has been burned, the enhancement of bi’ur ḥametz by burning has been achieved, and the bitul can be recited.

Some people, when using kerosene to light the fire, are careful not to pour it directly on the ḥametz. They do this so that the fire alone destroys the ḥametz, and the kerosene does not render it unfit for consumption by a dog before it is burned.[3]


[3]. There is a dispute in Pesaḥim 27b regarding the mitzva of destroying the ḥametz: R. Yehuda says it must specifically be burned, and the Sages say it can be destroyed in any fashion. According to the majority of Rishonim, including Rambam, Rosh, Ritva, and Ran, the halakha follows the Sages; this is also the ruling of SA 445:1. Some, including Tosafot and Smak, rule in accordance with R. Yehuda. Baḥ and Gra add that even the Sages believe that the preferred method is burning, just that it is also possible to destroy the ḥametz in other ways. Other Aḥaronim disagree and feel that according to the Sages there is nothing special or preferable about burning, and one may destroy his ḥametz in any way.

Most Rishonim feel that even according to R. Yehuda, the mitzva to burn ḥametz only applies to ḥametz that is left over past midday of the 14th, when it becomes forbidden, similar to the law of notar (uneaten portions of a sacrifice left over until the morning), which must also be burned. However, before midday of the 14th, it is possible that even R. Yehuda would agree that one may destroy the ḥametz any way he wants; this is the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam and Maharam Ḥalawa. On the other hand, Rashi explains that according to R. Yehuda the mitzva is to burn the ḥametz before midday. According to Rosh’s understanding of Rashi, the mitzva to burn the ḥametz only applies during the sixth hour of the day, but according to Tur’s understanding of Rashi, the mitzva to burn the ḥametz applies even prior to the sixth hour. If this opinion is correct, the mitzva to destroy the ḥametz is specifically by burning it. See Berur Halakha on Pesaḥim 27b for a summary of the topic. Even though it is clear according to almost all poskim that there is no mitzva to burn the ḥametz before it becomes forbidden, Rema 434:2 and 445:1 writes that the custom is to burn the ḥametz even earlier. See Or Le-Tziyon 1:33, which explains that the stringency of burning the ḥametz is dependent upon the combination of several opinions: firstly, the authorities who follow R. Yehuda; secondly, Tur’s understanding of Rashi that the mitzva to burn the ḥametz applies even before the ḥametz becomes forbidden; and thirdly, Tosafot’s opinion that the act of nullification renders the ḥametz ownerless, as opposed to Rashi’s understanding that nullification accomplishes the mitzva of destroying the ḥametz (and thus the only way to fulfill the mitzva of destroying the ḥametz according to Tosafot is by burning it). See above, 3:5, on the essence of the mitzva.

According to a simple reading, the mitzva of removing ḥametz (in Shemot 12:15) is to dispose of the ḥametz before it becomes forbidden, as most Rishonim write. Ran and Ritva also write that one fulfills this mitzva by conducting bedikat ḥametz. Rambam writes that the mitzva of removing ḥametz begins on the night of the 14th (MT, Laws of Ḥametz and Matza 3:1). However, Rosh maintains that the mitzva only begins once the ḥametz becomes forbidden.

Sidur Pesaḥ Ke-hilkhato 15:4 states that one should be careful not to pour lighter fluid on the ḥametz itself, so that the ḥametz is eradicated by burning and not by being befouled by the kerosene. Hilkhot Ḥag Be-ḥag 8:10, n. 17, states that one need not be meticulous about this, since the main objective is to turn the ḥametz into ashes, not to befoul its taste. See above, 3:5, n. 8.

05. Ḥametz in the Garbage

On the morning of the 14th of Nisan the question arises: Must ḥametz that has been placed in the garbage also be destroyed?

If the garbage bin belongs to a Jew or is located on his property, the owner should, le-khatḥila, pour bleach or some other foul substance on the ḥametz to render it unfit for consumption by a dog. When necessary, since ḥametz that has been thrown into the garbage is considered disgusting, there is no need to further befoul it, as it is already deemed eradicated given its disgusting state.

If the garbage container is the property of the local authority and is located in the public domain, one need not destroy the ḥametz he placed in it before the ḥametz becomes prohibited. The local authority is not obligated to destroy it because it was not interested in acquiring the ḥametz to begin with. Its only aim was to remove it to a garbage dump.[4]


[4]. Igrot Moshe OḤ 3:57 states that placing ḥametz in the trash is a clear indication that one renounces ownership of the ḥametz. However, if the trash bin belongs to him, according to Taz and MA 445:3 he has a rabbinic obligation to burn the ḥametz. However, if the trash can is in the public domain, he does not have to burn any ḥametz he placed inside the trash can. Bedikat Ḥametz U-vi’uro 3:45 adds that if the ḥametz is so filthy that clearly no person would use it for any purpose, it is considered destroyed. It also states in n. 130 there that ḥametz that is unfit for humans but suitable for dogs only must be destroyed if the ḥametz is able to cause other dough to become ḥametz. However, if the ḥametz is so filthy that it is no longer suitable to any person for any purpose, it is considered nullified and need not be destroyed (see also Piskei Teshuvot 445:7, which cites other opinions). Nevertheless, when one discards his trash into a bag, as is the modern custom, the ḥametz does not always become that dirty. Thus, if the trash can is in his domain, it is best to dispel all doubt and refrain from discarding ḥametz that is still suitable for dogs into that particular trash can in the days leading up to Pesaḥ.

06. Ḥametz Found after the Onset of the Prohibition

If one finds ḥametz in his possession after midday on the 14th, he must eliminate it immediately. If he forgot to nullify the ḥametz in his possession, he is obligated by Torah law to eliminate it. Le-khatḥila the mitzva is to burn the ḥametz, but if he wants, he may eliminate it in other ways. For example, he may crumble it up and scatter it into the wind, or he may break it up and flush it down the toilet. However, if he throws it into an ownerless public domain, he has accomplished nothing. Although before the sixth hour one may still renounce ownership of his ḥametz and thus exempt himself from the obligation to eradicate it, once the sixth hour began, it became forbidden to derive benefit from the ḥametz in his possession, and it is no longer possible to get rid of the ḥametz and avoid the prohibitions it entails without destroying it completely.

Similarly, once the prohibition has taken effect, it is no longer possible to get rid of ḥametz simply by pouring a foul substance like bleach on it to make it unfit to be eaten by a dog. Only before the ḥametz becomes prohibited is it possible to do so. If the ḥametz was fit for consumption when the prohibition took effect, one is obligated to eradicate it completely. Therefore, if one finds such ḥametz in his possession, he must burn it, scatter it in the wind, or crumble it into pieces and flush it down the toilet, in order to eliminate it. As stated, the best way to fulfill this mitzva is by burning the ḥametz. Moreover, even after the ḥametz has been burned, it is forbidden to derive benefit from its ashes.[5]

If one finds ḥametz on the first or last day(s) of Pesaḥ or on Shabbat of Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, he may not burn it or even carry it to the bathroom to flush it down the toilet, as ḥametz is muktzeh and may not be handled. Rather, one must cover it with a container so that nobody accidentally eats it, and it must be burned as soon as possible after the Shabbat or holiday. If the same person forgot to nullify his ḥametz before Pesaḥ, he violates two Torah prohibitions – bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei – every moment the ḥametz remains in his possession. In order for one to spare himself from these transgressions, according to many poskim he may pick up the ḥametz, break it up somewhat, and throw it into the toilet; these poskim permit violating the laws of muktzeh, which are of rabbinic origin, in order to avoid Torah prohibitions. Nonetheless, some poskim take the stringent position that he should wait until Shabbat is over before eliminating the ḥametz (MB 446:6).

Regarding the berakha, if one finds ḥametz during Pesaḥ, even though it is a mitzva to dispose of it, he does not recite a berakha before the bi’ur, because the blessing he said before bedikat ḥametz included all ḥametz in his possession that required removal. However, if one kneads dough during Pesaḥ and it becomes ḥametz, or if one accidentally bought ḥametz on Pesaḥ, he must say the berakha over its disposal since this ḥametz was not in his possession before Pesaḥ, at the time of its bedika and bi’ur, and thus the berakha he said then did not apply to it (see MB 435:5).


[5]. See n. 3, where we learned that the main dispute between R. Yehuda and the Sages is about ḥametz that one finds after it has already become forbidden. According to the Rishonim who follow R. Yehuda, one has a mitzva to burn this ḥametz. Even though most poskim follow the Sages, as quoted in SA 445:1, burning the ḥametz is an acceptable method, especially according to R. Yoel Sirkis (Baḥ) and Gra, who maintain that the Sages agree that the preferable method to destroy the ḥametz is burning. This is what MB states in 445:6.

Once the ḥametz becomes forbidden, there is an obligation to destroy the ḥametz completely, as cited in SA 442:9 and MB ad loc. 40. Even declaring the ḥametz ownerless does not work at this point; it only works before the ḥametz becomes forbidden, as explained in MB 445:18. Even after the ḥametz is burned, one is forbidden to benefit from the ashes, as explained in SA 445:2. MB 445:5 states that if one throws ḥametz into an outhouse, it is considered destroyed. However, the outhouses in the times of MB were exceptionally filthy, and anything that was thrown there became so repulsive that it would no longer be usable in any capacity. Conversely, bread that has been discarded in a modern toilet is likely to emerge intact from the drainpipes, and would likely be fit for a dog; therefore, I wrote that if one were to discard bread this way, he should first break up the bread into smaller crumbs.

Although in general any ḥametz found on Pesaḥ has already been nullified and would therefore only be rabbinically forbidden, the ḥametz must still be destroyed, as would any ḥametz that had not been nullified, since, as noted, the rabbis decreed that all ḥametz must be nullified and eliminated. SAH (435:4) adds that if one did not burn his ḥametz, he violates bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei on the rabbinic level and is subject to the rabbinic obligation of tashbitu.

Regarding the time for burning the ḥametz: if one finds ḥametz in his possession after the beginning of the sixth hour of the day, he has a rabbinic obligation to burn it, and if he found ḥametz that he did not nullify, he has a Torah obligation to destroy it. If he does not, he violates bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei as soon as the festival begins. If he nullified his ḥametz, he does not violate bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei on the Torah level, but he still has a rabbinic obligation to burn it.

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