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.
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).
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
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
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
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).
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.