The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.For final rulings, consult your Rav.
HILCHOS PESACH: QUESTIONS and ANSWERS
QUESTION: Is is halachically acceptable to celebrate Pesach away from home
after selling one's home with all of its chametz contents to a non-Jew?
DISCUSSION: Anyone who owns chametz is obligated to get rid of it before
Pesach begins. This can be accomplished in one of two ways: By destroying
it(1), or by selling it [or giving it away] to a non-Jew(2). Either way, one
fulfills his basic obligation and does not transgress the Biblical
injunction against owning any chametz.
But there is something else to consider: The Rabbis obligated each person
to search for chametz on the night before Pesach. [If one leaves town before
that time, he is still obligated to search for chametz the night before he
leaves, although no berachah is recited for that search.] In the opinion of
many poskim, the search for chametz is obligatory whether or not one owns
his chametz by the time Pesach arrives, since once the rabbinical ordinance
was enacted, it cannot be abrogated regardless of the circumstances(3).
Consequently, selling the house to a non-Jew does not free one from his
personal obligation to search for chametz.
A solution(4) to this problem is to set aside one room in the house, even a
small one, and not sell it to a non-Jew along with the rest of the house.
That room should be cleaned for Pesach and thoroughly searched for chametz
on the night before Pesach, with the proper blessing recited for the
bedikah(5). One who will have already gone out of town by the night before
Pesach should follow the same procedure on the night before he leaves - but
he may not recite a berachah on the bedikah.
QUESTION: How extensive does the search for chametz have to be? How is it
possible to thoroughly search a whole house in a short period of time?
DISCUSSION: It is almost impossible to properly check an entire house in a
short period of time. The halachah is clear that extensive and thorough
searching is required in any place where chametz may have been brought
during the past year. Thus some people spend many hours checking and
searching their houses on the night of bedikas chametz, often devoting a
good part of the night to the bedikah. This is the correct approach(6).
But many people cannot - or do not - do so. Some poskim find some
justification (limud zechus) for the laxer version of bedikas chametz, as
the house has undergone many weeks of meticulous pre-Pesach cleaning and
scrubbing and there is no vestige of chametz around. Once the rooms of the
house have been cleaned, they may be halachically considered as "a place
into which no chametz has been brought". While checking and searching is
still required in order to ascertain that no spot in the house was
overlooked, the search need not be as thorough and exacting as if no
cleaning had been done(7).
A better suggestion - for those who do not do a meticulous search on the
night before Pesach - is to do partial searches earlier. As soon as a
certain area in the house is cleaned, the area should be carefully checked
for chametz - either at night using a flashlight or in the daytime by
natural light. The wife or an older child can be entrusted with this
search. If the house is checked in stages, then an exhaustive search need
not be repeated on the night before Pesach in the areas that were already
checked, provided that it is certain that no new chametz was carried into
QUESTION: Is it permitted to take a haircut or do laundry on Erev Pesach
after midday (chatzos)?
DISCUSSION: It is Rabinically forbidden to do melachah, "work", even if it
is needed for Yom Tov, on Erev Pesach after chatzos. Two(9) basic reasons
are given for this prohibition: 1. When the Beis ha-Mikdash stood, Erev
Pesach was considered a Yom Tov, since the Korban Pesach was brought on that
day. It retains the status of Yom Tov today even though the Korban Pesach is
no longer offered(10). 2. To give everyone a chance to properly prepare for
Certain forms of personal grooming and certain households chores that are
halachically classified as "work" are forbidden to be done on Erev Pesach
after chatzos. Thus it is forbidden to take a haircut or a shave(12), to sew
new clothing(13) or to do laundry(14) on Erev Pesach after chatzos. One must
arrange his schedule so that these tasks are completed before midday.
L'chatchilah, one should even cut his nails before chatzos(15).
If, b'dieved, one could not or did not take care of these matters before
midday, some of them may still be done and others may not: sewing or
completing the sewing of new clothes may not be done at all; a haircut and
shave may be taken only at a non-Jewish barber; laundry may be done only by
a non-Jewish maid or dry cleaner(16). Other chores, such as ironing
clothes(17), polishing shoes, cutting nails, sewing buttons and other minor
mending(18), may be done with no restrictions.
QUESTION: What should be done if a package containing chametz arrives at
one's home or business during Pesach?
DISCUSSION: One who knows or suspects that the package may contain actual
chametz, may not assume ownership of the package. If he can refuse to accept
the package, he should do so. If he cannot, he should not bring it into his
house or yard and should have specific halachic intent not to "acquire" the
chametz. The package is considered "ownerless" - anyone who wants it is free
to take it.
If the package was mistakenly brought into the home or business, one must
have specific intent not to "acquire" it. One may not touch the actual
chametz(19). If the package comes on Chol ha-Moed, the chametz should be
immediately discarded, either by burning it or by flushing it down the
toilet. It it comes on Shabbos or Yom Tov, it should be put aside(20) and
covered until it can be discarded.
While most people do not expect to receive packages containing chametz
during Pesach, one should be aware of a recent problem that applies to
almost everybody. Many packaged items are insulated by packing pellets that
protect the contents during transport. In the past, this cushioning was made
from polystyrene, but recently, some companies have begun using
biodegradable "peanuts" which are made from edible corn starch or wheat
starch. Those that are made from wheat starch may be halachically considered
"actual chametz" since they are fit for human consumption. If a package
insulated with these "peanuts" arrives on Pesach(21), the halachos stated
above may apply. A rav should be consulted(22).
While it may not always be easy to differentiate between the different
types of packing pellets, there is a definite difference in appearance
between the polystyrene and the starch ones. The polystyrene ones come in
random shapes while the starch ones look as though they have been extruded
through the holes of a machine. Each piece is perfectly cylindrical and is
1 Either by eating it, burning it, flushing it down the toilet or throwing
it in a river.
2 This is a difficult halachic procedure which can only be administered by a
3 See O.C. 436:3 and Mishnah Berurah 27 and 32.
4 Another possible solution [for people who are away for Pesach and are
staying at another person's home] is for the guest to "rent" from his host -
with a valid kinyan - the room in which he is staying, and search for
chametz in that room; M'harsham 3:291. But other poskim prefer not to rely
on this solution; see Shevet ha-Levi 4:44.
5 Siddur Pesach K'hilchaso 12:1.
6 Several Gedolim, among them the Gr"a, Chasam Sofer and the Brisker Rav
were reported to have spent a good part of the night searching their houses
7 Sha'arei Teshuvah 433:2; Da'as Torah 433:2; Chochmas Shelomo 433:1; Kinyan
Torah 2:122. The basic idea is quoted by Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 432:12.
8 Siddur Pesach K'hilchaso 13:1.
9 See Pnei Yehoshua (Pesachim 50a) for yet a third reason for this
10 Mishnah Berurah 468:1. According to this reason, even when Erev Pesach
falls on Shabbos it is forbidden to do work on Friday.
11 Beiur Halachah 468:1.
12 Mishnah Berurah 468:5.
13 Rama O.C. 468:2.
14 Mishnah Berurah 468:7.
15 Mishnah Berurah 468:5. Some mention that it is proper to shower/bathe and
polish shoes before chatzos as well, but this is not mentioned by the
16 Mishnah Berurah 468:7. Towels and children's clothing which became dirty
(or were discovered to be dirty) after chatzos and are going to be needed
during Yom Tov may be machine washed even by a Jew.
17 Orchos Rabbeinu 2, pg. 56 quoting an oral ruling by the Chazon Ish.
18 Rama O.C. 468:2 and Mishnah Berurah 8. Lengthening and shortening a hem
is also permitted.
19 O.C. 446:10.
20 The chametz is severe muktzeh and may not be moved for any reason; O.C.
446:1. Some poskim add that it may not even be moved with one's body or
foot, even though other types of severe muktzeh may be; L'ehoros Nossan
21 The same applies to packages which arrived before Pesach but were not
opened. Although one nullifies (mevatel) his chametz before Pesach, it is
still forbidden to knowingly keep chametz in the house unless it is put away
and sold to a non-Jew with the rest of the chametz.
22 A more lenient ruling might be based on the arguement that these pellets
have been designated as packing material - not food. They have been
processed to remove their nutrients and thus lost their "chametz form" and
may be stored on Pesach; refer to O.C. 442:3 and 9, Mishnah Berurah 15, 41
and 42 and Chazon Ish O.C. 116:8. This is a questionable argument and a rav
must be consulted.
23 The technical information quoted here is based on information from
Kashrus Magazine, April 2000.