Question: Is it 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 it1 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 blessing 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 rabbinic 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 solution4 to this problem is to set aside one room in the
house, even a small one, and not sell it to the 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 bedikah5. 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 blessing 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: Halachically speaking, an extensive and thorough search
is required in any place where chametz may have been brought during the past
year. 6 Since it is almost impossible to properly check an
entire house in a short period of time, some people actually 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. 7 But
most people cannot—or do not—spend so much time searching their homes for
chametz. How, then, do they fulfill this obligation?
Several poskim find 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. 8
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 those areas.
Question: Is it permitted to get a haircut or do laundry on erev
Pesach after midday (chatzos)?
Discussion: It is forbidden to do melachah, “work,” even if it is
needed for Yom Tov, on erev Pesach after chatzos. Two10 basic
reasons are given for this rabbinic 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. 11 2) To give everyone a
chance to properly prepare for the Seder. 12
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 get a haircut or a shave,
13 to sew new clothing14 or to do
laundry15 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. 16
If, b’diavad, one could not or did not take care of these matters before
midday, some of them may still be done while 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. 17 Other chores, such as
ironing clothes, 18 polishing shoes, cutting nails, sewing
buttons and other minor mending, 19 may be done with no
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. 20 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. If it comes on Shabbos or Yom Tov, it should be put
aside21 and covered until it can be discarded.
1. By eating it, burning it, flushing it down the toilet, or throwing it
in a river.
2. This is a complex halachic procedure which can only be administered by
an experienced rabbi.
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; Maharsham 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. O.C. 333:3.
7. Several gedolim, among them the Gaon of Vilna, the Chasam Sofer and the
Brisker Rav, were reported to have spent a good part of the night searching
their homes for chametz.
8. Sha’arei Teshuvah 433:2; Da’as Torah 433:2; Chochmas Shelomo 433:11;
Rav S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in Mevakshei Torah Ohr Efrayim, pg. 532); Kinyan
Torah 2:122; The basic idea is quoted by Sha’ar ha-Tziyun 432:12.
9. Siddur Pesach K’hilchaso 13:1.
10. See Pnei Yehoshua (Pesachim 50a) for a third reason for this
11. Mishnah Berurah 468:1.
12. Beiur Halachah 468:1. According to this reason, even when erev Pesach
falls on Shabbos it is forbidden to do work on Friday.
13. Mishnah Berurah 468:5.
14. Rama, O.C. 468:2.
15. Mishnah Berurah 468:7.
16. Mishnah Berurah 468:5. Although a minority view recommends that one
shower/bathe and polish his shoes before chatzos as well, this was not
accepted by most poskim.
17. 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.
18. Orchos Rabbeinu, vol. 2, pg. 56, quoting an oral ruling by the Chazon
19. Rama, O.C. 468:2 and Mishnah Berurah 8. Lengthening and shortening a
hem is also permitted.
20. Mishnah Berurah 446:10.
21. 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’horos Nassan 5:30.