Based upon what we learned in the previous lesson, one could think of the bedika (BC = searching for chametz) and the biur (burning) as two stages of one long mitzvah – searching for and then destroying our chametz. On second thought, however, are they really one and the same? For example, do we not also burn the leftover chametz from our Erev Pesach breakfast, which did not result from our BC? Let us consider the ramifications of this question of whether or not BC and biur are linked:
1) What bracha is made over BC? If BC is simply stage one of biur, it would make sense that ‘Baruch… asher…al biur chametz’ (“Blessed… Who… concerning the burning of chametz”) is the correct bracha on BC (and it is!) because burning is the ultimate end of the mitzvah. (Note: It would not be appropriate to make a bracha invoking a mere first stage of a mitzvah, if that action, in and of itself, does not fulfill the mitzvah!) At what point should the bracha be made? As is the practice with most mitzvah-brachos, it should be made ‘oveir la-asiyaso’ (lit. before the performance), which would be before stage one commences – i.e. before beginning BC. Now, let’s explore further: Suppose one forgot to make the bracha before starting BC? Well, he could certainly still make it as long as he hadn’t finished searching. What if he forgot to make the bracha and he already finished BC – should he make it before the biur the next morning? That’s a tougher question: It would seem that we could still make the bracha, because the mitzvah is still not complete until the burning. On the other hand, if as we postulated above, BC and biur are linked together, the Sages never intended for a bracha to be made on the act of biur alone, but only on the combination, which begins with BC! With BC already completed before the bracha was made, it would seem that the bracha has been forfeited! In fact, Mishnah Berura quotes some authorities that rule that on account of this halachic uncertainty, the bracha should be made in that case without mentioning ‘Shem u’Malchus’ (i.e. from ‘Atah’ thru ‘ha-olam’)! Keep reading…
[Side question: Why is no bracha made over ‘bitul (nullification of) chametz’?
Answer: Because nullification is a matter of the heart, and brachos are never made over “heart mitzvos”! Have you ever noticed that?]
2) Why is there a minhag to put out ten pieces of bread before BC? The rationale may be as follows: If we say that BC and biur are two stages of one mitzvah, then how can we make the bracha about biur not knowing whether or not we will find any chametz (stage one) to burn (stage two)?! Therefore, we put out the pieces to be sure that we will fulfill the mitzvah and our bracha will not be in vain. One other hand, if biur is a separate mitzvah – e.g. burning the leftover chametz from breakfast – it would not seem necessary to burn specifically chametz found during BC? According to that rationale, the ten pieces should not be necessary!
So, which view is correct? Are BC and biur linked or are they separate?
In practice, we acknowledge both approaches: 1) With respect to the bracha ‘al biur chametz’, we view biur as independent from BC and we permit one to make a complete bracha (including ‘Shem u’Malchus’) over biur alone, if it was not made over BC. 2) With respect to the ten pieces, we uphold the minhag, thereby indicating that we are particular about performing biur specifically on chametz found during BC (in addition to any remaining chametz from Erev Pesach morning.) [Note: Regarding the ten pieces, care should be taken that they not be crumbly, nor that they be lost, forgotten or siezed by children or other “creatures”!]
A few more halachos concerning the bracha over BC:
Question: May the bracha be made by someone other than the one who is conducting BC? Answer: Yes and no. If Mr. Ba’al Habayis (i.e. man of the house) wishes for someone else to conduct BC for him, he should appoint that person to make the bracha as well. If Mr. Baal Habayis participates in the mitzvah, but asks others to assist him (and that is preferable to having a ‘shaliach’/proxy do the entire mitzvah on his behalf), then he should make the bracha, and his assistants should listen and be ‘yotze’ (fulfill) with it. [Note: In fact, anyone can be ‘yotze’ with the mitzvah-bracha of another person, if they are both doing the mitzvah together.]
Question: Is a person permitted to talk during BC? Answer: Once he made the bracha, he may not talk at least until he has commenced the search, and if he did, he must make the bracha again. Once he has begun searching, he should try to limit his talk to matters pertaining only to BC, in order to keep focused on the task. If he did talk, however, he does not need to make a new bracha before resuming the search.