In memory of our good friend, MosheAron ben Baruch (Gross) z”l, on his shloshim
3 Teves 5774 / December 6, 2013
MBY 433:1-11 Laws of bedikas chametz (part 2 - final)
The candle and the feather
The candle used for BC should not be a torch, a two-wicked candle or even a large single-wicked candle. Why? Because we suspect that a person will not search thoroughly enough in small spaces when using such large flames, for fear of starting a fire! Also for this reason, one should not use an oil lamp (rather a candle), because he might be tempted to avoid a thorough search for fear of spilling oil from the lamp. (Ed. For all these and other reasons, use of a flashlight is acceptable and even recommended by many poskim/halachic authorities!) It is to this aim – i.e. inspecting crevices thoroughly - that the minhag became to use a feather during the BC in order to enable one to reach deep into crevices and sweep out any chametz.
Where is BC required? Where is it not required?
1) Out of reach BC is obligatory wherever chametz is sometimes brought during the year, even incidentally. The classic “test case” in this regard is the wine cellar, into which a person might enter during a meal – toting a piece of bread – in order to obtain more wine. (Note: There is a well-known case in a Mishnah where the wine barrels are stacked up in the cellar high and deep. The halachic ruling on that scenario is that only the top two outermost rows need be checked.) Other types of storage areas which one would never visit during mealtimes need not be searched. Even in a room where BC is required, particular areas within the room may not require checking, if it is unlikely that chametz could have entered there. Examples include: - Crevices that are either high and out of reach or low (i.e. less than 3 tefachim/handbreaths from the ground, where there are no children in the house to stoop that low!);
- Slanted roofs of buildings;
- Crevices reacing into a wall beyond the length of a person’s extended arm. (Note: The principle here is that one is not required to check in places where chametz might have rolled - but certainly not placed!)
2) Inhabited by animals
Another possible exemption to BC is areas which are inhabited by animals or fowl that would likely eat any chametz found there. However, it is not so simple. The following halachic “rule of thumb” applies here: ‘Ein safek motzi mi-dei vadai’ (lit. “A doubt does not rectify a certainty”). This principle can be illustrated by the following example: Suppose there is an area which certainly had chametz in it during the year (e.g. a threshing floor) and there is a doubt whether or not the chametz was removed (e.g. by animals eating up the fallen grains). In such a case, BC is obligatory, because the presence of chametz is certain and the eating of the the animals is uncertain. Any leniency exempting an area where there are animals can therefore be only where the chametz itself was uncertain. Get it? [Note: Some opinions rule more leniently, maintaining that even in places of ‘vadai’ (certain) chametz, BC need not be conducted where animals reign, provided that the chametz was placed there long before Pesach. In some cases, there may even be a ‘heter’ (halachic permit) to put chametz out in an area ‘l’chatchila’ (in the first place) in front of animals and rely that they will eat it, particularly in the public domain.]
3) Under ruins and rubble
The halacha discusses BC in building ruins or piles of stone rubble, under which chametz may be lying. The rule: If it is certain that chametz is under the pile, then it must be buried under a layer of at least 3 tefachim/handbreaths in order for BC to be deemed unnecessary. If it is uncertain where there is chametz there, then even a thin layer of rubble is sufficient. Even where BC is not required, ‘bitul’ (verbal nullification) is still required in the case of rubble. [Note: For those who would like to follow the rationale for requiring ‘bitul’, there is an interesting machlokes/dispute about it: According to one approach, the Sages did not require BC because they were not afraid that the buried chametz would become exposed on Pesach. However, since it is still physically in his possession, albeit buried - he would be in violation of BYBY (‘bal yera-eh u’bal yimatzeh’ – i.e. the Torah prohibition against possessing chametz) were he not to do bitul. Based upon this understanding, if one did not perform bitul on this chametz before the deadline, he would be obligated to excavate the chametz from the rubble and burn it physically! According to a different approach, while buried, the chametz is considered “burnt” according to Torah law, and not subject to BYBY; however, the Rabbis, concerned that it may somehow become un-buried on Pesach, which would reawaken the BYBY violation, required bitul to counter that possibility.] Please note: According to all approaches, if the rubble is so completely thick that the chametz cannot possibly be retrieved, then it is considered - by both Torah and Rabbinic law - to be ‘mevu’ar’ (destroyed) such that bitul is not required!
Attention: If there is a place where BC is required but difficult to execute, a person has the option of selling the actual area to a non-Jew together with any chametz in it. (Ed: This may or may not be an option if the person intends on living in or near that area on Pesach. Please consult a rav for a particular situation. The Halachos of selling chametz will be discussed in a later lesson.)
One final point:
Even if a person did a thorough “Pesach cleaning” before the time for BC, he is still obligated to conduct a proper BC when the time comes. In fact, one SHOULD Pesach-clean before BC, and make sure to complete his pre-cleaning before the night of the 14th of Nisan. During the BC itself, one should remember to check inside clothing pockets and hems (including children’s clothing) and the like, and, if necessary, to re-check before the time of ‘biur’/burning (the next morning) in case chametz may have fallen back into them in the interim!