In this lesson, we will attempt to give some guidelines for situations in which a person is away from home, either before or during Pesach, and what his obligations are for BC and bitul. We will be quoting from Rav Eider’s comprehensive work in English – which incorporates Shulchan Aruch and Mishnah Berura - as well as other sources.
“If a person intends to leave (his house) before the fourteenth of Nissan, but no one is available to perform BC for him (Ed. Remember: a ‘shaliach’/proxy is perfectly acceptable to perform BC), he is required to perform BC on the evening before he leaves. He is then also required to nullify (biur) any chametz which he has not seen. This is required even if he has no intention of returning until after Pesach. This halacha applies only if he leaves within thirty days of Pesach (i.e. from Purim). (Ed. Remember: The obligation to begin learning and preparing for Pesach begins on Purim!) What is the halacha if one intends to leave more than thirty days before Pesach?”
“According to the Shulchan Aruch, if a person leaves more than thirty days before Pesach for a long journey, he is required to perform BC before he leaves. This halacha applies (even) if he intends to return before Pesach (i.e. with enough time to do BC when he returns… and certainly if he will be arriving home on Pesach itself.) Some poskim hold that this halacha applies only if he intends to return on Pesach. However, if he intends to return before Pesach, he is not required to perform BC before he leaves (i.e. because he can perform it when he returns…) Although one should conduct himself according to the first view, in case of great necessity, one may rely on the second view.”
“If a person leaves home more than thirty days before Pesach for a long journey and does not intend to return until after Pesach, although no BC is necessary, he is required to nullify his chametz before Pesach – wherever he is. (Note: If a person knows that there is chametz in his possession, some poskim hold that he is required to dispose of it before he leaves; other poskim hold that it is not required….)”
“Most poskim hold that wherever a BC is performed before the fourteenth of Nisan, no bracha is recited. The reason is that when a BC is performed on the fourteenth, the BC is the beginning of the biur… Since the BC is the beginning of the biur, he can recite the bracha of ‘…al biur chametz’ / ”…concerning the burning of chametz”. Where a BC is performed before the fourteenth, after the BC hs will not destroy the chametz; he will continue using it (i.e. in a different location.). Therefore, since this BC merely removes chametz from this property – without destroying it – no bracha is recited.”
So, let’s take stock of what we’ve learned so far, with a case in point: For many years, my family would leave our home several days before Pesach and relocate to a different city for the entire week of Pesach. (We did it to our parents all these years, now our children are doing it to us!) Based upon what we have learned so far in this lesson, were we reqired to do BC before leaving? (Think carefully before reading on….!)
I would say – YES! After all, we were in our home during the thirty days before Pesach, and thus the obligation of BC and biur fell upon us, right? Indeed, that is what is stated, and many people conduct themselves in that manner. In actual fact, however, the Rav I would ask each year would tell me: “You are not obligated to do BC on your home in your situtation. Rather, wherever you are staying on the night of the fourteenth, rent the space in the rooms in which you are living/sleeping from the homeowner (i.e. father or father-in-law) and do a BC there. (Ed. They charged only $1 and never raised the price on us!) By that, you will fulfill the mitzvah of BC.” We accepted the Rav’s word and tried very hard to resist the temptation to Pesach-clean the house and do a BC, but to tell you the truth, I was always perplexed by his ruling, as seemingly it did not concur with what I had read in the Shulchan Aruch! In later years, I became aware of two alternative approaches for the “Pesach free-loader” – both fully consistent with the Shulchan Aruch - which would obviate the need for a full BC in his home, one of which was the basis for my Rav’s ruling. I recently found these approaches (which are based upon well-established sources) succinctly stated on online sites, so I will excerpt them here: Approach #1 (which my Rav used): “There is an obligation to check your home, even if you are not going to be there on Pesach. The bedika should be performed the night before you leave and you should not recite a bracha. However, if you are selling all of the chametz in your house and you leave before the night of the 14th, there is no obligation to perform bedikas chametz. Rav Gavriel Tzinner, Nitei Gavriel Hilchos Pesach 27:4 notes that even those who are of the opinion that one must perform bedikas chametz on chametz that is going to be sold to a non-Jew will agree that if the person leaves his house before the 14th, there is no obligation to perform bedikas chametz on the house. You may perform bedikas chametz (on the night of the 14th) with a bracha in the room that is designated for your Pesach stay. The obligation primarily rests on the host. You may participate in the bedikas chametz of your host by listening to his bracha and performing the bedika in the room that is designated for your Pesach stay.” (download.yutorah.org/2010/1148/742846.doc) Get it? You see, the Shulchan Aruch’s ruling is applicable to a person who is not selling his chametz to a non-Jew. However, one who sells his chametz is in a different situation! Approach #2: This approach, also predicated on the sale of chametz to a non-Jew, requires the willing participation of the Rav by whose agency one sells his chametz: “Some arrange for a special sale of chametz, which takes effect on the thirteenth of Nisan rather than the standard sale (which takes effect of the fourteenth). If such a sale is arranged, it would exempt you from bedikas chametz. (Ed. Essentially, the Rav is actually selling the property itself to the non-Jew on the 13th; thus by evening, it is no longer in the possession of the Jewish owner, and consequently, he is not obligated to perfom BC in it!) Yet, rather than losing the entire mitzvah, it is possible to sell part of the house, which would exempt those parts from bedika, and leave the unsold parts for the mitzvah of bedikas chametz.” (http://www.dinonline.org/2011/03/06/going-away-for-pesach-bedikas-chametz/)