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A mouse in the house! (and other stories)
MBY 438:1-2 A mouse in the house! (and other stories)

We have learned that once BC is performed properly, we do not have to suspect that chametz was brought back into the house. (See MBY 434:1-4 Laws pertaining to after bedikas chametz - part 1) However, if we have witnessed chametz being brought in (‘vadai’/certain, i.e. there was certainly chametz in the house) then we have to be ‘vadai’ that it was removed! This may require re-checking, unless we are convinced that that chametz was indeed removed. If we are not sure, then we remain in a state of doubt, based upon the principle, “Ein ‘safek’ motzi midei ‘vadai’” – i.e. a doubt (of removal) does not replace a certainty (of placement). In this lesson, we will study some cases in point.

The scenario discussed in the Gemara (Pesachim 10a) and Shulchan Aruch is where someone witnessed a young child, animal or non-Jew entering the already-checked house carrying a loaf of bread (aaargh!). We now have a ‘vadai’ placement. The witness followed the “culprit” into the house and searched the area for telltale signs of the chametz. What did he find: Was the loaf still intact or was it crumbled up? Had all or any part of it been eaten? Was it brought out of the house the same way it was brought in, or was some of it hidden away somewhere in the house? The real question is this: Is there enough evidence to say that just as the placement was ‘vadai’, so was the removal, or does the removal remain a ‘safek’, in which case a re-check is required?

I thought this would be a good lesson for a chart! In the chart below, we track several variations on this scenario. The first vertical column identifies possible findings of the witness’ search. The top horizontal row shows which creature brought in the chametz. The boxes in the middle give the respective halachic rulings, indicating whether the status of removal is considered ‘vadai’, whereby no re-checking is required, or ‘safek’, whereby re-checking is required, along with a reason for that status. (Important note: The halachos in this chart are applicable when a ‘bitul’/nullification was made along with the BC - or can still be made before the deadline. If there was not, and will not be, a bitul, the halacha may vary.)

(for chart on this subject email rabbigoldberger@atlantakollel.org)

Here is a halachic riddle: The halacha states that if there is a piece of chametz the size of a ‘kezayis’ (olive) that is perched high up on a rafter in the house, out of reach, one must get a ladder and climb up to bring the chametz down and destroy it before Pesach. On the other hand, if that same piece were deep down in a pit in his property, he would not be required to climb down on a ladder to bring it up. What is the halachic distinction between the two cases?

Please think and discuss before reading on…)

Answer: Remember that our procedure for removing chametz from our property is two-pronged – ‘bitul’ / nullification and ‘biur’ / destroying. According to the Torah, either method suffices. The Rabbis required both. One of the reasons the Rabbis did not rely on bitul alone is because, while nullified chametz may be ownerless (and thus BYBY/”Do not own chametz” is not be violated), it could still be eaten if found during Pesach. Applying this rationale to our cases, the Rabbis were concerned that the chametz on the rafter could fall down into the house and be eaten, and so they required biur in addition to bitul, just like regular chametz – at least if the chametz was the significant size of a kezayis. However, they were not concerned that the chametz in the pit would “rise” into the house (!), and so they were satisfied with bitul alone. (Note: The implication should be clear: If bitul is not done, then biur is required even for the chametz in the pit!)

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