1) When the Beis HaMikdash stood, the Korban Pesach (Paschal offering) was offered in the afternoon of Erev Pesach. This offering was not merely a way of cooking the Pesach feast; it was one of the most prominent Pesach mitzvos in its own rite. For example, did you know that Hallel was sung by the Levi’im while the lambs were being slaughtered and their blood sprinkled on the Mizbei-ach (altar)?!
2) By positive command, all chametz had to be destroyed by mid-day on Erev Pesach (by Torah law). Furthermore, if one had chametz in his possession during the Korban-offering period, he was in violation of a negative mitzvah.
3) The above chametz-related mitzvos apply even today, in the absence of the Korban Pesach. According to one opinion in the Gemara, when the Torah states (Shmos : ): “On the first day, remove/destroy (Heb. ‘tashbisu’) leaven from your homes…” - the “first day” refers to the 14th of Nisan (Erev Pesach), not the 15th! (Note: In this lesson, we will see how the Rabbis added further fences to this as well.)
4) Work/melacha was prohibited on Erev Pesach in the afternoon, and in some communities, even in the morning. With the exception of certain Yom Tov necessities, this is still in force today, as we will learn iy”H!
The main focus of this siman is the chametz-related mitzvos pertinent to Erev Pesach, which includes both the Torah and Rabbinic laws:
1) Eating: Torah law – Eating of chametz is prohibited after ‘chatzos’/halachic mid-day, which is halfway between ‘alos hashachar’ (dawn) and ‘tzeis hakochavim’ (emergence of the stars). [Ed. A halachic day consists of taking that span of time and dividing it into twelve equal parts, each part being called a ‘sha-ah z’manis’/halachic hour. Thus chatzos is the beginning of the seventh halachic hour.] Rabbinic law – The Rabbis moved the time of prohibition up to the beginning of the fifth halachic hour of the day. (There is a possible one-hour dispensation for ‘chametz nuksheh’ – see MBY 442:1 Mixtures that contain chametz, part 1)
(Note: No ‘kares’: Even though the prohibition against eating chametz begins in the afternoon of Erev Pesach, the Divine punishment of ‘kares’ is not in effect until nightfall.)
2) Benefitting: Torah law – Benefitting from chametz is prohibited right after chatzos as well. Rabbinic law - The Rabbis moved the time of prohibition up to the beginning of the sixth halachic hour of the day. This is the time at which one may no longer sell (or gift) his chametz to a non-Jew, or feed it to his animal.* (Notes: a) Even if he feeds his chametz to his animal before the end of the fifth hour, which is permissible, he must supervise that it has all been eaten; otherwise he is under obligation to destroy it! b) Unlike BYBY, which does not apply when a Jew physically houses chametz belonging to a non-Jew, as we learned in MBY 440-441, deriving benefit from a non-Jew’s chametz is prohibited – e.g. smelling it – just as eating it is!)
3) Owning: The prohibition of BYBY – ‘bal yeiraeh u’bal yimatze’ / owning chametz during Pesach) is not in effect until nightfall. However, if one has chametz in his possession after chatzos, he is in violation of the positive mitzvah of ‘tashbisu’ / remove-destroy the chametz. We have also learned that the Rabbis required that ‘biur chametz’ / burning of chametz be completed before the beginning of the sixth hour, just like selling.
*IMPORTANT: There are two variant opinions about the calculation of these halachic hours, particularly regarding selling chametz. In cases of great need or financial loss, a ‘shaila’/halachic inquiry should be asked.