In this siman, the procedure for - and other particulars related to - ‘biur chametz’ is covered. I think you will be enlightened by our introductory lesson to this siman, which we will do in a question-answer format. Stay alert - you may even have an “A-ha! Torah moment”!
Question: Must chametz actually be burned by fire? Can’t it simply be thrown away off of one’s property? Or flushed down the toilet, etc?
Answer: In order to answer these questions, we will first need to clarify a very foundational point about two mitzvos:
There are two mitzvos related to the disposal of chametz – one negative and the other positive. The negative one is the one we have referred to often in our lessons – BYBY (No, not Bye- Bye!): ‘bal yeiraeh u’bal yimatze’ / do not own chametz during Pesach. The positive one is ‘Tashbisu’ / remove/destroy leaven from your homes (before Pesach). Let us now answer the questions posed above: Yes, we can fulfill the negative mitzvah – i.e. avoid violating BYBY – in any number of ways: As long as we do not have any chametz in our possession during Pesach, we are not in violation! Thus, we may sell, give away, throw away, burn, flush – whatever we want! However, in order to fulfill the positive mitzvah of ‘Tashbisu’, we must perform it in the way prescribed for its performance. Ideally, this is through burning, and if burning is not possible, then by destroying it such that it is irretrievable – i.e. throwing it into the sea, or crumbling it and scattering it into the wind. (Note #1: Must throwing it into the sea be preceeded by crumbling as well? Not unless a person might be able to fish it out and retrieve it. Note #2: Ed: It seems to me that flushing the chametz down the toilet and into the sewer system is the same as throwing into the sea.)
Now, here comes the A-ha! moment….
Question: I understand the distinction between the positive and negative mitzvos. But, practically speaking, if one is commanded to perform the positive ‘Tashbisu’, how does that leave him any option other than burning or destroying the chametz? In other words, by selling or throwing away chametz, granted BYBY is avoided, but how is ‘Tashbisu’ fulfilled?
Answer (with a question): Who says that one must fulfill ‘Tashbisu’ with all of his chametz?! Question: Huh??!
Answer: That’s right – make sure you dispose of the bulk of your chametz in any way you like, in order to avoid BYBY. But make sure to leave some over with which to fulfill ‘Tashbisu’ by burning! Question: Hmm… How much must be left over for ‘Tashbisu’? Answer: A kezayis (or more)!!!