Shuir #01: Bedikat
Chametz - Obligation and Effect
by Rav Reuven
Sources and questions for
preparation for shiur #01 on the topic of "Bedikat Chametz - Obligation and
1) Source- See mishna 2a,
Rashi "Bodkin," Ritva "Matni." What
are the two possible sources for bedika?
What motivated the Ritva to make a new suggestion? Why did Rashi not agree?
2) Basis - Does the problem
quoted by Rashi necessarily require a bedika?
See Tosafot 21a s.v. Ve-i, Rambam Hilkhot Chametz 2:2 (Mekor Chayim
431:1), and Rosh 1:9.
3) Effect - Does bedika
totally solve the problems it aims to address?
See Kesef Mishneh Hilkhot Chametz 2:2, Ran 1a s.v. Ela
("Umashma...ha-kora"), Rabbeinu David 2a s.v. Ela, Tosafot 29b s.v. Rav ...
4) Mi-derabbanan - After
bitul- See Tosafot 2a "Or", Ran 1a "Ela...le-altar." What are the two ways one can use
statements of the Ran to answer Tosafot's question on Rashi? What are the different ways of
understanding the nature of the takana de-rabbanan?
Masekhet Pesachim appropriately opens with the obligation that
inaugurates the Pesach season - bedikat chametz [checking for chametz]. Most Rishonim assume that bedika is,
under certain circumstances, required by the Torah. By stressing that "bitul" (verbal
annulment of one's chametz) renders the bedika only a rabbinic obligation, the
gemara (4b) implies that before bitul has been performed, bedika is mandated
mi-de'oraita (by the Torah). As
additional support, the Ran (1a s.v. Shema) notes that the gemara (7b, 27b)
deduces many of bedika's laws from pesukim of the Torah.
The Rishonim quote two pesukim as sources for bedikat chametz. Rashi (2a s.v. Bodkin) explains that
bedika neutralizes the prohibitions of "bal yera'eh" and "bal yimatzeh" [i.e.,
the prohibition against having chametz in one's possession during Pesach]
(Devarim 16:4; Shemot 12:19). The
Orchot Chayim (Hilkhot Chametz 1:2) adds that "lo yimatzeh se'or be-vateikhem"
[Chametz shall not be found in your houses] actually dictates bedika.
Tosafot (2a s.v. Or) challenge Rashi's linkage to bal yera'eh on the
basis of the gemara's (6b) assertion that bitul, which is required anyway,
sufficiently offsets the bal yera'eh problem.
For this reason, the Ritva (ibid. s.v. Matni) quotes the positive
commandment which demands the destruction of chametz - "tashbitu se'or
mi-bateikhem" [You shall destroy chametz from your houses] (Shemot 12:15) - as
bedika's source. Although by
nullifying the chametz, one evades the prohibition of possessing and, thus, the
need to actually destroy the chametz, one can fulfill the positive commandment
of "tashbitu" only by actually searching for one's chametz and disposing of it. (Bitul's status as a fulfillment or
merely an evasion of tashbitu is beyond the scope of this shiur. It will be dealt with in later
Applying the pesukim of "tashbitu" or "bal yera'eh" to bedika assumes
that these commandments relate even to situations in which we are unsure of
chametz's presence. Regarding bal
yimatzeh, Tosafot (21a "Ve-i") assert that it applies only to chametz whose
whereabouts are known. (The Bach (OC
431 "U-mide'oraita") limits the leniency to chametz whose actual existence is
unknown.) The Mekor Chayim (431:1)
utilizes Tosafot's limitation to explain the Rambam's ruling (Hilkhot Chametz
2:2, according to our editions) that bedika is not mandated mi-de'oraita.
(Similarly, one could claim that tashbitu pertains only to known
The Rishonim who do connect bal yera'eh to bedika presumably hold like
the Rosh (1:9) who claims, against Tosafot, that the prohibition pertains also
to chametz whose location is unknown.
(See Maharshal and Maharsha (6a) who discuss Rashi's opinion on the
A) Fulfillment of Obligation
Assuming that the prohibitions include unknown chametz, however, raises a
second problem: how do the bedika and subsequent disposal of found chametz alone
suffice? Would we not still require bitul
to account for undetected chametz?
The Rambam (ibid), according to the reading of the Kesef Mishneh, indeed
requires both bedika and bitul.
The Ran (1a "Ela"), though, asserts that bedika alone suffices
mi-de'oraita. According to the Ran,
then, we must explain why we seem to disregard the danger of undetected chametz. One explanation is that although
undetected chametz is a dangerous prospect, the Torah does not require one to
consider such an improbability.
This approach might be the one that the Ran himself suggests - "She-harei
samkha Torah al ha-chazakot..."
Since the Torah recognizes probability, it demands only a bedika in places where
chametz's presence is distinctly possible.
If a statistical aberration strangely occurs, it is considered a
violation (albeit a mistaken one); the Torah, though, does not require one to
account for such statistical aberrations.
B) Evasion of Prohibitions
A second approach could go a step further by asserting that undetected
chametz does not even constitute a violation.
This assertion could be justified in two distinct ways.
1) "Ones" - Accident
The first would be to say that one who performed the mandated bedika
cannot be considered negligent in even the slightest sense - he is not even
considered "shogeg" (mistakenly culpable), but rather "ones" (victim of an
absolute accident). One who, justifiably, relied on probability cannot be
punished if the specific situation turns out to be an exception.
Rabbeinu David (2a "Ela"), too, applies this principle to bedika - men,
unlike angels, cannot be expected to find all chametz. Since the Torah mandates only
bedika/bi'ur (Rabbeinu David, like Ritva, assumes that tashbitu mandates only
bi'ur, not bitul), one who complies is not culpable for the remaining,
2) Definition of Prohibitions
- Purpose of Chametz's Presence
Both the Ran and Rabbeinu David agree that chametz which remains despite
the bedika is included in the prohibitions of bal yera'eh/yimatzeh. According to the Ran, it is
legitimate to assume that the chametz survived the bedika, while according to
Rabbeinu David we apply the exemption of ones.
However, we can suggest a third possibility which actually limits the
prohibitions bal yera'eh/yimatzeh. Although
the simple reading of the pesukim imply that the prohibitions relate to any
chametz technically present in the home, irrespective of the reason it is there,
Tosafot (29b "Rav") make use of the prohibitions' association with the positive
commandment to limit them: one is not liable for having chametz in his
possession on Pesach if he intended to destroy it. Since tashbitu is the mandated way of
dealing with chametz, chametz slated for such treatment does not fall under the
rubric of the prohibitions. (See
also Rashi 6b "Ve-da'ato and 7a "Keivan" from which the same principle can be
The Kesef Mishneh extends Tosafot's chiddush to account for a difficult
Rambam. The gemara (6a) states that
one who finds chametz during yom tov (when burning is prohibited) waits until
afterwards to destroy it. The
obvious question, though, is why the prohibitions of bal yera'eh/yimatzeh do not
demand immediate action? Rashi
("Kofeh") and most other commentaries explain that the gemara refers to a case
in which bitul was performed and, thus, the prohibitions do not apply.
The Rambam (Hilkhot Chametz 3:8), though, applies the gemara's decision
to a case in which bitul has not been performed.
Why, then, are we not concerned with the prohibitions? The Kesef Mishneh explains that the
prohibitions apply only to a scenario where one was negligent and therefore did
not dispose of the chametz. If, however, chametz remains only because disposal
is not feasible, such as the case of yom tov, then the prohibitions do not
Tosafot's principle, as applied by the Kesef Mishna, can be used to
explain our leniency regarding undetected chametz. One who performs a thorough bedika
has demonstrated his aversion to the presence of chametz and his wish to destroy
all that exists; whatever chametz remains is against his will until he finds it
and can dispose of it. The chametz's
undetected nature functions like the issur of yom tov in preventing the disposal
the owner wishes he could complete.
The bedika, then, has two independent effects - it prepares the found
chametz for disposal and it, much like bitul, expresses one's feelings toward
what has remained undetected. (In a
certain sense bedika, which entails an action, is an even clearer expression of
intent than is bitul.)
The two approaches differ in their
explanation of why the fulfillment of tashbitu neutralizes the prohibitions. According to Rabbeinu David,
performing bedika renders one an ones, while according to the second approach,
the act of tashbitu exhibits intent which, in turn, neutralizes the
III) Mi-derabbanan - After Bitul
A) The Mishna
Up to this point we have dealt with bedika as a mi-de'oraita mandate. The gemara (4b) asserts that even
though bitul can (also) fulfill the de'oraita mandate, bedika is still required
mi-derabbanan (according to rabbinic and not biblical law). Tosafot (2a "Or") explain that even
though bitul neutralizes the prohibitions, the rabbis required bedika in order to avoid the danger of one
finding and, perhaps, eating the chametz which is still in his possession. Tosafot wonder why Rashi
ignores this facet of bedika and mentions only the prohibitions against
The Ran (ibid.) explains that, according to Rashi, the law regarding
treatment of chametz developed in two stages.
The mishna, which mentions only bedika, reflects a first stage when
bedika alone was required. Only
later did Rav demand bitul as well (6b).
Thus, Rashi, commenting on the mishna which reflects only the earlier
stage, mentions bedika's role only in nullifying the prohibitions.
Thus, it is possible that Rashi agrees with Tosafot's explanation of the
motivation for the takana (rabbinic enactment) to require bedika even after
bitul. He does not mention the
"akhila" (consumption) problem only because he feels that the mishna expresses
the law as it was before this problem's consideration.
B) The Takana's Motive
The Ran, though, explains the takana's impetus differently - we are
concerned that some individuals may not genuinely nullify their chametz.
According to the Ran, the takana addressed not a new obstacle, but rather
concern that bitul would not effectively deal with the old one. Bedika de-rabbanan addresses the same
problem as bedika de'oraita - the prohibitions of bal yera'eh and bal yimatzeh. (See also Rabbeinu Peretz [2a
"Ve-rabbeinu"] who explains the takana in a similar fashion.)
According to the Ran, Rashi's commentary on the mishna comprehensively
encompasses bedika - both mi-de'oraita and mi-derabbanan. (See Penei Yehoshua [2a "Be-tosafot"
s.v. Or] who explains Rashi this way.)
For Rashi, the danger of akhila played no role in motivating the takana. (Tosafot (10b "Ve-im) seem to have a
similar understanding of Rashi.)
The problem with this approach comes from the gemara (10b) which
considers the possibility of requiring one to remove chametz from the rafters
only out of fear that it might fall and be eaten on Pesach. Similarly, we can imply that one is
obligated to check for chametz to avoid the possibility of eating it on Pesach,
and not to avoid possessing it.
C) The Takana's Formulation
The Maharshal (10b "Ve-im"), attempting to balance Rashi's reference to
bal yera'eh with the gemara's focus on the danger of akhila, suggests that one
is obligated to perform bedika only when the danger of akhila exists. However,
this danger is not the primary reason for bedika.
Although he mentions both concerns, the Maharshal does not explain the
relative roles each played in the takana's formation.
Various Acharonim (eg. Chidushei R. Shmuel Roszofsky, ch. 1) associate
the two concerns with the motivation and formulation aspects of the takana. They explain that although the
takana's motivation was the hazard of akhila, the takana took the form of a
higher standard of the prohibitions.
Mi-de'oraita, the mere performance of bitul neutralizes the prohibitions; the
rabbis, though, required a more comprehensive treatment. They decided to view the prohibitions
as still in force until after the performance of a proper bedika. Thus, the prohibitions of bal
yera'eh/yimatzeh, which apply mi-de'oraita only before bitul, apply
mi-derabbanan afterwards as well.
Based on this distinction, we can explain that the gemara, which focuses
on the akhila hazard, relates to the takana's motivation, while Rashi, who
refers to the prohibitions, relates to the takana's formulation. (Rashi may have decided to relate to
this aspect of the takana so that he could quote one issue that would accurately
depict both levels of bedika.)
The approaches of the Ran (taken simply) and that of these Acharonim
differ as to which aspect of the takana Rashi and Tosafot argue about. According to the Ran, the two
differed regarding the takana's basic motivation, while according to these
Acharonim the disagreement is only about the formulation.
Sources for next week's shiur:
Topic: Prohibition of melakha
on Erev Pesach
1. Pesachim 2b "Meitivei ...
le-de'oraita," Rashi s.v. Assur, Tosafot s.v. Me-ematai, R. David s.v.
Me-ematai, Tosefta 3:12-13.
2. Mishna 50a, Rashi s.v.
Shelo, Tosafot s.v. Makom, Ba'al Ha-ma'or until "...lefi ha-minhag," Ra'avad
until "...ta'am ha-issur," Ramban Milchamot until "...Rashi z"l," Sefer
Ha-mikhtam s.v. Makom.
3. 55a "Va-chakhamim ...
ka-amar," Tosafot s.v. Amar, Yerushalmi 4:6.
1. What is the basis for the
argument between R. Eliezer ben Yaakov and R. Yehuda?
2. What three questions do
Tosafot (2b) ask on Rashi?
3. Does the issur melakha on
Erev Pesach apply today? Why should
or shouldn't it?
Note: The level of work
prohibited on Erev Pesach is similar to that of chol ha-mo'ed. For details see OC 468.