The Yom Tov most commonly associated with leaving one's home is Sukkos. The Torah commands us that, beginning on the fifteenth day of Tishrei "You shall (leave your homes and) dwell in succos (booths) for seven days, so that your future generations may know that I housed the Bnei Yisrael in succos when I brought them out of the land of Egypt."1. It seems that among the other similarities between Pesach and Sukkos, some have the "custom" beginning the 15th of Nissan to leave their homes and dwell elsewhere for the duration of Chag HaPesach.
Many may only travel to a nearby city, others interstate, whilst others 'migrate' overseas. Although the amount of baggage may remind them of the Exodus from Mitzrayim, the intention is usually to spend the Yom Tov with family.
However, as noble and innocent as the intention may be, there are certain halachic issues relevant to 'abandoning' one's home for Pesach that we will endeavor to analyse 2.
Among the mitzvos associated with Pesach is the mitzva of tashbisu, the elimination of all chametz from one's domain. Although an oral nullification (bitul) would suffice one's obligation miDaraisa (Torah Law), Chazal instituted an additional 'search' for the chametz on the night of Erev Pesach 3.
Concerning the mitzva d'Araisa of tashbisu, we find a "Chakira" in the poskim as to the exact guidelines of this mitzva with many ramifications. Of the 248 positive l'halacha commandments in the Torah, most are performed 'b'kum vasei' (actively), e.g. eating matza, shaking the arba minim and putting on tefillin. However, some of the positive commandments are fulfilled 'b'shev v'al t'aseh' (passively), e.g. the commandment of resting of Shabbos and the positive mitzva of peah (leaving part of the field for the poor to collect).
The Poskim debate 4 whether the mitzva of tashbisu is to be performed b'kum v'asei or b'shev v'al t'aseh. If one happened not to have any chametz in his possession before Pesach, according to those who hold that the mitzva is b'kum v'asei, he has not fulfilled the mitzva of tashbisu. As we find with regard to the mitzva of tzitzis, one fulfills the mitzva only when one has a four-cornered garment, and then ties on the tzitzis. With tashbisu, one must have chametz in one's possession that is then eliminated.
However, according to those who consider the mitzva as b'shev v'al t'aseh, as long as no chametz is within his possession at the onset of the prohibition of chametz (on Erev Pesach), the mitzva of tashbisu b'shev v'al t'aseh is fulfilled 5.
Since there is no conclusion, contemporary poskim advise that one should endeavor to perform the mitzva of tashbisu according to the more stringent view. As a result, one should see to possess chametz before Pesach that is then destroyed or eliminated. Whilst at home, it is very unusual not to possess any chametz before Pesach. However, when away from home, it is quite common not to own chametz 6 prior to Pesach. Consequently, one would have to acquire chametz to enable him to perform the mitzva of tashbisu 7
As mentioned earlier, Chazal instituted a 'search for chametz' (bedikas chametz), in addition to the mitzva (d'raisa) of tashbisu 8. Anyone in a dwelling he either owns or rents in obligated to check for chametz on the night preceding erev Pesach (this year, erev Pesach being Shabbos, the search is conducted the night prior, ie: Thursday night).
The Shulchan Aruch 9 states that when one is unable to perform the bedikas chametz on the night of erev Pesach - for example if he will be leaving his home within thirty days before Pesach - he must either appoint an agent to search on his behalf at the designated time, or conduct the search himself on the evening prior to his departure. When leaving more than thirty days before Pesach, and not returning until after the Yom Tov, ritual nullification is sufficient.
These halachos are applicable in a case when the premises are not sold to a non-Jew. Nowadays, when leaving home for Pesach, the common practice is to include the home in the sale of chametz. We will examine if selling the premises will, in fact, remove the obligation of searching for chametz prior to departure, as cited above from the Shulchan Aruch 10.
The Tur 11 quotes the Avi Ezri where it says that in a case where one leaves his home within thirty days before Pesach and a non-Jew will be moving in before Pesach (and will bring his own chametz into the house), the Jew is still obligated to perform bedikas chametz as mentioned earlier, providing that the Jew has no other dwelling in which to perform the mitzva of bedikas chametz. For example, one who travels for the duration of Pesach. However, if the Jew will be living in another dwelling and is thus able to search for chametz there, he is not obligated to search for chametz at his previous dwelling.
The Tur disagrees with the Avi Ezri and says that even when the Jew is not able to perform the bedikas chametz at any other location, he does not have to search for the chametz before departure. One is obligated to search for chametz only if there might be chametz that will cause him to transgress the prohibition of owning chametz on Pesach. However, in our case, where the Jew will eventually renounce ownership (hefker) of the chametz automatically, as a result of the knowledge of the non-Jew moving in, the dwelling is exempt from bedikas chametz 12.
The Beis Yosef 13 explains the theory of the Avi Ezri as follows: once within the thirty-day period prior to Pesach, all obligations with regard to the Yom Tov fall upon each individual at that time, although one is unable to, or it is unnecessary to do the mitzva at its designated time, one must perform it earlier. Therefore, says the Avi Ezri, although there will be an automatic hefker upon leaving the house at a later stage, once the obligation to search has taken affect, it must be performed 14 - since the hefker does not take place until later. The Shulchan Aruch 15 (authored by the Beis Yosef) cites the view of the Avi Ezri, and the Rema 16 quotes the view of the Tur, but does not conclude which view to follow. Likewise, the Achronim disagree.
Furthermore, those Achronim who follow the view of the Tur are divided as to whether the non-Jew has to actually move in as to facilitate the hefker or not. Therefore, the Mishna Berura 17 concludes one may rely on the lenient view in a case where the non-Jew moves in.
The common practice of including the home in the sale of chametz when travelling abroad, so as to exempt the ba'al habayis (owner) from bedikas chametz, would depend on the above. In a situation where one leaves his home within the thirty days before Pesach, and would still be travelling on the 14th of Nissan (and therefore would not be able to perform the mitzva of bedikas chametz at the place of his destination), this would depend on the machlokes Rishonim and Achronim mentioned above. According to the conclusion of the Mishna Berura, he would be exempt from bedika with regard to his home 18.
However, when arriving prior to the 14th Nissan (and thus able to fulfil bedikas chametz at the place of arrival), he becomes exempt from bedika when he sells his home to a non-Jew, according to both views. The Mishna Berura 19 explains that the fulfillment of bedikas chametz at the place of arrival does not necessarily mean that he must search for the chametz himself. If, for example, one is moving into his in-laws for Pesach, arriving on the 13th Nissan, the father-in-law performing the bedikas chametz on the following evening would be considered the shaliach (agent) of the son-in-law. Accordingly, the son-in-law fulfils the mitzva of bedikas chametz. However, this would only be the case if the guest brings his own chametz into the home of the ba'al habayis, thereby becoming obligated in the search for chametz and fulfilling his obligation via his agent, the ba'al habayis. If the guest does not bring any chametz of his own into the home, he would have no obligation whatsoever to search the house, and would therefore not fulfil the mitzva of bedikas chametz in that house 20. Consequently, he would have to acquire his own chametz, bring it in to the house, and then either search for it himself or fulfil the mitzva with the bedika of the ba'al habayis (with shlichus).
Some Poskim recommend another solution: the guest should request the ba'al habayis to transfer ownership (including any chametz that may be present) of the room where he is staying to him (makneh). The guest would then acquire his own chametz, thus becoming obligated in bedikas chametz, and he may even recite his own bracha. Other Poskim prefer another option 21. Before leaving home, one room should not be included in the sale of the chametz, and that room must be searched for chametz without a bracha the night before his departure 22.
Many have the custom when selling the chametz not to include any chametz gamur (pure chametz) eg: noodles 23. Therefore, when travelling, although one can exempt his home from a thorough bedikas chametz via a sale to a non-Jew as discussed above, all chametz gamur should be removed from the home.
Mechiras Chametz - The Sale of Chametz
A universally accepted custom related to the Yom Tov of Pesach is the sale of chametz, with the objective of avoiding the biblical prohibition of owning chametz. Although the chametz is ultimately sold to a non-Jew, because of the complicated halachic issues relevant to a sale between a Jew and non-Jew, the prevailing practice is to sell the chametz via the local Rabbi, who acts as an agent. In general, particularly from the seller's point, this is a simple process. However, when travelling abroad, this becomes more complicated. Time difference between countries is not only a natural phenomenon, it also affects halacha in many ways. The present issue is one of the many examples. The above-mentioned practice of selling the chametz to a non-Jew works only before the prohibition of owning chametz sets in. If the owner were to wait until the prohibition begins, he cannot sell his chametz, and it will remain forbidden even after Pesach 24. Therefore, if an Australian travelling to the United States for Pesach sells his chametz to his Rabbi in Australia, at the time when the Rabbi acquires the chametz back from the non-Jew on motzei Pesach, it is still Pesach in the States. Our Australian abroad, whilst enjoying his last Yom Tov day meal, would own chametz on Pesach! Were he to sell the chametz to a Rabbi in America, although the above problem on motzei Pesach would not apply, the problem would arise on erev Pesach. By the time the chametz would be sold in the U.S.A. the Seder would be long finished in Australia. Likewise, for an American travelling to Australia, selling to a Rabbi in America would be problematic on erev Pesach, and selling to a Rabbi in Australia would cause motzei Pesach difficulties.
However, the above dilemma actually depends on a machlokes Haposkim. With regard to the prohibition of owning chametz on Pesach, does the issur depend on where the owner is or where the chametz is? For example, when the chametz is situated in Australia and the owner in the United States, when does the issur of owning chametz begin and end - according to the beginning and end of Pesach in Australia, where the chametz is, or according to the beginning and end of Pesach in America, where the owner is?
Rabbi Zvi Pesach Frank zt"l 25 cites Chesed: L'Avraham 26, who rules that the issur depends exclusively on where the owner is. The mitzva of issur chametz is 'akarkafta d'gavra' (literally: on one's head. There is a prohibition not to own chametz), and would therefore depend on the location of the owner of the chametz. According to this view, when travelling for Pesach to a different time zone, the chametz must be sold according to the times of one's destination (ie. To a Rabbi at the city where staying for Pesach). The chametz would be sold on erev Pesach and returned on motzei Pesach, in line with the beginning and end of Pesach of the owner residing in that city, thus avoiding any issue of owning chametz on Pesach.
On the other hand, continues Rabbi Frank, the Oneg Yom Tov says exactly the opposite. The only consideration is to where the chametz is. Consequently, when travelling abroad, one should make sure to sell his chametz in line with the beginning and end of Pesach at the place of the chametz. The simplest way being through the Rabbi located in the city one departed from, the place where the chametz is located 27.
The majority of contemporary poskim seem to side with the view of the Chesed L'Avraham - that the issur depends on the location of the owner. However, they do advise one to be stringent and follow the other view l'chumra 28. Therefore, one travelling abroad for Pesach should endeavor to have a Rabbi arrange a special sale 'made to order' to ensure that the chametz is sold in time for both the person and the chametz, and not buy back the chametz until it is no longer Pesach for both person and chametz. In a situation where this was not done, a competent halachic authority should be consulted 29.
In truth, even when staying home for Pesach, one may be entangled in the above sha'aila. If one owns an apartment in another country, or has a partnership in a company 30 abroad that involves chametz (which he obviously sells as part of his mechiras chametz), he should attempt to do as mentioned above 31.
Since erev Pesach falls on Shabbos this year, the sale of chamez takes place during the fifth hour on erev Shabbos 32. However, there are various customs as to when the sale should take effect 33. Due to the variance in customs, even one leaving home for Pesach this year should be mindful of the precautions mentioned above with regard to selling his chametz.
It is written in the name of the Arizal 34 that whoever is careful not to come into any contact with even the smallest amount of chametz is assured that he will not transgress any sins throughout the year. All the more so if one is travelling, and he observes all the halachos related to the trip, as explained above. Bon Voyage!
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