Shabbat Parashat Vayikra| 5763
Ask the Rabbi
Question: We plan to spend all of Pesach with family. Do we still need to clean for Pesach and do bedikat chametz at our home or our hosts?
Answer: This response assumes you will not be going home during Pesach and that you realize that it isn’t a detailed account of your Pesach preparations. Please do not make inferences from what we left out.
People are used to mechirat (sale of) chametz for the chametz itself, including the area of the home where the chametz islocated,but not for entire homes. In truth, those who will be away may “sell” their house, making a full cleaning and bedika (checking) unnecessary. Just as one does not have to destroychametz which he has sold and no longer owns, so too, he need not check a house which is no longer under his control. Some people have the minhag not to rely upon mechirat chametz because of the problems involved in it (one of which is that it may appear fictitious) and because many people are not significantly affected financially by the need to dispose of their remaining chametz. In some ways, our issue is more lenient and in some ways more strict (this forum does not allow for a full discourse). The desire to avoidmany hours of back-breaking work (some of which might be halachically unnecessary in any case) is reason enough for many to want to use a legitimate, halachic device.
There are two problems unique to this type of sale. First of all, while most people can seriously sell $100 of chametz and live with the possibility that the non-Jew will not sell it back, who would sell their house to avoid checking it thoroughly for chametz? Thus, selling the house raises questions about the seriousness of the transaction. In Israel, there is an additional problem of selling land to non-Jews. Therefore, it seems preferable to rent the house out for Pesach, rather than sell it. Another issue is the timing. It is important to sell chametz before it becomes forbidden, which is late morning of Erev Pesach. In contrast, the obligation to check the house begins on the previous night. There is a machloket if the fact that you plan to sell the next day is sufficient to exempt from bedika that night (see Mishnah Berurah 436:32). (Remember, your dealing with the rabbi is not the sale but the appointment of the rabbi as an agent). The Chatam Sofer (Orach Chayim 131) says that it is sufficient to check one room the night before leaving to fulfill the obligation of bedikat chametz. It is best to find a rabbi who does an early sale or rental (before the night of bedika- some call it a “mechirat yud gimmel”) for this purpose. The rabbi, upon being aware that this is not the standard type of sale, should be able to guide you about other issues regarding your situation (which is difficult in this forum).
Since bedika is the homeowner’s responsibility, you do not need to join your hosts for it.
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