Talmidav Shel Aharon
10-5768: Mitzvah N-2
December 23, 2007
Negative Mitzvah 2 – It is a negative commandment that Hametz (leavened food) is not to be seen in the domain or possession of a member of the Jewish People, the entire seven days of Pesach.
Hafetz Hayim: For Scripture says, “and no leavened bread shall be seen with you.” (Ex. 13:7) It is in force everywhere, at every time, for both men and women.
Negative Mitzvah 3 – It is a negative commandment that Hametz is not to be found in a Jew’s domain or possession on Passover.
Hafetz Hayim: For Scripture says, “Seven days leaven shall not be found in yoru houses (Ex. 12:19) If someone leaves Hametz in his home on Passover – for example, if he lets dough become leavened on Passover and leaves it in his home, or he buys Hametz and puts it away willfully, he is liable for lashes for two sins. (the prohibition of being seen and for being found) because he has done a physical act to violate them. But if he let Hametz remain on Passover from before Passover, not having destroyed it, while he violates the two prohibitions noted above, he would not be liable for lashes, since he did no physical act. If the Hametz of a non-Jew is found on the premises of a Jew, if the Jew has accepted responsibility for it he is obligated to destroy it. If he did not accept responsibility for it, there is no prohibition against keeping it since Scripture says, “no leavened bread shall be seen for you”. (Ex. 13:7) Yours you may not see, but you may see that of others. If, however, the non-Jew can sue the Jew for it according to a non-Jewish law, then even if he did not accept responsibility for it, he is duty bound to destroy it.
If Hametz has thus remained through Passover, it is forbidden to have any benefit from it, by the law of the Sages, as a penalty because the two prohibitions against it being seen and being found in a Jew’s domain, have been violated. Even if it was forgotten inadvertently, the Sages declared it forbidden. It is in force everywhere, in every time, for both men and women.
When the Torah says that all leavened products have to go, they really mean it. You have to remove it from your possession and remove it from your homes and business. You can’t see it, touch it or use it in any way. It is totally forbidden for a Jew to have any connection to Hametz on Passover.
This law applies as long as the Hametz does not belong to the Jew. We are permitted to see, and possess Hametz that does not belong to us. (Remembering that to eat such Hametz on Passover or any other day would constitute stealing from the non-Jew). It is this exception that permits us to “sell” Hametz on Passover to a non-Jew so that we do not need to remove it all from our homes. This sale on Passover is not a “legal fiction” it is a binding sale that allows the non-Jew to buy all the Hametz in our homes for a very small down payment with the balance due to the seller as soon as Passover is finished. Since the final payment is quite large, usually the non-Jew does not pay the final installment on time and forfeits the sale.
Punishment for seeing and owning Hametz depends on there being a willful act to bring the Hametz home. If it was left for Pesach by accident or if it is not his fault it has come into his home, than he still must remove it and destroy it and he cannot derive any benefit from it. He cannot sell it to a non-Jew or get a charitable tax deduction for giving it to charity. All of this is due to the declaration that is made before Passover begins that “all Hametz in my possession is declared to be ownerless and like the dust of the earth.” This applies to any large amounts of Hametz that the Jew is unaware of being in his possession, and to any small amounts of Hametz that may be a minor ingredient of some food that otherwise could be owned on Passover. Thus, Milk, that may have some accidental Hametz in it that is purchased before Passover, and unopened until the holiday begins (and after the declaration is made) can be served on Passover but new milk, purchased on the holiday itself, must be certified to be free of any traces of Hametz.
Before Passover begins, we must do a through removal of all Hametz, and then search for the last crumbs the evening before the Seder. (When Passover begins on Saturday night, the search is done Thursday evening and you should consult a Rabbi as to what to do with the Hametz you need to observe Shabbat.)
Any willful violation of the laws of Hametz are very serious infractions, they are violations of a commandment of the Torah. Hametz that remains unfound and discovered after Passover is over is to be destroyed and no benefit can be derived from it because of the declaration recited at the beginning of the holiday. This is an enactment of the Sages and not a Torah commandment.