Talmidav Shel Aharon
11-5768: Mitzvot N-3 & 4
January 1, 2008
Negative Mitzvah 4 – It is a negative commandment that Hametz (leavened food) is not eaten on Pesach.
Hafetz Hayim: For Scripture says, “and no leavened bread shall be eaten.” (Ex. 13:3)It is even forbidden to derive any benefit from it. If someone eats an olive’s amount on Passover – if deliberately, he would deserve Karet; if unwittingly, he should have to bring a sin offering. It is all one whether a person eats it or dissolves it and drinks it. If someone eats less than an olive’s amount of it, he should be given whiplashes of disobedience. It is in force everywhere, at every time, for both men and women.
Negative Mitzvah 5 – It is a negative commandment to eat no mixture with Hametz on Pesach.
Hafetz Hayim: For Scripture says, “You shall eat nothing leavened.” (Ex. 12:20) Whether it became mingled with its own kind, or if it becomes mingled with food that is not of its own kind, if there is an olive’s amount of Hametz in a quantity of food that can be eaten in the same time as half a loaf of bread, this prohibition is violated by eating it but there would be no punishment of Karet. If there is not an olive’s amount of Hametz in a quantity of food that can be eaten in the same time as half a loaf, he who eats it should be beaten with whiplashes of disobedience. It is in force everywhere, in every time, for both men and women.
In last weeks lesson, we talked about Hametz that could not be in one’s possession. Now we are talking about Hametz that is actually eaten. It is not enough to get rid of it so that it cannot be seen. It is also forbidden to eat Hametz or to derive any benefit from Hametz that is to be eaten.
Let me also offer a reminder that Hametz is anything made from wheat, oats, rye, barley and spelt that has been allowed to ferment for more than 18 minutes. Matzah is usually wheat that has been quick baked at a high temperature with less than 18 minutes from the time the water first touches the flour.
The first difference we encounter in these laws is if the person who did the eating did it deliberately or accidentally. If deliberately, then the person is liable for the punishment of Karet. Maimonides defines “Karet” as the complete extinction of the soul.” The implication is that this person’s soul will not live on in any afterlife, but will become extinct from this world and the next. It is NOT a human punishment, but one that can only be administered by G-d. Some may say that this is really no punishment at all since it has no effect on the violator’s current life and comes to play only after death. The reality is that Karet is about a punishment between a sinning human being and G-d. How it plays out is beyond our understanding. The Sages considered it to be a terrible punishment that was far worse than any punishment in the human arsenal.
The next question is why should someone who eats Hametz accidentally have to bring a sin offering? After all, it was an accident! The purpose of a Sin offering is to alleviate the guilt feelings of committing a sin accidentally. It is a reminder that we need to be careful in our observance of the law.
The next question is about the amount of the Hametz eaten. The minimum size of the amount eaten is an olive’s bulk. This is about 25-30 cubic centimeters (there is disagreement as to the equivalencies in Talmudic measurements) or about one ounce. If one eats less than an olive, then it is almost inconsequential. If more, one has violated the prohibition. If one eats less than an olive but deliberately, then he gets punished for disobedience since the only reason that he ate such a little amount was to get around the law. While we are talking about the total amount of Hametz consumed, even if the amount was dissolved in juice or water, it is still Hametz and the above rules apply.
What happens if we mix the Hametz with other types of food so that it no longer looks like Hametz? What happens if we mix it with grains that are prepared in accordance with the Laws of Passover or mixed with other types of food that are also permitted on Passover like apples or meat? The laws of mixtures would say that any substance that is mixed with Hametz is forbidden on Passover subject to some size restrictions. If the olive’s amount is mixed with an amount of food up to the size of half a loaf of bread (this is Passover so we are talking about half a piece of Matzah) then the law has been violated. If the olive bulk is mixed with a larger quantity, then it is too diluted to be a violation of the law. The Talmud specifically notes that Karet would not be the punishment for this kind of mixing. The Hafetz Hayyim also points out that if the amount is less than an olive mixed with less than half a loaf of Matzah, if done deliberately, then the person gets whipped for disobedience. The Sages were not very kind to people who willfully violated the law but tried to avoid punishment by staying below the minimum. And accidental mixing is an accident, but if the mixture were willful, than even the smallest amount of Hametz would be forbidden. On Pesach we are very careful.
Note that these two laws, and the two from last week make it crystal clear that Hametz must be far removed from our possession for Pesach. We can’t eat it, mix it, own it, use it, derive any benefit from it or have it anywhere where we can find it. Because the Bible mentions it so clearly, the Rabbis made sure that it was far away from us during the Passover holiday. The only exception to all of this is if we actually sell the Hametz to a non-Jew for the holiday and he chooses to store the food in our homes. As long as we lock away that Hametz, it can be stored in our homes since it does not belong to us. This is why we arrange with our Rabbi to sell our Hametz for Passover so that it should belong to a non-Jew. This is a binding sale so the Rabbi has to make sure that it is done correctly. The non-Jew makes a deposit on the sale and the balance (assessed by weighing all the assigned Hametz and paying a price based on that weight) is due at the end of Passover. At the end of the Holiday, the non-Jew decides not to make the final payment so the sale is void, the deposit is returned and the ownership reverts back to the original owners. Any Hametz not sold in this manner for Pesach must be destroyed before the holiday begins and if any is missed for any reason, it cannot be used after the holiday and needs to be destroyed. It can no longer be sold for that would mean the owner derived benefit from it.
While the punishments are not in use today, we see by the punishments listed that this is a serious prohibition. We do not take it lightly. Hametz is forbidden on Passover and to eat it would endanger one’s soul!