9-5771 Mitzvah N-104
Negative Mitzvah 104– This is a negative commandment: do not eat Hametz (food with grains that are leavened) on the day before Passover, after noon.
Hafetz Hayim – As Scripture says: “You shall eat no leavened bread over it.” (Deut. 16:3). This means at the time of the Pesach sacrifice. The Pesach sacrifice was performed beginning in the seventh hour of the 14th day of Nisan. Whoever eats Hametz on the day before Passover after six hours from the day’s beginning should receive whiplashes; and the Sages of blessed memory forbade eating it, or having any benefit from it, from the beginning of the sixth our; while in the fifth hour eating is forbidden but benefit from it is permissible.
This is in force everywhere, in every time , for both men and women.
There are some Rabbis today who claim that Passover is really two different holidays. Pesach was celebrated with a symbolic dinner featuring roasted lamb and it was eaten at the end of the 14th day of Nisan, after dark (the very beginning of the 15th of Nisan.) From the 15th of Nisan on, was the Festival of Unleavened Bread which was observed by eating only Matzah for seven days. These two festivals eventually merged into one holiday beginning with a Seder and lasting seven days in Israel and eight days in the lands of the diaspora.
The Talmud records that on the 14th of Nisan, beginning in the seventh hour from sunrise the Kohanim would begin the long process of sacrificing everyone’s paschal lamb for the dinner that night. Basically this pressed every Kohen into service that day, creating long lines of people with lambs and goats bringing them to the Temple for sacrifice. The lamb would be killed, the blood spilled properly and the lamb was then given back to the family to be roasted whole for their Pesach Seder.
The Rabbis measured hours by dividing the daylight and nighttime into 12 equal segments. As the days got longer, the daylight hours were longer and the nighttime hours were shorter. In the winter, the daylight hours were shorter and the night hours were longer. Since Pesach was near to the vernal equinox, the days and night are pretty much the same and we can identify the seventh hour from sunrise as 1:00 pm. Clearly the Torah does not want us to mix Hametz with our Paschal lamb so the last time we can eat Hametz is the beginning of the sixth hour from sunrise or Noon. After than time, a person could not eat Hametz nor could that person derive any benefit from it. That is he can’t sell it for money nor use it to feed animals or any other way that might benefit the person. The Rabbis then extended the time back to the fifth hour, 11:00 am as the time when one could no longer eat Hametz lest they err and mistakenly eat it after noon. One can derive benefit from it from 11:00 am to Noon.
Today, we make it only a little more complicated. Since we cannot own or derive benefit from Hametz, it has become the custom to sell unused Hametz to a non-Jew for the duration of the holiday. While it remains in our homes, it is locked away as the property of someone else and not only would eating it be a sin on Pesach, but it would be stealing as well. This sale of Hametz is often done by signing a document at your synagogue stating that you are appointing the Rabbi to act as your agent to sell your Hametz on your behalf to a non-Jew. It requires your name and all the addresses where your Hametz can be found. This must be done by the end of the fourth hour (10:00 am) so that the Rabbi has the time to find the non-Jew and sell all the Hametz he or she has been authorized to sell. This means that by 11:00 am, whatever Hametz you still own has been sold and is now the property of someone else. You would be stealing to use any of it after that time. A small amount of Hametz is usually pulled from that stash the night before and used for “bedikat Hametz” the “Search for Hametz,” to insure that all Hametz has been used up or put away for sale. The last bit is then searched out and finally burned the following morning after 10:00 am and before noon. In this manner we are sure that all Hametz has been removed by the proper time and we can then concentrate on preparing for our Seder.
I should also mention that when you appoint the Rabbi to sell your Hametz on your behalf, it is customary to give a small donation which usually goes to charity. On the sale of Hametz you will have to go back into the archive and see Positive Mitzvah 22.