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The Mitzvah Of Destroying Chametz


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This column is dedicated to the refuah sheleimah of Shlomo Eliezer ben Chaya Sarah Elka.

There is a mitzvah to remove and destroy the chametz from one’s possession before Pesach. This is derived from the pasuk in Parshas Bo, “tashbisu se’or mibateichem(Shemos 12:15). There are also two lavim associated with owning chametz on Pesach: bal yiraeh and bal yimatzei.

The Minchas Chinuch discusses the following question regarding the mitzvah of tashbisu (to remove and destroy the chametz from one’s possession): is the mitzvah accomplished only by actively owning chametz and destroying it, or can one fulfill the mitzvah by not owning any chametz to begin with? In other words, does one have to actively destroy the chametz or may one fulfill the mitzvah by not ever owning chametz and not lifting a finger (sheiv v’al ta’aseh) to destroy it?

We find that there are mitzvos that one can fulfill without actively performing an action. On Shabbos there is a mitzvah of shabbason, which is a mitzvas assei that one must rest and, by definition, not perform any melachos. If one performs a melachah on Shabbos, aside from the lo sa’assei he has transgressed the assei of shabbason. If one does not perform any melachos on Shabbos, he has fulfilled the assei of shabbason. Perhaps the assei of tashbisu is the same, and if one did not own any chametz before Pesach he will have fulfilled the mitzvah of tashbisu.

The other option is that the mitzvah of tashbisu is similar to that of tzitzis, whereby if one does not have a four-cornered garment with tzitzis on it he has not fulfilled the mitzvah. If one does not own a four-cornered garment with tzitzis he has not transgressed the mitzvah of tzitzis; however, he also has not fulfilled it.

There are several differences between these two options. If there is a requirement to actively destroy the chametz before Pesach, obviously one only fulfills the mitzvah if he has chametz, finds it, and destroys it. This is why we hide bread before bedikas chametz: to ensure that we will have bread to destroy the next day. If there is no need to actively destroy the chametz and one can fulfill the mitzvah if he simply does not own chametz, one would not have to ensure that he has chametz to burn the next day.

Here’s another difference: someone else grabs one’s chametz and destroys it before the owner had a chance to do so. Generally, when one steals a mitzvah from another person he must pay him ten zehuvim. If the mitzvah is to actively destroy the chametz, the person who grabbed and burned the chametz would be required to pay the owner ten zehuvim. If the mitzvah is fulfilled by merely not owning chametz without actively destroying it, the person would not have to pay the owner ten zehuvim since the owner fulfilled the mitzvah – as if he had burned it himself.

The Minchas Chinuch mentions that another difference between these two options is in a scenario whereby one has chametz on Pesach. The mitzvah applies even on Pesach, and one must destroy his chametz on Pesach as well. There is a machlokes about how one must fulfill the mitzvah of tashbisu if one has chametz. The rabbanan say that it can be performed by any means of destruction, even by eating. Rabbi Yehuda says that it must be done by burning the chametz. According to the rabbanan, it would constitute a means of destruction if one ate his chametz on Pesach. However, if the mitzvah is only fulfilled by actively destroying the chametz, this action will be considered a mitzvah haba b’aveirah since eating chametz on Pesach is forbidden. According to the Minchas Chinuch, when one performs a mitzvah haba b’aveirah he has not fulfilled the mitzvah. But if the mitzvah is fulfilled by simply not owning chametz, then eating it on Pesach would not constitute a mitzvah haba b’aveirah and one will have fulfilled the mitzvah of tashbisu.

The Minchas Chinuch says that it is indicative from the Chinuch that he is of the opinion that the mitzvah is fulfilled simply by not owning chametz. This is because the Chinuch says that someone who is traveling before Pesach is obligated in the mitzvah of tashbisu. The Minchas Chinuch says that if the mitzvah required an active destruction, one who would be traveling before Pesach would not be obligated in it.

Another indication that the Chinuch is of the opinion that the mitzvah of tashbisu does not require active destruction is from the fact that he says that women are obligated in the mitzvah. If the mitzvah required an active destruction, women would be exempt since it is a mitzvas assei she’hazman gramma (time-sensitive mitzvah). However, if it is not an active requirement, women would be obligated even though it is a mitzvas assei she’hazman gramma.

One final difference is whether one is required to have kavanah while destroying his chametz. If the mitzvah requires an active destruction, one would be required to have kavanah when destroying it. If the mitzvah is fulfilled by simply not owning chametz, one would not need to have kavanah when destroying his chamtetz.

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