Some Rules about Bitul and the Issur of Chometz
Bitul of Issur
- To understand several details, customs, and precautions regarding chometz on Pesach, we must first understand some rules about bitul chometz before Pesach and during Pesach.
- Other issurim. All issurim are subject to the rules of bitul set forth in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Dei’ah. Namely: when issur is in a dry, min b’mino mixture, it is botul b’rov (שו”ע סי’ ק”ט ס”א). If it is min b’she’eino mino, it is botul b’shishim derabanan (רמ”א שם). If the mixture is liquid, the issur is botul b’shishim whether it is min b’mino or min b’eino mino (שו”ע ריש סי’ צ”ח).
- Chometz on Pesach. On a de’oraisa level, chometz on Pesach is botul like any other issur (מ”ב סי’ תמ”ז סק”א), but Chazal were machmir and ruled that the smallest amount of chometz is not botul b’shishim; no matter what it was mixed with, it is assur to derive benefit from any part of the mixture (שו”ע סי’ תמ”ז ס”א).
Chumra of Pesach
- Although, strictly speaking, chometz can become botul de’oraisa like every other issur, Chazal were machmir. We find a few reasons for this:
- Kareis. Chazal were machmir because the punishment for violating the issur of chometz is kareis (רש”י פסחים כ”ט: ד”ה שלא במינו). Although there are other issurei kareis Chazal weren’t machmir on, e.g., cheilev and blood, there are also other reasons for the chumra of chometz.
- Eats it all year. Another reason is that a person is used to eating chometz all year. Since it is only assur on Pesach, Chazal were machmir to prevent people from eating chometz out of habit (רש”י שם, רא”ש ע”ז פ”ה סי’ ל’, תרומת הדשן ח”ב סי’ קפ”ו).
- דבר שיש לו מתירין. Another reason for the special chumra for chometz on Pesach is that multiple poskim (הובא ברמ”א יו”ד סי’ ק”ב ס”ד) hold that chometz is considered a דבר שיש לו מתירין since it is mutar after Pesach. A דבר שיש לו מתירין cannot become botul, not even in one thousand parts (שו”ע יו”ד סי’ ק”ב ס”א, מ”ב סי’ תמ”ז סק”א). Because of the severity of the issur of chometz, Chazal were machmir even by min b’she’eino mino (רמב”ם פט”ו מאכ”א הי”ב).
- Other issurim. When something assur becomes mixed and botul in something mutar, the entire mixture is mutar. In a dry mixture, this is because the issur transforms into heter (רא”ש פ’ גיד הנשה ל”ז, טור יו”ד ק”ט) or because of the rule that anything separated is treated like it came from the majority component (חזו”א יו”ד ל”ז סק”כ). A liquid mixture is mutar if the heter is sixty times the volume of the issur because at that point, the taste of issur cannot be detected.
- Chometz mixture before Pesach. However, the poskim argue in a case where chometz became botul in a mixture before Pesach – either botul b’rov or b’shishim, depending on the circumstances – but the chometz still exists in the mixture during Pesach, when the smallest amount of chometz is not botul. Some say the issur is “revived” and the mixture is assur on Pesach (יש חולקים בשו”ע סי’ תמ”ז ס”ד), while others hold that since it was botul before Pesach, it does not become assur again on Pesach; we are only machmir on Pesach for chometz mixtures made on Pesach (סתימות השו”ע שם).
- In practice. The Mechaber implies he is of the opinion that chometz on Pesach is not revived. As long as it was legitimately botul before Pesach in rov or shishim, the mixture may be eaten on Pesach (שם, ביאה”ל ד”ה ונתבטל בששים).
- According to the Rama, it depends: If liquid chometz was mixed before Pesach with liquid non-chometz (רמ”א שם) or dry non-chometz (ביאה”ל ד”ה בלח) and it was botul b’shishim, the issur is not revived on Pesach.
- But if dry chometz was botul in dry non-chometz before Pesach, the issur is revived on Pesach and the small amount of chometz makes the whole mixture assur. Similarly, if dry chometz was botul b’shishim in liquid non-chometz before Pesach, the issur is revived on Pesach and the whole mixture is assur (רמ”א שם).
- Only flavor. The poskim point out that the whole discussion of reviving the issur of chometz on Pesach only exists when there is tangible chometz in the mixture, e.g., crumbs. If there was originally tangible chometz but it was removed and only its flavor remained, the flavor is botul b’shishim before Pesach and not revived on Pesach even if the mixture is heated on Pesach (מ”ב סקכ”א).
Mixed before Pesach
- Liquid chometz. Hence, before Pesach, chometz is botul b’shishim in a mixture like any other issur. That mixture may then be eaten on Pesach even if it is hot since when it is liquid, the issur is not revived.
- Dry chometz. However, if dry chometz was mixed with non-chometz before Pesach and botul b’rov, the issur is revived on Pesach and no part of the mixture may be eaten. Some say it is only assur if the mixture is heated, cooked, or baked such that the chometz imparts flavor to the rest of the food (עולת שבת, א”ר הובא במ”ב סקל”ג); others say the issur is revived when the chometz is dry even if the mixture was not heated or cooked (מג”א). Thus, it must be eaten before Pesach or sold to a non-Jew; otherwise, it becomes assur on Pesach (מ”ב סקל”ג).
Mixed on Pesach
- If chometz gets mixed with non-chometz on Pesach, even if there is enough non-chometz to be mevatel the chometz – i.e., rov in a dry, min b’mino mixture (שו”ע סי’ תמ”ז ס”ט) or shishim in eino mino or liquid – Chazal were machmir: the small amount of chometz is not botul and the mixture is assur (שו”ע סי’ תמ”ז ס”א). Everything must be burned (רמ”א שם).
Nosein Ta’am Lifgam
- In general, if something assur imparts a bad flavor to a mixture [“nosein ta’am lifgam”], it does not make the mixture assur (שו”ע יו”ד סי’ ק”ג). When it comes to chometz on Pesach, the poskim argue.
- Mechaber. The Mechaber holds that nosein ta’am lifgam is mutar on Pesach as it is for all issurim (שו”ע סי’ תמ”ז ס”י). Although the smallest amount of chometz makes a mixture assur, when it imparts a bad flavor, it does not have the status of issur, so it does not make the mixture assur. However, the chometz itself must be removed if it is identifiable (מ”ב סקצ”ו).
- Rama. The Rama cites a machmir opinion (רמ”א שם). Even though it imparts a bad flavor, it is no worse than a tiny amount, which Chazal forbade on Pesach (מ”ב סקצ”ז). Even if there is a very small amount of chometz and it imparts a bad flavor, it is assur (רמ”א שם).
- Some poskim say one does not need to worry about bliyos from the heat level in a kli sheini on Pesach (הג’ מיימוני, רמ”א ס”ג) since it is not strong enough to absorb or draw out flavor (מ”ב סקכ”ד). Others are machmir on a kli sheini on Pesach. It is proper to be machmir if the temperature was yad soledes bo (רמ”א שם).
Chumros of Pesach Start at Night
- The chumros of chometz on Pesach – i.e., the smallest amount makes a mixture assur (above, 3); it makes a mixture assur even if it imparts a bad flavor (19); and we are machmir on a kli sheini (20) (חזו”א או”ח סי’ קי”ט סקי”א) – only start on Pesach night, when chometz has the severe punishment of kareis (above, 5). Even though chometz is forbidden starting at chatzos on Erev Pesach, it follows the regular rules of bitul before Pesach night (שו”ע שם ס”ג).
Various Food-Related Practices
Food that Fell on the Floor
- Some people do not eat food that fell on the floor on Pesach unless it is something that can be washed, e.g., a fruit. They are concerned that a crumb of chometz was on the floor and got stuck to the food. Even if the house was thoroughly cleaned, perhaps a crumb of chometz came in from outside on someone’s shoe (ע”פ באר היטב סי’ תנ”א סקמ”ג, הגרשז”א, שלמי מועד עמ’ של”א).
Found Wheat in a Chicken
- Chicken feed usually consists of grains and seeds. When opening a chicken to prepare it for salting and cooking, it is common to find wheat kernels, which are chometz (וכמבואר מהדינים בשו”ע סי’ תס”ז ס”י ואילך), in the intestines. Thus, it is very important to clean the inside of a chicken before salting or roasting it so that it does not cause any issur.
- Some high-level kashrus agencies make sure that for a certain amount of time before Pesach, the chickens are only fed non-chometz food, e.g., corn, to minimize the chances of finding chometz inside them (מדריך הכשרות עדה”ח). Nevertheless, one must still clean a chicken’s insides well before preparing it.
- It is more common to find wheat inside whole chickens that were not cut all the way open in the slaughterhouse before being salted. I remember that several years ago, lots of wheat kernels were found inside chickens in a certain city, creating many serious shailos regarding the kashrus of the chickens and the dishes used to cook them. These things do still happen.
- When one buys chickens that are completely split down the back before being salted, as is common in Eretz Yisroel for chickens with high-level hechsherim, it is easier to make sure there is no wheat inside before salting and cooking.
- Not eating chicken. Because of these concerns, some people do not eat any poultry on Pesach (ברכי יוסף סי’ תס”ז סי”א, בן איש חי פ’ צו אות מ’). They only eat animal meat that does not have these issues.
- Buying all poultry before Pesach. Other people buy before Pesach all the poultry they will use throughout Pesach. This way, they can clean the internal parts thoroughly before Pesach. Even if a wheat kernel is found on Pesach and removed, the flavor was botul before Pesach. It is also advisable to cook all poultry before Pesach to effect bitul b’shishim (כמבואר בשו”ע סי’ תמ”ז ס”ג ומ”ב שם), as on Pesach itself, the smallest amount of chometz makes a mixture assur (above, 3).
Buying and Cooking All Food before Pesach
- Buying everything before Pesach. Some people buy all their Pesach needs before Pesach so that if any crumb of chometz is present, it will become botul before Pesach. As mentioned above, the smallest amount of chometz makes a mixture forbidden during Pesach itself (מנהג ירושלים, מנהגי ארץ ישראל, מועד לכל חי סי’ ב’ סכ”ד).
- Cooking everything before Pesach. Also, some people try to cook everything possible before Pesach. That way, any potential chometz crumb will become botul b’shishim. During Pesach, the smallest amount of chometz makes a mixture forbidden.
Drinking Water on Pesach
Bread Fell into Water
- Before Pesach. If a slice of bread or dough falls into water before Pesach and the water is filtered before Pesach, it may be drunk on Pesach, as the crumbs were filtered out and the flavor of the bread was botul b’shishim before Pesach (מ”ב תמ”ז סקל”ו). If the water was not filtered, it is forbidden out of concern some crumbs remained in the water and dissolved. Even if they are botul b’shishim, we hold that a dry issur mixed in a liquid is revived (above, 12).
- During Pesach. If a slice of bread fell into water on Pesach, even if it is botul b’shishim, the water is assur since the smallest amount of chometz makes a mixture assur on Pesach (above, 3). Filtering does not help on Pesach since the crumbs made the water assur right when they fell in, even if they were there for less than 24 hours [the amount of time for “kevishah”] (מ”ב סי’ תס”ז ס”ק ס”ב).
Grain Kernels in a Well on Pesach
- If grain kernels are found in a well on Pesach, all caution possible should be exercised not to use that water on Pesach, as the grain might have sat in the water for 24 hours. Still, since water is vital to life, if no other water is available, the water is permissible due to a double safeik: perhaps the grain fell in just now, and even if it fell in earlier, perhaps the kernels only cracked and became soft within the past 24 hours, i.e., 24 hours have not passed since the kernels became chometz. This relies on the poskim who hold that something cold does not cause issur without sitting for 24 hours (מ”ב סי’ תס”ז ס”ק ס”ז).
- Well water. If a person’s water supply consists of well water, as long as he does not know that chometz fell into the supply, every time he draws water, it is proper to filter it through a clean cloth (מ”ב שם). Even though filtering does not help on Pesach if one knows with certainty that there is chometz in the water (above, 32), strictly speaking we do not need to fear that chometz fell in (שו”ע הרב סמ”ח).
Water from the Kinneret
- Based on all the above, how can we use water from the tap that comes from the Kinneret? People definitely throw bread into the water; the smallest amount of chometz makes a mixture assur; and filtering does not help on Pesach itself. How can we drink tap water on Pesach? [Incidentally, as of late, the water supply in Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak on Pesach is from groundwater, not the Kinneret.] There are several factors that combine to allow drinking tap water (הדברים מבוארים בס’ בית דוד פסח פ”ח הע’ 32).
- “Undrawn” [מחוברים] water. Water that has not been drawn does not become assur from chometz (ריטב”א ע”ז מ”ז. ד”ה לא, שו”ת אבני נזר סי’ שע”ד אות ט’).
- Impossible to impart flavor. Another reason is that Chazal only forbade a tiny amount of chometz when it is possible for it to impart flavor. If it is not possible whatsoever for it to impart flavor, e.g., in a constantly flowing river, the chometz does not make the mixture assur (שו”ת ספר יהושע סי’ ה’, יד יהודה סי’ ק”ה סק”א).
- Replaced. Some say that the halachah of kavush [releasing bliyos after sitting in something for 24 hours] does not apply to water that is constantly replaced (טוב טעם ודעת תליתאי סי’ רי”ד). However, others argue and say the issur of kavush applies to water that is replaced (יד יהודה שם, עי’ מש”כ בשו”ת חוקי חיים ח”א סי’ ס”ו).
- Even a mashehu has a minimum. A broad heter – and the main one – is that even a mashehu has a minimum (חזו”א, הובא בחוט שני פ”ז סק”ד). Chazal only said the smallest amount of chometz makes a mixture assur and cannot become botul if there is a tangible chometz mixture. Chometz crumbs in the Kinneret does not constitute a tangible chometz mixture; that is not what Chazal forbade (הגרשז”א, הליכות שלמה פ”ד ס”ה).
Preparing Filtered Water before Pesach
- Due to the abovementioned concerns, some people filter before Pesach all the water they will need for cooking and drinking throughout Pesach and keep it in large vats. This way, they do not need to use tap water on Pesach. This is an old minhag of Yerushalayim from when water came from wells and also today, when the water supply can come from the Kinneret through the National Water Carrier system (שי’ קנה בשם פסח פ”ג אות כ”ח, אור לציון פ”ח סק”ט).
- However, strictly speaking, one can rely even lechatchilah on the abovementioned poskim who hold that tap water is no cause for concern on Pesach (הגר”ש וואזנר, הגר”ח קנייבסקי). However, it is proper and worthwhile to put a piece of cloth over the faucet to filter the water (בית לוי ס”ה א’) even though it is not technically necessary since our water undergoes a cleansing and filtering process at a water treatment plant and it is very clean.
Bottled Mineral Water
- Some people only use bottled mineral water bought before Pesach for drinking and cooking since this water has undergone a filtering process. Even if there was a concern for chometz, it was botul b’shishim before Pesach.
- Kosher for Pesach Strictly speaking, mineral water does not need to be labeled “Kosher for Pesach.” Nevertheless, some people do not buy any food or drink on Pesach without a high-level hechsher.
- Label on the bottle. Some are concerned that a container with water in it for 24 hours can release and absorb an assur substance touching its outside surface through kevishah (רע”א הג’ שו”ע יו”ד סי’ ק”ה ס”א). Thus, they must ensure that the glue used to attach the label does not contain chometz so that it does not make the water in the bottle assur (הגר”ב ראקאוו, גאב”ד גייטסהעד). Hence, the sticker with the hechsher is the very thing that needs a hechsher for Pesach on bottled water… (מו”ר כ”ק מרן גאב”ד ירושלים).