The Pesach Traveller

By Rabbi Chaim D. Kulik

Going away for Pesach? You’re in good company!  For hundreds of years almost all Jews ‘went away’ for Pesach.  During the times of the Bais Hamikdash every Jew had the obligation to go to Yerushalayim for Yom Tov to fulfill both the mitzvah of עלי' לרגל (Festival Pilgrimage), and the mitzvah of Korban Pesach (sacrificing the Pesach offering).  Almost no one stayed home for Yom Tov! 

However, then, as now, when we go away for Pesach, we must have the knowledge of some extra halachos.  The main issue is that the Torah prohibits us from having any chometz in our possession over Pesach.  Furthermore, the chachamim (sages) added an obligation to perform a ‘bedika’, to search one’s home and eliminate all chometz.

A person who leaves home and spends Yom Tov elsewhere is still obligated to make sure he has no chometz back home and may also have the obligation to do bedika there as well.  There may even be another obligation of a bedika at his temporary Yom Tov residence.

Let us first focus on your primary home.  The halacha is that a person leaving his home within 30 days of Yom Tov is obligated to do a bedika there.  This includes cleaning it out properly of all chometz prior to this bedika.

Two options are available to perform the bedika:

1)      by yourself, prior to your departure (Early Bedika), or

2)      through a shaliach (an agent) before Yom Tov.

Early Bedika

This bedika has some similarities and some differences to the ‘standard’ bedika that is done the night before Yom Tov.  

  • It should be performed at night.  Therefore, if you leave during the day, it should be done the night before your departure.
  • One must use a candle or flashlight.
  • One may not ‘sit down’ to eat from nightfall until one has completed the bedika.
  • After completing the bedikaKol Chamira’, the ‘bittul’or nullification of the chometz, is said.  One should substitute the words  כל חמירא דאיכא ברשותי with the words

 כלחמירא דאיכא בביתא הדין

  • As in the erev Pesach bedika, all leftover chometz must be put in a conspicuous place where it will not be forgotten.

·         Unlike the bedika of the night before Yom Tov, the bracha of  על ביעור חמץ is not recited

  • It is not necessary to put out 10 pieces of bread.  This custom is based on the fear that no chometz will be found and the bracha will be in vain.  On this night, however, no bracha is being said.               
It should be mentioned that regardless of when one makes the bedika, the words of ‘Kol Chamira’ must be understood in order for the bittul to be valid.  It is a legal declaration and not a prayer.  It may be worthwhile repeating it in English after reading the original text.

Appoint a Shaliach

One can appoint a shaliach (an agent) to search his home on his behalf.  The shaliach makes the bedika with a bracha on the night before Yom Tov.     

If you leave family members behind or friends who continue to eat chometz at the home, the shaliach option is the only acceptable choice.

Selling Chometz

Besides the obligation of bedika, you should still sell the chometz in your home no differently than if you were to stay at home.  However, there is an important point one must take into account.  In many travel destinations זמן איסור חמץ, the time chometz becomes prohibited, will be different from the time back home.  In this case, you must sell the chometz and say כל חמירא before the earlier deadline.  For example, if you will be in Eretz Yisrael for Pesach and sell your chometz with a Rav in Toronto, that sale is done on erev Pesach in the morning.  This is well after the prohibited time in Eretz Yisrael and too late to be sold.  You must either sell with an earlier sale which is done by Rabbanim here in Toronto, or sell it with a Rav in Eretz Yisrael.  However, selling with a Rav in Eretz Yisrael poses another problem.  The Rabbanim there buy back the chometz immediately after Yom Tov.  There is still another day of Yom Tov for the visitor plus the time difference between Eretz Yisrael and Toronto to take into account.  Therefore, if you decide to sell your chometz with a Rav in Eretz Yisrael you should mention that you would like to buy back your chometz after ‘Yom Tov Sheni’ in Toronto.  Rav Moshe Feinstein was of the opinion that one can just have in mind not to reacquire the chometz until after the later time.

There are people who want to absolve themselves of the obligation of bedika and the need to clean the house altogether by having the entire house sold to a non-Jew on the thirteenth of Nissan.  Although there is an halachic basis for this, it should only be done in case of (great) need.  Quite often this is done due to the lack of “strength” to clean the house.  It would be more halachically correct to do a very basic cleaning of one’s home followed by a bedika.

Bedika Requirement

If you are leaving more than 30 days before Yom Tov and returning after Yom Tov, you are not obligated to do a bedika in the home.  However, you must sell the chometz and declare the ‘bittul’ of erev Pesach before the earlier time.  As stated above, leaving behind family members or guests obligates you to do a bedika.

However, if you are leaving more than 30 days before Yom Tov and returning on Yom Tov (Chol Hamoed), there is an obligation to do bedika.  If you return before Yom Tov but close to bedika time, you should speak to your Rav. 

There are further requirements for bedika at your destination. If you are going to a hotel, you are obligated to do a bedika in the hotel room.  If you arrive a few days before Yom Tov and had chometz in the room, you must make a bedika with a bracha. If you arrive right before the time of bedika or on erev Yom Tov and the room was cleaned well by the hotel staff, you should put out pieces of chometz and make the bedika with a bracha

If you are going to parents or in-laws and are given a room for Yom Tov, the halachic status of that room is questionable.  Do we equate this with a rental which would obligate the guest in bedika or does the guest have no ownership in this room?  The Poskim differ regarding this.  The preferred option for a guest who wishes to make his own bedika is to listen to the host’s bracha and do a bedika in your own room.

Complimentary Food in Hotel Rooms

There is an interesting שאלהwhich has arisen recently with respect to complimentary food left for guests in their hotel rooms.  If one partakes of the food then he is charged and if left untouched, there is no charge.  While in some hotels it may be just water, in others it can be a variety of foods which may include chometz (beer, scotch, etc). Obviously the Jewish guest over Pesach will not partake of these foods.  However, we are still faced with two issues.  The halacha is that one may not have accessible chometz where he is dwelling, for fear that one might inadvertently partake in it.  The best solution would be to ask the hotel management to remove the food from the room.  If that is not possible the guest should somehow lock up the chometz or tape it up with strong tape. 

Another issue relates to a concept in the Gemora and in halacha of אחריות. If one has achrayus or legal responsibility for an object, he may transgress the prohibition of having chometz in his possession.  This is due to the halacha which states that if one has חמץ in his domain which he does not actually own but will be responsible to pay for it if it gets damaged or lost, he transgresses the prohibition of having chometz in his possession.

Rav Shlomo Miller mentioned a possible leniency.  You don’t actually have any אחריות on this chometz.  The only connection you have to this food is that if you eat it you have to pay.  If it gets lost however, you have absolutely no responsibility.  Possibly, the management will believe you or maybe you will have to prove it, but this might not be actual אחריות. But, of course, asking the hotel management to remove the complimentary food prior to Passover would alleviate this issue. 

Wherever your destination, have a safe trip and a wonderful Yom Tov.