Bal Yera'eh u-Bal Yimatzeh (Pesachim 5b) An Analysis of Verses

  • Rav Meir Shpiegelman

 

 

Translated by: Hillel Maizels

 

NOTE: This week, the shiur will step outside the usual Talmudic discussion in order to examine the different verses in the Torah prohibiting possession of chametz on Pesach.  The gemara (5b) seems to effectively equate "lo yera'eh" and "lo yimatzeh."  The shiur will examine the scriptural peshat of those verses.  Next week, we will return to the usual analysis of the gemara.

            The gemara (5b) cites two verses from which the prohibition can be learnt:

1. "For seven days, yeast shall not be found (LO YIMATZEH) in your homes." (Shemot 12:19)

2. "And there shall be no leavened bread seen by you (LO YERA'EH lekha), nor yeast seen by you in all your borders." (Shemot 13:7)

            The gemara then proceeds to define how each verse extends, or restricts, the prohibition.  Seemingly, the ramifications of the two verses are combined into one final and all-inclusive prohibition.  This conclusion is supported by an anonymous opinion quoted by the Ritva (s.v. Ne'emar).

            The Rambam (Hilkhot Chametz U-matza 1:2), however, specifically states that "one who leaves chametz in his possession on Pesach ... transgresses TWO prohibitions."  The Rambam states in Sefer Ha-mitzvot (shoresh 9) that a mitzva which is recorded more than once in the Torah, is nonetheless counted as only one mitzva.  It follows that since lo yera'eh and lo yimatzeh are counted separately by the Rambam, both in Hilkhot Chametz U-matza and in Sefer Ha-mitzvot (Negative Commandments 200 and 201), they must constitute two distinct prohibitions.

            In order to understand the difference between the two prohibitions, it is necessary to carefully analyze their sources in the Torah.

            The prohibition against having chametz in one's possession on Pesach is mentioned 3 times in the Torah:

A. Shemot 12:1-20

B  Shemot 13:1-10

C. Devarim 16:1-8

            Please read through these passages carefully, highlighting the key phrases and noting the similarities and differences between them which are dealt with below.  Keep a Tanakh open as you read the shiur.

1. The TYPE of issur:

a.  In Shemot 12 the phrase "lo yimatzeh" (not be FOUND) is used.

b.  In Shemot 13 and Devarim the Torah mentions "lo yera'eh" (not be SEEN).

2. WHOSE chametz:

a.  In Shemot 12, there is no mention of the term "lekha" (to you/of yours) which is generally understood to necessitate ownership.

b.  In Shemot 13 and Devarim it is mentioned ("lo yera'eh lekha").

3. WHERE:

a. In Shemot 12 the prohibition extends only to "your homes."  b. In Shemot 13 and Devarim, it extends to "all your borders."

            In Shemot 12 the mere EXISTENCE of chametz in the home is prohibited (lo yimatzeh), whether or not one is aware of it.  In the other passages, only chametz that one owns (lekha) and is aware of, is prohibited (lo yera'eh).  On the other hand, the prohibition includes all the borders of Israel.  These two aspects are possibly connected: In one's home, which is a much more limited area, we can be more stringent and prohibit all chametz, even that which is unknown, or does not belong to anyone.  In the wider area of "all one's borders," we cannot be so particular.

4. WHEN:

a.  In Shemot 12 the date given is "on this day."

b.  In Devarim, the date given is "the spring month."

c.  Shemot 13 features a combination of these two terms.

5. WHAT:

a.  In Shemot 12 and Devarim only "se'or" (yeast) is prohibited, and not "chametz" (leavened bread).

b.  In Shemot 13 both se'or and chametz are prohibited.

6. CONTEXT:

a.  In Shemot (both 12 and 13), the prohibition is connected to the eating of matza, or to the Exodus from Egypt.

b.  In Devarim, however, the context is the korban Pesach.  It is forbidden to eat chametz seven days of bringing the korban Pesach, which would seem to affect it somehow.  [This phenomenon is not unique, for we have many cases in the Torah of a certain action occurring once and having an effect for seven days thereafter.  For instance, touching a dead body, nidda, and so on.]  This prohibition on the eating of chametz is followed by a prohibition on having (or seeing) chametz, apparently an extension of the former.

            Since all of these aspects apply to the halakhic Pesach (as opposed to the historical Pesach of the exodus), it is not surprising that the gemara combines the issurim of bal yera'eh and bal yimatzeh.

            The command to eat matza in Shemot 12 could be connected to the fact that Benei Yisrael were told do everything in haste ("chipazon" - verse 11).  Only one who has time can bake and eat chametz.  Since yeast cannot be rushed, but must be left to rise, the Torah forbade having yeast in order to discourage a leisurely attitude, which would interfere with the objectivity of "chipazon."

            Based on these differences, it becomes apparent that the commands in Shemot 12 are intrinsically different from those in the other two passages.  However, although Shemot 13 and Devarim are similar, the basic character of the prohibition is different.  [e.g. no mention is made of the Korban Pesach in Shemot 13.]

III.  Understanding the differences

            Until this point of the shiur, we have examined each source separately and compared them to each other.  It is still necessary, however, to explain why the prohibition was worded differently in each instance.  There are two possibilities:

A.  Assuming that the prohibition of bal yimatzeh (Shemot 12) was given BEFORE Bnei Yisrael left Egypt, as its place in the text would indicate.  Accordingly, at that time, the Jews were forbidden to have chametz in their possession.

            This viewpoint is supported by the following: The word "bayit (house/home)" is a key word in Shemot 12.  A key word reflects a central theme in a given passage and is identified by the fact that it appears seven times (in different forms) in a passage.  [In our case, the word bayit is actually repeated eight times.  However, one time it is an exception, because it is part of a complex word, "beit-avot;" whereas all the others stand alone.  Either way, bayit is an important word in this passage.]  Therefore, all commands in this passage must be related to bayit, including chametz.  Before the Exodus, the concept of borders (as mentioned in the other two passages) was not relevant, because Bnei Yisrael had control only over their homes (and even this is questionable). 

            Consequently, the prohibition related only to one's home, and not to all one's borders.  The stringency of the prohibition with regard to bayit is due to its role as an altar for the original korban Pesach - as the blood on the doorposts suggests.  In Egypt, eating the Korban Pesach was like eating from the altar.  Chametz is not allowed on the altar, and hence it was prohibited from the home at that time.

            After the Exodus, the special aspect of bayit is replaced by "gevul" (border).  In addition, since the idea of an altar is also absent now, the only problem with chametz is its inherent conflict with the actual sacrifice, or with the eating of matza (depending on Shemot 13, or Devarim).  This conflict only arises from chametz of which one is aware (chametz yadu'a), and not from unknown chametz existence.  Therefore, the prohibition is only against SEEING chametz.  Since we are concerned, too, that one may eat chametz, no distinction is made between chametz belonging to oneself, or to others (which is in your borders) [assuming the prohibition extends to chametz belonging to a Gentile].

            According to this understanding, bal yera'eh is an expansion of bal yimatzeh, and they are not two separate laws [following the opinion quoted by the Ritva].  Moshe's command after the Exodus merely reflects the change in the situation of the Jews and does not present a totally new law.

B.  Assuming that the prohibition of bal yimatzeh (Shemot 12) was given AFTER Bnei Yisrael left Egypt.

            The beginning of Shemot chapter 12 (until verse 20) is divided into two clear sections: the first (until verse 13) relates specifically to Pesach Mitzrayim; the second commands us to keep Pesach every year thereafter (Pesach le-dorot).  Textually, this command comes before Bnei Yisrael left Egypt.  Nevertheless, it is an accepted principle that the Torah is not always chronological ("ein mukdam u-me'uchar ba-Torah"), particularly in sections where there is good reason to believe they are out of place.  [This follows both Rashi's and Ramban's approach to the Torah - particularly regarding the building of the mishkan vis-a-vis the sin of the Golden Calf.]  It is, therefore, quite possible that the second section was said at a later date, based on the following points:

1.  Moshe apparently relays these commands to Bnei Yisrael only once they have already left Egypt (chapter 13).

2.  Verse 17 states: "In the midst of this day I have taken your multitude out of Egypt."  Obviously, this could only have been said after they had actually left Egypt.

3.  Pesach Mitzrayim did not last seven days and Bnei Yisrael were permitted to do work, therefore these commands found in ch. 12, could not have applied here.  [In fact the laws of Pesach Mitzrayim are very similar to those pertaining to Pesach Sheini, but an investigation of that is beyond the scope of this shiur.]

            Following from all the above, we can assume that the command in Shemot 12 was given after the Exodus.  Accordingly, both lo yimatzeh and lo yera'eh were given after the exodus and they must constitute two separate prohibitions [which follows the opinion of the Rambam].

            In Shemot 12, the motivation for prohibiting the possession of chametz is the concern that one may eat it.  This reason is mentioned twice, both regarding the law of destroying chametz (tashbitu) and lo yimatzeh.  Since the problem is the concern over eating chametz, ALL se'or in one's home must be destroyed, so as not to leave a possibility of transgressing this prohibition. 

            In Shemot 13, however, the problem is not the danger of eating chametz, but rather the conflict between chametz and remembering the Exodus from Egypt.  Therefore, it is not connected specifically to one's house.  One is supposed to relive Pesach Mitzrayim and the Exodus.  Just as they did not have chametz then - not because of any commandment, but simply because their dough did not manage to rise - so too, we do not have chametz in our possession.  The prohibition here is not restricted to one's house, because in the Exodus itself, no one had a house - they were traveling.  When they left, they did not have chametz in their possession and accordingly, we are not allowed to have chametz in our possession.

            This approach answers the famous question: If the prohibition of lo yimatzeh and the command to eat matza (Shemot 12) were given BEFORE Bnei Yisrael left Egypt, why does the Torah state, further on, that they ate matzot because their dough did not have enough time to rise, though it were a historical accident?

            It is possible that for Pesach Mitzrayim there was no command to destroy chametz.  The only reason the Torah records the fact that Bnei Yisrael's dough did not become chametz, is to show that they did not have chametz in their possession.  The command to eat matzot then did not entail a prohibition against having chametz in one's home [as evidenced by Pesach Sheini, where one eats matza but is permitted to have chametz].

            In Devarim, the prohibition is connected to Korban Pesach (as explained above).  Any chametz which is not in one's possession, or one is not aware of, does not stand in conflict with the concept of the Korban Pesach.

            There are two aspects to the Korban Pesach.  It is a sacrifice brought by individuals and the obligation to bring it falls upon each and every one individually.  Yet, it can also be viewed as a communal sacrifice, as many of its laws reveal - everyone brings it at the same time, one animal can suffice for many people, and so on.  This point is highlighted by examining the relationship between chametz and the Korban Pesach.  We are forbidden to slaughter the Korban Pesach while chametz is around ("al chametz").  This prohibition seems to have two meanings: the individual may not have chametz in his possession while he is slaughtering his sacrifice; the sacrifices can only be brought at a time when the whole community does not have chametz.  [This second understanding is hinted at in the continuation of the verse, "do not leave (it) ... till morning."  Since the second half is speaking about a time period, it is possible that the first half is too.  The gemara itself uses this verse as a proof for prohibiting chametz from midday on the 14th of Nisan - 5a.]

            These two aspects exist with regard to chametz, too.  There is a prohibition for each individual to have chametz in his possession.  There is also an injunction against chametz being seen in all the borders of Israel.  However, this understanding is dependent on the meaning of the word "border" in this context.  Generally, this word appears in a public context, yet there are times when it refers to an individual.  If we are referring here to the public context, then the separation of the prohibitions into two is more understandable.  The level of responsibility of an individual over his property is total, whereas for a public area, this responsibility is more limited.

SUMMARY

            According to an opinion quoted in the Ritva, bal yera'eh and bal yematzeh constitute ONE issur. According to the Rambam, they are TWO separate issurim. It is possible to explain that this argument is a function of whether the prohibition of bal yematzeh [Shemot 12] was given before the Exodus [opinion in Ritva] or after [Rambam].

            We examined the scope of the prohibition based on a textual analysis. In Shemot 12 [bal yematzeh] ALL chametz is forbidden but only within one's house. In Shemot 13 and Devarim only one's OWN chametz is prohibited, but this extends to all of one's borders.

            If Shemot 13 and Devarim are seen as merely an extension of Shemot 12, the differences between the two may be due to contextual factors:

1. The Jews controlled only their houses in Egypt; the concept of borders did not exist.

2. The house in Pesach Mitzrayim served as an altar and, therefore, absoloutely no chametz was permitted.

These factors do not play a role in the Pesach of Shemot 13 and Devarim where the Jews are in their land and offer their sacrifices in the mikdash.

            If, however, we are dealing with TWO issurim, the diferences may be due to the reasons given in the Torah for the prohibition against possession of chametz:

In Shemot 12 the concern is that one may come to eat chametz. Thus, ALL se'or in one's home must be destroyed, so as not to leave a possibility of transgressing this prohibition. 

In Shemot 13 we are commanded to relive the Exodus. The Jews had no chametz in their possession at all and, therefore, it is insufficient merely to dispose of the chametz in one's house.

In Devarim, the prohibition is connected to Korban Pesach. Any chametz which is not in one's possession, or one is not aware of, does not stand in conflict with the concept of the Korban Pesach.

 

SOURCES for next week's shiur - Chametz shel hekdesh she-kibel alav achrayut:

1.  Pesachim  daf 5b: "Tannu Rabbanan shivat yamim...ve-shel gavoha"

            What is the din of chametz belonging to hekdesh that one has accepted responsibility for?

2.  Shevu'ot daf 42b: "Ve-eylu devarim ... meshalem."

3.  Bekhorot daf 13b: "Le-amitekha...la-kena'ani."

            Why is hekdesh mentioned in Shevu'ot but not in Bekhorot?

4. Pesachim daf 29a: " Ve-yalif se'or de-akhila ... ve-shel gavoha."

            What is the logic of R. Acha bar Ya'akov?