Places Exempt From Bedika

  • Rav Yair Kahn

I. Bedika as a function of the presence of chametz

The obligation of bedika is ostensibly a function of the possibility of the presence of chametz. Accordingly, the mishna (2a) states that all places into which chametz is not brought are exempt from bedika. In other words, in order to determine whether bedika is required, we must ask one basic question; is there a reasonable possibility that chametz is present. Moreover, where bedika is required, it is presumably sufficient to simply ensure that chametz is no longer to be found. In this shiur we will evaluate and in fact challenge these seemingly trivial assumptions. We will begin by analysing the mishna.

According to the mishna, an example of a place into which chametz is occasionally brought is a wine cellar (see gemara 8b). Everyone agrees that it is sufficient to check only two rows of wine barrels. Beit Shammai maintains that the reference is to two complete rows spanning the entire cellar. Beit Hillel, on the other hand, argues that checking the two upper external rows suffices. (The opinion of Beit Hillel will be discussed later.) The gemara (8b) elaborates. According to Rav Yehuda, Beit Shammai necessitates the bedika of two complete vertical rows from floor to ceiling. Rav Yochanan, however, explains that the two rows of Beit Shammai are comprised of the external vertical row (from floor to ceiling) and the upper horizontal row (from wall to wall). The basis of this disagreement is unclear. Is it reasonable to claim that the argument is merely a practical one? Are the Tannaim and Amoraim simply bickering about where the chametz is most likely to be found? Furthermore, is it not more probable that the chametz is closer to the door than on the far side of the room? What then is the reasoning of Rav Yochanan?

The mishna rules that "all places into which chametz does not enter are exempt from bedika." The use of the term "all" is to include cases which would otherwise not be classified as places where chametz is not brought. The gemara (8a) therefore asks what cases does the term "all" include. The gemara responds that "all" refers to "chorim elyonim ve-tachtonim" - holes or cracks situated in the upper or lower part of the wall. Rashi explains that these holes are inconvenient as storage places, and consequently are exempt from bedika. It is not clear why these holes are derived from the additional "all;" surely they should be included in the standard rule exempting from bedika places where chametz is unlikely to be found. Moreover, the Yerushalmi defines chorim elyonim as holes or cracks above 10 tefachim. These holes are clearly of optimal height for storage, since they are accessible without stretching or bending. Why, then, are they exempt from bedika? (See Tur, Beit Yosef, Bakh). (The Yerushalmi also defines chorim tachtonim as holes or cracks under 10 tefachim. At what height do cracks require bedika according to the Yerushalmi and what is the criterion? Dealing with these problems, however, will take us beyond the scope of this shiur.)

Further on, the gemara discusses the requirement of bedika in a case where a bed divides the room. According to Rashi, the question relates to the space under the bed. If the bed is high, then the space underneath requires bedika. However, if the bed is low, and it is inconvenient to store things underneath the bed, then this space does not have to be searched. Here again, Rashi is concerned only with the likelihood of chametz. Tosafot (s.v. Mita) explain that the issue is whether the section of the room situated on the far side of the bed requires bedika. The distinction between a high bed and a low bed is explained by Tosafot in two opposite directions: According to the first explanation, if the bed is high, then the other side of the room must be searched since it is possible to crawl under the bed with chametz. If, however, the bed is low, bedika on the other side of the bed is unnecessary. The second explanation suggests that bedika is necessary only if the bed is low since it is possible to climb over the bed with chametz. However, a high bed forms an obstacle thereby exempting the far side of the bed from bedika. Tosafot maintain that the difference between a high bed and a low one is only a trivial technicality. The critical issue is whether or not the bed is a significant obstacle. If the bed constitutes an effective barrier, then there is no reason to suspect chametz on the other side of the bed, and bedika is unnecessary. Tosafot, like Rashi, are only concerned with the possibility of chametz.

II. The "place" oriented approach

However the term "chotzetz" (divides) suggests a different approach in which the bed functions as a "mechitza" and therefore plays a more basic role. A "mechitza" is a division which separates space into two independent units. It is an halakhic category, which does not necessarily function as an obstacle on the practical level. A classic example is a "tzurat ha-petach" (lit. form of a doorway). It is constructed by stringing a rope directly above two side poles. A tzurat ha-petach is viewed as an abstract doorway; hence it forms a halakhic division between two spaces. However it is self evident that in pragmatic terms, no obstacle has been created (i.e., a tzurat ha-petach will in no way obstruct the movement of chametz). There are clearly defined halakhic criteria regarding a mechitza. For instance, the minimal height of a mechitza is 10 tefachim. It is therefore possible that a bed which is "chotzetz" a room is functioning as a mechitza thus dividing the room into two independent areas. However, this is true only if the bed is 10 tefachim high. A low bed perhaps obstructs the movement of chametz. Nevertheless, since the far side of the bed is within the borders of an area which requires bedika, it is not exempt from this obligation. According to this approach, in order to be exempt from the obligation of bedika, an area has to be defined as a "place" into which chametz is not brought. An area into which chametz is brought must be searched in its entirety including those spaces where chametz is unlikely. However, places into which chametz is not brought do not have to be searched at all. Thus, there is no obligation of bedika in a storehouse of large fish, while a thorough search is required in a storehouse of small fish (see 8a).

Therefore, there are two conditions necessary in order to exempt a specific area in a room from bedika:

1. An halakhic requirement which defines the area as independent - mechitza; AND

2. A practical requirement which prevents chametz from entering.

A bed which spans a room fulfills both requirements if it is 10 tefachim high, and is thus exempt from bedika. A lower bed is only a practical obstruction but not a mechitza, and therefore bedika is still required. (See Ritz Ge'ut)

We can now return to the Yerushalmi that rules that chorim (holes) above 10 tefachim are exempt from bedika. If we assume that chorim were not used to store chametz, then it makes sense to exempt one from checking them. However, according to our approach, if these chorim were not defined as an independent area, bedika would nevertheless be necessary as they form part of the room where bedika is required. Therefore, the Yerushalmi rules that if the chorim are above 10 tefachim they are exempt from bedika since the wall under the chorim qualifies as a mechitza, thus separating the chorim from the room. Hence, the chorim are categorized as an independent "place" into which chametz is not brought.

To be sure, it is in no way obvious that these chorim are considered as places into which chametz is not brought. After all, it is reasonable to consider the chorim as an integral part of the room and not as an independent area. Therefore, in order to indicate that chorim are exemfrom bedika, the mishna has to add the term "all."

It is possible to distinguish between the quality of bedika necessary in the above cases. In a situation where there is a real possibility of chametz, a thorough search of chametz is required. However, if the obligation of bedika is a function of the "place," then a formal act of bedika may be sufficient. (The guidelines of the act of bedika will not be discussed here.)

Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel argue about the extent one has to check a wine cellar. Beit Shammai maintain that two complete rows of barrels have to be searched. According to Rav Yehuda this refers to two complete vertical rows (from floor to ceiling). While according to Rav Yochanan the external vertical row and the upper horizontal row have to be searched. As mentioned previously, it seems unreasonable that this is simply an argument about where the chametz is likely to be found. It is much more probable that the chametz is located in one of the outer vertical rows. Why, then, does Rav Yochanan insist on bedika of the upper horizontal row? According to our analysis the answer is obvious. Since a wine cellar is considered a place into which chametz is brought, the entire area needs an act of bedika. A sweeping vertical horizontal search fulfills the requirement of a formal bedika of the entire cellar. Rav Yehuda, on the other hand, subscribes to the alternate approach. Accordingly, there is no need to search the entire room. It is sufficient to do bedika where the chametz is most likely to be found. Therefore, the bedika is limited to the two external vertical rows.

Beit Hillel are much more lenient regarding the bedika of a wine cellar. Due to the difficulty involved in searching a room filled from floor to ceiling with barrels, they limit the scope of the obligation. Instead of searching two complete rows, they feel that it is sufficient to search the two upper external rows. Rav explains this as referring to the uppermost row next to the door and the row underneath. Shmuel, on the other hand, interprets this as the uppermost row and the one adjacent to it. It seems that this argument parallels the disagreement between Rav Yehuda and Rav Yochanan (see Gra). Rav like Rav Yehuda requires bedika where the chametz is most likely to be found. Therefore, although limiting the scope of the obligation, he demands bedika of the outermost row. Shmuel, on the other hand, extends bedika along the horizontal plane. Although more lenient than Rav Yochanan, his opinion is conceptually similar, insofar as he demands a limited act of bedika of the entire room.

[The next Mishna (9a) states that we are not concerned with the possibility that rodents moved chametz from one place to another. Tosafot (s.v. Ein) question the necessity of this statement. After all, they claim, it is obvious from the ruling of the first mishna which exempts places into which chametz is not brought from bedika. From this we can infer that the possibility of rodents is not considered. Tosafot answer that the first mishna is discussing a place where there are no rodents to be found. This answer is clearly a difficult one. The Rambam (Hilkhot Chametz 2:7) solves the problem by combining the two mishnayot as follows: "We are not concerned with the possibility that a rodent introduced chametz into a place where chametz is not brought." According to our approach, however, there is an obvious solution. The first mishna refers to places which never became obligated in the first place. The possibility of rodents cannot define an area as a place into which chametz is brought. Therefore, the obligation of searching for chametz was never incurred. The second mishna is referring to the quality of bedika necessary in an area which is obligated already. Perhaps the obligation of searching demands insuring that such an area is absolutely chametz free. At this point the second mishna comes to assure us that the possibility of rodents does not undermine the demands of bedika.]

Summary

We opened our discussion assuming that the obligation of bedika demanded merely assuring that no chametz was to be found. Therefore, the bedika is limited to points where there is a potential of finding chametz. When those points are searched, we can assume that there is no longer any chametz, and the obligation of bedika has consequently been fulfilled. Based on a number of difficulties, we suggested that bedika obligates searching not merely the points which potentially harbor chametz, but the entire area into which chametz is brought. Consequently, in order to be exempt from bedika, a specific area must be defined as a "place" into which chametz is not brought. The area must, therefore, be defined as independent based on the laws of mechitza, and as chametz free from a pragmatic perspective. With these two approaches in mind, we proceeded to analyze the various cases in our sugya.

 

Sources for next week's shiur:

 

1. Pesachim 9a.

2. Tosafot s.v. "Ve-im kedei"

3. Chidushei R. David s.v. "Amar R. Zeira" (p. 55a); s.v. "U-le'inyan ha-sugya" (p. 64a) until end of paragraph beginning "ve-ha'nakhon" ( p. 67)

4. Yevamot 38a "safek ve-yabam she-ba'u lachalok..." until the mishna.

 

a) What should be the halakha regarding a safek in bedikat chametz, if we were to follow the normal rules of sefeikot? Keep in mind that bedikat chametz is a mitzva derabanan. What is the implicit assumption in the sugya, as to a safek in bedikat chametz?

 

b) Try to explain the machloket between R. Zeira and Rava. Why didn't Rav Zeira agree with Rava? Is the machloket a factual or conceptual one?

 

c) What is the rationale of "ein safek motzi mi-yedei vadai?" Is it an attempt to regulate the safek based upon probability, or is it a logical rule?

 

d) Does the rule of "ein safek motzi mi-yedei vadai" apply to all sefeikot, regardless of the element of probability or not?