Thursday, March 26, 2009

burning chameitz

There are two manners to dispose of issurei hana'ah: through burning and through burial. The difference between these methods is that ashes of items which must be burned become permitted after the burning process is complete, but items requiring burial remain prohibited forever. The reason for the distinction is explained by Tosfos (Temurah 33b): once the Torah command to burn an item has been fulfilled, the mitzvah of disposal is finished and there is nothing more the Torah requires. Items that do not require burning have no proscribed method of disposal and therefore the task of eliminating them is never absolutely completed, hence these items never become permitted.

The Rambam paskens (Psulei haMukdashin ch 19 based on Temurah 34):

כל הנשרפין, לא ייקברו. וכן כל הנקברין, לא יישרפו: שאף על פי שהוא מחמיר בשריפתן, הרי הקל באפרן--שאפר הנקברין אסור.

While burning an item that requires only burial may seem like a great idea in that the disposal is more thorough, in actuality this may lead to mistakingly thinking the ashes are permitted. Therefore, only items which must be destroyed by burning should be burned and all other items should be disposed of in the appropriate way.

The Achronim point out that there is one Rambam that seems to contradict this rule of thumb. Writing in Hil. Chameitz u'Matazah (ch 3) the Rambam paskens:

כיצד ביעור חמץ: שורפו, או פורר וזורה לרוח, או זורקו לים; ואם היה החמץ קשה, ואין הים מחתכו במהרה--הרי זה מפררו, ואחר כך זורקו לים.

The Rambam clearly rules like the Chachamim, who allow chameitz to be disposed of by any means, and not like R' Yehudah, who required burning it. Yet, the Rambam still allows for chameitz to be burned. Why in this case is the Rambam unconcerned for the improper (and prohibited) use of the ashes of chameitz which have been burned? Why does chameitz not follow the general rule that items which do not require burning should not be burned?


  1. Tal Benschar12:07 PM

    First of all, when Chameitz is generally burned (Erev Pesach) it does not yet have an issur of hanaah. (If early enough, it might not even be assur be achila.) Do the ashes of chomeitz which was burned before the zman become assur be hanaah when the zman sets in? I don't think so -- at the time they are not rauy leachilas kelev. So in the case of chomeitz, the general problem you have with other issurei hanaah does not exist.

    (For that matter, it is not all that clear to me that even if you burn chomeitz ON PESACH that the remaining ashes would be assur be hanaah.)

  2. >>>For that matter, it is not all that clear to me that even if you burn chomeitz ON PESACH that the remaining ashes would be assur be hanaah.)

    The question is why not?

  3. Tal Benschar9:54 AM

    Unfortunately, I do not have time to look into the mekoros to give you a full answer. However here are my preliminary, admittedly half-baked, thoughts.

    First, the issur hanaah min ha Torah is only for one week -- since we hold that Chametz She avar alav ha Pesach is only ossur miderabbanan. Thus even though the issur hanaah is chal in the beginning of Pesach, after the last day, mideoraya, it falls off. That alone shows you that the issur hanaah is weaker than most issurei hanaah in that it is not chal permanently in the cheftza of the chametz, but is dependent in some way on the issur achila (or the issur of bal yiraeh and bal yimatzei) being relevant to the chametz. When the zman issur is gone, so is the issur hanaah.

    Similarly, I wonder if chametz is burned whether the issur hanaah remains, or whether because the issur achila is paka (since it is nifsal me achilas kelev) perhaps so to the issur hanaah.

    Put differently, the issur hanaah is dependent on the cheftza having a shem chametz and being subject to other issurei chamtez.

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