by Rabbi Yair Hoffman
Florida. Palm Springs. Lakewood. Eretz Yisroel. Spain.
There are a number of people that go away for Pesach. Often they leave earlier – before the night of Bdikas Chometz – the night of the 14th (this year, Thursday night). They may travel to family, friends, or to a hotel. The following is this author’s views on the nature of the obligation of the Bedikah. Please consult with your own Rav or Posaik, however, for halacha l’maaseh.
The halacha is clear that if a person leaves his house within 30 days of Pesach he is obligated to perform a bdikah – a search for Chometz before he leaves and to destroy it as well (SA OC 436:1). The Mishna Brurah explains that from that point on, Chazal have placed that obligation on him. We do not place the ten pieces of bread when an early Bedikah is done. There are a few reasons for this, but the main one is that the ten pieces are done because of a concern of a Bracha Levatalah, which is not going to made on an early Bedikah anyhow.
The Bdikah is not a perfunctory one – but must be in all the holes and cracks. However, a blessing is not recited on these early Bedikas. If it is possible to delay leaving his home until after he does the Bedikah on the night of the 14th – this is preferable. Indeed, even if he is nearbly, it is preferable to do the Bedikah in his home. The reasons for this are two-fold (see MB 433:35): 1] It is preferable to perform a Mitzvah in its ideal time, and 2] that it is preferable to perform a Mitzvah with a bracha than without one. We see this from the Mishna in Trumos (1:6) where it states that one who is not clothed should not perform the Mitzvah of taking off Trumah. The Ritvah (Psachim 7b) explains that a Mitzvah is more choshuv – important when a bracha is made on the Mitzvah.
If it is too much, one can sell and or rent a number of the rooms and leave just one or two rooms for himself in which to do the Bedikah. This is actually a debate between the Mekor Chaim and the Chasam Sofer (Siman 131) as to whether a place that one intends to rent or sell to a gentile is obligated in a Bedikah now. The Mekor Chaim holds yes, the Chasam Sofer holds that it does not. If possible one should try to avoid the issue by selling it to the gentile a day earlier, but when necessary, one may rely on the Chasam Sofer.
ARRIVING AT THE HOTEL ON THE NIGHT OF THE 14TH OR BEFORE
If he arrives at the hotel on or before the night of the 14th, he should perfom the bedikah in the hotel room just like he would if it were his own home. If the hotel room is already very clean (hopefully the norm in the United States at least), then he should eat Chometz in the room so that the room will not be considered as a “room in which Chometz is not brought in” and to be able to recite a bracha (See MN 435:4). It is questionable whether the scattering of the ten pieces of Chometz alone would create a situation where the cleaned hotel room would require a bracha. The hotel guest’s car should also be included in the Bedikah.
A flashlight may be used for the Bedikah, and the electric lights do not have to be turned off.
It is interesting to note that in the Pesach Kovetz Halachos (page 77) Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky is quoted as saying that the cleaning in the room is done so well that it is considered as a place that does not need a Bedikah. He is quoted, however, as ruling that if Chometz is eaten there, then a blessing is recited. It is unclear as to why a person shouldn’t specifically eat there, since he would be performing it with a blessing – which is preferable. Perhaps his rationale is that one shouldn’t eat before a Bedikah.
ARRIVING ON THE DAY OF THE 14TH – BEFORE THE TIME OF BIUR CHOMETZ
If he arrived at the hotel on the day of the 14th, there are some fascinating questions that come into play – and it may get a bit complicated.
OBLIGATION OF PROGRAM DIRECTOR
If the Pesach program directors had rented out the rooms themselves and are subletting the room to the guests, then the obligation of Bedikah falls on them on the night of the 14th if they had rented as of the night of the 14th. If the program directors actually did do the Bedikah – then there is no obligation on the hotel guest. The Bedikah on the part of the program director can be done by a messenger, but it cannot be done via a gentile.
REALITY CHECK – HIS OBLIGATION
It is this author’s understanding that it is rare that the program director actually does or oversees a bedikah for all the rooms that he has rented. Thus, if the program directors did not do a Bedikah, or if the program directors and or hotel owners are either not Jewish or not religious, the obligation lies upon the hotel guest to perform the Bedikah on that day. The bedikah is done with a bracha, under these circumstances. If the room is very clean (the norm in the US) and it is still before the Zman Biur – then he should eat Chometz there and then perform the Bedikah with a Bracha (based on MB 435:4). If there is not adequate time to do this, he should perform the Bedikah without a Bracha or with just thinking Hashem’s name and saying the rest of the bracha.
IF HE ARRIVED AFTER THE ZMAN BIUR OR ON CHOL HAMOED
If he arrived after the Zman Biur, and the program directors did not make a Bedikah – he still performs a Bedikah, but without a blessing. However, if he arrived shortly after the Zman Biur, he may still make a Bedikah with a bracha – if it is still before what would have been the Zman Biur according to the Vilna Gaon. During the year, we follow the halachic hour calculation of the Vilna Gaon, but on Erev Pesach we are stringent to follow the view of the Magen Avrohom. The Magen Avrohom calculates hours from dawn to starout rather than from sunrise to sunset.
Have a chag kasher v’same’ach wherever you are!
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org