Owning Chametz: Lo Yera'eh and Lo Yimatzeh

  • Harav Aharon Lichtenstein

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Dedicated in memory of Matt Eisenfeld z"l and Sara Duker z"l on their 20th yahrzeit.
Though their lives were tragically cut short in the bombing of Bus 18 in Jerusalem, their memory continues to inspire.
Am Yisrael would have benefitted so much from their contributions. Yehi zikhram barukh. –
Yael and Reuven Ziegler
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Translated and adapted by Rav Eliezer Kwass

[The original is a student summary of a shiur given in summer 5749.  This article was not reviewed by Rav Lichtenstein.]

Two Prohibitions: Pesachim 5b

            The Torah states two different prohibitions forbidding the possession of chametz during Pesach:

1.  "For seven days sourdough ("se'or") should not be found ("LO YIMATZEH") in your homes (Shemot 12:19);"

2.  " ... No chametz should be seen ("LO YERA'EH"), nor should any sourdough be seen in all of your borders (Shemot 13:7)." 

Why the need for two different formulations?

            The beraita in Pesachim 5b teaches what laws are derived from each verse:

1.  LO YIMATZEH teaches that it is prohibited to hide chametz for the duration of the holiday and to accept pledges of chametz from non-Jews - chametz should not be found in your possession;

2.  LO YERA'EH LEKHA teaches that "it is only prohibited to see your own chametz, but it is permitted to see the chametz of others or that owned by the Temple (hekdesh)" - only personal chametz is included in the prohibition.

            The places where the Torah says the two prohibitions apply are also different, though.  LO YIMATZEH seems to be limited to one's own home ("be-vateikhem"), while LO YERA'EH seems to have a much broader scope, "all of your borders," including cisterns, ditches, and caves.  One might have thought that the prohibition against burying and accepting pledges of chametz only applies in one's home and that seeing others' or hekdesh's chametz is only permitted outside the home.  However, the word "se'or" (sourdough) is used by the Torah in both mitzvot and, says the beraita, can be used to apply the hermeneutical rule "gezeira shava" (transferring halakhot between two laws that share a common expression).  Therefore chametz cannot be hidden or taken as a pledge even outside one's home and, on the other hand, chametz belonging to others or to hekdesh can remain even inside one's home. 

            The connection between lo yera'eh and lo yimatzeh that this beraita teaches of can be understood in two ways.

A.  Chametz is prohibited both inside and outside the home, but certain aspects of the prohibition derive from lo yera'eh and others from lo yimatzeh.  There are essentially two prohibitions, each contributing something of its own to the general prohibition of chametz.

B.  The connection between lo yera'eh and lo yimatzeh shows that each applies wherever the other does, so that in the end, we essentially have two IDENTICAL prohibitions.

Rambam – Contradictory Sources

            The Rambam in his Sefer Ha-mitzvot (Negative Mitzvot 200-201) counts lo yera'eh and lo yimatzeh as two separate mitzvot, apparently accepting the first approach (A) to the beraita.  In his Mishneh Torah (Hilkhot Chametz 4:2), though, he writes that one who hides - outside his home - chametz that he owns or deposits it in the hands of a gentile, transgresses both lo yera'eh AND lo yimatzeh.  It seems from the Mishneh Torah that the content of both prohibitions is identical (B above). 

            The Kesef Mishneh (Hilkhot Chametz 1:3) explains that there are two distinct prohibitions, and that lo yera'eh only applies to visible, not to buried chametz.  When the Rambam says that one transgresses both lo yera'eh and lo yimatzeh he is only referring to chametz in the field, outside of his home.  The Kesef Mishneh does not follow his logic through all the way, though, and assumes that buried chametz is the only difference between the two prohibitions.  It follows that the connection between the two mitzvot is one-directional: lo yimatzeh is applicable wherever lo year’eh is, but lo year’eh is not applicable wherever lo yimatzeh is (buried chametz).

            We can explain the logic behind such a position in the following way: there is an essential difference between the limitation that lo YEAR’EH dictates and that which lo yimatzeh BE-VATEIKHEM does.  The act prohibited by “lo year’eh” is seeing chametz – the ESSENCE of the mitzva – whereas “be-vateikhem” is a CONDITION imposed upon lo yimatzeh – not the essence of the mitzva (which is chametz being present).  Consequently, after the transfer of halakhot that takes place because of the gezeira shava rule (see above), there will be a difference between how lo year’eh and how lo yimatzeh each becomes modified.  Whereas the condition of lo year’eh can be transferred to lo yimatzeh, obligating even outside the home, a gezeira shava will not change the essence of lo year’eh obligating one even on chametz out of sight.  Hence, the Kesef Mishneh’s approach, that lo year’eh (even after the gezeira shava) does not apply to buried chametz, while lo yimatzeh does, but that both apply even outside the house.

Ritva and Re’ah

            The Ritva cites two opinions regarding the relationship between lo year’eh and lo yimatzeh.

1.  His own – that there are two tracks of chametz prohibitions.  For buried chametz in the home one only transgresses lo yimatzeh BE-VATEIKHEM, not lo year’eh.  For revealed chametz outside the home one only transgresses lo year’eh BI-KHOL GEVULEKHA, not lo yimatzeh.  One does not transgress either of these two biblical prohibitions for buried chametz outside the home!

2.  The Re’ah’s – One transgresses both prohibitions on all chametz, whether visible or not, in all places, whether in the home or outside it.

            The Re’ah took a radical approach to understanding what the gezeira shava teaches.  The Re’ah interpreted the beraita’s expression, “to transfer the laws of one to the other” in the most maximalist way.  Both laws apply under all conditions.  According to the Ritva, though, the two prohibitions retain their individual identities.  The gezeira shava only teaches that foreign and hekdesh chametz is still permissible in one’s home, and that it is prohibited to accept deposits from gentiles even outside the home.  [It is plausible that the Ritva had before him a different text of this gemara.]

Ba’al Ha-ma’or

            The Ba’al Ha-ma’or has an additional (startling) approach to the issue.  According to him, lo year’eh and lo yimatzeh complement each other.  In other words, in order to biblically transgress one must fulfill the conditions of both lo year’eh (visible chametz) and of lo yimatzeh (in the home).  It follows that one does not transgress biblically for buried chametz even in one’s house, or for any chametz outside of one’s home (certainly if it is buried).  In order to biblically transgress, chametz must be visible and in one’s home!

            As striking as the Ba’al Ha-ma’or’s approach seems, he builds on an analogy between the chametz prohibitions and the two prohibitions against shaving off the hair of one’s beard and temples with a razor.  One does not transgress either of these Torah’s two prohibitions unless he fulfills the conditions of both.  One must not only shave (gilu’ach) the hair, but also do it destructively (hashchata) in order to transgress.

The Ran’s Question

            The beraita transfers a leniency of lo year’eh – “one is only prohibited to see his own chametz and not that of others or hekdesh” – to lo yimatzeh; and transfers a stringency of lo yimatzeh – prohibiting buried chametz – to lo year’eh.  Why, asks the Ran, do we not also transfer the other leniency of lo year’eh to lo yimatzeh?  Why don’t we say, “Just as lo year’eh only prohibits visible chametz, so too lo yimatzeh only applies to visible chametz?”

            The Ran answers by distinguishing between the two characteristics of lo year’eh, 1) personal chametz, derived from “lekha,” and 2) visible chametz, derived from “year’eh.”  “Lekha” is a clear limiting clause, whose leniency is later transferred to lo yimatzeh.  “Lo year’eh,” however, is a word whose meaning is ambiguous.  Does “year’eh” here refer to vision in the physical sense – “Your chametz should not be visible” – or is it being used here metaphorically, meaning  “You should have no chametz within your possession?”  When the Torah mentions lo yimatzeh, it reveals that lo year’eh really referred to possession, not vision.  The Ran is here taking an approach that is exactly the opposite of the Kesef Mishneh’s, as we explained his opinion above.  Whereas the Kesef Mishneh held that the gezeira shava did not affect lo year’eh because it is the essence of the mitzva, not a condition, the Ran holds that year’eh is that which the gezeira shava modifies, because the meaning of the word is fluid. 

Summary

            Until now we have presented a number of different approaches regarding the relationship between the two prohibitions against owning chametz.

A. THE BA’AL HA-MA’OR: One transgresses the biblical lo year’eh and lo yimatzeh only over visible chametz in one’s house.  Lo year’eh and lo yimatzeh do not have any distinguishing individual characteristics.

B. THE RITVA: On buried chametz in the home one only transgresses lo yimatzeh; on visible chametz, even outside the home, one only transgresses lo year’eh; and on buried chametz outside the home there is no prohibition.

C. THE KESEF MISHNEH: On buried chametz one only transgresses lo yimatzeh, whether in the home or outside of it; on visible chametz one transgresses both lo year’eh and lo yimatzeh even outside the home.

D.  THE RE’AH: Even on buried chametz outside the home one transgresses both lo year’eh and lo yimatzeh.

            According to the first three opinions, lo year’eh and lo yimatzeh should clearly be counted as two different prohibitions.  What about the Re’ah?  Would he count lo year’eh and lo yimatzeh as two separate prohibitions?  When the simple reading of the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah indicated that whenever one transgresses lo year’eh he also transgresses lo yimatzeh, commentators found it difficult to count them as two separate prohibitions.  Since the Re’ah does not allow for any situation where lo year’eh or lo yimatzeh could exist alone, the same question comes up with regard to his approach.  Would he count them separately?

            It is possible that even though one can not practically transgress either of them separately, one can still count them as two prohibitions.  Whereas lo yimatzeh relates to THE EXISTENCE OF CHAMETZ ITSELF, lo year’eh focuses on MAN’S RELATIONSHIP TO THE CHAMETZ.  They are, conceptually, two separate prohibitions and could each be counted in the list of commandments. 

            Based on this insight, we can better understand the Ran quoted above.  Lo yimatzeh prohibits the existence of chametz, and therefore the limitation that it be “in your house” is a condition that is external to the essence of the prohibition.  Through the gezeira shava, the prohibition is expanded to include “bi-khol gevulekha” (all places).  The Torah’s addition to lo year’eh, “lekha” (to you), which limits the prohibition to personal chametz, is not just an external condition that latches on to the prohibition, but part of the essence of the prohibition.  Lo year’eh focuses on our RELATIONSHIP TO THE CHAMETZ, so “lekha” is part of the prohibition itself.  That cannot therefore be lost, even after the gezeira shava.  On the contrary, it is passed on to lo yimatzeh. 

Makot for Lo Year’eh and Lo Yimatzeh?

            The gemara in Temura (4b) explains that when one substitutes  one animal dedicated to the Temple for another, he transgresses a negative prohibition and gets the punishment of makot (lashes) despite the fact that this negative prohibition has a corresponding positive commandment to correct it (it is a "lav ha-nitak le-aseh," which does not incur the makot punishment).  This is because there are two prohibitions against switching the animal, "Lo yachalifenu" and "Lo yamir oto" (both meaning "Do not exchange it").  The waiver from makot only applies to a prohibition mentioned once that has a corresponding positive commandment.

            Based on this gemara, the Sha'agat Aryeh rules that there is a makot punishment for lo yera'eh and lo yimatzeh despite there being a corresponding positive commandment that corrects it - "tashbitu," destroying chametz.  The Rambam, however, rules (Hilkhot Chametz 1:3) that one does not receive makot for transgressing lo yera'eh and lo yimatzeh (except in certain specific instances), and so rule many others.  It seems that the Rambam and others distinguished between the prohibitions against switching an animal and those of owning chametz.  The two prohibitions against switching an animal are identical (they are listed as one mitzva in the compilations listing the 613 mitzvot), and the Torah only doubled the command in order to strengthen it - therefore it obligates makot.  The chametz prohibitions, though, are two separate and distinct mitzvot, listed individually by the Rambam, and each adds unique content - and therefore there is no makot; they were not repeated for emphasis, but to supplement one another.