Kenneth Cohen

Disposing of Chametz

There are four stages involved with the removal of Chametz from our homes. It is a Torah prohibition to have Chametz in our possession. I call it a violation of “possession of an illegal substance.”

The first stage is the Bedikat Chametz. We do this with a formal ceremony with a feather and candle, the night before Pesach. The word, בדיקה, means to search. We do our best to search the house even a few weeks before the holiday.

The second stage is known as “Bi’ur Chametz,” which literally means, the burning of Chametz, which is done in the morning before Pesach. It could also mean to destroy the Chametz, by throwing it into the sea, or having it inaccessible, if it is under a pile of rubble.

The third stage might be the most important. According to the Torah, this is all that we must do. This is called, “Bitul Chametz,” the nullification of Chametz. We do this with a declaration that we are making all of the illegal food ownerless, like the dust of the earth. This is done twice. It is done at night after the search, and in the morning, after the burning. Because people do not know how to effectively make this declaration, the Rabbis instituted the need to formally search the house.

The final stage is Mechirat Chametz, where we sell that which we want to keep, to a non-Jew. This was originally instituted for Jews who sold alcoholic beverages. The disposal of these beverages represented a great loss. Therefore, the sale of Chametz was enacted.

As a rule of thumb, open packages of ready to eat Chametz, should be disposed. Unopened packages may be included in the sale of Chametz.

We must be diligent (but not crazy) with these laws, and we must remember that the removal of Chametz represents the removal of haughtiness, and that which is undesirable from our homes.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at