Biur Chametz-The Mitzvah to destroy the Chametz-When and How

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Biur Chametz-The Mitzvah to destroy the Chametz:

As explained in the previous Halachas, in addition to the two negative commands against owning Chametz [Baal Yiraeh Ubaal Yimatzeh], the Torah commanded one to destroy the Chametz [Tashbisu].[1] The following are the details of this command and how it is fulfilled. For further details on the subject of Biur Chametz which is performed on Erev Pesach-See Chapter 4 Halacha 17!

 

When to destroy the Chametz and fulfill the above Mitzvah:[2]

As explained in the previous Halacha, according to Biblical law the Chametz must be destroyed by midday, while according to Rabbinical law it must be destroyed by the start of the 6th hour. Now we will discuss whether the obligation requires that the Chametz be already destroyed by the time the 6th hour arrives, or that when the 6th hour arrives one must begin to destroy the Chametz? There is a difference in this matter between the letter of the law and custom.

The letter of the law:[3] Biblically, one is only commanded to destroy the Chametz starting from the beginning of the 7th hour of the day, and not beforehand. So too, Rabbinically, one is only commanded to destroy the Chametz starting from the beginning of the 6th hour and onwards and not beforehand.[4] Although one is obligated to destroy the Chametz as soon as the above time arrives, it is possible that the actual Mitzvah is only retroactively fulfilled at night, when the holiday of Pesach begins.[5]

The Custom:[6] The custom is to burn the Chametz at the end of the 5th hour, prior to the start of the 6th hour of the day.[7] It is proper[8] to follow this custom[9], and one needs to be careful to do so.[10] Through destroying the Chametz prior to the arrival of the Tashbisu command at the 6th/7th hour of the day, one retroactively fulfills the Biblical Mitzvah of Tashbisu when the 7th hour arrives.[11]

 

Summary:

The custom is to destroy the Chametz prior to the 6th hour, even though that from the letter of the law one may begin destroying it at the beginning of the 6th hour.

 

How does one fulfill the Mitzvah of Tashbisu-destroying the Chametz?

There exist various ways in how one can get rid of his Chametz, and avoid transgressing the owning prohibition. Prior to the start of the 6th hour of Erev Pesach one can simply sell or disown his Chametz, while after the 6th hour, one must physically destroy the Chametz, as will be explained in Halacha 8. In this Halacha, we will discuss whether the positive command of Tashbisu, destroying the Chametz, is fulfilled simply by disowning it before the 6th hour, or must one physically destroy some of his Chametz to fulfill this Mitzvah. Likewise, we will discuss what methods of physical destruction are deemed valid.

Destroying versus disowning:[12] Biblically, destroying the Chametz [in fulfillment of the Mitzvah of Tashbisu] means that one eradicates [Mashbis] and destroys the Chametz completely from the world until no other person can benefit from it. [This implies that the nullification of Chametz, or its disownment, even prior to the 6th hour of the day, although it prevents one from transgressing the owning prohibition, does not fulfill the Mitzvah of Tashbisu, and to fulfill this Mitzvah, some Chametz must actually be destroyed. So is also implied from other sources.[13] Accordingly, in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of Tashbisu, it does not suffice to simply disown or sell all of one’s Chametz, but rather he must save a Kezayis[14] of Chametz to actually destroy in the ways to be explained. As stated above in A, through destroying the Chametz prior to the arrival of the Tashbisu command at the 6th/7th hour of the day, one retroactively fulfills the Biblical Mitzvah of Tashbisu when the 7th hour arrives.[15] This is the reason why all Jewry are accustomed to burn the Chametz on Erev Pesach rather than simply discard it. The disownment or sale of Chametz simply avoids transgressing the commands of Tashbisu and Baal Yiraeh Ubaal Yimatzeh, and does not fulfill the command of Tashbisu. Nonetheless, even according to this approach, there is no obligation for one who does not own Chametz to purchase Chametz in order to destroy it and fulfill the Mitzvah of Tashbisu, as the Mitzvah simply is that if one happens to own Chametz, then the Mitzvah of Tashbisu is only fulfilled through destroying it, and not that one must own it and destroy it.[16] Accordingly, even according to this approach, one can choose to disown all his Chametz before the 6th hour of Erev Pesach and not destroy any of it.[17]  In such a case, although he does not fulfill the Mitzvah of Tashbisu, he also does not transgress it. All the above follows the understanding of Admur and those Poskim who hold similarly. However, other Poskim[18], rule that the Mitzvah of Tashbisu is fulfilled simply by disowning the Chametz before the arrival of the 6th hour, and there is no necessity to physically destroy it. The full details of disowning Chametz, how, and when it can be performed, will be discussed in Halacha 8!]

The methods of destruction: One who does not plan to disown all of his Chametz[19], or can no longer do so due to it being past the 6th hour of the day [See Halacha 8], must destroy the Chametz from the world in a way that no person can get benefit from it.[20] It, however, does not have to be destroyed to the point that even animals cannot get benefit from it.[21] Some Poskim[22] rule that the only valid method of destroying the Chametz is through burning it.[23] Other Poskim[24], however, rule that any of the to be mentioned methods of destruction are also equally valid. Practically, the final ruling follows the latter opinion that all the to be mentioned methods of destruction are valid.[25] Nevertheless, the custom in these provinces is like the stringent opinion, to destroy the Chametz through burning [if attainable, and if not attainable, then the other methods are to be used].[26]

 

The following are the valid methods of destroying the Chametz:

  1. Burn:[27] Initially, the best method of destruction, as is the accustomed practice, is to burn the Chametz.[28] All the Chametz is to be burnt until it becomes charcoal.[29] This obligation to burn the Chametz until it becomes charcoal, applies only when burning the Chametz after the 6th hour on Erev Pesach. However, when burning the Chametz prior to the 6th hour on Erev Pesach, it suffices to burn it until it becomes unfit for a dog, and one does not have to burn it not until it becomes charcoal.[30]
  • If one cannot burn the Chametz, it is valid to destroy the Chametz through any of the following methods:[31]
  1. Throw into the wind:[32] Break the Chametz into thin crumbs and then throw it into the wind. [This applies to all forms of Chametz, including Chametz kernels of grain, that the Chametz must first be broken into small pieces.[33]]
  2. Throw into a river:[34] If the Chametz is [large and soft, such as a loaf or slice of] bread and the like [which floats atop of water], then one is to crumble it into very thin crumbs and throw it into a river or ocean.[35] If the Chametz is already in small pieces, then there is no need to break them up any further.[36] If, however, the Chametz is small and hard, such as Chametz kernels of wheat, then it is disputed as to whether one must first break up the kernels to smaller pieces prior to throwing them in the river, or not.[37] Practically, if one needs to destroy only a few kernels, then they are to be broken into 2 or 3 pieces and then thrown into the river. If, however, there are many kernels, then they should be thrown as is.[38]
  3. To place the Chametz in a toilet:[39] One can place the Chametz in a toilet [and flush it[40]], even if the pieces are large.[41] One does not need to crumble the piece prior to throwing it in, even if the pieces are bread and the like.
  4. Destroying crumbs by throwing them on the ground:[42] [Before the 6th hour on Erev Pesach] one may throw thin crumbs which are less than a Kezayis onto the floor of one’s home, in walking areas, and destroy the Chametz through walking on it. [However, after the 6th hour, seemingly this method is invalid.[43]]

 

Summary:

Prior to the 6th hour of the day on Erev Pesach, one can disown the Chametz in a public area, and thus avoid transgressing the owning prohibition. However, to fulfill the Mitzvah of Tashbisu, it does not suffice to simply not own Chametz by the time the 6th hour arrives, and rather one must physically destroy some of the Chametz. Likewise, once the 6th hour has arrived, disowning the Chametz is no longer valid to avoid the owning prohibition, and rather it must be destroyed from the world. To fulfill the Mitzvah of Tashbisu, the custom is to destroy it before the end of the 5th hour of the day, and by doing so, one retroactively fulfills the command upon the arrival of the 6th hour. Whenever one is required to destroy the Chametz, it must be destroyed to the point that no person can get benefit from it, however, it does not have to be destroyed to the point that animals cannot get benefit from it. The Chametz may be destroyed through burning, flushing down the toilet, crumbling and throwing into the wind or sea, although the custom is to burn it.

Q&A

For practical Q&A on the subject of Biur Chametz which is customarily performed on Erev Pesach-See Chapter 4 Halacha 17!

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[1] The reason the Torah added an extra command of Tashbisu: Possibly, the Torah only commanded one to destroy the Chametz on Erev Pesach from midday and onwards in order so he not transgress Baal Yiraeh and Baal Yimatzeh during Pesach, as explained in chapter 432 in Kuntrus Achron 1 and 431:1. Thus it ends up then when Pesach arrives, one retroactively completes the Biblical mitzvah done by his search and destruction of the Chametz in his possession. [Admur 446:2]

[2] Admur 445:1

[3] Admur ibid; Admur Kuntrus Achron 432:1

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that the Chametz must be destroyed before the 7th hour. [Rambam in Hilchos Chametz Umatzah 2:1]

[4] The reason: Just like that Biblically, even though starting from the beginning of the 7th hour it is a command that one no longer have any Chametz in his possession, and every moment which he possesses Chametz from there on, and is not involved in destroying it, he transgresses a Biblical Positive command, nevertheless, he is not obligated to destroy the Chametz at the end of the 6th hour, in order so he not own any Chametz from when the 7th hour begins, and rather it is only from the beginning of the 7th hour and onwards that he is obligated to destroy it. So too Rabbinically, even though starting from the beginning of the 6th hour it is a [Rabbinical] command that one no longer have any Chametz in his possession, and every moment which he posses Chametz from there on, and is not involved in destroying it, he transgresses a Rabbinical Positive command, nevertheless, he is not obligated to destroy the Chametz at the end of the 5th hour, in order so he not own any Chametz from when the 6th hour begins, and rather it is only from the beginning of the 6th hour and onwards that he is obligated to destroy it. [Admur ibid]

[5] Admur 446:2

[6] Admur 434:12; 445:1

[7] The reason: As since one needs to nullify the Chametz at the time that he destroys it, therefore, he must destroy the Chametz prior to the 6th hour, as from the 6th hour and onwards one can no longer nullify it, as explained in chapter 433. [Admur 434:12]

[8] Lit. “Tov”.

[9] Admur 445:1

[10] Admur 434:12 writes “One needs to be careful to destroy the Chametz prior to the 6th hour.” Thus, implying that it is an obligation and not a mere “proper thing to do”.

[11] Admur 446:2; See there that possibly one retroactively fulfills the Mitzvah only when the night of Pesach arrives.

[12] Admur 431:2; See Minchas Chinuch Mitzvah 9 and Yagdil Torah Yerushalayim vol. 6 p. 2647 regarding if the Mitzvah of Tashbisu is to Kum Viaseh to “destroy the Chametz from the 7th hour and onwards”, or Shev Veal Taaseh [to simply not own Chametz past the 7th hour of the day]. In other words; is the command of Tashbisu a Shev Veal Taaseh, that by one not owning Chametz by the time the 7th hour arrives he fulfills the Mitzvah, similar to the Mitzvah to rest from work on Shabbos, that by one not doing Melacha he fulfills the positive command of Shabbos? Or do we say that the Mitzvah is a Kum Viaseh, and only if one destroys Chametz that he owns does he fulfill the Mitzvah?

There are several practical ramifications between the two perspectives: 1) If one does not own Chametz, should he buy Chametz in order to destroy it and fulfill the Mitzvah? 2) If another person destroys one’s Chametz, is he liable for a penalty of stealing ones Mitzvah? 3) If one ate his Chametz on Pesach, does he fulfill the Mitzvah of destroying the Chametz? [If one says it is a Kum Viaseh then one does not, as it is a Mitzvah Haba Beaveira, although if it is a Shev Veal Taaseh, then one does.] 4) Must one destroy ones Chametz past midday in order to fulfill the Mitzvah [kum viaseh,] or even if he destroys it prior to midday he has fulfilled the Mitzvah? [Meaning, if the command is to destroy the Chametz by midday, then if one destroys it before hand, then although by doing so he avoids transgressing the positive command by midday, being that he does not own any Chametz, nevertheless, he has not fulfilled this command. This is similar to one who is not wearing a Tallis, in which case, although he does not transgress the command of Tzitzis, nevertheless, he does not fulfill it either. However, if one holds that it’s a Shev Veal Taaseh, then whenever one destroys the Chametz he is fulfilling the positive command.] 5) Does one need Kavanah to fulfill the Mitzvah? 6) If one bought Chametz on Pesach, does he receive the penalty of lashes? If one holds it is a Kum Veaseh, then there is no penalty of lashes being that the Lo Saseh is Nitak to the Esah, although if one holds that its Shev Veal Taaseh, then there is a penalty of lashes. [See Minchas Chinuch Mitzvah 9]

[13] Implication of Admur 445:1, 434:4 and 14, 436:21 [see below]; Tosafos Pesachim 4b seems to hold it is Kum Veaseh, as he holds that one does not fulfill the Mitzvah of Tashbisu by nullifying the Chametz being that Tashbisu is to be done past midday, and by then bittul is no longer valid. As well, the Riy holds that there is no malkus if one buys Chametz on Pesach, thus showing he holds the mitzvah of Tashbisu is a kum veaseh; See Yagdil Torah Yerushalayim vol. 6 p. 2647

Opinion of Admur: From Admur 445:1, 434:4 and 14, 436:21, Kuntrus Achron 432:1 its implied that Admur holds the Mitzvah is a Kum Veaseh, being that in 445:1 Admur says explicitly that although from midday one may not own anymore Chametz, nevertheless, he does need to begin destroying it from before midday, and rather he is only obligated to destroy it after midday, in which case if he destroys it immediately then he has not transgressed. As well, Admur explains in 434:4 that if not for the Bittul, the burning of the Chametz can be done after the 6th hour has already begun. And if the mitzvah were to be a Shev Veal Taaseh, then seemingly the Chametz must already be destroyed by that time. As well, in 434:14 Admur rules that one should say the bittul after the burning in order so he can fulfill the Mitzvah of biur with his own Chametz, thus implying that the Mitzvah is a Kum Veaseh, and even prior to the 6th hour, is only fulfilled if one actually destroys it. Likewise, in 436:21 Admur explains that the Mitzvah of Tashbisu is to destroy the Chametz [and not that one should not own the Chametz]. On the other hand, the wording in 445:1 implies that Admur learns that Tashbisu is a Shev Veal Taaseh, as he writes “Although the mitzvah is that one may not own Chametz past midday, nevertheless….” and does not write “the Mitzvah is to destroy the Chametz once midday is reached, and thus there is no need to destroy it before hand.” Perhaps the reason for why even if we learn that it is a shev veal taaseh one does not need to destroy it before midday, is because since the Torah worded this as a positive command, it implies that once midday is reached one is to do an action to rid himself of any Chametz which he still owns. This is opposed to a negative command which implies that by such and such time one may no longer own Chametz. However, no proof can be brought can be brought from 434:14 where Admur rules that the custom is to destroy the Chametz before the 6th hour, as the Mitzvah of Tashbisu works retroactively, and hence the Kum Veaseh can be fulfilled even before the 6th hour arrives. [Admur 446:2; However, Tzaruch Iyun from Kuntrus Achron 432:1 which seems to imply that the burning of the Chametz before the 6th hour does not fulfill any Mitzvah, and is simply a Minhag, and therefore a blessing may not be said over it.] [See Yagdil Torah Yerushalayim 6 p. 2647]

[14] M”B 445:10 in name of Beis Meir, Chayeh Adam, Chemed Moshe; See Halacha 5E that the Biblical owning prohibition only applies to a Kezayis; See Kaf Hachaim 445:18

[15] Admur 446:2; See there that possibly one retroactively fulfills the Mitzvah only when the night of Pesach arrives.

[16] 1st opinion in Admur 436:21 “The mitzvah of “Tashbisu” is not a bodily obligation that one is obligated to have a house in order to destroy the Chametz from within it. Rather, the mitzvah is that if one has a house, and in that house he has Chametz, then he has the Mitzvah of TaShbisu. However, if he does not have a house, then he does not have any obligation at all.”; Admur ibid concludesPractically, one may be lenient like the second opinion, and one who wants to be stringent may do so; however, he should not rule this way for others”; See Chapter 3 Halacha 12A

[17] Admur 445:1; Michaber 445:2

[18] Rambam Hilchos Chametz Umatzah 2:2 rules that the destruction is done by nullifying the Chametz in one’s heart. [So concludes Minchas Chinuch ibid]; Rashi and Maharam likewise rule that Bittul fulfills the Mitzvah of Tashbisu; Avnei Nezer O.C. 528 rules that disowning the Chametz is defined as Tashbisu, and may even be done after midday!

[19] As is required in order so one can fulfill the positive command of Tashbisu, as explained above.

[20] Admur 441:2; 445:3

Is this extent of destruction, to destroy it so no human can benefit from it, required Biblically or only Rabbinically? Some Poskim rule it is only Rabbinically required to be destroyed to this extent, in order so another person does not come to transgress and benefit from it. [In the Admur writes: Rashi in Pesachim 28a, brought in Admur Kuntrus Achron 445:2] However, other Poskim imply that it is Biblically required, just like by Avodah Zarah. [Implication of Rambam, Shulchan Aruch, Tur and Magen Avraham, brought in Kuntrus Achron ibid] Admur ibid concludes “I have not ruled inside the Shulchan Aruch like this way being that I have not seen anyone which explicitly argues on Rashi.” Practically, as brought in the reason of Admur in the next footnote, it must Biblically be destroyed until this point.

[21] Admur 445:3

The reason: The reason it does not need to be destroyed to the point that even animals can not benefit from it, is because once no human can benefit from it, it is considered destroyed from the world. [Admur ibid]

Contradiction regarding burning until not fit for dog: Tzaruch Iyun how this ruling does not contradict the ruling that when burning the Chametz, even before the 6th hour, it must be burnt to the point it is unfit for a dog. [Admur 445:4] Similarly in 442:21 Admur rules that only when Chametz is unfit for a dog may it be owned when Beiyn. Seemingly, the answer is as follows: The Chametz must be destroyed to the point that human benefit is negated. If one desires to burn the Chametz, then human benefit is only negated once it is burnt to the point it is not fit for a dog, as prior to this point, it is still fit to use as yeast. If, however, one flushes the Chametz down the toilet, and the like, then since its benefit is negated from humans, it is a valid form of destruction even though it remains edible for fish and rodents.

[22] Opinion in Admur 445:7; Rebbe Yehuda in Mishneh Pesachim 21a; Rashi in Machzor Vitri p. 254; Tosafos Pesachim 27b; Semag Aseh 39

[23] The reason: Some Poskim negate all the to be mentioned methods of destruction and rule that all Chametz which needs to be completely destroyed from the world, can only be destroyed through burning. Their reasoning is because we compare the command to destroy Chametz to the command to destroy Nosar [leftover meat of Karbanos]. Thus, just like Nosar may not be left over [past its given time] and if it is than it needs to be burned, so too Chametz which may not be left over [past the 6th hour] due to Baal Yiraeh and Baal Yimatzeh, needs to be burned. [Admur ibid]

[24] Stam opinion in Admur 445:4 and in Michaber 445:1; Chachamim in Mishneh Pesachim ibid; Geonim, brought in Rosh 2:3; Rambam 3:11; Rif

[25] Admur 445:7; Michaber 445:1

The reason: The reason we rule like the latter opinion is because the Sages expounded on the verse “And you shall burn the Nosar with fire” that only Nosar requires to be burnt while other items prohibited in benefit by the Torah do not need to be burnt. [Admur ibid]

[26] Admur 445:7; Rama 445:1; Taz 445:2

Should one burn the Chametz rather than destroy it in other ways, if burning it will take more time? According to our custom to burn the Chametz, seemingly it is better to burn the Chametz over other forms of destruction, even if through burning it will take more time to destroy it. [However, see Admur 434:6; Kuntrus Achron 446:2]

[27] Admur 445:4

[28] As stated above that this is the only method that is valid according to all opinions, and that so is the custom.

[29] Vetzaruch Iyun as to why it does not suffice to burn it to the point that man cannot get benefit for it, after all, once its destroyed to the point that a dog cannot benefit from it, it is also destroyed from human benefit. Seemingly, however, one can explain as follows: When using the burning method to get rid of Chametz, if one does not burn it to the point of charcoal, it is possible to receive benefit from it, such as to use as fuel and the like. Now, since one is required to destroy the Chametz to the point that human benefit becomes impossible, therefore it must be burnt until the point of charcoal. However, this only applies when destroying Chametz past the 6th hour. However, before the 6th hour on Erev Pesach, any Chametz that is destroyed to the point that it is not fit for a dog loses its status of a food, and is hence no longer considered Chametz. There is thus no need to destroy it any further when the 6th hour arrives. All the above is regarding the burning method, however, the other methods of destruction are valid even though it does not turn the Chametz into charcoal, as the Chametz is negated from any possible human benefit.

[30] Admur ibid in parentheses; Admur 442:21

[31] As stated above that we rule like the lenient opinion

[32] Admur 445:4

[33] The below mentioned dispute in Admur regarding if one must break down the kernels, is only relevant when throwing the kernels into the sea. However, when throwing in the wind, it must be broken up according to all. The reason for this is because a valid form of destruction must remove any potential human benefit, and when throwing it into the wind, nothing will further break the kernel up to make it unbenefitable, and thus one must break it on the onset according to all opinions. However, in a sea, there is room to say that the water itself dissolves the food, that there is no need to break up small pieces like kernels.

[34] Admur 445:4

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that when throwing into the sea it does not need to be crumbled unless the Chametz is hard, and thus the sea will not be able to quickly break it apart. [Rambam 3:11]

Can one throw the Chametz into an aquarium which he owns?  If there are fish inside the aquarium, then one should not throw his Chametz which he needs to destroy into it. This applies even if he crumbles it prior to throwing it in, being that he receives benefit from the fact that the fish will eat it. [Admur 445:6]

[35] The reason: As if one were to throw it into a river or sea without crumbling it beforehand, then the Chametz would float on top of the water, and a person which is on a boat is able to benefit from it. [Admur ibid]

[36] The reason: As they scatter on their own on the water’s surface, and thus no man would get benefit from it. [Admur ibid]

[37] Some Poskim rule that by small pieces of Chametz, such as kernels of wheat and the like, there is no need to further break them up into crumbs, and rather one may throw them straight from the bag into the water, as they scatter on their own on the water’s surface, and thus no man would get benefit from it. Other Poskim, however, are stringent and rule that by wheat and other kernels of grains one is required to break each grain into 2:3 pieces, and afterwards to throw them in the water. The reason for this latter stringency is because [whole] kernels are hard, and they do not dissolve within the water [and thus they need to be broken up beforehand]. [Admur ibid]

[38] Admur ibid

The reason: It is proper to suspect for the latter opinion when possible, such as if there are only a few wheat kernels, which are able to be cut into pieces in a short amount of time. However, if there are many kernels [which must be destroyed] and one thus will need to delay [destroying them] a long time [until he finishes] cutting them up, or [he finishes] grinding them, then he should not delay destroying the Chametz for this reason, and one rather relies on the first opinion. This is especially the case if the kernels became Chametz [only] after the time of destruction [after the 6th hour on Erev Pesach], as in such a case the Chametz was not included within the nullification which is done by every person at the end of the 5th hour, as explained in chapter 434, and thus there is a Biblical prohibition to delay the destruction of the Chametz. [Admur ibid]

[39] Admur 445:5

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that this method of destruction [to flush down a toilet] is only valid prior to the 6th hour on Erev Pesach, as it does not destroy the Chametz but simply deems it inedible for a dog. [Chazon Ish] However, in truth, in today’s plumbing system, through flushing the toilet the food goes into the sewage and is considered as if it has gone into the sea and is thus valid according to all.

[40] In previous times, when one threw something in the toilet it went straight into the area of the feces. However, due to today’s modern plumbing, it only reaches the feces if one flushes it. Therefore, for this method of destruction to be valid one would need to flush the toilet. Furthermore, through flushing the toilet it is considered as if one is throwing the Chametz in the sea, as the food gets dumped into the sewage of which no one can benefit from anymore. Accordingly, it retains two forms of destruction.

[41] The reason: When one throws the Chametz into a toilet [and flushes it down], then it is considered completely destroyed from the world being that no person can benefit from it any more. Even if there are [animals such as] pigs in the sewage which will end up eating the Chametz, there is no problem in throwing the Chametz there, being that one is not actually placing the Chametz in front of the animal, and the prohibition to give the Chametz to animals is only when one places it in front of him. [Admur ibid]

[42] Admur 444:9

[43] The reason: As one needs to immediately destroy the Chametz, and not delay until people step on it. Vetzaruch Iyun as to the law in a case that people will be stepping on it right away.

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