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“But, on/by the first day you shall put away leaven from your houses.” (12:15)

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The admonishment to rid ourselves of any vestige of chametz, leaven, is unique in the sense that this concept is not found in regard to any other forbidden food.  The Radvaz was once questioned regarding this stringency. His response was simple, but profound. Chametz symbolizes the yetzer hora, evil inclination within a person. The leaven is the se’or sheh-b’isah, fermenting agent within the dough, representing the power of arrogance which is the “rising” agent within a person.  The yetzer hara is forbidden, even b’ma’sheh’hu, the slightest bit. One may not accede to even the most diminutive demand of the yetzer hara.

Horav Moshe Feinstein z.l., derives an interesting lesson from the laws regarding hashbosas chametz, ridding oneself of all leaven. Essentially, one can accomplish this mitzvah by nullifying his ownership of the chametz in his possession. This is referred to as hefker b’lev, nullification in the heart. By this act, one disclaims his title to the chametz. By reciting the words of the bitul, “Any chametz which is in my possession…. shall be nullified and become ownerless… like the dust of the earth,” he is fulfilling the Torah’s mandate.

What happens, however, if one does not perform this simple, but essential act? He is in complete transgression of the laws prohibiting the possession of chametz on Pesach! Regardless of his act of nullification, the chametz becomes null and void. According to the Torah, it has no value due to its prohibited state. If this is the case, why is it essential for human articulation in regard to bitul chametz? What lesson do we derive from this unique halacha?

Horav Feinstein suggests that we learn from this law that the will of Hashem will be done irrespective of any human intervention. The lack of participation of the individual, however, is viewed as a transgression because he is not fulfilling his own obligation. Consequently, the chametz is considered to be in his possession, since he reneged his duty.  This can be applied to all mitzvos. One should not assume that if he refrains from performing a given mitzvah, the obligation will be “abolished.”

This is an inappropriate perspective. The will of Hashem will be done, and the mitzvah will endure. This individual, however, will be considered as if he extirpated a portion of Toras Hashem. Indeed, such a person contributes to the destruction of the world.

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