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When does the prohibition against eating and possessing Chametz begin?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

Library » Holidays » Passover » Chametz | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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The Short Answer:

The prohibition to eat Chametz begins with the onset of the fifth Halachic hour of the day before Passover, and all Chametz must be destroyed (and/or out of your possession) before the beginning of the sixth Halachic hour of the day. (See here for exact times in your location, and see below "Defining Time" for the definition of Halachic hour).

The Askmoses Answer: 

The Torah says1, "You shall not slaughter [or sprinkle] the blood of My [Paschal] sacrifice with Chametz," meaning that it is forbidden to sacrifice the Paschal Offering while Chametz is in existence. The Paschal Offering was sacrificed after midday of Erev Pesach, so the prohibition begins at midday of Erev Pesach. The rabbis made the cut off time even earlier, in order to safeguard this prohibition.

In Talmudic times people knew the time of day by the location of the sun in the sky. More exact time was available for those who had access to a sundial. However, on a cloudy day everyone was out of luck, and it was virtually impossible to know the exact time.

Therefore, the sages added one hour to the prohibition against possessing (or receiving benefit from) Chametz, and two hours to the prohibition against eating Chametz. So the prohibition against eating Chametz starts with the conclusion of the forth hour after sunrise, and one must be rid of all Chametz by the time the sixth hour of the day enters.2

Defining Time

"Halachic time" works differently than the clocks we are used to. In Halachah, time works based on Sha'ot Zmaniyot, "proportional hours" that depend on the season. Halachic hours are not necessarily 60 minutes; instead we take the day, from sunrise until sunset, and divide it into twelve equal parts. Each part constitutes one halachic hour. In the summer this can be up to 75 minutes and in the winter it can be as little as 45 minutes. Midday is the halfway point between sunrise and sunset, and can be quite late if Passover falls out after the onset of Daylight Saving Time.

Click here to find out the exact times for your location.

Footnotes

  • 1. Exodus 34:25
  • 2. Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Orech Chaim, Hilchot Pesach, 443

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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Chametz
Any leavened product which is produced from wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats. This includes bread, cake, cereals, crackers, biscuits, yeast, pasta and whisky. It is forbidden for a Jew to possess or consume Chametz throughout Passover.
Passover
A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
Halachah
Jewish Law. All halachah which is applicable today is found in the Code of Jewish Law.
Halachic
Pertaining to Jewish Law.
Erev
The day beforehand. For example, "Erev Pesach" means the day before Passover.
Pesach
Passover. A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.