The 4 Little Explored Opinions About Bitul Chometz & What Really Goes on in Yeshivos


By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

We do it every year.  Negate the Chometz.  But what is it, exactly, that we are doing?

Our great Roshei Yeshiva have always taught us that we must look at everything that happens in the world through a Torah lens.  This was a constant theme when I was in Yeshiva.  And yet, sometimes, we just plow through life and the fulfillment of our precious Torah rituals, customs, and Tefilos, without really thinking about things.

This is a mistake. 

We need to wonder and ponder about our Tefilos and customs too.  And we need to look at them through the eyes of the Rishonim and Acharonim.  As we say in davening, “Ki Haim Chayeinu” – for these constitute our lives.”


Perhaps, somewhat shockingly, there actually seem to be four different understandings of this particular term – “the Bitul of the Chometz.” And, if we further explore these varied opinions we can gain a deeper insight and more appreciation of what it is.


An unscientific straw poll indicated that most people believe that the declaration of Bitul is essentially declaring it ownerless – or hefker.  This, in fact, is the opinion of Tosfos (Psachim 2a “Mide’oraisah) and the Rosh (1:9).


The Ramban, however, challenges the view of Tosfos on several grounds:

  • If it is a mere declaration of ownerlessness (not sure if that is a word), then why did Chazal use the particular term bitul – negation and not use the term ownerlessness? (The Hebrew is less bulky – hefker).
  • Whatever happened to the idea that ownerlessness declarations have to be done before three people? These declarations are done by oneself, alone and at home.
  • Whereever do we ever find that the terminology of “shall be considered like the dust of the earth” is ever effective to declare something ownerless?
  • Don’t we say that “Dvarim sh’b’laiv ainam dvarim – things left unsaid by mouth but said internally are invalid?
  • The Gemorah (Psachim 7a) says that you can do it on Shabbos – and making something hefker on Shabbos is forbidden!

The Ramban (basing himself on the Sifrei – lo yira-eh lecha – to you) concludes that the Bitul is a revelation,a gilui daas, that he does not care a twit about that Chometz he had owned previously. “It is nothing in my eyes – I don’t care about it!”  This, in essence, undoes the “the Torah made it as if it is back in his possession.”


The Ran’s view appears to be some sort of synthesis of the two aforementioned views.  He writes that the revelation that he cares not a twit – leads to an automatic reassessment of the ownership status and now places the said item of Chometz in a legal status of hefker – ownerlessness.


And then there is the fourth view.  Both Rashi (Psachim 2a “b’bitul”) and the Rambam (Hilchos Chometz uMatzah 2:2) indicate that this negation is a form of destruction – tashbisu.

There is, of course, much to explore here.  How do the Baalei Tosfos defend themselves against the Ran?  How do the Ramban and the Ran differ exactly? Why did’nt the Ramban and the Ran not agree to the suppositions of Rashi and the Rambam that it is a form of Tashbisu – destruction of Chometz?  Wherein does the Machlokes lie?

Someone recently inquired as to what really goes on in the world of the Yeshivos.  The answer is actually two-fold.  The first is the Torah learning aspect of things.  These ideas presented above are an example of what is explored in the great Yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel and in America.  These are the contents of the shiurim that our wonderful Roshei Yeshiva provide to our precious boys in Yeshivos.


But there is also the Yiras Shamayim and Mussar aspect of things.  Davening in a Yeshiva.  Hearing the wonderful Mussar shmuessim.  Delving into them.

And as we age, we appreciate and sorely miss – even more the shiurim, and the thoughts and sayings of our Rebbeim who are no longer here.

It has been 15 years since Rav Henoch Leibowitz zt”l passed away on the tenth of Nissan.  His dedication to Klal Yisroel, his penetrating approach to both mussar and Gemorah learning, and his inculcating his remarkable values within his students are sorely missed by all of his Talmidim and continue to serve as a source of constant inspiration to them.

Presented here below are 18 of Rav Henoch Leibowitz zatzal’s  thoughts and sayings.

  • Knowing G-d is to walk in His ways. This means to emulate Him in acts of kindness, in seeking just solutions, and in the performance of truly charitable acts.
  • It is important to seek inspiration from the example of others – just so that we can awaken ourselves to perform a difficult task with joy.
  • When trying to impart a lesson, it is much more effective when they figure out the lesson themselves.
  • Sometimes the motivating force to do the right thing when faced with difficulty is the very absence of anyone else present who is willing to do it.
  • When surrounded by those of lower morality, there is a grave responsibility to gird oneself in strength of character.
  • Talking over and reviewing something deeply with a friend often allows for greater examination of an issue and helps one see the truth.
  • There is often a grave responsibility to think and ponder the gravity of our responsibility.
  • Never despair. It’s awful power can warp and destroy the power of the mind.
  • Even the greatest of people are susceptible of giving up hope.
  • Always make the effort – even when the chances look slim. And if you need a miracle, the effort will make it easier.Always make the effort to remain calm, cool, and collected – even when you are involved in earth-shattering matters.
  • Losing it – is a sin.
  • What is the definition of a “sucker?” To people who are far removed from the concept of chessed it is often it is a pejorative term for a “baal chessed.”
  • Performing acts of kindness each day, aside from being obligatory, is a means to acquire the character trait of loving others like oneself – step-by-step.
  • Quite often it is improper to join with evil people, even for a worthy goal, because it appears as if you agree with their decisions. The issue is complex and requires consultation with the greatest of Torah leaders.
  • Embedded within the soul of man is a natural tendency toward goodness and fulfilling Hashem’s will. Without this, the soul cannot be truly happy, just like a princess who marries a commoner does not find true happiness.
  • Humility is not the negation of the true state of affairs – rather it is the recognition of one’s faults and qualities together, with the true and deep realization that all talent comes to him solely by the grace of the Creator.
  • One cannot achieve a state of wholeness merely by focusing on Mitzvos between man and G-d. One must perfect relationships and fulfill all Mitzvos between man and each other as well, in order to achieve the desired shleimus that we must all reach.


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