Pesachim 31

Don't just bury it.

We know you are supposed to destroy your leaven before Passover but what if your leaven is inaccessible — like really inaccessible? Consider this from the Mishnah:

Leavened bread upon which a rockslide has fallen is considered as though it has been eliminated. 

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says: Any leavened bread that a dog cannot search after it.

Let’s suppose you have a stock of leaven that you know you must destroy before Passover but a landslide renders it completely inaccessible — and you have no time or ability to dig it out before the holiday begins. The Mishnah tells us that you can consider the leaven to have been destroyed by the landslide, though Rabban Gamliel offers a caveat to keep us honest about how buried the leaven really is: only if a dog is not able to dig it up is it considered to be lost for good.

Now the Gemara weighs in: 

Rav Hisda said: One is required to nullify the leavened bread in his heart. 

Rav Hisda holds that even if you cannot dig out your leaven, you cannot consider it properly eliminated without first nullifying it in your heart. This means, essentially, declaring the hametz to no longer be hametz. With nullification, we shift our view and instead of seeing that leaven as food, we see it as something completely without value (stay tuned for more on the question of whether leaven has value during Passover in the coming days).

Back on Pesachim 6b, Rava offered the reason for nullification, which he counseled everyone — not just those dealing with rock slides — should do each Erev Passover so that it would apply to any leaven that was missed in the search:

Rava said: The reason for nullification is lest he (on Passover) find a fine cake and his thoughts are upon it. 

Nullification is a mental task that prepares us in case we accidentally bump into leaven (in this example, a particularly tempting cake) that we missed in our pre-Passover cleaning. It helps us know immediately upon encountering that cake that we should not eat it. It helps us make the right decision without hesitation.

Hametz is often seen as a metaphor for anything in our life that is holding us back — it can be wrongdoingarrogance or other negative attributes. It has even been compared to idolatry. Today’s discussion is a helpful reminder that when we try to remove these attributes from our lives we cannot just bury them deep within ourselves; we actually have to remove these attributes from our hearts — we have to nullify them — and only then will we finally be able to break free.

See you tomorrow!

Read all of Pesachim 31 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on December 22nd, 2020. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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