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Q&A from the Bais HaVaad Halacha Hotline
March 10, 2023
Q When my new washing machine was installed, a piece of bread was trapped underneath. What is my obligation regarding biur chametz?
A The Mechaber (O.C. 436:1) writes, “One who converts his house to storage within thirty days before Pesach must first check the area for chametz; before thirty days…he doesn’t need to check for chametz.” The floor beneath a heavy appliance is inaccessible and therefore similar to storage. (If the appliances can be easily moved, the area should be checked during bedikah.) The reason for this is that the obligation of biur chametz begins thirty days before Pesach. If an area becomes inaccessible before then, there is no obligation, and the kol chamira declaration of Erev Pesach will suffice to nullify any chametz that may be there (Mishnah Brurah ibid. 15).
According to some Acharonim, one must clear out a storage space—even if converted before thirty days—if it is known that chametz is buried there, like in your case (Mishnah Brurah ibid. 15).
Because a non-Jew’s chametz may be kept in a Jew’s house on Pesach, and people customarily sell their chametz to a non-Jew before Pesach, there is additional basis for leniency even if the washer was installed in the thirty days before Pesach. Although Chazal still require a barrier between the dwellers and the chametz (Psachim 6a, O.C. 440:2), a heavy appliance serves as that barrier.
According to some Acharonim (quoted in Mishnah Brurah 448:12), a Jew’s own chametz that was sold to a gentile to avoid transgression needs a higher level of distance. It must be removed from the premises, or the area of the chametz must be rented to the non-Jew, making it his domain. (Mechiras chametz contracts contain clauses that address this.)
This would not be an option in your case if the laundry area will be used by the household during Pesach (for children; see O.C. 534:1). The Chazon Ish (O.C. 124:1) sides with the lenient opinion.