Question: We are traveling to the United States for Pesach where we will be staying with my brother and we will be renting a car. Is it permissible to rely on the sale of Chametz for all of the Chametz we have at home in Israel?
Answer: Let us first explain the question. If one leaves one’s home on the of the days prior to Pesach with the intention of not returning home until after Pesach, one must perform the search for Chametz on the night before one leaves. This search should be performed without reciting a blessing but with a candle, as one usually would (Kaf Ha’Chaim Chapter 436, Subsection 6).
The above situation involves a family leaving home for the entire duration of Pesach but they are not cleaning and ridding the house of its Chametz contents; rather, they are leaving Chametz in the pantries, closets, and such while relying on the sale of Chametz and that all of the Chametz items in the house will be sold to a non-Jew. In such a case, there is no need to search for Chametz since there is no doubt that the entire house is full of Chametz, however, this Chametz will not belong to them as it will be sold to the non-Jew through the customary sale of Chametz.
There are nevertheless two issues which must be discussed. The first issue is that one who leaves one’s home for the entire duration of Pesach is forfeiting the Mitzvah of searching for and burning Chametz and the Gemara (Menachot 41a) states that there are times when one is punished for absolving one’s self from a positive Torah commandment.
Another issue is that the customary sale of Chametz is usually executed on the morning of the 14th of Nissan, Erev Pesach. Thus, the night before which is when the Mitzvah of searching for Chametz takes effect, the Chametz has not yet been sold. There is therefore room to claim that one must nevertheless perform the search for Chametz on that night since the Chametz will belong to this individual until the next morning. Indeed, the Chayei Adam (Chapter 119) and others rule likewise that one must nevertheless search for Chametz in one’s possession on the night of the 14th of the Nissan although one intends to have it sold the next morning.
Halachically speaking, Hagaon Harav Ben Zion Abba Shaul zt”l (quoted in Ohr Le’Zion Volume 3, Chapter 7, Section 19) rules that it is preferable for one not to include all the rooms of the house in the sale; rather, one should search one room (on the last night one is home or immediately preceding one’s departure) and perform the Mitzvah in this manner. The great Rishon Le’Zion, Hagaon Rabbeinu Yitzchak Yosef Shlit”a writes (in his Yalkut Yosef-Pesach, Chapter 436) that if one has not searched for Chametz, it is preferable for one to see to it that one’s Chametz is already sold on the 13th of Nissan so that one does not enter a possible obligation to search for Chametz.
If one will have a car where one will be for Pesach, one must search the car for Chametz on the night of the 14th of Nissan, as one would any other year. One should not recite a blessing upon searching for Chametz in one’s car (Shalmei Mo’ed, page 313).
Summary: If one travels away from home several days before Pesach, it is preferable that one perform the search for Chametz in one of the rooms of one’s home and clean this room of all Chametz while including all the rest of the Chametz in the home in the sale of Chametz. If one will have a car in the place one will be for Pesach, one should check one’s car for Chametz on the night of the 14th of Nissan. However, no blessing is recited upon searching one’s car for Chametz.