The second chapter of Massekhet Pesahim opens with a discussion of the completion of the process of bi’ur hametz; after having searched for the hametz, one must destroy it. The main issue in this perek, however, is the definition of the prohibition of hametz itself. The Torah clearly forbids eating hametz, and even prohibits having hametz in one’s house. What is less clear is whether someone can derive benefit from hametz in other ways. Does the ban on eating hametz imply that there is a larger prohibition attached that will forbid all benefit from it, or, perhaps, an issur hana’ah (a prohibition against deriving benefit) is a separate matter?
Our Mishna teaches that one is permitted to derive benefit from hametz – one can sell it to a non-Jew, feed it to his animals, etc. – as long as it can be eaten. Once the time comes when hametz is forbidden, no benefit can be derived from it, not even using it as fuel.
Hizkiya said: From where is it derived in the mishna that it is prohibited to derive benefit from leavened bread on Passover? As it is stated: “Leavened bread shall not be eaten” (Shemot 13:3). Since the verse uses the passive, it should be understood as follows: There shall be no permitted consumption of it at all, even deriving benefit, as benefit could be exchanged for money, which could be used to buy food. The Gemara reads precisely: The reason deriving benefit is prohibited is that the Merciful One writes in the Torah: “Leavened bread shall not be eaten.” Had the Torah not written: “Shall not be eaten,” and instead used the active form: You shall not eat, I would have said that the prohibition of eating is implied but that the prohibition of deriving benefit is not implied.
The Mishna specifically says that neither a behema (domesticated animal) nor a hayya (wild animal) can be fed once the issur hana’ah begins, but either of them can be fed until that time. The Gemara explains that the Mishna needs to teach both, as each case has a uniqueness that would not be covered by the other. For example, had the Mishna only taught us the case of hayya, we would have thought that a wild animal can be fed just before Pesah because such an animal will hide anything left over. A domesticated animal, however, may leave over food that will not be noticed until Pesah begins. The Mikhtam explains this distinction by pointing out that someone who gives food to a wild animal knows that such an animal will hide leftover food, so at the time that he feeds the animal he already makes a conscious decision to rid himself of this hametz. Someone who feeds a domesticated animal, however, assumes that he will see if there is any leftover food and will destroy it, leaving open the possibility that hametz will be left in his possession when Pesah begins.