Pesachim 12

Today’s daf (Pesachim 12) discusses time-precision in halacha, and the extent to which margins of error are or are not permitted in terms of witnesses testifying in a court, or the disposal of chametz prior to Pesach. Yet on first glance, this comparison is exceedingly hard to comprehend, because what does the laws of disposal of chametz have to do with testimony?

To answer this question, we must return to the previous Mishna (Pesachim 1:5, 11b) where Rabbi Yehuda taught that the laws of disposing the chametz are derived from the way in which invalid ‘todah’ offering loaves were removed in the Beit Hamikdash, and we must also remember that the Sanhedrin (i.e. the Supreme Court of Jewish Law) was originally situated next to the Beit Hamikdash (see Sanhedrin 88b, based on Shemot 21:1).

Given this, what our daf is trying to understand is whether greater time-precision is required in the Beit HaMikdash or the Sanhedrin, and whether the laws of בדיקת וביעור חמץ operate different from the בדיקות וחקירות of the Sanhedrin?

And what is the conclusion? That when we worship G-d as reflected in the avoda of the Beit HaMikdash and especially in the laws of chametz on Erev Pesach, we should be very precise with our time, while when we deal with other aspects of life and when testimony is given in a Court, we are often far less precise with our time.

And why is this so? Because the difference between matzah and chametz is time, and because the exodus was about leaving Egypt at the right time, which means that to be imprecise about time regarding aspects of Pesach is to be imprecise about Pesach itself.