The night before the Passover seder, the home is thoroughly searched for any remaining chametz. The chametz found is then set aside to be burned in the morning. Biur Chametz, the burning of the chametz, is the final step of pre-Passover preparations.
Why is the chametz burned? Burning is considered the ideal means of disposing of one’s chametz. The Mishna cites Rabbi Judah, who said, “There is no removal of chametz save by burning.” The sages, however, maintain, “He [a person may] also crumble and throw it to the wind or cast it into the sea” (Pesachim 21a).
On the morning before the seder, chametz may be eaten until the fourth hour of the day.* Biur Chametz takes place before the fifth hour of the day.* In larger Jewish communities, there is frequently a designated location for Biur Chametz, often in conjunction with, and overseen by, the local fire department.
All of the chametz thrown into the fire is burned so completely that even a dog would not eat it. While burning is the ideal way to destroy the chametz, if one is unable to do so due to timing or other limitations, one may pour a chemical disinfectant such as cleaning fluid on them so that the chametz become unfit to be consumed even by a dog. One may also flush the chametz down the toilet.
After all of the chametz has been destroyed, a decree of renouncing ownership is recited, fulfilling the biblical mitzvah of ridding oneself of chametz: “Any chametz or leaven product that is in my possession, whether I have seen it or not, whether I have observed it or not, whether I have removed it or not, shall be considered null and ownerless as the dust of the earth.”
*An hour of the day is calculated by dividing the actual daylight hours from sunrise to sunset by 12.
NOTE: As with all Treats dealing with halacha (points of Jewish law), one should consult one's local rabbi for practical application.
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