Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Searching For Chametz

On Passover, Jews are commanded to get rid of all "chametz" (leaven) which may be in their possession. It is not unusual to begin cleaning and scrubbing the home weeks before the holiday.   To confirm the effectiveness of these efforts, a special search for chametz, called Bedikat Chametz, is conducted on the night before the seder. (The first Seder this year on Wednesday night April 9th, so the Bedikat Chametz is performed on the previous Tuesday night.)

Bedikat Chametz begins shortly after nightfall. Before beginning the search, a blessing is recited (see below), after which no talking is permitted with the exception of conversation pertaining to the search itself. The search is conducted by the light of a candle, in order to enable a thorough inspection of all the nooks and crannies (if the candle might cause danger, for instance when searching near draperies, one may use a flashlight). Ashkenazic Jews customarily use a feather to carefully "sweep" any chametz crumbs into a paper bag.

Sometimes getting into the right  frame of mind for the search may be difficult, especially if the house has already been thoroughly cleaned for Passover. There is a custom, therefore, to carefully "hide" ten pieces of chametz (for instance 10 pieces of pretzel) around the house in the rooms which will be searched. The search will thus be more diligent, and will not conclude until all the rooms have been checked and the 10 pieces found.

All chametz that is found should be placed safely in a bag for disposal the next morning. One may, however, put aside chametz to eat for breakfast (and Shabbat meals when applicable), making sure to clean up any leftovers and to add them to the collection of chametz
afterward.

When the search is over, one makes a general declaration stating that any unknown chametz is hereby declared ownerless. The collected chametz in the bag is set aside to be burned or properly disposed of on the following morning.*

Please note that there may be situations where a dwelling is not properly cleaned and checked for chametz, for example, someone who is renting a room in a house that is not being cleaned for Passover, where it would be best to consult with a rabbi to determine how to proceed. 

*Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many communal chametz burnings have been canceled for this year. It is recommended that a small sample of chametz be flushed down the toilet.  The rest should be placed in the garbage that is removed from the house. As in all such situations, it is good to consult the local rabbi for guidance for how to properly fulfill this mitzvah. 

The Prayers of "Bedikat Chametz"

Blessing before the search:
Ba'ruch ah'tah Ah'do'nai, Eh'lo'hay'nu melech ha'o'lam, ah'sher kidishanu b'mitz'vo'tav v'tzee'vanu ahl Bee'oor chametz.

Blessed are you Lord, our God, Ruler of the world, Who sanctifies us through His commandments and commanded us concerning the removal of chametz.

Annulment of Ownership of Unknown Chametz:
Kol chameera va'chamee'ah, d'eeka veer'shootee, d'lah cha'zee'tay, ood'la vee'ar'tay, ood'lah y'dah'nah lay. lee'bah'tayl v'leh'heh'vay hef'ker k'aphra d'arah.

"Any chametz or leaven that is in my possession which I have not seen, have not removed and do not know about, should be annulled and become ownerless, like the dust of the earth."

This Treat is reposted in honor of Passover.

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