By HaRav Shimon Anshin shlit”a
Many people are mistaken in regards to preparing the house for Pesach in that on the one hand, they clean more than is necessary according to the Halacha, yet on the other hand, they overlook those areas that are halachically obligated to be cleaned. In the upcoming weeks we will B”EH try to clarify these points.
i) The goal of cleaning the house for Pesach is specifically for the preparation of the Mitzvah of “Biur Chametz” (“Burning the Chametz”). And since it is impossible to remove all the Chametz in one short period of time, we need to start preparing by cleaning the house well in advance. Therefore, in preparing for the mitzvah it is appropriate only to clean in those places that are likely to have Chometz, and it is certainly not necessary to clean or check those places where there is no chance of Chametz.
That being said, our sages give us the guidelines as to which places are most likely to contain Chametz, thereby to check and clean in those places specifically, and which places that are not likely to contain Chometz and can be ignored without checking or cleaning.
ii) The mitzvah of Bedikas Chametz (“checking for Chometz”) is on the night of 14th Nissan and it is possible to bring forward the search up to thirty days before Pesach. Since today we have significantly larger homes with many cupboards etc the need for checking versus that of previous generations, makes it very difficult to remove all the articles from these places for the requirement of checking on the night of the 14th Nissan, as is required. Therefore, it is not merely good advice to start checking in advance, it almost becomes an obligation. And so, there are definitely places that one can check early in advance and which do not have to be re-checked on the night of the 14th itself.
iii) Checking for Chametz must meet three conditions:
1. It must be at night.
2. It must be by the light of a candle.
3. One must guard the place that was checked so that no Chametz will have a chance to enter there again. If one does not guard this place after checking, one will need to re-check it on the night of the 14th. (For example, those places where small children go, need to be securely sealed. That being said, if it is impractical to protect the place appropriately, then one needs to check it as close to Pesach as possible.)
iv) Checking for Chametz as we mentioned needs to be done with a lit candle. However, any search that is performed before the 14th can be performed l’chatchila (to begin with) using a flash-light! In fact, it would seem preferable when performing a check before the 14th to use a flash-light, since checking with a candle makes it difficult to check appropriately due to the fact that people are afraid to burn/damage fabric or char the walls etc. On the 14th however, we must check with a candle as we have no power to chance the decrees of our Sages.
Note: One cannot rely on the light of the room itself when performing the checking, because it does not adequately illuminate the corners of the room, or under/between the furniture, and these places specifically are the main places halachically obligated for checking.
v) For what does one need to search and remove?
According to the Poskim, it appears that one is Halachically obligated to remove even small “clean” (edible) crumbs. However, crumbs that are “dirty”, where “there is no concern of them being eaten” do not require checking or removal. And so, crumbs that are found on the floor are not obligated by the Halacha for removal. Also, crumbs that are “not clean” and which are found in cupboards do not need removal either. However, cupboards that contain food or vessels that are specifically used for Pesach, one would need to remove even such “dirty” crumbs because we are concerned that they may end up in the food and one will eat them inadvertently. Therefore, only where such crumbs would not be considered “fit for a dog to eat” would we not need to remove them.
vi) Can one rely on the cleanliness of a place without having to perform Bedikas Chametz?
In practice, there are various types of cleanliness:
1. General cleanliness of a place does not nullify the obligation.
2. If the place is cleaned with specific attention to there not being any crumbs, one does not have to perform Bedikas Chametz there. Therefore “smooth” places that are cleaned well, would not require Bedikas Chametz.
3. With regards to places that have holes and grooves like corners of a cupboard, drawer, or window sill, it would not suffice to rely on cleanliness and not perform a check. However, if these places were cleaned with a needle or cleaning-cloth in such a way that deem the crumbs inedible, then it would in fact help in removing the obligation to check such a place.
That being said, one who is stringent about Bedikas Chametz in respect to those places that have holes and grooves, even though they were cleaned well before, will find Blessing and the Poskim write that the reason for this is that, even though we are sure that we have cleaned there in an appropriate way, our Sages obligate us to ascertain that the cleanliness is in fact valid (in the same way that for example, a factory needs to perform “Quality Assurance” on its products after manufacturing.)
Next week, I”YH we will clarify what is considered to be a place that has had Chometz in it and that which is not.