Ra’anana Community Kollel
Pesach Guide 2012 Part Two
compiled by Rabbi Dovid Horwitz
The Laws of Bedikat Chametz and Erev Pesach
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Checking the House for Chametz
During the month of Nissan there is a mitzvah to rid one’s possessions of all chametz before the prohibition of eating chametz on the fourteenth of Nissan commences. Although it would be sufficient to eat or destroy all of one’s chametz before the fourteenth in order to fulfill this mitzvah, the Sages required one to nullify any unfound chametz and to declare it ownerless. This is a precautionary measure in the event that one discovers chametz in his possession during Pesach. Consequently, the Halacha requires one to both destroy all chametz that he may find before Pesach as well as to nullify any forgotten chametz left in his possession.
The proper time to destroy and nullify one’s chametz is the morning of the fourteenth of Nissan, which this year is Friday. April 6 by 11:20 am, based on Ra'anana coordinates, at the latest.
In order to be sure that one has in fact destroyed all of the chametz within his possession, one must perform a thorough search of his property on the night before Pesach. Classically, it is this check which Chazal term Bedikat Chametz.
When to Check
The search for chametz should begin immediately upon nightfall on Thursday evening, April 5, from 7:25 pm. If a person is scrupulous to daven Ma’ariv with a minyan, he should do so before performing the bedikah.
Traditionally, the search for chametz is conducted by candlelight, as it is more effective in illuminating the crevices of the house than daylight. Nevertheless, the Poskim write that nowadays, an electric light such as a flashlight may also be used. Although most people turn off the lights of the house when conducting the search so that the candle will illuminate better, one is allowed to leave them on if they so prefer.
Although the mitzvah of Bedikat Chametz was enacted specifically on the night of the fourteenth of Nissan, one who cleans and checks with a candle or flashlight within a thirty day period preceding Pesach has nevertheless fulfilled his obligation and does not need to check again on the night before Pesach, provided no new chametz was brought into that room.
Although the Halacha requires one to search even the cracks and crevices of one’s house, this is only the case when the chametz found there will remain easily accessible during Pesach. However, if, for example, chametz fell behind a heavy piece of furniture where it would be unlikely to become uncovered during the year, then it is sufficient to nullify this chametz without moving or dismantling the furniture. In this vein, one is not required to open up his air-conditioning unit to remove the chametz that a child may have thrown inside as he is unlikely to dismantle the air-conditioner during the year. In this case, even the crumbs inside of the air-condition vent are visible, they do not have to be removed, as such chametz is considered totally inaccessible.
Outdoor balconies should be checked for chametz if one regularly eats chametz there during the year. If one does not frequently eat outside, then no check is necessary, as it can be assumed that any crumbs that had remained were already consumed by the birds.
Even the pockets of one’s clothing should be checked, as many people often place food in their pockets throughout the year. Our custom however, is not to check pockets on the night of Bedikat Chametz, as we rely on the fact that they were thoroughly checked beforehand when doing our Pesach cleaning. The Mishna Berura writes that it is customary to shake out ones pockets when burning the chametz the following day.
Selling Chametz to a Non Jew
As it is forbidden to own chametz on Pesach and people are naturally loathe to burn and destroy substantial quantities of food, one should make every effort to consume all chametz before Pesach so that it will not have to be burned unnecessarily. If a person has a significant amount of chametz in his possession and is unable to consume it before Pesach, it can either be destroyed on the morning of the fourteenth or it can be sold to a non-Jew. One who wants to sell his chametz to a non-Jew should only do so through a knowledgeable Rabbi, as the laws of this transaction are quite complex.
The accepted custom is not to perform Bedikat Chametz on any areas of the house that will be sold to a non-Jew, even though this transaction will not actually take effect until the morning of the fourteenth.
It is customary to place ten pieces of bread around the house so that the one performing the bedikah will surely find at least some chametz. Due to the fact that by this time we have thoroughly cleaned our homes, it is likely that no chametz will be found and thus, the brachah made at the beginning of the search will have been in vain. Each piece of bread which is “hidden” should be smaller than a kezayit (size of a matchbox) so that in the event that one of them is not found, the owner of the chametz will not have neglected the mitzvah of destroying his chametz according to those Poskim who rule that this obligation is only relevant to a kezayit of chametz or more.
As we mentioned in last week’s guide, although our homes are cleaned prior to this night and the likelihood of finding chametz is remote, one should still check each room with a sense of earnestness. Accordingly, one who merely does a quick search of the house, searching out the ten pieces of bread alone, does not fulfill the mitzvah and his brachah is considered to be in vain.
After Bedikat Chametz, the head of the house should recite the nullification of chametz which is printed in the Siddur, and a second nullification is recited the following morning after the burning of the chametz. It is important to realize that this nullification constitutes a legal declaration and is not a prayer. Therefore, one should only say the nullification in a language he understands.
The bread pieces and any other chametz that was found during the search should be kept in a safe place overnight until it can be burned the following morning.
Burning the Chametz
The chametz must be burned by the end of the fifth hour of the day which this year is at 11:20 am Ra'anana time.
One should not place chametz into the building’s or into his own private garbage bins after the collectors have already collected the garbage on Erev Pesach morning. If one has too much chametz to burn properly and he must throw his excess chametz into the bin, he should pour bleach or another strong cleanser onto it in order to render it totally inedible.
Any chametz that is found in one’s house during Pesach must be immediately burned. If it is discovered on Yom Tov, then it should be covered and burned immediately after Havdalah.
Any substance which has chametz mixed into it but is not the main ingredient can remain in a Jew's possession provided that it is not edible even to a dog.
Therefore, all cosmetics, ointments, creams and the like are allowed to be kept in a Jew's possession if they are not edible. They are also allowed to be used provided that they are not placed in one’s mouth. This leniency only applies to cosmetics that were manufactured before Pesach. Some Poskim treat perfume as edible chametz since the alcohol can be distilled and consumed. For this reason, many people are particular to sell their perfumes and other products which contain grain alcohol to a non Jew.
Although it is halachically permissible to swallow tablets, capsules and caplets of medicine even if they contain chametz as a binding agent, the custom is to purchase only kosher for Pesach medicines. If these are unavailable and one needs this medication, he may take them on Pesach provided that they are meant to be swallowed and not chewed. Medicines that are eaten such as chewable tablets and flavored syrups must be kosher for Pesach.
Chametz Medicines on Pesach
One who, G-d forbid, has a life threatening illness is allowed to eat or drink medicine that contains chametz if a non-chametz substitute cannot be found. Since it is forbidden to own chametz on Pesach, one should absolve ownership over of such a medication on the morning of Erev Pesach. Although it is now ownerless, one is allowed to keep it in the house in a place where it will not get mixed with his Pesach supplies. One who has an illness which is not life threatening cannot eat or drink chametz but can take medicine containing chametz provided that it is not edible, such as pills and capsules.
One must finish eating chametz by the end of the fourth hour which this year is at 10:06 am, Ra'anana time. One should brush one’s teeth before this time to make sure that there are no remaining particles of chametz stuck in between the teeth.
Matzah on Erev Pesach
One is not allowed to eat matzah on Erev Pesach, ensuring a healthy appetite for it when fulfilling the mitzvah of eating matzah at the Seder. Nevertheless, matzah ashira, egg matzah, can be eaten on Erev Pesach as it cannot be used to fulfill the mitzvah of matzah on Seder night. Cakes made from matzah meal should not be eaten on Erev Pesach since many Poskim maintain that the matzah meal they contain still has a halachic status of matzah.
Matzah balls, kneidlach, can be eaten on Erev Pesach because the boiling process changes its status from matzah to mezonot and renders it unfit for use as matzah on Seder night.
Although the Torah prohibits only those grains whose contact with water creates a leavening process; namely, wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats, the Ashkenazic Sages expanded the prohibition to include rice, beans and corn. as well. Therefore, Ashkenazim may not eat rice or beans corn, which have come into contact with water. There are two reasons cited for this custom. Firstly, as bread is sometimes made from rice, corn and beans, the Sages were concerned that if they were to allow this type of bread to be eaten, people might come to eat chametz as well. Secondly, there is a chance that a wheat kernel might get mixed into a bag of beans or rice. Just as we are stringent in not eating kitniyot, we also do not use the oil derived from kitniyot. Many Poskim allow the use of cottonseed oil. Although many seeds fall within the category of kitniyot, the cotton seed itself is not edible and therefore was never included in the decree of kitniyot. According to the first reason behind the prohibition of kitniyot, it should stand to reason that potatoes should also be considered kitniyot as potato flour is often used in baking like wheat flour. Indeed, there exists one early authority who forbade the consumption of potatoes on Pesach on these grounds. However, the general consensus amongst the Poskim is to allow the use of potatoes since the Sages who introduced the custom of kitniyot failed to include potatoes in their list.
Many adopt the custom of buying milk and milk products only before Pesach and not during Pesach. This custom is well justified in Chutz La’aretz where the milk produced on Pesach comes from cows who were fed chametz. In Eretz Yisrael this is less of a concern since the Jewish dairies are careful to feed the cows non chametz food during Pesach. Nevertheless, Tenuva milk that has a Bedatz hechsher will be labeled “Kosher for Pesach on Erev Pesach”, since they are concerned that perhaps some chametz feed got mixed into the Pesach feed on Pesach when it cannot be considered nullified by majority. One who runs out of milk during Pesach can buy Tenuva milk that was produced during Pesach even though the label implies that the milk is only kosher if bought Erev Pesach.
Part three will discuss the laws of Seder Night. Stay Tuned!
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