Searching For Chametz
On Passover, Jews are commanded to get rid of all “chametz” (leaven) which may be in their possession. Weeks are spent cleaning and scrubbing. To confirm the effectiveness of these efforts, a special search for chametz, called Bedikat Chametz, is conducted on the night before the seder. (*When the first Seder is Saturday night, Bedikat Chametz is performed on the previous Thursday night.)
Bedikat Chametz begins shortly after nightfall. When one is ready to begin 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). Among Ashkenazi Jews, it is also customary to use a feather to “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) 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 chametz bag afterwards.
When the search is over, one makes a general declaration stating that any unknown chametz is hereby declared ownerless. The chametz in the bag is set aside to be burned the following morning.
Please note that there are many situations, 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.
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.”
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