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Ask the rabbi Shabbat and Holidays Chametz and Pesach Products

Bedikat Chametz in a Grain-Free Home

Question
Greetings, I should have posted this sooner as I doubt I’ll get a reply in time, especially as I am in Israel and Bedikat Chametz is tonight. I live in an essentially grain-free house, as we adhere to a low carb diet. For Shabbat, we make Kiddush, but no Motzei. The only time there’s bread in the house is when I bring some in for Bedikat Hametz, and I’m starting to think that’s absurd. Why "contaminate" the house with possible crumbs, when there weren’t any crumbs to clean up in the first place. Of course we clean the house for Pesach and put away the non Kosher LePesach foods, but we really don’t have anything that’s blatantly Chametz at any time. So I’m wondering, is it really necessary to bring bread into the house for Bedikat Chametz? And if not, what do we search for. I suppose it’s possible to do a search without finding anything, but then what do I burn next morning. Any thoughts? Thanks and Chag Sameach.
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your question – which gives me the chance to delve into some Pessach issues, even if the answer comes to you to late to be of help this year. It would seem that we should divide your question into two. The first issue is whether your house is really a chametz free zone all year long. The second issue is, what is the law of checking chametz in a place where there is no chance of there being any chametz there. I am very skeptical as to whether your house is really a totally chametz free dwelling. For example, are all the alcoholic drinks in your house made without grains? That is no beer, whiskies etc. What about when guests come to visit and, not being familiar with your diet, bring you cookies etc – do you not them in the door, or rather politely accept the gift, and put it aside in order to give it away later? Do workmen or babysitters never bring their own (chametz) food into your house? All this being the case, the law probably obligates you to check your residence. We find that even a storeroom that houses just wine falls under the obligation to be checked for chametz, as there is a possibility that someone entered it with some food in hand and accidentally left it there. In the words of the Mishna Brurah (Shulchan Aruch 433, 3, (13)) "One needs to check all the places where there is a suspicion that one put chemetz there – that is to say, not only those places that one uses chemtz in, where it is obvious that one needs to search there for chemetz, but even in places where one is unaccustomed to have chametz there all year long, none the less one needs to be concerned even about a situation where there is only a slight chance that someone took chametz there unexpectedly - and those places also need to be checked also". As mentioned , the law obligates for example checking storerooms that people occasionally go to in the middle of a meal (such as a wine cellar), and perhaps might have a piece of chametz in their hand, and inadvertently put it down and forget it there. The chances that you accidently bought, or were given, a chametz product, and forgot it on your shelves before returning it, or giving it away, seem much higher than forgetting a piece of bread from your meal in the wine cellar. This being so, you are obligated to both clean your house, and then do the standard checking for chametz on the night before Pessach. In relation to putting the traditional ten small pieces of chametz around before the search, it is probably a good idea to continue the practice – as it gives you something to burn in the morning. This is good idea for a number of reasons – firstly it makes certain that the blessing on the search is not in vain (though many authorities believe that even if you find nothing the blessing was not in vain). Secondly, through the act of burning the chametz in the morning you will recall to nullify your chametz (saying the nullification printed in the Hagadah). Thirdly, we are big fans of thousand year old traditions! In relation to the second issue we mentioned – if your house is really a totally chametz free area, were you are certain that no chametz ever enters (such as [you'll pardon me for mentioning] the toilet in my house where no food is ever taken in), then the law is that it is exempt from checking. This would leave you with the unfortunate situation of missing out on the wonderful mitzvah of checking for chametz. And though technically you would be exempt – I would advise where possible doing just what you do, which is to bring chametz into your house in the day(s) before the festival in order to merit saying the blessing and checking for chametz together with all the rest of the Jewish people. May you be blessed with a chametz free Pessach – and joyous festival.
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