Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • The Laws of Pesach
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How long to search for chametz

How long should Bdikat chametz take in an average-sized house? s it needed to check chametz lin books?


Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

Question : How long should Bdikat chametz take in an average-sized house? I heard that some rabbis check their homes for several hours, is that what I need to do?

Answer : This question depends on two components: 1. What are we looking for in Bdikat chametz? 2. Does cleaning the house for Passover before searching for Chametz counts as Bdikat chametz?
According to most opinions, looking for chametz on the night of the fourteenth of Nisan is to find crumbs larger than an olive. Crumbs that size are forbidden from the Torah - "Bal Y’raeh" and "Bal Yimatzeh" and eating chametz that size is punished by Karet. (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 446). Others hold that we must search for every morsel of chametz which is suitable for eating, since eating even a small amount is forbidden by the Torah (Chayey Adam, 119, 6).
In addition to this, there is a disagreement whether places cleaned before Passover must be searched again. Some scholars say that since the cleaning was not done by candlelight, like done in Bdikat chametz, we should check all places in Bdikat chametz. (Derech Pkudecha). Others say that cleaning is better than Bdikat chametz, and that after cleaning a place it is considered clean from chametz and does not need checking (Sha’arey Tshuva, 433, b).
In relation to both aspects we go via the lenient opinion, since Bdikat chametz is rabbinic. From the Torah, it is enough to consider the chametz in our heart as worthless and we do not need to check the house. Our sages required in addition to the cancellation of the heart also to searchfor the chametz and to burn it. In rabbinic laws, when there is a disagreement, we go according to the lenient opinion.
Bdikat chametz is to find chametz the size of an olive or larger, places that were cleaned, don’t need an additional check. However, in any case, even after thorough cleaning there is an obligation to check chametz, because we are concerned about places not cleaned accidentally, like a corner of the room or a cabinet drawer. Also, we are concerned that after the cleaning, a child or other person came in with chametz. Especially in places close to where we eat we have to worry about chametz that fell. Therefore, on the night of 14’th of Nissan, we check the house and look at all the corners of the room, along the walls, behind furniture, and open every drawer and cupboard to ensure that it was cleaned and is still clean ( For more sources and details, see Pniney Halacha, Pesach, pages 44-49).
In practice, checking an average house that was cleaned before Passover takes about fifteen minutes. If the house is not cleaned, checking will take longer. The reason that some rabbis checked the house for a few hours, is because they went according to the stringent opinions mentioned above. But as we said, Halacha is like the lenient opinion. I was told by the children and grandchildren of the greatest Rabanim, that their parents Bdikat chametz took fifteen minutes to half an hour.

Do I need to check books page by page?

According to most opinions, that hold that Bdikat chametz is to find pieces the size of an olive, it is clear that there is no need for such an examination of books, since such big pieces can’t lie in between the pages. The question is only according to the minority opinions, who say to look even for small crumbs of chametz.
Some say that we should check all the books, page by page, because maybe crumbs fell in accidentally, and one might eat it. So did the Chazon Ish, who checked page by page books he wanted to use on Passover. The rest of the books he sold to a Gentile and put them behind a partition, and didn’t have to check them ( Hazon Ish 116, 18).
Some say there is no need to look for tiny crumbs which might be found in the books, because even if one might see them on Passover he will not eat them (Bdikat chametz uviuro, b, a).
In practice, as we have seen, since Bdikat chametz is a rabbinic law, we don’t need to check books page by page, since it is an extra stringency and might prevent learning Torah from the books.
Still, on Passover we should not bring to the table books that we were not careful about using them next to chametz during the year. They might have in them a small crumb that will fall into the food, and on Passover chametz is still forbidden even in a ratio of one to a thousand. These books can be used on a different table. If they were used on the dining table (not while eating), the table must be cleaned so no crumbs will stay on it.
Whoever is careful during the year to keep his books clean, and when he brings them to the dinner table he makes sure no crumbs fall on them, doesn’t need to check them even according to the stricter opinion since they are considered checked and clean.

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