Beit Midrash

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Chapter Four-Part Two

Places That Must Be Searched


Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

4.Places That Must Be Searched
Any property owned by a Jew that might contain a kezayit of ĥametz must be searched. Therefore, the kitchen and the dining room where people eat must be searched, and any room, storage space, or porch where people sometimes bring ĥametz must also be searched (SA 433:3-4).
Clothing closets that are not generally used during the course of a meal need not be searched. However, if there are children in the house, closets must be searched, because the children may have opened them while handling ĥametz, or may have even hidden ĥametz in them. Closets that are too high for children to reach need not be searched.
One must also search cars and carrying bags in which he sometimes puts food. Adults who generally do not put food in their pockets need not search them. However, the pockets of children must be searched. Garments that were washed and had their pockets emptied out beforehand need not be searched on the night of the fourteenth (see section 8 of the present chapter). One who does not have a home does not recite the berakha when searching his car or pockets, for the Sages instituted saying a berakha only when searching a house (Kaf Ha-ĥayim 433:91).
The stairwell of an apartment building or condominium is shared by all of the building’s occupants, and therefore they have a collective obligation to search it. In such a case, one of the occupants should be given the responsibility of performing bedikat ĥametz. Open yards need not be searched because we can reasonably assume that animals ate any ĥametz that might have been there. However, if there are alcoves in the yard that might contain ĥametz, they must be searched, because animals may not have crawled into them to eat the ĥametz. Likewise, if one knows for certain that there was ĥametz in his yard on the night of the fourteenth, he must search it, because he cannot be certain that animals will eat it by noon of the fourteenth (MB 433:27, citing Mekor Ĥayim). An enclosed porch, even if it opens into a yard, must be searched.
Ownerless public domains need not be searched, for even if they contain ĥametz, no violation has been committed. This is because such ĥametz is not in the possession of any particular Jew, and the ĥametz prohibition only applies where ĥametz is in the possession of a Jew, and not in an ownerless domain (SA 445:3; MB ad loc. 18. Garbage bins are discussed below, 5:5).
5. The Candle and the Flashlight
The Sages ordained that bedikat ĥametz be performed by candlelight, because candlelight is focused and effective for searching. During the day, the light of the sun detracts from the brightness of the candle, and it is difficult for the eye to focus on its weak light. Therefore, the Sages ordained searching at night, because at night candlelight is more brilliant and does a good job of illuminating holes and crevices, where the essence of the search is carried out.
One may not search for ĥametz by torchlight, i.e., with a candle that has two or more separate wicks. There are several reasons for this, the main one being that the large flame will cause the searcher to worry about burning something, and as a result not be able to concentrate on the search. If one erred and searched by torchlight, he did not fulfill his obligation. Additionally, one may not search by the light of an oil lamp, because the fear of spilling oil and staining his belongings will deter him from maneuvering the lamp into narrow spaces to get a good look at cracks and crevices. Likewise, one should not use a paraffin candle for bedikat ĥametz. Therefore, the widespread custom is to prefer wax candles, because they do not drip excessively (SA and MB 433:2).
In principle, it is permissible to use a flashlight for bedikat ĥametz; the Sages ordained using a candle because its light is focused, and the light of a flashlight is focused. Moreover, a flashlight has an advantage in that one need not worry about burning things or spilling wax and oil, and if it is a good flashlight, its light is stronger and more focused than a candle’s. Nonetheless, some people are strict and do not search with a flashlight because the Sages derived from Scriptural verses that the search for ĥametz should be performed with a candle (Pesaĥim 7b). Yet a flashlight can also be considered a kind of candle, for the filament is like the flame and the battery is like the oil (She’arim Metzuyanim Be-halakha 111:4).
In practice, the prevailing custom is to search by candlelight, in keeping with the practice of the Sages. However, one who wishes to search with a flashlight may do so with a berakha, and in places where the searcher is concerned that the candle will cause a fire, it is preferable to search with a flashlight (see Sidur Pesaĥ Ke-hilkhato 13:10; Yeĥaveh Da’at 1:4).
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