Part 1 Of Pesach Series: Halachos Of The Search and Nullification of Chometz
Halachos Of The Search and Nullification of Chometz:
1. One should search for “chometz” (1) on the night before Erev Pesach (that is, the night of the 14th of Nissan) (2). We are obligated to conduct the search at the beginning of the night (3). One should not eat (4), nor perform any work, from a half hour before nightfall onward [until he finishes the search].
(1) “Chometz results when one of the five species of grain – wheat, barley, rye, oats, and spelt, or one of their derivatives – is allowed to remain undisturbed in contact with water for 18 minutes or more. Chometz results instantly when these grains are exposed to hot or salted water.” (“Laws of Pesach” by Rabbi Blumenkrantz). Foods like bread, cake, cereals, noodles, whiskey and beer are Chometz.
(2) Based on a verse in the Torah (Exodus 12:15), on the morning of the 14th of Nissan, before Midday, there is a mitzvah to mentally view all Chometz in one’s possession as owner-less (“hefker”) and as useless as dirt. This activity is called “Hashbasah” (or “Bitul”) and if done correctly, with full mental commitment, will prevent one from violating the prohibition to possess Chometz on Pesach (we articulate this mental commitment verbally). However, the Sages were concerned that not everyone would be able to perform the “bitul” with full mental commitment, and therefore, they ruled that in addition to mental bitul, we are all obligated to search (“bedikah”) for the Chometz in our possession, and to dispose (“biur”) of what we find (Mishna Berura 431:2). As we shall see in Chapter 14, one can sell his chometz to a Gentile before Pesach.
(3) Immediately after the appearance of three stars (Mishna Berura 431:1).
(4) A small snack is permitted (Ibid 431:6).
2. [When searching for chometz on the night of the fourteenth] one should use only a single-wick beeswax candle for the search (1). One should not use a braided candle, because it is considered like a torch (“avukah”) (2). In a pressing situation, when there is no beeswax candle available, one may use a tallow (“cheilev”) candle (3).
(1) The sages of the Talmud enacted that a candle should be used for the search, because daylight is insufficient for searching in holes and crevices. Nowadays, a flashlight may be used, however, in order not to deviate from the traditional custom, many begin the search with a candle and then use the flashlight for places where the candle would be inadequate or dangerous (“Halachos of Pesach” by Rav Shimon Eider VII D7).
(2) A torch is too large to be brought into holes and crevices. Alternatively, the light produced by a multi-wick candle is not conducive for this type of search. If one conducted the search using only a multi- wick candle, the search is invalid and must be conducted again (See Pesachim 8 and Mishna Berura 433:8 and 10).
(3) When other types of candles are available, one is not permitted to use a tallow candle because people would be concerned that the fat would drip on the dishes and render them non-kosher. Consequently, one would not search properly in cabinets containing dishes (Mishna Berura 433:9)
Filed Under: Torah
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