The Laws of Searching for Chametz
On the eve of the Fourteenth of Nissan, which will fall out this year (5778) this coming Thursday night, one must search for Chametz by candlelight. The candle must be made of wax (or congealed paraffin oil, common nowadays) as per the enactment of our Sages. If one does not have a candle but he does have a small enough flashlight that one will be able to stick into places where he must check properly, one may use such a flashlight if necessary. One is obligated to search in every room in the house where Chametz is found; even if one is certain that Chametz has never been eaten in this room, one must still check it. The same applies regarding balconies, gardens, cars, and the like.
Regarding washed clothes that were placed in drawers and closets after being washed, one is not obligated to check the pockets of these clothes for Chametz, even if these clothes belong to young children, since the Chametz has surely become inedible due to the various laundry detergents and inedible Chametz is not considered Chametz prohibited on Pesach, as we have already established.
The Proper Time for the Search
The proper time for searching for Chametz is approximately twenty minutes after sunset (if one was unable to search at this time he may still search and recite a blessing even later on during the night). One may not partake of bread or cake more than a “Kebetza” (approximately 54 grams) before searching for Chametz starting from a half-hour before the proper time of the search. Nevertheless, less than a Kebetza of bread or cake or even more than a Kebetza of fruits, vegetables, rice, and the like, may in fact be eaten before performing the search. Sunset this year in New York City is at approximately 7:15 PM making the proper time for the search at approximately 7:40 PM.
The Customary Ten Pieces of Bread
Some have the custom to hide ten pieces of well-wrapped bread throughout the house, so that they may be found by the person searching for Chametz. Those who follow this custom should be exceedingly careful to write down the locations of the ten pieces of Chametz, so that in the event that one (or more) piece(s) is/are not found, they will be able to be located using this list.
After completing the search for Chametz, one must verbally nullify the Chametz by reciting: “Kol Chamira De’Ika Birshuti De’La Chazitei U’dla Bi’artei Livtil Velehevei Ke’Afra De’Ar’ah.” (English Translation: “Any Chametz (leaven) which is in my possession, which I have not seen and I have not destroyed, is hereby nullified and should be considered like the dust of the earth.”) One must recite this verbal renunciation in a language one understands, for if not, one does not fulfill one’s obligation of renouncing Chametz. It is customary to repeat the text of the renunciation three times in order to strengthen the matter (it is preferable to add during one of the three recitations: “Livtil Velehevei Hefker Ke’Afra De’Ar’ah,” English Translation: “Is hereby nullified and is rendered ownerless like the dust of the earth.”)