Searching for Chametz
In general, we search for Chametz by candlelight on the night of the 14th of Nissan. However, this year (5781), the night of the 14th of Nissan will fall out on Shabbat night and thus, we search for Chametz on Thursday night, the 13th of Nissan. As a result of this situation, several other halachic ramifications arise and we shall, G-d-willing, discuss all of them in this coming week’s Halachot. (The last time Erev Pesach coincided with Shabbat was thirteen years ago, in the year 5768/2008).
The candle used for searching for Chametz must be made of wax (or congealed paraffin) according to the edict of our Sages. If one does not have a candle but does have a small flashlight which can be inserted into cracks and crevices of the home, one may use it for the search when necessary. This was indeed the custom of the great Chazon Ish. One must check all the rooms in the house for Chametz, even if one is certain no one ever ate Chametz there. The same applies to balconies, yards, gardens, and the like.
The time for this search is approximately twenty minutes after sunset (if one could not perform the search at this time for whatever reason, one should search with a blessing even later that night). One may not eat a meal of more than a Kebeitza (54 grams) of bread or pastries before searching for Chametz beginning from a half-hour before the time for the search. However, less than this amount may be eaten. It is likewise permissible to eat even more than this amount of fruits, vegetables, meat, and rice before the search.
While searching, one should pay close attention to medications and alcoholic beverages (such as vodka, whiskey, and beer) in the house, for sometimes people overlook these items and they may be actual Chametz.
After the search, one should verbally renounce the Chametz by reciting the following: “Any Chametz in my possession which I have not seen and I have not destroyed is hereby nullified and should be as the dust of the earth.” (This text can be found in all Pesach Machzorim and Haggadot in Aramaic and Hebrew.)
One must recite this renunciation in a language one understands, for if not, one has not fulfilled one’s obligation. It is customary to recite this text three times in order to give this matter more credence. (It is preferable to add the words, “Is hereby nullified and should be ownerless as the dust of the earth” at least one of the times.)
The Mitzvah of eliminating Chametz is accomplished by burning it or crumbling it and throwing it to the wind or into the sea. The prevalent custom is to burn it though. Chametz which was discarded in the trash (before the time when it becomes prohibited to retain Chametz) need not be destroyed according to the letter of the law.
There are those who customarily hide ten well-wrapped pieces of bread throughout the house before the search so that during the search, they will find these pieces. Those who do so should make sure each piece is less than 27 grams and should write down where these pieces were hidden so that if one cannot find it, one can just check the list.
Eliminating Chametz This Year
This year, when Erev Pesach coincides with Shabbat, the prohibition to eat Chametz will commence at approximately 10:15 AM. Since the search for Chametz cannot be held on Shabbat night, we will therefore perform the search this coming Thursday night, the night of the 13th of Nissan. Before beginning the search, one must recite the following blessing: “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’Olam Asher Kideshanu Be’Mitzvotav Ve’Tzivanu Al Biur Chametz.”
Following the search, one should recite the renunciation text mentioned above.
One should be sure to put away Chametz one intends to eat on Friday and Shabbat in a safe place so that it does not scatter all over the house, in which case one would be required to search the house for Chametz again.
One may not cook Chametz foods which stick to the pots and utensils for this upcoming Shabbat, such as a Chulent with barley or wheat grains, so that one will not need to wash these dishes after the Shabbat meal since this is not being done for the purpose of Shabbat and one may not wash dishes on Shabbat when this is no longer necessary for Shabbat. It is a much better idea to use disposable dishes and containers for the Shabbat meals which can easily be disposed of before the time when Chametz becomes prohibited on Shabbat, in which case one can avoid the aforementioned issue.
As the week progresses, we will, G-d-willing, discuss some more unique laws pertaining to this year.