Preparations for Pesach Start Now
The entire Jewish nation customarily cleans their houses well for Pesach so as not to encounter the prohibition of Chametz on Pesach and in order to honor this festive holiday with a clean house, so that the family can sit around the Seder table like kings. All Pesach cleaning performed within thirty days of Pesach is included in the Mitzvah of eliminating Chametz. Indeed, Maran Ha’Chida writes in his Sefer Avodat Ha’Kodesh (Section 196) in the name of our Sages that one who is extremely meticulous with regards to not transgressing the prohibitions of Chametz on Pesach is guaranteed to have a good year, for the days of Pesach are the root for the rest of the days of the year.
This Mitzvah especially belongs to righteous Jewish women who take extra care in cleaning the house for Pesach. It is told over that once, the great Brisker Rav, Hagaon Harav Yitzchak Zev Ha’Levi Soloveichik zt”l, once saw his wife exerting herself greatly while brushing a dining room chair. He told her, “You do not need to do that so much!” She replied, “If I would listen to you, I could have transgressed the prohibition of retaining Chametz on Pesach!”
However, one must be able to distinguish between the primary and secondary. The most important places to clean are those where Chametz is actually brought in and used throughout the year, especially the kitchen and dishes meant for Pesach use. On the other hand, other forms of “Pesach cleaning,” such as painting the house or scrubbing the window shades etc., are not as essential as the other forms of cleaning, as we have established.
The Prohibition to Eat and Benefit from Chametz
The Torah (Shemot 13) states regarding the holiday of Pesach: “Matzot shall be eaten for seven days; neither leaven nor sourdough shall be seen in your borders.”
Our Sages taught in Masechet Pesachim (21b among other places) through expounding certain verses that not only is Chametz prohibited for consumption on Pesach, it is also forbidden to benefit from Chametz on Pesach, meaning that even if one does not actually eat Chametz on Pesach, he still may not sell it to a non-Jew and the like on Pesach for this would mean that he is benefitting from this sale. Consumption of Chametz on Pesach is punishable by Karet (severance of one’s soul from the Jewish nation).
Chametz on Pesach Cannot Even be Nullified by a Ratio of One to One Thousand
The prohibition of Chametz on Pesach is so severe that if Chametz gets mixed into other foods, it cannot be nullified even by a ratio of one to one thousand, which is not the case regarding other prohibitions.
For instance, regarding the prohibition of consuming blood, if one gram of blood falls into a pot of food, if there are sixty grams of food present against the one gram of blood that fell into it, the blood is considered nullified, and this food is permitted for consumption. Regarding Chametz on Pesach, however, even if the food present is one thousand times the amount of the Chametz that fell into it, for instance if a tiny crumb of Chametz falls into a large pot of food, the entire pot of food becomes prohibited for consumption because of the crumb of Chametz that became mixed into it.
Therefore, one must be extremely careful regarding Chametz on Pesach to buy only food products that one is completely certain do not contain Chametz mixtures and are certified by a reliable Kashrut organization. Similarly, one should not rely on a non-Torah-observant Jew when he tells him that a certain food does not contain any Chametz, for instance if he says that a certain spice does not have any Chametz mixed into it, for it has already occurred that some people have transgressed the prohibition of Chametz because they had relied on a grocer with no believability. Maran Harav Ovadia Yosef Shlit”a writes that it is proper for one not to purchase any food product designated for Pesach use without a reliable Kosher for Passover certification on every single item. The same applies even to things that do not seem problematic such as liquor, Arack, and the like. Nowadays, even products that look “innocent” pose major Kashrut problems during the rest of the year and especially during Pesach, as all products contain a multitude of ingredients, as we all know.
Dishes Which Have Absorbed Chametz
One may not use the same dishes that he uses during the rest of the year on Pesach, for these dishes have Chametz absorbed in them since when a hot food is inside these dishes, the walls of these dishes absorb its Chametz flavor, just as they absorb dairy or meat flavor. Thus, one must either use dishes that are specially designated for Pesach that have not been used for Chametz or kosher (make kosher for Pesach) his Chametz dishes. This will be better explained in following Halachot.