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Cleaning For Pesach

By: Rabbi Moshe Taub

 

Originally Published in AMI Magazine

 

 

Due to the fact that the many complicated halachos of Pesach-cleaning get tied together in our heads, let us here carefully delineate what the prohibitions are and what they are not. We can then more easily apply the halacha to common cases:

 

  • Aside for the prohibition against eating chametz and their mixtures on Pesach there is a separate, Biblical, prohibition of possessing chametz over Pesach.

  • There is therefore an obligation to check for, remove, and destroy all chametz in one’s home on the 14th of Nissan. There is no requirement for cleaning unless directly related to the removal of chametz.

  • The custom today is to thoroughly clean our homes long before the night of the 14th. Some posit that cleaning too well before the night of the 14th may establish our homes as being “chametz-free” thus obligating one to abstain from a beracha on the 14th. It is therefore advisable for the head of the household, on the night of the 14th, to either:

          1)    See his job as also being to ask and determine if the house was cleaned well, and to search so as to verify              the response he received to that question (Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach; cf. Rama 433:11).

          2)    Make sure that a small portion of the house remain unchecked before the 14th (Beis HaLevi).

  • Aside from the bedikah, one must also nullify the chametz in their home before Pesach. This nullification alone – without any cleaning before or after – removes all Biblical concerns, yet the basic halacha still demands a thorough cleaning from, and burning / destroying of all chametz due to one of the foolowing fears:

          1)    Such a nullification may not have been done wholeheartedly.

          2)    Chametz is something that we are allowed to eat all year, therefore having it in one’s proximity over Pesach              can lead to it mistakenly being eaten.

  • The Torah prohibition of possessing chametz concerns only what is, minimally, the size of an olive. Chametz that is less than this size is of no Biblical concern. This should not be confused with the prohibition of eating chametz which has no minimum shiur (measurement) [save for the kares penalty involved].

  • However, some rule that one must still remove such small crumbs out of Rabbinical concern (Chafetz Chaim [sefer Machane Yisroel]; Shulchan Aruch HaRav, et al.). all opinions agree that small crumbs less than an olive-size that are also slightly inedible are of no concern at all (Mishnah Berurah). Certainly, if a heavy piece of equipment might cover (likely disgusting) chametz that will be sold anyway – and be out of view – one need not move to clean behind it (e.g. oven, refrigerator) unless one fears large pieces of chametz may become visible on Pesach.

  • If one fears chametz behind a large appliance or shelf space (e.g. a bookshelf) that cannot be moved without great effort (e.g. unscrewing panels, or very tricky lifting) there is no need to remove it, especially if any chametz there would be inedible (Shulchan Aruch HaRav, some understand his words as applying to even large pieces of chametz).

  • Based on all of the above, while it is praiseworthy to clean seforim / books of tiny crumbs, it is not an obligation (Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, et al.). Nevertheless one should not bring unchecked seforim to the table where a crumb could fall into food (Rav Moshe Feinstein). Pockets of clothing, however, must be checked (Rama).

  • All areas of one’s home and property (e.g. car) must be cleaned of chametz, save for an area where one is certain no chametz has entered. In homes where young children are present, even such spaces must be checked unless the children have no way of entering.

  • All areas that are to be sold to a non-Jew for Pesach need not be checked or cleaned for chametz (Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach; cf. Mishnah Berurah 436:32). Nevertheless, any such chametz must be out of view over Pesach (behind a mechitzah / barrier of at least 38 inches high).