On Passover, Jews are commanded to get rid of all “chametz” (leaven) which may be in their possession. It is not unusual to begin cleaning and scrubbing the home weeks before the holiday. To confirm the effectiveness of these efforts, a special search for chametz, called Bedikat Chametz, is conducted on the night before the seder. As the first seder this year is Monday night, April 22nd, Bedikat Chametz is performed on Sunday night, April 21st.

Bedikat Chametz begins shortly after nightfall. Before beginning the search, a blessing is recited (see below), after which no talking is permitted with the exception of conversation pertaining to the search itself. The search is conducted by the light of a candle, in order to enable a thorough inspection of all the nooks and crannies (if the candle might cause danger, for instance when searching near draperies, a flashlight may be used). Ashkenazic Jews customarily use a feather to carefully “sweep” any chametz crumbs into a wooden spoon or a paper bag.

Sometimes getting into the right frame of mind for the search may be difficult, especially if the house has already been thoroughly cleaned for Passover. There is a custom, therefore, to carefully “hide” ten pieces of chametz (for instance 10 pieces of pretzel) around the house in the rooms that will be searched. The search will thus be more diligent and will not conclude until all the rooms have been checked and the 10 pieces found.

All chametz that is found should be placed safely in a bag for disposal the next morning. It is however permitted to put aside chametz to eat for breakfast (and Shabbat meals when applicable), making sure to clean up any leftovers and to add them to the collection of chametz afterward.

When the search is over, a person makes a general declaration stating that any unknown chametz is hereby declared ownerless. The collected chametz in the bag is set aside to be burned or properly disposed of on the following morning.

Please note that there may be situations where a dwelling is not properly cleaned and checked for chametz, for example, someone who is renting a room in a house where the owner is away for the holiday, and the house is not being cleaned for Passover, where it would be best to consult with a rabbi to determine how to proceed.

If a communal burning of chametz is not taking place in your area, it is recommended that a small sample of chametz be flushed down the toilet. The rest should be placed in the garbage that will be removed from the house. As in all such situations, it is good to consult the local rabbi for guidance for how to properly fulfill this mitzvah.

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