Cleaning for Pesach:
- Understanding the Obligation of cleaning for Pesach-See Halacha 4F above!
- Introduction-Din versus Minhag: Cleaning the home for Chametz is known to be one of the more strenuous jobs that falls upon the household in preparation for Pesach. Many are unaware that there exist areas where one is not obligated at all to clean or check for Chametz, and in certain cases, one may even initially allow visible Chametz to remain in its space throughout Pesach. These laws will clarify all of one’s obligations in terms of where one is required to clean and search for Chametz, and when can even visible Chametz be allowed to remain in its place. Despite the above, as brought in Halacha 10, the Jewish people are holy and go above and beyond the letter of the law and clean the entire home from Chametz, even from areas where one is not obligated to clean. Nonetheless, it is worthy to make note of the statement said in the name of the Rebbe that “Dust is not Chametz and the children are not the Karban Pesach.” It is important that the Pesach experience be one of fun and joy, which will bring good memories to all involved. Thus, one should not be overly scrupulous when the matter is not Halachically required, in expense of the sanity or good will of oneself or others. Certainly, if one only has a limited amount of time available to clean the home, they must first make emphasis to clean that which contains a Halachic requirement, and only later, if time remains, to do things which are considered Chumras or extras on the list.
- A Chassidic perspective-The Holiness of the Job: We can learn from the following story, the great holiness involved in cleaning for Pesach: It occurred one year on Rosh Hashanah, after Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchiv blew the Shofar, that he exclaimed “Sweet Father, if the angels which were created from the Shofar blowing of Levi Yitzchak the son of Sara are weak, let the holy and healthy angels which were created from the hard work and toil of your people before Pesach, in which they scrubbed, smoothened and Kashered in honor of Pesach and for Hiddur Mitzvah; let those angels come and appease you.”
A. The general rule of where and what to check:
- One must check and search for Chametz in all areas where there is even suspicion and doubt that perhaps Chametz was brought into it [even] coincidently. This includes even if one is positive that he never actually ate Chametz in that area, but it is common to enter the area while eating, such as to retrieve an item from the area. It goes without saying that all areas which one recalls entering Chametz into even one time during the year, must be checked. Those places which one does not ever remember entering Chametz into them, and it is not common for him to enter the area with food, do not need to be checked. However, in homes that there are children, one needs to search for Chametz in all areas that the child can reach, even if one knows that he personally never entered Chametz there.
- Crumbs of Chametz? One must search for even a crumb of Chametz and destroy it as the Sages decreed against owning even less than a Kezayis of Chametz, lest one come to own a Kezayis. This applies even if one has already nullified his Chametz, or plans to nullify it before Pesach. If however the Chametz is dirty and one has already nullified his Chametz, or plans to do so before the 6th hour, then if the Chametz is less than the size of a Kezayis, one is not required to search for this Chametz or destroy it.
- Does a bedroom need to be checked if one does not ever recall entering Chametz into it? Even if one never recalls entering Chametz into his room, if it is common for one to enter there to get something in middle of a Chametz meal or snack, then it is required to be checked.
- What areas must be checked in a home with children? When there are children in one’s home, all areas which can be entered and reached by the child, must be checked. This applies even if one is positive that he himself never entered Chametz there and it is uncommon to enter there while eating or snacking.
- Do clothing closets have to be checked? Even if one never recalls entering Chametz into his room, if it is common for one to enter there to get something in middle of a Chametz meal or snack, then it is required to be checked. If it is uncommon to do so, and one never recalls entering food there, it does not need to be checked.
- Does a bookcase have to be checked? Yes, as it is common to take a book to read while snacking or eating. Those shelves which one knows that its books have not been used the past year by anyone in his home do not need to be checked if they are above the reach of children.
- Do books need to be checked? Some Poskim rule books do not need to be checked. Others rule they are required to be checked. The Rebbe was not particular to clean his Sefarim. However, do not place them on any eating table during Pesach, even if they were checked.
- Do Tallis and Tefillin bags need to be checked? The inner bags do not have to be checked unless one specifically remembers placing Chametz in them. The outer bag also does not need to be checked if one is particular against entering food into it. If one is not particular, then it must be checked.
B. Chametz which is found in areas that are not reachable by hand:
- Chametz that is in cracks and crevices of tiles and furniture: If one cannot remove the Chametz with his hands due to it being stuck under cracks and crevices and the like then it suffices for him to nullify the Chametz before the 6th hour [through saying the Bittul of Kol Chamira], and if he plans to do so he is not required to destroy this Chametz before Pesach. One is not required to undo the floor [or to undo furniture] to remove the Chametz even if he is capable of doing so, and rather the nullification suffices. This applies even if one is able to see the Chametz. [This applies even if there is a Kezayis of Chametz. This applies even if the Chametz is visible.] Thus, the Chametz that is in between the deep crevices of one’s floor between the tiles [or in the cracks of one’s table or other furniture], does not need to be removed or destroyed but is to merely be nullified. [If one did not nullify his Chametz and did not sell it before Pesach then he must destroy this Chametz on Pesach upon remembering even if it entails taking apart the furniture and the like.] All the above is from the letter of the law, however practically the Jewish people are holy and hence the custom is to destroy all Chametz that is in one’s possession, even the Chametz found in unreachable areas. One is thus to pour bleach or other spoiling agent over Chametz that he is unable to reach with his hands.
- Does one have to destroy Chametz that is found on a high surface such as on top of a closet or bookcase? One is obligated to destroy a Kezayis of Chametz even if it is found on a very high surface. [Furthermore, even less than a Kezayis should be destroyed.] The above obligation applies even if one already nullified his Chametz. Thus, one is obligated to bring a ladder on the night of the 14th [or prior to it] and take the Chametz down from on top of his closets, dressers, bookcases and the like.
- Chametz that is found in a pit? If Chametz fell inside a pit or was placed there to remove before Pesach, then if it is not common to descend into the pit throughout the year it is not required to remove the Chametz from there and rather mere nullification suffices. The above however is only discussing a case of Chametz that fell into the pit or was placed in there with intent to remove before Pesach. It is however forbidden to intentionally place Chametz in the pit for it to stay there until after Pesach, even if one plans to nullify it. If one [transgressed] and placed Chametz in the pit with intent to remove after Pesach then he must remove it and destroy it on the 14th, even if he hid it there prior to thirty days before Pesach.
- The law of Mapoles-Chametz found under heavy items: If a wall fell in one’s house and created a mound of heavy rocks then if the mound is three Tefach in height one is not required to remove the mound and search there for Chametz, and is rather to rely on his future nullification. Furthermore, even if one knows for certain that there is Chametz under the mound, if there is three Tefach of mound over the Chametz he is not required to undo the mound and rather it suffices to nullify the Chametz before Pesach. If the mound is less than three Tefachim [24 centimeters] in height, or he is unsure if there is three Tefachim of rocks over the Chametz, then he must undo the mound to search if there is any Chametz under it even if he plans to nullify his Chametz before Pesach.
- Must one search for Chametz under furniture or appliances? Pieces of furniture or appliances which are not commonly moved and are the height of 24 cm, such as closets, bookcases, and items of the like, do not have to be moved and have their Chametz cleaned even if one sees Chametz under them. If however the Chametz is reachable with one’s hands, one must destroy all the Chametz that can be reached. Furthermore, if the furniture is commonly moved then one is required to move the items and clean under them even if they have a height of 24 cm.
- Does one have to use toothpicks and the like to remove Chametz from areas that he cannot manage to remove with his hands? No. However by one’s fridge and other items used with food, one is required to do so in order so Chametz does not Chas Veshalom come to fall into one’s food. In any event Yisrael Kedoshim Heim and it is thus proper to pour a damaging agent, such as bleach onto the Chametz in all cases that one is able to do so.
- Must one remove his car seats in order to remove the Chametz that is stuck under them? All Chametz that is found under the car seat and is reachable by hand must be removed. All Chametz that cannot be reached by hand is not required to be removed even if one is able to see it. There is no obligation to remove the car seats in order to reach Chametz that is stuck under it. One is likewise not required to vacuum out unreachable Chametz. Nevertheless, practically, experience dictates that it is very difficult to remove even the reachable Chametz [due to abundance of crumbs] without either using a vacuum or removing the car seats. Likewise, in light of Yisrael Kedoshim Heim, Chametz that remains visible and unreachable under the car seat one is to pour bleach or another spoiling agent over it, although is not required to remove the seat.
- Must one undo his chair if he sees Chametz in-between the crevices of the cushion and the chair? This follows the same ruling as the previous Q&A. Thus, all the Chametz that is reachable by hand [or that can be shaken out] must be removed. All Chametz that cannot be reached by hand [and cannot be shaken out] is not required to be removed even if one is able to see it and one is not required to undo the chair in order to remove it. Nevertheless, if there is Chametz that remains visible and unreachable under the cushion, it is proper, if doing so will not damage the cushion, to destroy it by pouring bleach or other spoiling agent over it. If, however, the Chametz stuck inside is less than a Kezayis and is dirty, then even shaking is not required, as explained in other Halachos.
- Must one undo the keyboard of his computer to remove the Chametz stuck under the keys? No. This applies even if one knows for certain that there is Chametz found there. Nevertheless, in light of Yisrael Kedoshim Heim, those who desire to be stringent and undo the keyboard are not to be protested. In any case that a thorough cleaning was not done, it is strongly advised not to use the same keyboard on Pesach as that used during the year, as it is possible for Chametz to get onto one’s finger and end up in one’s food or mouth.
C. Chametz that is on walls:
- From the letter of the law it is permitted to leave Chametz on one’s walls so long as all the attached Chametz in a single room does not accumulate to 27 grams. However, the Jewish people are holy and are accustomed to be stringent and scrape off every speck of Chametz that is stuck to the walls/ceiling/floor, and are even furthermore stringent to sand down the benches and chairs and walls which touched the Chametz.
D. Chametz vessels-Cleaning and storing:
- Cleaning: All Chametz vessels which one does not desire to Kasher for Pesach, or is unable to Kasher them, are to be cleaned from Chametz. One is to scrub them and slightly rinse them down from any recognizable Chametz.
- Putting them away: One is to hide the vessels in an area which he will not be accustomed to enter into throughout all the days of Pesach. Furthermore, it is proper to place the vessels in a room [or closet] which will be locked, and then hide the keys, in order to prevent any possibility of entering there during Pesach. Those which are accustomed to place the vessels in a very high area which is visible, have upon what to rely, although one who is stringent to hide them away from sight will be blessed.
- Un-cleanable Chametz vessels: All vessels that are difficult to clean from Chametz are to be sold to a gentile and stored away as written above.
E. Checking one’s clothing for Chametz:
- Every person must be careful to check his clothing and shake his gloves and pockets of his clothing, and of his children’s, as at times one enters Chametz into them. However, this only applies for one who is accustomed to at times place Chametz into the pockets of the clothing, however one who never does so, does not need to check the pockets at all, not on the night of the 14th or by the time of Biur Chametz. Nevertheless, one who is stringent [to check them] is blessed.
- When are they to be checked? However, they do not need to be checked on the night of the 14th being that anyways the next day when one eats Chametz it is possible that one will place Chametz in them, and thus what use was the Bedikah. Thus, rather one should check and shake them the next day at the time of the destruction of Chametz. Even if one wants to be stringent upon himself and check them on the night of the 14th, he nevertheless needs to recheck them the next day by the time of the destruction of Chametz, as perhaps one has reentered Chametz which he ate after the Bedikah into the pockets.
- Does laundered clothing have to be checked?
- Does one have to check the cuffs of his pants? Being that cuffs usually pick up a lot of dirt, including Chametz, one is to make sure to check for Chametz.
F. Does one need to clean/search his backyard for Chametz?
- One does not need to search the open areas of his outside property for Chametz, as the Chametz usually has been all eaten by birds. However closed items that are outside, such as boxes and a barbecue, do have to be checked, as since they are closed the birds do not have access to them. As well if one knows for certain that there was Chametz outside, then he needs Lechatchilah to go outside at the 6th hour to check if there is any Chametz remaining.
G. Yisrael Kidoshim Hem: Going beyond the letter of the law to destroy all Chametz:
- Although there are cases in which from the letter of the law one is not required to clean the Chametz, nevertheless the Jewish people are holy [i.e. Yisrael Kedoshim Hem] and are accustomed to be stringent upon themselves and scrape off all Chametz, even a mere speck, that is stuck to the walls/ceiling/floor or a vessel. They are even furthermore stringent to sand down the benches and chairs and walls which have touched Chametz. [In light of this stringency] if there is Chametz [in an area that one cannot reach, such as] in a crack that one cannot remove, then one can place cement over it [or anything else something to make it not fit for eating such as bleach].
|Item or Area||Obligated to clean||Not obligated|
|Bathroom||If have kids must check.||No need to check if no kids|
|Books||No need to check. However, some are stringent.|
|Bookcase||Must be checked|
|Bird cage||Must be cleaned|
|Briefcase||Must be checked|
|Car||Clean and Check car. No need to unscrew the benches. Remove floor mats.|
|Computer||Keyboard should be sold to gentile|
|Computer bag||Clean and check|
|Couch||Must remove the cushions but no need to unscrew.|
|Desk||Clean and check|
|Table||Must be cleaned and checked. No need to undo screws to remove Chametz from cracks and crevices.|
|Files||Possibly need check between the folders and in box.|
|Chair||Must be cleaned and checked. No need to undo screws to remove Chametz from cracks and crevices.|
|Kitchen Cabinets||Clean and check|
|Medicine cabinet||May be owned. Chametz vitamins are to be sold|
|Microwave||Clean and check|
|Oven||Clean and check|
|Phone cover||Undo phone cover to check for Chametz under|
|Bedroom||Clean and check|
|Suitcase||Depends. If did not use throughout year, no need to check.|
|Refrigerator||Cleaned and checked|
H. Traveling-Cleaning/Checking one’s home for Chametz prior to traveling for Pesach:
- If one is traveling from home before Pesach and does not plan to return before Pesach, then he must do a Bedikah and nullification the night before he travels, following all the normally required laws. However, he does not recite a blessing prior to his Bedika.
- When planning to sell ones Chametz: The above law does not apply if one will be selling the Chametz in his home to a gentile on the 14th, through his Mechiras Chametz sale. It is thus advisable to do so. However, if by doing so he will have no other place to check before Pesach, such as if he is traveling to in-laws on the day of Erev Pesach, then there is room to be stringent to check at least one room, rather than sell it all. If however one will arrive by his host before the night of the 14th, then he is to simply eat some of his own Chametz by his host’s home, and is included in the Bedika done by the owner.
I. Renting a home before Pesach from a Frum owner-who has to check?
- Acquisition/keys done before 14th: If the renter made an acquisition for the rental, and thus validated it, and was also given the keys before the night of the 14th, then the Bedikah obligation falls entirely upon him-the renter. However, the owner is still obligated to verbally nullify his Chametz before the 6th
- Acquisition/keys done on the 14th: If the renter did not yet make an acquisition before the night of the 14th, or did but did not receive the keys before the night of the 14th, then the owner must do the Bedikah and the Biur and bittul, even if he later that night will finalize with the renter and have him make an acquisition and give him the keys. Nevertheless, although the renter need not check for the Chametz, he must also nullify the Chametz.
- Does one who is staying at a hotel for Pesach have to do Bedikah?
- Entered prior to the night of the 14th: If one received the keys for the room prior to nightfall of the 14th then he is obligated to check the room for Chametz with a blessing, placing out 10 pieces of bread. This applies whether or not he himself ate Chametz in the room or not.
- Entered after the beginning of the night of the 14th: If one only received the keys after nightfall of the 14th, as is common with those which arrive late to the hotel for Pesach or are only arriving on Erev Pesach, then if the hotel is owned by a Jew it is the Jewish owner’s responsibility to check the rooms for Pesach. [If, however, one ate Chametz in their room after the search was done by the owner, then if they were not careful with the Chametz, the search must be redone.] In all cases that the room had not had a Bedika done to it before one’s arrival, whether this is because the Jewish owner was negligent or it is owned by a gentile, then one must immediately check the room for Chametz, even if one arrived on Erev Pesach or on Chol Hamoed. A blessing is to be said before the Bedikah and all the common Bedikah laws apply.
- If one entered prior to the 14th but will be leaving on the 14th? Then one is to check for Chametz with a blessing the night before.
J. Renting a home for Pesach from a non-Frum owner, or gentile:
- If one is renting a home for Pesach from a gentile, or a non-Frum Jew, he is obligated to check the home for Chametz prior to Pesach.
K. Leaving sold Chametz in one’s home over Pesach:
- It is permitted to house the Chametz of a gentile in one’s home over Pesach if one builds a Mechitza of ten Tefach in front of the Chametz. Thus, it is permitted to leave all of one’s Chametz that is included within the sale of Mechiras Chametz within one’s home over Pesach, so long as it is behind a divider that reaches the minimum height of ten Tefach. The Mechitza placed in front of the Chametz must be sturdy in a way that it refrains people from passing through. Thus, using a sheet as a Mechitza would not be valid.