Pesach cleaning
Pesach cleaning Yoni Kempinski

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Preparing for Pesach (Passover)

1) Bedikat chametz (search for leaven). .Although we clean our homes thoroughly before Pesach, we are still required to perform a proper bedikat chametz (search for leaven) in every place in which chametz might have been brought (see note).[1] These include all rooms regarding which there is reason to suspect that one might have brought in chametz or into which one walked during a meal or while snacking. Closets, shelves, and drawers regarding which there is no reason to imagine that chametz was brought in their vicinity do not require bedikah. If small children walk around the house carrying chametz, one must check any area (even drawers) accessible to them. After rooms have been cleaned for Pesach, children should not be permitted to walk around with chametz so that the rooms need not be cleaned again.

Until Friday, Erev Pesach, one may give children Pesach macaroons or the like with a hechsher (Kosher supervision) on which one relies during the year even if one would not rely on that hechsher on Pesach (due to one’s personal Pesach stringencies). One may also give them egg- matzot or rice cakes (until the hour when we stop eating leavened food, called sof z’man achilat chametz on Erev Pesach),[2] even though – according to Ashkenazic custom – these foods are not eaten on Pesach.

One who will be away from home for Pesach must nevertheless perform bedikat chametz and must, therefore, rid his home of chametz. If doing such is difficult, one may sell the entire house to the non-Jew to whom one is selling one’s chametz. Note: Even if the house no longer requires bedikah, one is required to somehow fulfill one’s personal obligation of performing a bedikah. One should discuss with one’s Rav whether to exclude one room of the house from the sale to the non-Jew and to perform bedikah on that room, or/and perform bedikah where one is staying for Pesach on the night of bedikat chametz.

2) When cleaning for Pesach, one is not required to move heavy appliances such as a refrigerator or a washing machine (unless they are easy to move, such as if they are on wheels).[3] (See note for exception.)[4] One should merely clean and vacuum under and around such appliances as best as possible. If it is possible to remove the bottom drawer of the oven or the bottom panel of the refrigerator and clean underneath, one should do so (since there might be significant chametz underneath, and/or out of concern that some chametz might get dislodged on Pesach and make its way into the kitchen).

3) If one's home is large, and difficult to check properly in one night, one may begin bedikat chametz several nights earlier, checking one or more rooms each night – without a b’rachah (blessing). One may certainly use an electric flashlight to check at such time (see note 7). At least one room must be left to be checked on the night of bedikat chametz – which is on Thursday night this year – at which time the b’rachah is recited. After one performs early bedikah in a room, one must be careful to keep chametz out of the room or one might have to perform bedikah again on that room.[5]

4) On the night of bedikat chametz, other members of the family (who are responsible adults), may assist in the bedikah, each checking one or more rooms. The homeowner, ba’al habayis[6], recites the b’rachah, and all those who are assisting must listen to his b’rachah. Those assisting should not respond Baruch Hu U’varuch Shemo but they should (preferably) respond Amen. (See note regarding the usage of a flashlight on the night of bedikat chametz.)[7]

The custom is to place ten pieces of chametz around the house on the night of bedikat chametz (see note).[8] It is preferable that they be placed by someone other than the one who will be performing the bedikat chametz (see note).[9] However, they should not be placed by young children – who are liable to forget where they placed the pieces – unless an adult (or at least a responsible child) keeps track of where the pieces are placed. Each piece should be less than a k’zayis (olive size),[10] and preferably wrapped up and sealed. Collectively, the pieces should add up to at least the size of a k’zayis (but see note).[11] One should not place the pieces in unusual places that do not require bedikah. If one performed bedikah on a room on an earlier night (see above), one should not place any of the ten pieces in that room. (In fact, one should not even enter that room with the pieces of bread, as above.)

5) Although nowadays we generally own utensils that are designated specifically for Pesach use, and we use a lot of disposable utensils, we nevertheless are likely have a need to kasher some items in our kitchens for Pesach, including the stove, oven, and sinks. The guidelines and laws for kashering are complex. We refer the reader to chapter 15 in The Kosher Kitchen (ArtScroll) or the downloadable OU Passover Guide for detailed instructions.

One point: There are several different types of steam machines available on the market, which people might assume may be used to kasher sinks. In actuality, almost all of them may not be used for kashering, since only steam comes out of the wand, not hot water. Only those machines that have hot water come out of the wand might be valid for kashering. One should consult a Rav who is familiar with steaming machines for guidelines.

6) Burning the chametz: As on most years, we burn the chametz on Erev Pesach – before sof z’man bi’ur chametz (see note).[12] One should dispose of most of one’s chametz before Friday morning– either through selling it or throwing in the garbage – as explained below. One should make sure that the chametz one intends to burn is at least the size of an egg (see note).[13] One should not attempt to burn flour, vacuum cleaner bags, bagels, macaroni, or anything wrapped in plastic, since these are difficult to burn and are likely to not be consumed completely by the fire. Moreover, we prefer halakhically to destroy the chametz specifically through burning; items that are wrapped in plastic might become unfit for consumption (for even a dog) due to the melted plastic – and, hence, rendered halakhically destroyed – before they are burned.[14] Such items, if remaining, should either be put out for trash pickup (see note)[15] or should be thrown into a public garbage bin before one burns the chametz.

7) One may not eat matzah on Erev Pesach(see note),[16] but one may eat Pesach kneidlech (matzah balls) until the end of the ninth proportional hour of the day.[17] There is a dispute amongst the Poskim (halachic authorities) whether one may eat matzah-meal cakes on Erev Pesach even before the end of the ninth hour of the day.[18]

8) There are different standards regarding the matzot one eats on Pesach. a) Unless one has a minhag (custom) otherwise, l’chatchilah (preferably/initially), one should eat only handmade shmurah matzotfor the Pesach Seder. Those whose minhag is to use specifically machine matzot for the Seder must use machine- shmurah matzot.[19] b) There is a worthwhile chumrah (stringency) to eat only shmurah matzah (hand or machine) the entire Pesach.[20] Those who use non- shmurah matzot for the remainder of Pesach should try to use only “18-minute” matzot with a reliable hechsher. c) Some hold that all products containing matzah-meal or cake-meal should be of the same standard as the matzot that one eats. Most Pesach cakes, snacks and cereals that contain matzah-meal are not made from “18-minute” matzot.

9) It is preferable to use red wine for the four cups, the kosos.[21] However, one who dislikes red wine may drink white wine (but see note).[22] Before Yom Tov, one may mix white wine with red wine to give the white wine a red color. If one did not mix the wines before Yom Tov, the custom is to allow mixing them on the night of the Seder if one first pours the red wine into a receptacle and then adds the white wine, thereby avoiding a concern of the melachah[23] of tzove’a (“coloring”) on Yom Tov (but see note).[24] There is a lenient opinion that allows grape juice.

In an upcoming article, IY”H,[25] we will discuss halachot related to the Pesach Seder.

Notes

[1] See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 433:11 and Mishnah Berurah #45-46. See Dirshu Mishnah Berurah note on #45 for a discussion of how thorough a bedikah is required once the rooms have been cleaned properly. Cf. Sha’arei Teshuvah on Rema (ad loc.).
[2] Sof z’man achilas chametz is the time after which no chametz may be eaten on Erev Pesach, which is at the conclusion of four proportional hours into the day. One proportional hour is calculated by dividing the hours of daytime into twelve equal portions. There is a dispute among the Poskim (halachic authorities) whether daytime for this purpose is defined as beginning at alos hashachar (daybreak) and ending at tzeis hakochavim (nightfall – when three medium stars are visible) (Magen Avraham), or as beginning at haneitz hachamah (sunrise) and ending at sh’kiah (sunset) (GR”A). See M.B. 233:4. (This year – 5782/2022, in the Five Towns/Far Rockaway vicinity, sof z’man achilas chametz according to the opinion of the GR”A is at approximately 10:42 AM, and according to the opinion of the Magen Avraham is at approximately 10:18 AM – if calculating with alos hashachar as 72 minutes before haneitz hachamah and tzeis hakochavim as 72 minutes after sh’kiah; and approximately at 9:58 – if calculating with alos hashachar to be when the sun is 16.1 degrees below the horizon and tzeis hakochavim to be when the sun is 8.5 degrees below the horizon – following the Ben Ish Chai.) The Mishnah Berurah (443:8) writes that with regard to achilas chametz one should l’chatchilah (initially/preferably) follow the more stringent opinion of the Magen Avraham (72 minutes), and not the more lenient opinion of the GR”A.
[3] See Koveitz halakhot (Pesach 6:25), based on S.A. O.C., but see note that follows). Likewise, any piece of furniture that might become damaged or cause damage (to the floor or carpet) by moving need not be moved for bedikat chametz.
[4] The dispensation does not apply if within 30 days before the night of bedikah one places a large appliance in a location (see S.A. ibid.). Thus, if within such time one wishes to place a large appliance in a location, one should first perform a proper bedikat chametz on that location before placing the large appliance (Koveitz halakhot- Pesach 6:26).
[5] Chok Yaakov 433:26; S hulchan Aruch Harav 433:7; see also M.B. 433:1 with Sha’ar Hatziyun #5.
[6] Literally: the head of household.
[7] In our houses, using a candle often poses a fire hazard. However, the minhag (custom), based on the Gemara (Pesachim 7b-8a) is to use a candle. It is possible to preserve the minhag yet remain safe by reciting the b’rachah and beginning the bedikah with a candle – in a non-flammable area, and then switching to a flashlight shortly thereafter. Sephardim should consult with their Rav as to the permissibility of using a flashlight for the bedikah.
[8] The main reason is as follows: The purpose of performing a bedikah is to search for chametz. If one does not find any chametz, there is concern that the b’rachah on the bedikah is a b’rachah l’vatalah (blessing in vain). To prevent such a scenario, we put out bread before beginning the bedikah so that we are assured of finding at least those pieces (Rema O.C. 432:2; cf. Dirshu Mishnah Berurah note to 432:13). (Putting out specifically ten pieces of bread is based on the Kabbalistic writings of the Arizal; see Kaf Hachayim 432:13.) The Poskim write, however, that putting out chametz before the bedikah is actually not required according to halakha, since the mitzvah is not to find chametz, but merely to search for chametz (Rema ibid.; see also Taz, cited in M.B. ad loc.). Nevertheless, the Poskim write that one should act in accordance with the custom (M.B. ibid.). [In fact, nowadays that we follow the ruling of the Rema (O.C. 433:11) that prior to the bedikah one should clean one’s house well, it would seem that we should be required according to halakha to put out the pieces of bread. Indeed, Sha’ar Hatziyun (432:12) writes such in the name of the Eimek halakha. Cf. Dirshu Mishnah Berurah note to Sha’ar Hatziyun (ibid.) and Koveitz halakhot chapter 5 note 8.]
[9] See Dirshu Mishnah Berurah n.e. 432:12 note 17. Nevertheless, it would seem that one who will be performing the bedikat chametz and has no one else to place the pieces may place the pieces oneself.
[10] Sha’arei Teshuvah 432:7.
[11] See M.B. 445:10. If one intends to burn only the 10 pieces of bread (see below in the article), one should make sure either that the 10 pieces add up to the size of an egg, or that one adds extra bread to the 10 pieces before burning so that the total one burns add up to the size of an egg (see note 13).
[12] Sof z’man bi’ur chametz is the time before which all chametz must be destroyed, sold, or disposed of, and is at the conclusion of five proportional hours into the day (as defined in note 2). This year (5782/2022), we get rid of our chametz before sof z’man bi’ur on Friday morning. (This year – 5782/2022, in the Five Towns/Far Rockaway vicinity, sof z’man bi’ur chametz according to the opinion of the GR”A is at approximately 11:48 AM, and according to the opinion of the Magen Avraham is at approximately 11:36 AM – if calculating with alos hashachar as 72 minutes before haneitz hachamah and tzeis hakochavim as 72 minutes after sh’kiah; and approximately at 11:15. – if calculating with alos hashachar to be when the sun is 16.1 degrees below the horizon and tzeis hakochavim to be when the sun is 8.5 degrees below the horizon – following the Ben Ish Chai.) The Mishnah Berurah (443:8) writes that with regard to achilas chametz one should l’chatchilah (initially/preferably) follow the more stringent opinion of the Magen Avraham (72 minutes), and not he more lenient opinion of the GR”A. Perhaps the same ruling applies to bi’ur chametz.
[13] Although all that one is required to burn according to halakha to fulfill the mitzvah d’oraysa (Biblical mitzvah) is chametz the size of a k’zayis (which is half the size of an egg), due to the doubt in halakha as to the precise measurement of a halachic k’zayis, one should burn chametz at least the size of an egg. See M.B. 486:1.
[14] See Halichos Shlomo, Pesach 6:10 with notes 45 and 46; and Seder Pesach K’hilchaso 15:4 with note 10.
[15] One may either leave it in one’s trash can if one is certain that it will be picked up before one burns the chametz, or one may put it in a plastic bag and leave it on the curb even for later pickup.
[16] The Mishnah Berurah (471:12) rules that the prohibition begins at alos hashachar on Erev Pesach. Other Poskim rule that the prohibition begins on the preceding night. See Dirshu Mishnah Berurah (n.e. 471:12 note 7) for an analysis. Many have the custom to not eat matzah beginning from Rosh Chodesh Nisan (M.B. ibid.); yet others have the custom to not eat matzah beginning from thirty days before Pesach.
[17] M.B. 471:20 (cf. the opinion of the GR”A cited in Sha’ar Hatziyun 444:1; see also Dirshu Mishnah Berurah note ad loc.). Nine proportional hours into the day translates into three proportional hours before the end of the day (as defined in note 2.) (According to the opinion of the GR”A, nine “proportional hours” into the day on Erev Pesach this year – 5782/2022 – is at approximately 4:14 PM in the Five Towns/Far Rockaway vicinity. According to the opinion of the Magen Avraham it is at approximately 4:51 PM – if calculating with alos hashachar as 72 minutes before haneitz hachamah and tzeis hakochavim as 72 minutes after sh’kiah; and approximately at 4:24 PM – if calculating with alos hashachar to be when the sun is 16.1 degrees below the horizon and tzeis hakochavim to be when the sun is 8.5 degrees below the horizon – following the Ben Ish Chai.)
[18] See Rema O.C. end of 471:2 with M.B. #20; see also Koveitz halakhot (Pesach 16:7 note 9) at length.
[19] See S.A. O.C. 460:1 with Bi’ur halakha s.v. Matzas Mitzvah.
[20] Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 108:1; M.B. 460:2 with Bi’ur halakha s.v. Matzas Mitzvah; see also S.A. O.C. 477:2 with M.B. 13.
[21] Cups of wine at the Pesach Seder. S.A. O.C. 472:11.
[22] If one has both red wine and white wine and the white wine is superior to the red wine, one may use the white wine (S.A. ibid.); but see further in the text. Sephardim, however, should consult with their Rav as customs vary by community.
[23] Labor forbidden on Shabbos/Yom Tov.
[24] Sh”ut Sheivet HaLevi 10:56. However, it would seem that it would be worthwhile – if possible – to mix the wines before Yom Tov. The reason is that Rav Elyashiv (cited in Hilchos Shabbos B’Shabbos, vol.1 page 749, with note 61) rules that pouring red wine into white wine on Yom Tov solely for the purpose of creating red wine for the Seder is forbidden Biblically (see also Sh’miras Shabbos K’hilchasah n.e. 11:39). Accordingly, he would likely hold that even pouring white wine into red wine for such purpose would be forbidden. (See also M.B. 320:56 and Sha’ar Hatziyun 318:65.) Cf. Rav Ovadiah Yosef (Yalkut Yosef, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 272:6) who rules more leniently.
[25] Im Yirtzeh Hashem (G-d Willing)