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Laws of Pesach #1

It is not only forbidden to eat chameitz, there is also an obligation to get rid of all chameitz that is in one’s possession.

Biblically, one can relinquish ownership of chameitz that is in one’s possession and that would suffice. However, our sages were concerned that if one would have chameitz that is sitting around in one’s home they would inadvertently eat it. They therefore required one to remove all chameitz from one’s home. (We will discuss selling chameitz at a later time.)

It therefore follows that if one relinquishes ownership of the chameitz in their home they do not need to remove chameitz from locations that are very difficult to reach since there is no concern that one will inadvertently eat the chameitz there. For example, there is no obligation to move a fridge to remove chameitz from behind the fridge. (So feel free to take ‘clean behind fridge’ off your pre-Pesach to-do list.)

We are only obligated to search for chameitz in places that we have reason to assume that it will be found. This makes Pesach cleaning very subjective. If for example, one has a strict policy of ‘no food outside of the kitchen and dining area’ then they only need to look for chameitz in those locations. If one has young children then typically every area of the house potentially has chameitz.

As mentioned yesterday, once we relinquish ownership of our chameitz, there is no Biblical prohibition of having chameitz in the house. The Rabbis were concerned that if chameitz was sitting around one would absentmindedly eat it. That being said, when one is cleaning for Pesach there is no need to look for crumbs. Since we either sell our chameitz and whatever is not sold, we relinquish ownership to, we therefore do not need to worry about insubstantial items like crumbs and the like. The one exception to this is the kitchen which we will discuss in more detail in the days to come.

Books – Although one sometimes eats while reading books and therefore there is reason to assume that crumbs have fallen in between the pages one need not clean out every book they own. However, due to this concern the custom is not to bring books to one’s table during Pesach. Benchers that are used during the year should not be used on Pesach and should be put away with the chameitz that is sold.

Kitchen/ Dining Room Table – One should clean very well. If there are hard to reach places, the area should be sprayed with a harsh cleaner. The custom is to cover the table with a water-resistant cover such as a plastic sheet. It should be thick enough that it shouldn’t tear during Pesach.

Tablecloths/ dishtowels – The custom is to use ones that are designated for Pesach use. If this is difficult one can wash the tablecloths/ dishtowels and use the same ones they use year-round.

As mentioned in the previous days, the primary concern of chameitz lying around one’s home is because one may eat the chameitz food. This obviously is not a concern when it comes to crumbs. Therefore, there is no need to drive oneself crazy to find every crumb in one’s home. If one does not have young children and there is no concern about food being hidden in all sorts of places then one should not be breaking a sweat when cleaning for chameitz.

However, when it comes to the kitchen there is an additional concern of eating chameitz. It is forbidden to eat even a drop of chameitz. That being the case, if a crumb of chameitz is left on one’s kitchen floor and a piece of food falls onto the floor on Pesach, the chameitz can get attached to the food and become forbidden to eat. Therefore it is imperative to meticulously clean one’s kitchen.

In addition, anything that came into contact of hot chameitz during the year retains a chameitz status and if it comes into contact with hot food on Pesach can make the food chameitz and forbidden to be eaten on Pesach. We therefore must purge all appliances and surfaces before Pesach to remove any chameitz from within them. The laws of purging appliances, otherwise known as kashering, will be discussed in the coming days.

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