"The neshomoh of a person is the candle of Hashem; it
[the neshomoh] searches all of the inner chambers of a
man's heart (Mishlei 20:27). From this verse the
gemora learns that on the night of erev Pesach,
every Jew is required to search the rooms of his home for
chometz (Pesochim 7b).
On a simple level, we do so in order to make sure that we
will not violate the prohibition of owning or eating chometz
The Ibn Ezra adds an extra dimension to the understanding of
this mitzvah. He explain the above verse allegorically. The
neshomoh of a person lights up his entire physical
being, enabling it to do mitzvos and to live a spiritual
life. This synthesis of body and soul lifts every Jew to
One potential stumbling block to this process is eating, for
food can cause us to be drawn after the physical. The
repercussions of this can influence the environment around us
as well. Before Pesach, we try to repair any harm that our
eating may have caused.
Based on this, we can understand an added dimension to why we
should check our homes erev Pesach in any place where
we might have eaten during the year. Just as the neshomoh
lights up the physical body, checking our homes for
chometz in the places where we ate sanctifies our homes,
illuminating them with the radiance of mitzvos. Even if
during the year we may have been drawn after our physical
desires while we were eating, the mitzvah of bedikas
chometz helps rectify this, allowing us to be completely
worthy of receiving what Pesach has to offer.
In the days of Chazal, candles were the primary source of
light at night. Therefore, the mitzvah of bedikas chometz
was performed by candlelight (Shulchan Oruch
433:1). Today, there are so many different types of quality
light on the market. Must we still use candlelight? Many
poskim write that a flashlight is considered a first
choice for bedikas chometz.
Walking into a room full of helium balloons, or any other
flammable substance, with a candle could cause a major
explosion. Similarly, checking underneath one's bed, inside a
small closet full of clothes, or in one's car with a candle
could easily cause a fire. In any instance where such serious
consequences could be involved, a person is forbidden to use
a candle for bedikas chometz (see Responsa
Be'er Moshe Vol. 6, Electricity 63).
Furthermore, our Sages tell us that if one is afraid that the
dripping wax of a candle will damage one's property, one's
bedikah is not valid. Accordingly, today in many
circumstances a flashlight is preferable to a candle
(Shulchan Oruch 433:2).
Reuven lives next door to Mr. Jones, a non-Jewish neighbor.
Due to faulty construction, there is a hole in the wall which
joins their two homes. Should Reuven check this area for
Our Sages tell us that if Mr. Jones sees Reuven looking into
this hole with a candle, he might suspect his Jewish neighbor
of practicing witchcraft, something that could be
particularly harmful to their relationship. Under these
circumstances, Reuven should not check this hole at night but
should wait until morning to check it by daylight (Mishnah
Berurah 433:31 ).
Where to Check
In the times of the gemora, most people lived in very
simple houses and checking for chometz could be accomplished
in a single night. These days our homes have become much
larger and more complex, necessitating much more involved
preparations. After turning one's residence upside-down to
find every last morsel of bread, where is there left to
search on the night of bedikas chometz?
Our Sages tell us that any place where chometz could
potentially end up during the course of a meal during the
year must be checked. For example, there is a reasonable
possibility that while a person was dining he entered a
storage room where items are kept that might be needed for
the meal. Therefore, it must be checked (Shulchan
In order to identify the less obvious areas, we must exercise
the imagination. A sandwich may have been hidden away in the
glove compartment of one's car during a family outing. The
trunk of a toy fire engine could have been chosen as a stash
area for a piece of cake.
One is only obligated to check areas where there is at least
a possibility that there is chometz. It is unlikely that
chometz would have found its way into the top cabinets of the
parents' bedroom. On the other hand, someone with young
children should suspect that chometz might be found in other
unexpected places that are accessible to children (see
Mishnah Berurah 433:19).
In the days of Chazal, kitchen cabinets where not prevalent,
and it was common to use holes in the wall as storage areas.
Therefore, the mishnah (Pesochim 2a) writes, one must
search for chometz in chorin and sedokim (holes
and cracks). These days no one uses these areas, so they do
not require bedikah. Even cracks where chometz might
be found -- one is not required to check, if they are
accessible only with tremendous difficulty (Graz
After all the Pesach cleaning has been completed, most parts
of the home are cleaner than they ever were at any time of
the year. How carefully does one now need to check these
places for chometz? As long as one is sure that an area has
been thoroughly cleaned, one can rely on a more superficial
checking for bedikas chometz (Shaarei Teshuvoh and
Da'as Torah 433:2).
. . .Al Biur Chometz
The brochoh recited on bedikas chometz is multi-
faceted and is one of the most fascinating topics in halachic
literature. We are busy doing bedikah, searching for
chometz, and we recite a brochoh of biur --
destroying chometz. Why don't we mention the bedikah
in the brochoh?
Checking our homes for chometz is not an end in itself. Even
if we discover hidden pieces of bread, they must still be
destroyed. Since this is the main goal of our search, the
brochoh was established accordingly, even though we
only burn the chometz the next day.
What happens if we forget to recite the brochoh? As
long as we are still busy looking for chometz the mitzvah is
not complete, and the brochoh can still be recited.
According to some opinions, even after we have
finished checking our homes, we may recite the
brochoh, at the time of burning the chometz.
The rule regarding speaking during bedikas chometz
[and other mitzvos] is that if one spoke about unrelated
matters after saying the brochoh and before beginning
the mitzvah, he must recite another brochoh.
Notwithstanding this, once the bedikah has started a
person should still focus completely on the search and not
speak about unrelated topics. (Saying asher yotzar is
permitted.) If one accidentally spoke about other matters, he
does not recite another brochoh. (Mishnah
Searching one's home at night with a candle is one of the
most exciting moments of the entire year. Why don't we
precede it with a Shehechiyonu as with other uncommon
Some say that the joy of this mitzvah is slightly diminished
by the thought that we are busy destroying our property, and
it is thus improper to recite this brochoh (Rashbo).
Others say that this mitzvah is included in the
Shehechiyonu that we make on Seder night (Rosh). Some
are stringent and acquire a new fruit over which to recite
Shehechiyonu over prior to searching for chometz
(Kaf HaChaim 433:9), but the general custom is not to
Bedikah or Bittul?
As Pesach draws closer, the thought of chometz becomes more
and more unsettling. We count the minutes until Pesach will
be here and we can free ourselves of this bondage to bread.
Finally, the night of bedikas chometz arrives, and we
all breathe a sigh of relief that we finally made it to this
In the midst of this anti-chometz campaign, we might take a
moment to reflect on the following thought: Our Sages tell us
that if we make a heartfelt declaration that our chometz is
completely removed from our ownership (bittul), the
Torah permits us to leave it in our homes. If so, why do we
go to such incredible lengths to find and destroy all
chometz, when it would seem that we could simply rely on the
"On the first day of Pesach, tashbisu (remove)
sourdough (and other leavened products) from your homes"
(Shemos 12). Our Sages realized that parting from
one's possessions is very difficult. For someone who owns a
considerable amount of chometz, declaring all of it to be
ownerless, with conviction, is even more difficult. However
unless a person means it with all his heart, he may be
transgressing the Torah prohibitions of bal yeiro'eh
(not to see) and bal yimotzei (not to find) any
chometz on Pesach in his possession.
Furthermore, even if one fully intends to annul the chometz,
there is another problem with keeping it in one's home. Since
we are accustomed to eat bread all year round, if there is
chometz in our house on Pesach we could momentarily forget
about the prohibition and accidentally eat it. For this
reason, our Sages ruled that we must perform a bedikah
to search out and destroy all of the chometz. Lest we not
find every last crumb, they instructed us to take a further
precaution and to declare it completely removed from our
possession (Ran Pesochim 2a).
Since our Sages have compared chometz to the yetzer
hora, searching for bread on the night before Pesach has
meaning beyond the simple act of freeing our houses of
chometz. The mitzvah of bedikas chometz speaks to
every Jew, telling him to search within and to seek out any
negative character traits that should not be there and
In this vein, HaRav Yaakov Emden suggests that one recite the
following tefilloh after bedikas chometz:
"May it be Your will Hashem, that I merit to search and find
all of the illnesses of my soul that I acquired by listening
to my evil inclination. May You aid me in complete repentance
before You and, in Your tremendous goodness, have mercy on us
and help us to sanctify Your honored Name, and save us from
the prohibition of chometz, even the smallest amount, this
year and every year, and all the days of our lives.
Omein, may this be Your will."
Through the mitzvah of bedikas chometz, may we merit
to remove all chometz from within and without, so that we can
enter Pesach truly "chometz free" and reach the tremendous
heights that Seder night has to offer.