08. Do We Rely upon the Cleaning Done before Pesaḥ?

Most Jewish families clean their homes thoroughly before Pesaḥ. Any part of the house that was cleaned well, and into which people were careful not to bring ḥametz afterward, does not require a thorough search (Sha’arei Teshuva 433:1; Da’at Torah 433:2).

However, some poskim take a stringent position in this regard and assert that the cleaning does not change a thing, for the Sages ordained searching the cracks and crevices of one’s entire home on the night of the 14th. Other poskim are stringent on the grounds that one cannot rely upon previous cleaning unless it was carried out at night by the light of a candle. Only in this manner, they maintain, is it possible to discern the ḥametz in the cracks and crevices.

In practice, though, the custom is to follow the lenient approach and to perform a relatively cursory search of all those places that were cleaned beforehand. Although a search is not effective unless it was carried out at night by the light of a candle, a thorough cleaning is more effective than searching. For example, when one cleans a clothing closet, he takes out all of its contents and wipes off all of the shelves. After this, the chances of ḥametz remaining are less than the chances of finding ḥametz remaining there after a thorough search on the night of the 14th by candlelight.

Nonetheless, even after such a thorough cleaning one must search for ḥametz with a berakha on the night of the 14th, because the dining area certainly needs to be searched. In addition, one may have forgotten to clean a closet, drawer, or corner. Thus, when performing bedikat ḥametz, one must search the entire house and confirm that everything has indeed been cleaned well. If the one performing the search did not participate in the cleaning, he must ask those who cleaned to search with him so that he may ask them if each part of the house he inspects was properly cleaned. Alternatively, they can mark all properly cleaned places with stickers, and all such places need only be given a cursory search.[7]

However, even when performing a casual search, one must check every corner of the room, along the walls, and between the furniture, and one must open every closet and drawer that could possibly contain ḥametz, in order to assure that they are indeed clean and remain so. Searching a room in this manner should take no more than a few minutes.

[7]. See Sidur Pesaḥ Ke-hilkhato 13:1, which inclines toward stringency, citing Derekh Pekudekha that those who do bedikat ḥametz superficially are in violation of the rabbinic enactment, and their berakhot may be considered in vain. However, as I have written, the custom is to be lenient in this matter, as Kaf Ha-ḥayim 433:85 states. This is true even though bedikat ḥametz with a candle during the day is not effective, as per MB 433:1, and even though a proper house cleaning does not exempt one from conducting bedikat ḥametz, as per SA 433:11 and MA 20. There are two reasons mentioned (concerning the ineffectiveness of checking during the day): firstly, because only at night does the candle illuminate the small cracks and crevices properly, and secondly, because the Sages decreed that the bedika be done on the 14th of Nisan at night. Clearly, our customary checks fulfill both aspects: firstly, a full cleaning of the house accomplishes more than a daytime bedikat ḥametz, and since we check on the night of the 14th, we also fulfill the second aspect of the Sages’ decree. Accordingly, one may not claim that he is exempt from the bedika after cleaning his house, or that he cannot make a berakha on the bedika, for the reasons I have just mentioned. (Moreover, see the next section, which will explain that according to most authorities there is no need to place small pieces of bread around the house for the bedika even though it is clear that no ḥametz remains.) Since, as we have learned, bedikat ḥametz is a rabbinic decree and its main purpose is to ensure that there is not a kezayit of ḥametz in the home, it is clear that if the house has already been cleaned well, a cursory bedika is sufficient.

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