09. Hiding Pieces of Bread and Receiving Help from Family Members

It is customary hide pieces of bread before bedikat ḥametz, so that the person performing the search will have to discover them. Some maintain that this custom is meant to ensure that the searcher finds ḥametz, because if he does not his berakha may have been in vain. In truth, though, this is not the case, for even if no ḥametz was discovered, there is no berakha le-vatala, since the objective of the search is to ensure that there is no ḥametz in the house, and this objective is achieved even if no ḥametz is found. In addition, the berakha is not on the search alone; rather, it covers the entire process of ḥametz removal, which begins with the bedika and ends with the bi’ur and bitul of the ḥametz the following day. This is evident from the fact that the berakha is “al bi’ur ḥametz,” and not “al bedikat ḥametz.” Thus, even if one does not find ḥametz in his search, he continues the process of removing the ḥametz the next morning, and hence his berakha in not in vain (Rema 432:2; MB ad loc. 13).

Nonetheless, this Jewish custom should not be discontinued. Arizal himself had a custom to scatter ten pieces of bread before his search. Some poskim explain that the reason for this practice is so that some ḥametz will remain after the search, and thus one will not forget to nullify his ḥametz. Another explanation is that these pieces will ensure that one is not negligent in his search (Ḥok Yaakov 432:14). Therefore, where the house has received a thorough cleaning, and in principle a casual search is sufficient, the pieces of bread should be put in places where they can be found without much trouble; but where the house has not been cleaned well, they should be hidden more carefully. At any rate, it is a good idea for the person who scatters them to make a list of where he hid them, so that if they are not found initially, it will still be possible to locate and remove them.

After the search, one should nullify the ḥametz that he did not find and that might remain in the house (as will be explained below in section 5:1). One must exercise extreme caution with the ḥametz that was found and the ḥametz that he plans to eat until the following morning, making sure that they not become scattered about the house.

If it is difficult for one to search the entire house on his own, he may ask family members to help him. In this case, they should stand next to him while he recites the berakha and answer “Amen.” Then they should spread out in the house to search it. If the homeowner is unable to perform the search, he should ask somebody else to search for him, and the searcher says the berakha (SA 432:2; MB ad loc. 10).

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman