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Reduce Pre-Pesach Stress Through Understanding Hilchos Pesach

Diminishing pre-Pesach stress begins with knowledge of this basic principle: The Halochos of eating chometz are very stringent, but the Halochos of OWNING chometz are much less so.

Below are Torah scholars’ directives regarding owning chometz and cleaning for Pesach.

(Notes in parentheses and brackets are explanatory comments.)

Rav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg, zt”l, rosh yeshiva of Torah Ohr in Yerushalayim, taught the following:

  • If, during the year, chometz is not brought into a place, that place does not have to be cleaned out or checked for chometz.
  • The general obligation to check for and get rid of crumbs does not apply if the crumbs are less than the size of a k’zayis [an olive] and are dirty or spoiled enough to deter a person from eating them. (A kzayis is around ½ – 1 ounce.)
  • The cleaning product (regular household cleanser) must spoil the crumbs (only) slightly, to the extent that people would refrain from eating them.
  • Rabbi Barclay and Rabbi Jaeger, authors of the “Guidelines” Halacha Series, write that there are two mitzvos connected to the possession of chometz:
  • Not to see chometz or find it in one’s possessions (Lo Yeraeh and Lo Yemotzei)
  • To dispose of it. (Tashbisu)
  • According to Torah law, it is enough to either get rid of the chometz, or to declare it null and void. Our sages required both for three reasons:
  • Our declaration should be sincere.
  • We shouldn’t accidentally eat chometz (that’s lying around).
  • In order that overlooked chometz be included.

“If the chometz is dirty, then only a piece that is the size of a k’zayis (or larger) must be removed.”

“If the chometz is edible, then even a smaller [than a k’zayis] piece that one may be tempted to eat must be removed.”

“Therefore, when cleaning for Pesach one must remove small pieces of edible chometz and large pieces of inedible chometz.”

Books: Rabbi Barclay and Rabbi Jaeger also write that there is no need to check books, except for books that will be brought to the table. Those books should be either new or well cleaned.

Bentchers used the whole year should not be used on Pesach; they should be put away with the chometz because they often contain crumbs and are difficult to clean. (Nowhere is it mentioned that the chometz crumbs have to be removed or that the bentchers and zemiros books have to be sold, even though chometz crumbs remain in them. The only rule is that they should be put away so that they are not accidentally brought to the table on Pesach.)

Toys that will be used on Pesach should be cleaned with soapy water and checked. Other toys should be put away. Special toys for Pesach are recommended.

Clothing that won’t be worn on Pesach needs only a quick check. “Since they are not going to be worn, there is no concern that one may eat any crumbs that are there. Small crumbs do not have to be removed since there is no prohibition to own them during Pesach.”

Light switches and door handles should be cleaned when necessary. (After we touch them, we may touch Pesach food, and the laws forbidding eating chometz are most stringent, as mentioned. Pens, pencils, combs, and hair brushes which might have some sticky residue might also be in the same category.).

Carpets: Vacuuming a carpet cleans it sufficiently, since any remaining crumbs are not fit for eating.

Toaster: Since a toaster will not be used on Pesach, it is sufficient to remove loose crumbs by shaking the toaster well and putting it away with the chometz utensils. The chometz pots do not have to be scrubbed. Some have the custom to check the pots for chometz.

Rabbi Yaakov Zev Smith, a maggid shiur for Irgun Shiurei Torah, explains: “The Gemara says that after bedikas chometz one still needs to annul the chometz. This requirement is not because of crumbs which may be scattered in the house; rather, it is a protection against a big piece of chometz. The reason we do not worry about crumbs is that since they are on the floor they have no importance to us and are ‘self-annulled’ (Pesachim 6b).”

He explains further that the Chayei Adam (119:6) is of the opinion that one must clean crevices of crumbs within hand’s reach. This is not because of the prohibition to see or have chometz in one’s possession—but because we are concerned that one might inadvertently eat them.” 1

The Pri Chadash (444-4) and the Igros Moshe (1-145) disagree with this stringency.

However, the commonly held custom is to follow the Chayei Adam’s ruling and clean out all easily accessible places where crumbs might be found.

The Chazon Ish (122:8) cites the Gra in stating that crumbs caught between the floorboards do not have to be removed. Even if there are many crumbs that add up collectively to a k’zayis, they are not a problem halachically, because they are dried out and unappetizing.

“The requirement for chometz to actually be unfit for canine consumption (inedible to a dog) only applies to a k’zayis.” (Magen Avraham; Mishnah Berurah).

Rabbi Smith continues: What about chometz that is bigger than a crumb yet smaller than a k’zayis? An example might be a pretzel, or half a cookie. “While small crumbs are insignificant and are automatically nullified, these bits of food (which are identifiable things) are in a category of their own.”

These pieces of chometz (larger than a crumb yet smaller than a k’zayis) should be removed. (Shulchan Aruch Harav; Mishnah Berurah)

Extra effort in cleaning away chometz is part of a heilige minhag. In practice, we give the greatest energy to areas that our Pesach food and our hands will touch/contact on Pesach..2 (This helps prevent the possibility of eating any chometz on Pesach. And while this is true, give careful note to the following paragraph.)

This minhag must be practiced according to each person’s strength and energy. And only up to where it does not take away from health, safety, and joy in the Heilige Yom Tov.

Anything written above should not be used by husbands and children as an excuse for not helping make the house clean and shining, as well as kosher for Pesach. It is indeed part of the signature of Pesach to have a home that is extra-special clean. The wholehearted participation—without criticism—of husband and children, makes a big difference and brings much joy to the Yom Tov.

May we all be zocheh to clean and prepare for the Yom Tov of Pesach without excessive strain or fear, but with anticipation and happiness. And, may our cleaning and preparation find chein Above and help bring the Geulah Shleimah closer.

A truly kosher and freilichen Pesach to all.

The information above was reviewed and approved by Rabbi Elozor Barclay and Rabbi Yitzchok Jaeger, the authors of “Guidelines—Over Five Hundred of the Most Commonly Asked Questions About Pesach” (Targum Press) and by Rabbi Zev Smith of Irgun Shiurei Torah.

L’aliyas nishmas Zeesl bas R’ Tzvi, a”h.


1  (cf. Radvaz 1:135; Machaneh Yisrael 10:)

2 “The main reason for the establishment of bedikas chometz after one nullifies the chometz is only to prevent the possibility of  eating chometz on Pesach”

Shulchan Aruch Harav (433:19)

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