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Passover 2019

Checking For Chametz: Laws and Blessings

Here's a quick digest of laws for checking for chametz tonight. Good luck and Happy Passover!

Checking For Chametz: Laws and Blessings
Blessing on Checking for Chametz:

"ברוך אתה ה' אלוקינו מלך העולם אשר קידשנו במצותיו וציוונו על ביעור חמץ"

Blessed are you our G-d master of the universe who sanctified us with his commandments and commanded us on destroying Chametz.

The reason why we don’t make a blessing ‘on checking Chametz’ instead we bless ‘on destroying Chametz is because the whole essence of the checking is solely to destroy Chametz.

One who forgot to bless before checking can bless as long as he is still checking. If he finished checking he shouldn’t make the blessing any more. (There are opinions that since the blessing is on the destroying the Chametz he can make the blessing during the burning.)

It is preferable not to speak until after the checking as speech not pertaining to the checking will distract from the checking and compromise it. you can give instructions related to the checking.

If one spoke unnecessarily: before checking he should make the blessing again. After already checking some he needn’t make the blessing again since the blessing was fulfilled by the small amount he checked but he should proceed and finish checking.

Going to the restroom and afterwards blessing “Asher yatzar” is not considered an interruption.

Making a blessing on thunder and lightning are also not considered an interruption.

Checking a few homes at once

One blessing suffices for a few homes or stores at once even if they aren’t next to each other and take time to get to them that time is not considered an interruption.

If the homes are really far he should have in mind when making his first blessing not to include those homes or stores so that when he gets to them he can make another blessing without the major interruption of travel and check them.

Customs for checking the Chametz

There’s a custom to place 10 small pieces (less than 18 grams each) of bread out to be found during the checking for Chametz. This is not law rather a nice custom that should be kept if possible.

In keeping the above custom it is advisable that one person should make a list of where the pieces of Chametz are in case they aren’t all found by the checker so they will still be gathered by the one who put them there if they were missed.

If such a list wasn’t made and all the pieces weren’t found you do not need to recheck the whole house again rather you can rely on the nullification he will declare after checking.

There’s a custom for the checker to carry a small plate and into this plate he should put the Chametz he finds.

The Chametz found needs to be kept safely to be burned the next morning. An animal or mouse should not be able to take it away.

When checking before the 14th at night you needn’t do the custom of the 10 pieces of bread.

The candle for checking

It must be only one candle and it must have one wick only.

A candle with multiple wicks is not valid to check with because a person will be afraid to check the crevices well for fear he my start a fire with such a large flame. The net result will be a substandard checking.

If his candles are not valid for checking he should use a small flashlight that he can put into crevices. He can even make a blessing on checking with a flashlight.

You can use a wax candle.

You do not need to turn off the house lights when checking (though many do).


Places that must be checked

At home: Holes and crevices around the entire house in all rooms, porches, stairwells, gardens, buffets, refrigerators, kitchen cabinets, and in any place that people can conceal food or drink in which may contain Chametz.
In a house with children he should look under the furniture and beds. Even if it’s a great bother  he should do it slowly and carefully. “The gain is according to the pain.”

Cars, buses, planes, boats: All must be checked even if he won’t be using them over Passover and even if they were washed down before checking. He needn’t make a blessing on this checking rather he should rely on the blessing he makes to check his house.

Synagogue and study hall: The Shamash (sextant) of the synagogue is responsible for this checking. He should not make a blessing on this checking but should rely on the blessing he makes for his own home.

Which places are exempt from being checked?

The room you place your Chametz in and sell (some say it should be sold the day before)

Books: They can even be used without checking them. Ashkenazim are more stringent with this and most check their books.

Nullifying the Chametz after the checking:

Our sages decreed that besides checking  we must nullify our Chametz twice:

The first time is after the nighttime checking. The second time is after burning the chametz, the morning before Passover.

The night time nullification

After he finishes checking at night he should declare:

- “"כל חמירא דאיכא ברשותי, דלא חזיתה ודלא ביערתה, ליבטיל ולהוי כעפרא דארעא

“Any bread or leavening that is in my possession that I haven’t seen and haven’t destroyed should be nullified and ownerless as the dust of the earth.”

Some have a custom to say the nullification 3 times.

A person should nullify his Chametz in a language he understand and if he doesn’t understand the original Aramaic or Hebrew declaration he should say it in a language he understands.

If he thinks he is making some sort of blessing and is not aware he is nullifying his Chametz it doesn’t work and he must do it again in a language he understands with intent to nullify.

Jewish Articles

Appointing an proxy to check for you

It is a bigger mitzvah to check for Chametz yourself rather than to appoint a proxy.

A person for who it is difficult to check alone and wants the participation and help of family members should make the blessing out loud and those listening and answering Amen should have in mind that the blessing covers their checking too. They should make the blessing on their own and if they didn’t hear the blessing they shouldn’t assist by checking for him.

If someone can’t check his house at all (he is sick or not in the vicinity) can appoint a proxy to check the house and they should do the following:

The proxy should make the blessing and check.

The head of the house should nullify the Chametz after the proxy finishes checking it. He can do this from afar and needn’t be present in the house. If the proxy also nullified it works but the wording should be all bread and leavening in the possession of ‘xxxxx’  and say his nameinstead of saying ‘in my possession’ …

A woman is also obligated to check her house. If she lives alone or with roommates she or they should check for Chametz and (only one should) say a blessing on the checking.

Roommates should each do their own nullification as each has their own Chametz.

A married woman checking for her husband should do the following:

The wife should make a blessing before the checking and check.

The Husband should nullify the Chametz after his wife’s checking and he needn’t be present to nullify. A wife who nullified for her husband is okay after the fact provided she understood what she was declaring and she said “all bread and leavening in my husband’s possession…”

In the morning he should burn the Chametz at the proscribed time and declare: “All bread and leavening in my possession, whether I saw it or not whether I removed it or not shall be nullified and ownerless as the dust of the earth”.

In Summary:

On the night before Passover (24 hours before) he should take a candle at night fall before checking he should bless Blessed are you our G-d master of the universe who sanctified us with his commandments and commanded us on destroying Chametz.  For Hebrew see top of article

One should check all places suspected to have Chametz including a car, synagogue or Bet Midrash Torah Study hall that he is responsible for.
After the checking: He should say thenight time declaration of nullification of the Chametz (see above)

He should burn the Chametz the next morning and declare his nullification (see above)
Happy Passover