Leaven (Hametz)

Three steps for ritually cleansing the home for Passover

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Bedikat Hametz: Searching for Leaven

The night before Passover, immediately after sundown, one begins the search for leaven (Code of Jewish Law, Orach Chayyim 431:1). The aim of the search is to be sure that no leaven has been left behind after the cleaning of the house.

The procedure includes these items: a candle; a feather, which acts as a broom; and a wooden spoon into which the pieces of bread will be scooped. First, a candle is lit, and the following benediction is recited:

Barukh atah adonai eloheinu melekh ha’olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’'zivanu al be’ur chametz. Praised are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has made us holy by mitzvot [commandments] and instructed us concerning the burning of the hametz.

Since by this time the house has been thoroughly cleaned and the chances of finding any leaven are minimal, it has become customary to put a number of crumbs of bread in places where they can be easily found in order to prevent the recitation of a benediction in vain. The crumbs of bread that are found and the leaven left over from breakfast should be guarded lest a new search become necessary. After the search for leaven, one recites the following formula of annulment: "All leavened food and grain fermentation that are in my possession, that I have not seen or removed, shall be null and considered as the dust of the earth."

Be’ur Hametz: Burning the Leaven

The following morning, usually sometime between 10 and 11 o’clock, the leaven is burned, and again the formula for the removal of hametz is recited, with a slight variation:

"Any leaven that may still be in the house, that I have or have not seen, that I have or have not removed, shall be as if it does not exist, and as the dust of the earth."

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Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs

Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs is the spiritual leader of Temple Sholom in Bridgewater, New Jersey. He has served as the publications committee chairperson of the Rabbinical Assembly.