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The Search For Chametz

The Search For Chametz

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It is the prevailing Lubavitch custom to hide ten pieces of hard bread wrapped in paper in various places around one’s property. Before commencing the search, one should recite the following blessing:

ברוך Blessed are You, G‑d, our L‑rd, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning the disposal of chametz.

Every person should search all the properties he owns in which chametz is kept or carried. One searches by the light of a beeswax candle, using a feather and a wooden spoon to collect the chametz.

One should not speak between the recitation of the blessing and the beginning of the search, even concerning the search. During the search, one should speak only concerning the search.

If the search is being conducted by several members of the household, the other members should first stand near the head of the household to hear the blessing. They should then begin searching in the room nearest to where the blessing was recited, proceeding to their own rooms without speaking.

Any chametz that is found should be placed in a small paper bag. This bag, together with the feather and any remnant of the candle, is placed together with the wooden spoon. All this is then wrapped in paper (except for the spoon handle, which protrudes) and bound several times with string, which is tied.

This chametz which is to be burnt, and any other chametz left to be eaten in the morning, should be placed in a safe place where it will not be taken by mice or children and spread throughout the house.

After the search, one should nullify one’s ownership of chametz by making the following declaration:

כל May all leaven and leavened products that exist in my property that I have not seen, have not destroyed, and do not know about, be considered nullified and ownerless, like the dust of the earth.

On the following morning, before the conclusion of the fifth hour of the day, 1 the chametz collected in the search and any chametz remaining in the house should be burned. A fire should be kindled especially for this purpose. The following declaration nullifying ownership of all chametz one owns should be recited:"black">

כל May all leaven and leavened products that exist in my property — whether I have seen it or have not seen it, whether I have observed it or have not observed it, whether I have purged it or have not purged it — be considered nullified and ownerless, like the dust of the earth.

The ten pieces of chametz hidden before the search should be burnt. While burning them, the following Kabbalistic prayer should be said:"black">

יהי May it be Your will, G‑d, our L‑rd, and L‑rd of our fathers, that just as I purge chametz from my home and property, so too will You purge all the chitzonim2 and cause the spirit of impurity to depart from the earth. Cause the evil inclination to depart from us and grant us a heart of flesh to serve You with truth. Abolish all the sitra achara,* all kelipah,* and all wickedness in smoke, and cause the dominion of defiance to depart from the earth. Destroy all those who cause distress to the Shechinah with a spirit of devastation, and a spirit of judgment, just as You destroyed Egypt and its gods in those days at this season.

Amen. Selah.

The search for chametz

The Alter Rebbe went to Mezeritch to study under his master, the Maggid, for the first time in the year 5524 (1764), and remained until shortly before Pesach 5525. When he returned home, he prepared to apply all the spiritual lessons he had learned concerning the search for chametz. On the thirteenth of Nissan that year he did not eat. He did not fast, because it is forbidden to fast during Nissan, but neither did he eat, preoccupied as he was with preparing for the search. His search for chametz lasted the entire night, although he had only one room.

After completing his search, the Alter Rebbe offered a mystic interpretation of the words of the mishnah:3 “On the eve of the fourteenth, we search for chametz by the light of a candle,” explaining as follows: “Thirteen” is numerically equivalent to the word echad — “one.” Oneness is identified with the knowledge of G‑d. On this level, there is no need to search.

“Fourteen” refers to our emotional attributes (the seven attributes of the animal soul and the seven attributes of the G‑dly soul). Here a search is required.

The search must be “by the light of a candle,” a reference to the soul, of which it is said:4 “The candle of G‑d is the soul of man.” And this search must encompass one’s entire being, just as the actual search for chametz must probe into even the “holes and cracks” of one’s home (the Previous Rebbe).5

The difference between chametz and matzah is6 that chametz rises, while matzah lies flat. The rising of chametz alludes to egotism, the tendency to become bloated with self-love. Matzah, by contrast, represents bittul, selflessness, the willingness to commit oneself to others and to G‑d.

This points to another difference between the two words. Chametz (חמץ) and matzah (מצה) share two of the same letters, the difference between them being that chametz contains a ches (ח), while matzah is written with a hei (ה). The ches and the hei have similar forms; they both have three lines and an opening at the bottom. But the hei also has an opening at the top, while the ches does not.7 The opening at the bottom is alluded to in the verse:8 “Sin crouches at the opening.” The opening at the top of the hei alludes to the possibility of rising above oneself in teshuvah.

A person possessed by the self-concern of chametz is far more likely to fall prey to sin. Moreover, when he sins, his tendency is to rationalize his conduct and justify his failings. When, by contrast, a person is characterized by the bittul of matzah, he is less likely to sin. And if he sins, he will regret his mistake and use the “opening” he is granted to turn to G‑d in teshuvah (the Rebbe). Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 129.
Footnotes
1.
This refers to the fifth “seasonal hour.” The term “seasonal hour” refers to one twelfth of the period from the beginning of the day (sunrise) until its conclusion (sunset). See page xiii where the term is explained.
2.
All these are Kabbalistic terms for the forces of evil.
3.
Pesachim 1:1.
4.
Proverbs 20:27.
5.
Sefer HaSichos 5698, p. 265.
6.
Likkutei Torah, Tzav 13c.
7.
See Shaloh, Pesachim 153a.
8.
Genesis 4:7.
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