What is the reason for "hiding" ten pieces of bread throughout the house before we search for chametz? Is this the right time to be scattering bread all over the place?!


Before the search, we recite a blessing thanking G‑d for the mitzvah to purge chametz from our possession. Some suggest that if one were to search the entire house and not find anything, he would have recited the blessing in vain. The ten pieces that are waiting to be discovered ensure that this doesn't happen.1

However, many halachic authorities are of the opinion that even if no chametz were found, the blessing would still not be for naught. Searching for chametz does effectively purge the house of the banned substance—even if none is found. The intention of the blessing is to rid the house of chametz if it would be found.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi concludes that this is a custom, not halachically mandated—but should still be respected out of deference for its widespread acceptance as a hallowed practice.2 Elsewhere, Rabbi Schneur Zalman writes that searching for—and burning—ten pieces of chametz has kabbalistic significance, as explained in the mystical texts.3

In his glosses to the Haggadah, as part of his discussion on the matter, the Rebbe explains that this custom has another important function: On the morning before Passover we declare nullified and ownerless all chametz “…which I have seen, and which I have not seen...” These ten pieces of bread which we indeed saw and rid ourselves of ensure the complete accuracy of this statement.4

Recently, I came across a beautiful explanation for this custom that I hope you will enjoy as well. The number 10 is signified by the letter yud—the tenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Yud (י) is also the smallest letter.

On Passover we replace our "chametz" with "matzah." The two words contain almost identical letters – albeit in a different order – except that chametz is spelled with a chet, and matzah is written with a hey. The difference between a chet (ח) and a hey (ה) is the almost invisible pen-stroke that connects the foreleg of the letter to its roof—signified by the י, the smallest letter in the alphabet.5

Chametz is pride and conceit. The flat matzah, on the other hand, represents humility. Usually, it is easy to tell the difference. But sometimes things are not so clear and the difference between the two is hard to see—as small as a yud. On the night before Passover, we search our homes and our hearts for the ten pieces of bread—the almost indiscernible bits of pride which we have yet to identify.

Happy Passover!

Rabbi Menachem Posner

P.S. If you are concerned that you might leave behind some bread, it is suggested that you wrap the pieces in paper (and maybe even have someone record exactly where they were put), so that nothing crumbles or gets lost.