Latest update: May 20th, 2013
In actuality, our practice is to do a thorough house cleaning prior to Pesach, even in today’s harried circumstances, particularly where there are young children.
Usually the cleaning is so thorough – combined with the chametz being disposed of or sold to a gentile through one’s rabbi - that there is no chametz left to perform bedikat chametz. Therefore the Rema (O.C. 432:2) cites an age-old custom to place pieces of chametz in specific places throughout the house so that the accompanying blessing we utter be not in vain.
The Mishna Berura (ad loc.) cites opinions that are critical of this practice, as some might substitute it for an actual cleaning and search. However, he notes that Havvot Ya’ir (in Sha’ar Hatziyyun this is credited to Emek Hamelech) states that we should not void a minhag yisrael, a custom practiced by Jews. Therefore he maintains that if one cleans everything thoroughly before Pesach, at the search on the eve of the 14th of Nisan the blessing would be problematic.
The Mishna Berura cites the Arizal, who also says we should place ten pieces of chametz around the house, and to be careful to note where we place them in order not to lose track of them and accidentally leave chametz lying around on Passover.
We subsequently destroy these ten pieces by burning them the following day before the designated time at which a person may no longer have chametz in his possession.
Regarding the “kashering” of utensils, there are numerous books in English, available at most Hebrew bookstores, that are quite helpful in this regard. Foremost is the fine work of Rabbi Avrohom Blumenkrantz, “Kovetz Hilchot Pesach – The Laws of Pesach, a Digest” which is updated yearly and lists all the Passover preparation procedures in great detail.
My uncle, HaRav Sholom Klass, zt”l, discussed this matter in his “Responsa of Modern Judaism” vol. 1. We quote:
“[H]ere is a brief summary of what may and may not be used:
“(1) You can purchase paper dishes and paper plates, which can solve many of your problems. The cost is nominal.
“(2) You can purge your utensils [as discussed in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayyim 451 and 452], which basically means, as we will explain further on, to cleanse them for Passover use. As we state further on, there are numerous means of cleansing or purging.
“Earthen vessels and chinaware cannot be purged and may not be used.
“Wooden [implements, for cold usage only], metal and stone utensils may be used after having been purged, but if it is an article that will be damaged by hot water, such as a vessel [with parts that are] glued together, even if only the handle is glued on, purging is of no avail.
“Before the vessel is purged, it should be thoroughly cleansed of rust and the like, and made perfectly clean, but stains do not matter. If the vessel is dented, it should be carefully scraped. If it is made of metal, hot coals should be placed upon the dents until they glow, and the vessel should be purged thereafter. If, however, it is impossible to thoroughly cleanse the dents and cracks, or to ‘glow’ them, it cannot be made valid for use. Hence it is necessary to carefully observe whether purging will avail for knives with handles. It is best, if one can afford it, to buy new knives for Passover.
“Utensils in which water is not generally put when used over the fire (such as frying pans and the like) require glowing. One should glow them to the extent of making them emit sparks. A wooden spoon cannot be made valid for use.
“Any article that requires purging cannot be made valid by scraping, but must be purged. A vessel that cannot be thoroughly cleansed, such as a sieve, the receptacle of a mill, a basket used for leaven and a grater, as well as any vessel that has a narrow neck which makes it impossible to cleanse it from within, e.g., tubes, cannot be made valid by purging.
“Purging is done only in boiling water and nothing should be mixed therewith, not even ashes and the like. If one has purged many vessels in one boiler, so that the water becomes turbid, no more purging should be done therein.
“One should not purge a vessel unless twenty-four hours have passed since leaven was cooked therein. Likewise, the boiler in which the purging is done should not have been used for leaven that same day. Also carefully observe, each time you put a vessel in the boiler, that the water comes up boiling hot. If it is necessary to purge the boiler, then it must be full when the water is boiling therein and hot stones should be thrown therein in order that the boiling water should overflow its edge. Purging should only be done until noon on Passover eve.
“After the purging it is customary to wash the vessels with cold water.
“(3) No Israelite is permitted to have leaven in his home on Passover, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Every moment he possesses the leaven he is transgressing the law of ‘[Chametz] shall not be seen and shall not be found.’
“Thus, to avoid this prohibition, he must sell his leaven to a non-Jew. To avoid any mistakes we sell the leaven to a rabbi who becomes our agent in disposing of the leaven to a non-Jew. The rabbi is experienced in drawing the proper bill of sale and is well versed in all the necessary requirements of the sale.”
May I take this opportunity to wish you and yours a kosher and joyous Pesach, and may this Pesach bring with it the ultimate redemption.
About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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