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Removal of Hametz

One of the fundamental commandments of Pesah is the prohibition of possession of leaven or leavened food. This prohibition is to be found in Exodus l2:l9 - "For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses" - and in Deuteronomy l6:4 - "No leaven shall be seen within all your borders for seven days."

The idea is that we divest ourselves entirely of that which symbolizes natural desires. Such desires, themselves legitimate, are nevertheless the root of slavery. Principally, we remove the leaven and leavened material in the course of the pre-Passover housecleaning.

After we have cleaned the house, we complete the removal of hametz with a formal search "at the beginning of the fourteenth" (Pesahim 2a), that is, as soon as possible after dark on the evening which begins the fourteenth of Nisan, the day before Pesah. We go all through the house with a candle (which will shine into small corners and crevices), looking for any bits of hametz which may have been overlooked, and sweeping them into a wooden spoon with a feather. Whatever bread or other leavened food we wish to eat the next morning must be set aside where it will not be misplaced.

Before beginning the search we say:

Barukh atta Adonay, Elohenu melekh ha-olam, asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav, vitzivanu al biur hametz.

Praised are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has made us holy with His commandments, and commanded us to remove leaven.

It is customary to place ten bits of hametz around the house, in order to be sure that the search will not be in vain. After the search has been completed, we say: All leaven and unleavened material that I have not seen and not removed is to be considered null and void, as the dust of the earth. With this declaration we give up any claim or interest in whatever hametz may have escaped our notice. On the morning of l4 Nisan, before "five hours" (about ll a.m.) we destroy any hametz left in our possession, preferably by burning it. We then say:

"All leaven or leavened material that is in my possession, whether I have seen it or not, whether I have removed it or not, is to be considered null and void, as the dust of the earth. "

From this time until the end of the eighth day of Pesah, absolutely no hametz is to be in our possession. It is a good idea, as we go about the search for and destruction of hametz, to resolve to remove from ourselves anything which hinders us from carrying out our duties as Jews. Then both our houses and ourselves will be ready for Pesah.

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