By Rabbi Menachem Wolf.
The search for chametz is a ritual based on the traditional double checking that the home is free of chametz (leaven or fermented grain-based product). Once upon a time, before preservatives and refrigeration, houses were more likely to be rid of chametz over the Pesach week (today we sell the chametz as described here ). The Talmud describes the need to check the house is free of chametz on the evening before Pesach and despite the fact that today we sell our chametz we still carry on with this tradition.
The Jewish mystics always saw the search of chametz as more than a functional clean out of the house. They saw it as a ritual where one also searches their own ‘house’ i.e. their mind and body for ‘chametz’ i.e. ego centricity. Chametz being fertilised grain requires heat so that it can rise. The Kabbalists instructed their students to look for the product of hot air and remove it from within and cleans oneself of negative ego centric energies within.
The texts of Kabbalah, particularly the Tanya, describe all wrongful and hurtful behaviour as emerging form ego and self-centredness, bedikas chametz is about searching and ridding ourselves of this negative ego and be left with our natural other-centred personality.
How is it done?
The physical search is conducted with a beeswax candle, wooden spoon, feather, and bag. We search the house for 10 (pre-placed) pieces of chametz and as we discover each one we sweep it onto the spoon and place it into the bag. Once completed the bag is set aside and burned the following morning.
The flickering candle is who we are and all we need to search within. Our true self, our soul, constantly dancing and radiating light is the barometer and conscience we need in our search. The feather is the symbolic sweeper and the wooden spoon allows us to hold up the personality trait we wish to observe and then we can decide if indeed it is ‘chametz’ or not, if yes it can be placed in a bag ready for destruction.
Timing and Blessing:
Once the sun has gone down (on the eve before the seder), the search begins with the blessing below.
When you’ve completed the search, recite the “Kol Chamira” declaration, not only is it a declaration of rendering chametz ownerless but following the mystical interpretation above, it is also a declaration of egoless existence.
All leaven or anything leavened which is in my possession, which I have neither seen nor removed, and about which I am unaware, shall be considered nullified and ownerless as the dust of the earth.
Burning the chametz:
The following morning (ie the day leading into seder night), we make a fire and burn the bag of chametz. Besides being an acto fo ridding the home of chametz this is also a purge of the negative aspects that we have chosen to remove from within. Fire is a powerful energy that transforms fuel into light. As mentioned above, we are compared to a candle, so in this moment when we remove the negative aspects of our ego they transform into sources of light and warmth for the future. This is an incredible transformation where even our past negativity becomes a source of light for the future.
Again we repeat the above blessing and declaration of “Kol Chamira”
This year (2022) the burning should take place by: 11:23am on Friday 15th April (Melbourne time).