Friday, April 15, 2011

Bedikah, Bitul, and Burning the Chometz

#1 In the household of Rav Meir of Premishlan they had many unusually
strict practices when it came to Pesach. For example, they were not
content with merely scrubbing even the doorknobs. Instead, they would
pour boiling hot water on them to do hagalah on any possible trace of
chometz—even though any visible chometz would have been removed
altogether before this process.
The Sar Shalom once gave a tongue-in-cheek source for this practice
from a statement on today’s amud. “The Rosh writes in Pesachim that
Yisrael are kedoshim and they therefore scrub and remove any trace of
chometz, even the slightest amount. The Shulchan Aruch brings this
excerpt and adds 'ויש להם על מה שיסמוכו'. Perhaps the Premishlaner
understood this to mean that they should even clean what they lean on,
that is the door knobs, in an especially rigorous manner!”
The Beis Halevi once noticed his wife doing a very thorough job
cleaning the walls in their home. Although the Shulchan Aruch on
today’s amud writes that the custom is to clean even the walls from
the slightest speck of chometz, she was scrubbing so rigorously that
the Beis Halevi feared for her health.
“You know that if you keep scrubbing with such vigor you will break the wall…”
His wife didn’t take a moment to deliver her scathing reply. “I tell
you, if we relied on you in these matters we would end up eating
chometzdike rolls on Pesach too!”

#2 Once, during bedikas chometz in the house of the Chazon Ish, a
bochur found a bottle of whiskey. Obviously, the young man was
gratified at having found it but wondered whether it should be sold or
thrown out.
As always, during bedikas chometz the Chazon Ish, was in a very
exalted state of mind. When the bochur showed him this find and asked
what was to be done, he was surprised by his reply. “Tell all the
bochurim to stop checking the house for chometz and come here, since
there is a l’chaim to be drunk.”
That is exactly what happened. The bochurim came over and the Chazon
Ish poured each a drink. When they were all supplied with one, the
Chazon Ish drank l’chaim with each of them.”
On another occasion, a bochur climbed on top of a closet in the Chazon
Ish’s house and stood there scrubbing for a few minutes. When the
Chazon Ish noticed how long he was at his labors, he asked him what he
was doing.
The young man replied, “I found a cookie here and have been trying to
remove any trace that may be left...”
The Chazon Ish’s good-natured reply was accompanied by a bright smile.
“Get down fast,” he said. “If not, you yourself will turn into chometz
which must be sold to a goy!”

#3 The Chakal Yitzchak of Spinka checked for chometz even in places
that seemed highly unlikely. He would often invite Rav Tzvi Yosef
Hoffman to help him during the many hours exhausting hours it took to
peer into any possible place where chometz might be found.
One year, as they were searching, the rebbe decided to climb up a
precarious clock which was quite high and was not a place where most
people put their hands, to say the least. Despite the huge efforts
necessary to get to the top of the clock the rebbe would not be
deterred from his purpose and slowly scaled the clock.
As he rested for a moment from his exertions, Rav Tzvi Yosef brought
up his usual objection that arose during their joint searches year
after year. “Rebbe, this clock is surely a place where no one put
chometz. Why make such efforts to check it when there is no halachic
As always, the rebbe didn’t reply. Instead, he continued climbing
until he reached the clock’s face. When he began to check between the
hands and the clock he actually found a small object nestled there. It
had obviously been placed there on purpose, but what was it? When the
rebbe unwrapped this, he found a small roll, indisputably chometz
After a small series of investigations, he found that this roll had
been one of the twelve challos with which he would begin the Shabbos
meals. He had given this one to his grandson who had wedged it in the
clock for safekeeping.
The rebbe, who was ecstatic at this find, turned to Rav Tzvi Yosef and
said, “Now you understand why I work so hard to check even places not
obligated by the letter of the law. This challah is a case of chometz
which the owner wants and is not included in his bitul If this is the
only thing I find, all of my extra efforts were well worthwhile!”

#4 In Slonim there was a certain wealthy miser who would not give a
penny to charity no matter how worthy the cause. Perhaps the best way
to heal someone of this flaw is to find a way to bring home how
utterly despicable it is to ignore the poor when one has ample means
to help them. Of course, one must find the right time and manner to
convey this message and Rav Aizel Charif, the Rav of Slonim, was known
to be very adept at finding creative and effective ways to reach such
Early on Erev Pesach, Slonim was very busy. People would check their
pockets for chometz before going to burn their chometz. Rav Aizel made
sure to meet this miser while he was cleaning out his pockets from any
possible crumbs of chometz. The rav acted surprised to see the miser
fulfilling this halachah and said in a gentle tone with utmost
sincerity. “You do know that you don’t have to check your pockets for
“Why not?” asked the surprised miser. “Isn’t it clear in Shulchan
Aruch that one must check his pockets? All of my neighbors do it and
have always done it. Why am I different?”
“In Shulchan Aruch 333:7 we find that if there is a hole between a Jew
and a non-Jew it is not obligated in bedikas chometz. Since everyone
knows that you are a Jew only until your pockets, clearly these don’t
need to be checked for chametz!”

#5 Every year, when the Rebbe burned his chometz in Belz, the
chassidim knew it was an opportunity for deep introspection. His
followers would crowd around and the Rebbe would give over a very
inspiring Torah to arouse the assembled to teshuvah. During one such
gathering, Rav Yissachar Dov of Belz gave over a Torah explaining the
He said, “Our sages teach in hilchos Pesach that one blessing suffices
for the search of several homes. The Ridvaz famously teaches a
striking reason why the Torah has special requirements regarding
chometz. Unlike most other prohibitions we are required to hunt out
and eradicate all chometz, since even owning chometz is a violation of
the prohibition 'לא יראה חמץ ולא יראה שאר בכל גבולך'. In addition our
sages required both inspection and nullification for even a miniscule
amount of chometz is prohibited.
“The Ridvaz explains this in light of the sages’ teachings that
chometz represents the yetzer hara, the infamous ‘yeast in the dough’
that prevents us from doing Hashem’s will. This explains why we
eradicate even the smallest amounts of chometz and why we must also
actively search it out. This alludes to removing the evil from within
“But we must understand that a single blessing can cover many houses.
This alludes to one sincere effort to come close to Hashem and change
our ways in general. It is not always the right time to dredge up all
of one’s sins and work on each one. At times, we need only make one
brochah, one sincere thought of teshuvah, in order to search out many
houses. We remove vast quantities of filth with one genuine teshuvah,
and rectify more than we can possibly fathom!”

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