It is traditional to clean the home in preparation for Pesach. The culmination of this process is Bedikat Chametz (literally ‘searching for chametz’), a ritual search performed on the evening before Pesach. The children of the home usually perform it.
It is traditional to use a wooden spoon, a candle, a feather and a bag for the search. Some people melt down the remains of their Chanukah (festival of lights) candles to make a special candle for this night.
As this is primarily a symbolic procedure, pieces of bread should be placed around the house before the search. Jews of a kabbalistic inclination (with an interest in kabbalah, Jewish mysticism) use ten pieces of bread which they consider to represent the ten spheres of the universe referred to in kabbalisting teachings.
After bread has been placed around the home, a blessing is recited, and the candle is lit as the search begins. All areas of the house where chametz (leavened bread or food) could possibly be lurking must be thoroughly checked and brushed. The chametz is scooped into the bag with the feather.
At a minimum, the ten pieces of bread strategically placed must be found. Since the house would have been cleaned previously, it is common not to find a lot of chametz. It is customary not to speak at all during the search, unless the matter is urgent or it concerns the searching process.
The prayer for the renouncement of all unfound chametz is recited once the search has ended.
The retrieved chametz is gathered together and tied up. It is burnt the following morning, the renunciation said once more in a process called ‘bittul chametz’ (negation of chametz).
There should be no further eating of chametz after 9:30 am on the morning of the burning.
The bedikat chametz is a further reflection of the way in which Passover involves the whole family, so that all Jews can learn to be aware of its purpose and significance.
Ask Moses: How Do I Do the Search for Chametz?
Ohr Somayach: The Search for Chametz
Virtual Beit haMidrash: The Laws of Bedikat Chametz (detailed, advanced level guidance for the meticulously observant)
Web Yeshiva: Chametz – How to Search for it before Pesach (video, 6 minutes 53 seconds)
‘Why do we search for chametz?’
‘Places to seach for chametz’
‘Burning Chametz for Passover’
Related Pages on the BJE Website
How to Host a Passover Seder
How to Make Kneidlach (soup dumplings)