Cleaning for Pesach
by Rabbi Shlomo Gissinger
Pesach - Z’man Cheiruseinu - is quickly approaching. We are all anxiously and impatiently awaiting the arrival of the Seder nights in all their glory. The entire family - father, mother and children - sitting around the lavishly laden table - discussing in depth the very foundation of our emunah – YETZIAS MITZRAYIM. Our anticipation grows stronger with every passing day. It’s unbearable - we can no longer wait!!! Or can we?? I must sadly admit that I’ve heard people say, “Pesach is unbearable”, “It’s too hard”, “Not worth the work”. If my previous description of the seder doesn’t seem to match yours - perhaps you’re doing something wrong. I must elaborate a bit and I will occasionally quote and draw from the writings of HaRav HaGaon Rav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg, SHLITA.
Obviously, the primary problem is the pre-Pesach cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning. Unfortunately, the average housewife does 75% more cleaning than is required according to thehalacha. Spring cleaning should be done after Pesach.
The following items need not be washed for Pesach: Windows, walls, carpets, ceilings, doors, and doorknobs. Linens, bedspreads, curtains, towels, fresh dish towels. For those who sell their chometz - all pots, pans, dishes, flatware, appliances (e.g. mixer, grinder, toaster, microwave etc.) and toys, which are being stored away for Pesach, do not require cleaning.
The closet/room where chometz and/or utensils are being locked up does not need to be cleaned for Pesach. Rather, merely take a quick assessment of the approx. amount of chometzpresent there so that it may be properly listed among items being sold as chometz.
Before beginning specific halachos regarding the preparation of the home and kitchen for Pesach I wish to make it clear that I have no intention of abolishing Minhagim which have been passed down by Klal Yisroel from generation to generation. After all, the Shulchan Aruch and later poskim commend Chumros (stringencies) for Pesach because Yisroel Kadoshim Heim. Nevertheless, some practices adopted by women today are not an actual continuation of thoseminhagim. Furthermore, one is not permitted to perform stringencies when they infringe upon and undermine basic Torah obligations. For example, as stated above, women are obligated in all the mitzvos of the Seder as men are. They also have the mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov - enjoying the Chag. How can these be accomplished when they are totally washed out, exhausted and too tense to even maintain a conversation?! We must maintain our priorities!
Note: The rationale for some of the halachos stated below is based on the following premise; The obligation to search for and destroy chometz applies to chometz which is the size of one complete k’zayis (i.e. approx. the volume of one ounce. A standard whiskey cup holds one ounce) or more. According to some opinions even less than a k’zayis is problematic unless it is rendered unfit for human consumption. In consideration of that opinion, I have recommended, not required, (where applicable) to apply an ammonia/water solution to the chometz thus rendering it inedible. Do not confuse this with halacha with the more stringent issur of consuming chometz.
Clothing: Pockets of adult clothing (i.e. specifically those which during the year may have occasionally contained chometz) and all children’s clothing which will be worn on Pesach should be emptied of food and crumbs. Alternatively, if one resolves not to put any food in pockets during Pesach - follow the rules in the following sentence regarding other clothing. Pockets of other clothing – (not to be worn on Pesach) need only be frisked for either edible crumbs of chometz (not little crumbs mixed with lint and dust) or a “considerable amount” of chometz.
Note: a “considerable amount” equals a k’zayis. Should one decide on Pesach to wear clothing whose pockets were not thoroughly cleaned - food may not be put into those pockets. Note: Clothing which will not be worn on Pesach and will be in a sealed closet and sold with thechometz - need not be checked at all.
Toys: a) Only those toys which may contain a “considerable amount” of chometz must be cleaned of same. b) Toys which don’t usually contain a “considerable amount” of chometz but rather have small particles of slightly dirty chometz stuck to them, may be used as is on Pesach. c) In the rare case that the small particles of chometz appear to be in edible condition - although according to the view of most poskim, the toys may be used as is - care must be taken not to place those toys on areas where food is placed (e.g. tables, countertops etc). Furthermore, as stated above, some poskim rule that in this case the chometz adhering to the toys should be rendered inedible. This may be accomplished in the following manner; 1) Waterproof toys may be soaked (in the tub) in the ammonia solution for a short time and then rinsed. By doing so, any chometz which may have been stuck to the toys becomes inedible and is no longer considered chometz. The toys may be dried and used as is. 2) Toys which can not be immersed in water can either be wiped with a sponge moistened with the ammonia solution as above, or the chometz must be removed. Note: Any toys not being used on Pesach need not to be checked but rather they may be sold with the chometz.
Seforim/Books: Since the only crumbs that might be present in Seforim or books are less than a k’zayis, these items do not have to be cleaned for Pesach. However, care must be taken not to place them on areas where food is placed (e.g. tables, countertops etc.). Nevertheless, to avoid any problems, Seforim/books which commonly have crumbs in them (e.g. Bentchers, etc.) should be cleaned or sealed away with the chometz.
For a complete Pesach cleaning guide based on the rulings of HaRav HaGaon Rav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg, SHLITA contact the KOF-K 201-837-0500 ext 135.