Checking for Chametz before Pesach
The days preceding Pesach are days of introspection and making resolutions. One should use these days to ponder the mitzvot he is given then, and try to understand their meaning. Through this, he will come to positive conclusions. These are days of elevation, or chas v’shalom, descent.
The Torah commands us to destroy all chametz before Pesach. Simply nullifying all of one’s chametz is sufficient, according to the Torah (Pesachim 4b). However, our Sages say that one must also check for chametz (ibid. 2a, in the Mishnah.) All chametz must be categorically removed from one’s domain, in order to avoid the temptation of finding chametz and desiring to consume it on Pesach. Our Chachamim therefore stated that one must rid himself completely of all chametz and destroy it (ibid. 6b).
The physical act of burning the chametz is a reference to the eradication of what chametz represents spiritually. The main act of searching for and destroying chametz does not involve the chametz in one’s house, in his attic, garage, office, or car, but the chametz in his mind and in his heart. He should expunge from within himself all vestiges of the Yetzer Hara, which is pure unadulterated chametz. He should uproot from his heart all bad character traits that he has become accustomed to.
Just as physical chametz requires actual burning, so too, it is insufficient to merely eliminate aveirot from his mind and his heart, but he must search for them, and rectify them completely, in order that he should never repeat them. He must completely cleanse himself. This is the perfect preparation for Pesach.
On Pesach, every person should feel that he is totally destroying his bad middot and his sins, just like on Yom Kippur. The holiday of Pesach is the symbol of freedom. On Pesach, our nation was liberated. It is called “zman cheiruteinu – The time of our liberation.” Chazal teach (Avot 6:2; Bamidbar Rabbah 10:21), “The truly free man is the one who engages in the study of the Torah.” Through Torah he is able to eradicate the spiritual chametz in his heart, freeing himself of the Yetzer Hara.
At the time of Yetziat Mitzrayim, Bnei Yisrael were at an all-time low, wallowing in the forty-ninth level of impurity (Zohar Chadash, Yitro
39a). But on Pesach they were extricated and brought to the heights of spirituality, to the extent that our Sages tell us (Mechilta, Beshalach 15) that at the Yam Suf, a servant woman saw more miracles than later prophets were able to see. They received the mitzvot of the korban Pesach, as well as milah, as the Navi (Yechezkel 16:6) proclaims, “Then I passed you and saw you wallowing in your blood.” The removal of the foreskin alludes to their elimination of the Yetzer Hara and tumah. They attained the level of submission to Hashem represented by Shabbat Hagadol, tying the avodah zarah of Mitzrayim to their bedposts (Tur, Orach Chaim, ch. 470).
In this manner, they demonstrated to one and all that they were bound to Hashem and not the Yetzer Hara. They left Egypt without any provisions, for they had trust in Hashem, Who would see to their needs.
We are enjoined to remember the day we left Egypt all the days of our life (based on Devarim 16:3). Indeed, numerous times a day, we remember our Exodus from Egypt.
It is not sufficient to remember it only one day a year, on Pesach. One who wishes to truly associate himself with our nation’s creation, their trials, and their connection with Hashem, must remember Yetziat Mitzrayim every day, as well as every night. Chazal teach us (Berachot12b) that the words, “All the days of your life” means at night, as well.
In this manner, one comes to the understanding that Hashem is watching over us at all times. He will realize that there is none like Hashem, Who responds to our cries.
We are living in difficult times, yet every day we witness Hashem’s miracles. We must believe that Hashem never removes His protection from His nation (Tehillim 111:4). Therefore, every day, we must remember the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Chazal state (Pesachim116b), “In every generation, a person is obligated to see himself as though he left Egypt.” We should take a lesson from our ancestors in Egypt, who, from the lowest level possible, ascended the ladder of spirituality, until they reached the level of angels