Searching for Chametz (Leaven) Early
We will be leaving our home several days before Passover in order to spend the holiday with my in-laws. When should I check my home for chametz? Also, is there any checking I should do when I am at my in-laws the night before Passover?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
The proper time to search for chametz is at the start of nightfall, 24 hours prior to the first Seder). Nightfall is defined in Jewish law as the time of the appearance of 3 medium-sized stars, generally around 45 minutes after sunset. There are two reasons why we search at night, rather than the day of Passover eve, right before Passover (Talmud Pesachim 2a, 4a):
(a) People are ordinarily at home at night.
(b) Since one must search every crack and crevice of his home – and this is best done by candlelight (or today, typically flashlight), it is best to check in darkness when the small light of a candle will illuminate such small areas.
For these reasons, in your situation, you too should search your house at nightfall – the night before your departure. You should not say a blessing on your search, but you should recite the bittul – nullification of your leaven upon completion (Shulchan Aruch 436:1 with Rema, Mishnah Berurah 3).
On the night of Passover eve, since you will be guests in a home not your own, you do not have to perform a second search. You should check your belongings to ensure you have no chamtez, as well as checking your car if you drove to your in-laws.
Some people do not want to miss out on the search with the blessing on Passover eve. They therefore opt to rent the room they are sleeping in (for a trivial amount). They can then recite a blessing on “their” room and do a regular search.