I’m injured – what should my chametz cleaning priorities be? - Matan - The Sadie Rennert

I’m injured – what should my chametz cleaning priorities be? Rabbanit Debbie Zimmerman

Nissan 5783 | March 2023

Topic : Pesach , Shayla ,


I hurt my knee and don’t think I can do the Pesach cleaning I normally do. I normally clean everything, and either throw chametz out or I put it in a cupboard that I seal and then sell it through the rabbi. I kasher everything: oven, microwave etc. And I have Pesach dishes. And I put the Pesach dishes in my kitchen cabinets that I empty and clean. But this year I thought of just sealing those and selling them.

Is that allowed?


In general, if you are sealing and selling a cabinet you don’t have to clean it for Pesach. There are several biblical mitzvot regarding chametz on Pesach that we must observe, as well as some rabbinic safeguards, but as we will see there are a number of halakhically acceptable ways to fulfill these mitzvot. Some are more ideal than others. We’ll go over these mitzvot to understand what is necessary, what is preferable, what is ideal, and what is completely unnecessary.

In short:

We’ll get into more detail, but in short – kitchen cabinets used to store food can just be sealed and sold. If you customarily don’t sell chametz gamur (absolute chametz such as bread) it’s best to try to get rid of it before selling, but, considering your injury, this year you may rely on those who allow selling chametz gamur if it would be physically or financially difficult to dispose of it.

Kitchen storage for dishes etc. does not need to be sold or scrubbed. It’s unnecessary to sell the cabinets, although you may. (We do not sell the dishes.)[1] It’s sufficient to seal these cabinets and perform bitul (nullifying) chametz on any food that may have gotten inside. If possible, you can look to make sure there’s no chametz bigger than an olive – crumbs are not chametz. If you’re still concerned you can spray the cabinets with a cleaning solution to make any food unfit for a dog to eat, and therefore not included in the prohibition of chametz.

To understand what your priorities should be, it’s helpful to explore a few core halakhot regarding chametz on Pesach. Then we’ll offer a clear set of priorities for eradicating chametz.

Differentiating between Torah and rabbinic mitzvot:

There are several biblical mitzvot that concern chametz on Pesach – prohibitions against consuming or benefiting from chametz, possessing chametz (bal yeira’eh) and having visible chametz in one’s domain (u’bal yimatzeh), and a positive mitzvah to remove or destroy one’s chametz before Pesach.[2]

Generally, someone who intentionally consumes a biblically prohibited food is liable for lashes; someone who intentionally consumes a kazayit (olive sized portion) of chametz gamur is punished with karet (lit. cutting off, often understood as early death).[3] This makes chametz a particularly serious offense, but one that is limited to the week of Pesach. Since chametz is otherwise permitted and plentiful, the rabbis instituted even more strictures to guard us from transgressing these prohibitions. Nevertheless, as we will see, many people go far beyond the most stringent opinions. This can lead to unnecessary hardship.

Halakhic stringencies and leniencies when eradicating chametz

Where is it important to be meticulous:

Areas used to prepare food or eat on Pesach: Chametz that gets mixed into food can’t be nullified on Pesach. The food is prohibited, as is the vessel it is cooked in.[4]

Checking certain places for chametz: There is a rabbinic imperative to check for chametz in areas of your home you will use over Pesach and areas that are likely to contain chametz.[5]

Opportunities for leniency:

There is no mitzvah or obligation to clean for Pesach, as we saw, there is a biblical mitzvah to eliminate chametz in your possession, and a rabbinic obligation to check certain areas of the house for chametz.

Owning crumbs is not prohibited: Chametz that is smaller than a k’zayit (an olive size in volume, about 3 cm or 1 sq. inch in volume) is not included in the prohibition of bal yira’eh u’bal yimatzeh.[6]

Bitul (nullifying) chametz works for pieces larger than a k’zayit: To fulfill the biblical mitzvot of bal yira’eh u’bal yimatzeh it’s sufficient to nullify chametz in one’s heart and declare it ownerless.[7] Because of the stringency of chametz our sages added that we should check the places that normally have chametz and remove chametz from our home. Bitul is so important it is done twice so that one does not forget.[8]

Chametz that is not fit for a dog to eat: Such chametz may be owned. There is a rabbinic prohibition against consuming such chametz, but under some circumstances (such as medical need) it is permitted.[9] Therefore, if chametz has been burned, sufficiently spoiled, or otherwise rendered inedible to a dog (like by certain household cleaners) it is no longer a halakhic issue if it remains in the home.[10]

Understanding categories of chametz:

There are different categories of “chametz,” and we are more lenient with some than others.

Chametz gamur (complete) is defined as a leavened food made with at least 1 of the 5 grains: wheat, barley, spelt, rye, or oat. Some say that anytime one of these grains is mixed with water and left to rest for at least 18 minutes it is considered chametz. (think bread, pasta, cookies…)

Chametz nuksheh is 1 of the 5 grains that has been mixed with water but hasn’t completed the leavening process or was never fit for human consumption. Both the exact nature of chametz nuksheh and the level of prohibition are debated by the sages.[11]

Ta’arovet chametz is a mixture containing chametz. This includes many products that contain grain and are not kosher for Pesach. Rabbinic authorities agree that this may not be consumed on Pesach, but some state that if the mixture contains a low percentage of grain and it is not noticeable one may be allowed to own it. Ultimately, we rule that it is forbidden to own a chametz mixture as well, but as this may only be a rabbinic violation, there are certain leniencies (think salad dressings that contain grain, foods flavored with certain alcohols or barley malt, etc.).[12]

Ways to eradicate chametz:

There are a few different levels of eliminating chametz. Some of these rely on more leniencies than others, but all are acceptable, even without the added issue of your injury.

Bitul Chametz: As mentioned above, we do this twice. In the morning of erev Pesach, after burning the chametz, we “nullify” any chametz that is knowingly or unknowingly still in our possession – declaring it as useless as the dust of the ground and ownerless.[13] We nullify chametz we do not know about the previous night after conducting our search. This technically works to eliminate chametz in your possession, specifically chametz larger than a kazayit, since smaller pieces don’t even need bitul. This is one of the reasons you don’t need to check places that you aren’t going to access over Pesach (like cabinets you are closing, or under or behind hard to move appliances). Even if there is chametz there, it is nothing to you.

Bitul ensures we do not transgress the biblical prohibition of bal yira’eh u’bal yimatze, and can also be considered a form of eradicating chametz in our possession (tashbitu). Bitul chametz doesn’t work for things you want to keep and use after Pesach – like packaged food in your cabinets. Our sages were concerned that bitul alone was insufficient and added the mitzvah of bedikat chametz – checking for chametz.

Search and destroy: Bitul is not foolproof. If someone does not have the proper intention to nullify their chametz it may not work. Someone can perform bitul properly, but due to habit or laxity may find chametz in their possession on Pesach and eat it.[14] To ensure one did not transgress any of the biblical mitzvot mentioned above the sages ruled that in addition to bitul, one needs to check to ensure there is no chametz in their possession.[15] One only needs to check places they are likely to have entered with chametz.[16]

What about the size of the chametz? Mishna Berura questions whether one must also perform biur on chametz that is smaller than a k’zayit.[17] If we’re concerned about bal yira’eh u’bal yimatzeh then checking for pieces a kzayit or larger should be sufficient, but if we’re concerned about consuming chametz perhaps we should also worry about the smaller pieces. Therefore, Rav Eliezer Melamed suggests being stringent when kashering or checking places that come into contact with food, like the kitchen and dining area, and lenient with the rest of the home.[18]

According to Ramban bitul is sufficient, but it’s preferable to physically destroy the chametz.[19] Ideally one should eliminate most of the chametz in their possession by eating it, donating or giving it away (to a non-Jew or to a Jewish organization that will sell it in bulk and then donate it to the needy after Pesach), or disposing of it outside of one’s property.[20] A small amount should be saved to burn as part of bi’ur chametz on erev Pesach.[21]

III. Selling chametz: The modern way we sell chametz is a halakhically contentious subject. Eradicating one’s chametz by selling it to a non-Jew is mentioned in the mishna and discussed in the gemara, but the Tosefta is the first to mention regaining possession of the chametz after Pesach.[22] Rabbinic authorities have disputed the validity and propriety of selling chametz before Pesach to regain possession after Pesach, especially when the chametz is sold communally and remains on one’s property.

Some rabbinic authorities invalidate such sales or severely limit the conditions of their validity. Others are concerned that such sales, while technically valid, transgress the rabbinic prohibition of ha’arama – taking advantage of a loophole to circumvent the mitzvah.[23] Some allow for selling rabbinically prohibited chametz, like mixtures, but not chametz gamur.[24] Others allow selling in cases of great need or financial loss.[25] Several prominent poskim do not limit the sale in any way.[26]

Combine forces

When possible, it’s preferable to destroy unwanted chametz, sell whatever will remain in one’s possession, and perform bitul as a safeguard.

If one has a family minhag (custom) to sell all forms of chametz, there are enough reliable rabbinic opinions to continue to do so. Nevertheless, they must still check the areas they will use over Pesach for chametz, burn or eradicate at least a kazayit of chametz, and say bitul chametz.[27]

Those that don’t sell chametz gamur may sell other types of chametz, such as taarovet chametz. In general it is preferable for those who have a family custom to follow their custom.[28]

Some are more stringent and do not sell chametz. Interestingly, due to the complexity of modern manufacturing, some rabbinic authorities suggest that in addition to biur and bitul one should still sell whatever chametz may be in their possession, since they may have medications, vitamins, or cosmetics that contain chametz but are not included in their bitul (since the person expressly wants to keep them).

Priorities when eradicating chametz:

Highest level:

  • Get rid of any chametz gamur or nuksheh food by eating, donating, or disposing of it.
  • All areas of the home (and property) that are likely to have large pieces of chametz should be cleaned – swept and checked. No need for toothpicks and q-tips, anything smaller than an olive may be owned. (If you can see chametz but can’t clean it you can either render it inedible by spraying cleaner on it or cover it.)
  • Areas that will be accessed over Pesach should also be checked (and possibly cleaned), even if it’s unlikely that they have chametz. This does not mean the whole house has to be cleaned.
  • Items that will be kashered and areas used for food preparation should be cleaned meticulously, keeping in mind that once they are unfit for consumption they are no longer chametz. Therefore, washing items in a sufficiently strong household cleaner is sufficient.[29]

Medium level:

Do a surface cleaning or check areas that you have good reason to think have chametz and you will access over Pesach. You don’t have to wipe down every surface, but the night before Pesach, as part of the bedika you should look through areas you will access to check for chametz. Crumbs aren’t a problem.

Areas that may contain large pieces of chametz but are hard to access should be rendered inedible (see note 29). This is particularly useful in areas that are used for eating but you can’t scrub clean, like tables and chairs, refrigerator shelves – since there may be actual chametz and you don’t want it to mix with your food. (This is also useful for hard to reach places that you can see – like cheerios dug into the car seats, grooves on tables or counters, behind/under kitchen appliances… )

Basic observance:

Check areas you will access over Pesach for chametz (over an olive size).

Seal up and sell any areas that you know have chametz, or that are likely to have chametz and you don’t need to access during


  • Books: You don’t need to go through books. If there’s even a small chance there are crumbs in a book do not open over food or a surface used to handle food.
  • Skip places you’re not going to access if they’re not regularly used for food: You don’t have to go through closets and cabinets and furniture. It’s great to go through the couch cushions, and there are probably crumbs there. But if you don’t get to it, just try to avoid uncovering what is covered on Pesach.
  • Don’t go overboard: I just saw a list that included things like attic and jewelry box – this is unnecessary unless you have good reason to suspect chametz is there (like a child has been running around your house with pretzel logs, sticking them in places, or you have a rodent infestation) AND you want to access them on Pesach.
  • If you’re worried about children’s toys, especially those boxes of Lego and other small toys, but don’t have time to go through them – douse them in (non-toxic but disgusting) cleaner or put them away for the week.


  • You should go through things like bags and coat pockets that may have food. Especially if they will be used.
  • Have a stash of food at the office or in shul? Don’t forget to get rid of it or at least sell it.

Minimal to no koshering:

As we saw, chametz mixed into food on Pesach can’t be nullified. We are therefore meticulous to prepare and eat food in places that are not only clean but kosher for Pesach. Keep in mind that cold food may be handled on clean, cold surfaces that do not need to be koshered or covered. If food comes into direct contact with the surfaces we are generally careful to cover it, but this is a stringency.

Though some have separate table linens and dish towels for Pesach, it’s sufficient to launder ones used throughout the year. No need to climb on ladders or dig through closets to find the special Pesach ones when you are injured.

Refrigerator and freezer:

  • Gather all food you wish to sell, cover it, and mark it as chametz/sold.
  • Any noticeable spills should be cleaned or sprayed with strong cleaner.
  • Any areas where you want to put Pesach food should either be cleaned of food residue or sprayed with strong cleaner and covered. You do not need to do both.


  • Clean with a strong cleaner. If you are only using with cold food this is sufficient. If you will use with hot food or vessels they should be kashered or covered.

Kitchen Sink:

  • Clean the faucet and area around the sink.
  • Stainless steel sinks can be koshered by cleaning well, waiting 24 hours, and pouring boiling hot water so that it directly touches all parts of the surface.
  • Non-metal sinks: Non-metal sink materials are often not considered candidates for kashering.Clean the sink well with strong cleaner and wait at least 24 hours to use. Some recommend pouring water from a boiling kettle over the surface, in case the material can be kashered. Regardless, use a sink insert or a basin so your utensils and food don’t directly touch the surface or sit in hot water that also touches the surface. (You may kasher a plastic basin you already have if you can clean it well and pour hot water over it.)[30]


  • If you’re not using the kitchen then no cleaning is necessary.
  • If you want to use the kitchen for food prep but not kasher, it’s best to eradicate any visible food residue by cleaning, covering, or spraying with a strong cleaner.
  • If you would like to cook a bit – some appliances are easier to kasher than others. It depends on the type. Feel free to be in touch with further questions.


Many people use cleaning for chametz as an opportunity for spring cleaning. This extreme cleaning often has little to do with Pesach, but some people figure if they are already cleaning chametz, they might as well clean dust too.[31] This mindset is not a problem, but it can lead to problems. If pre-Pesach cleaning or anxiety around it leads to household tension, sleepless nights, physical pain, mental exhaustion, and the like it may be worthwhile to pare back one’s practice. When “Pesach cleaning” affects one’s long-term health or ability to properly observe the mitzvot of Pesach and seder night, such as the mitzvah to rejoice in the festival, it’s imperative to reevaluate the way one is observing the mitzvah.

If you can do the minimum here without much pain and no long-term damage to your knee, that’s sufficient. If you would like to maintain a more stringent level of observance, you should only do so if it will not cause any more damage. If you can’t do the minimum described here, there are still options. If you are financially able it may be best to hire someone for basic cleaning and kashering. If that’s a financial difficulty and you belong to a Jewish community or have one nearby, there may be volunteers who can assist you. Alternatively, you can seal up or avoid most places in your home that generally contain chametz and stick to places that should already be chametz free.

I hope this was clear and I am happy to answer any other questions.

May you be blessed with a speedy recovery and a happy and kosher Pesach!


[1] One is permitted to own clean dishes/kitchenware that are “chametz” but one may not use them to cook over Pesach.

[2] All verses are found in Shemot. Respectively they are 13:3 and 12:20; 12:19; 13:7; 12:15. For discussion on the nuances of bal yeira’eh u’bal yimatzeh see Pesachim 5b, and the dispute if they are separate mitzvot – Ritva s.v. “Ne’emar” and Rambam Hilkhot Chametz u’Matza 1:2.

[3] Shemot 12:15

[4] Pesachim 29b, Hilkhot Chametz u’Matza 1:5, Shulchan Aruch OC 447:1.

While it is prohibited to consume  such a mixture, doing so does not generally incur the harsher liability of karet when intentional, or chatat offering when unintentional. One violates the biblical prohibition against consuming chametz if the chametz can be tasted or there’s an olive sized amount of chametz “kdei akhilat pras” in a volume measurement between 3-4 eggs. This is not something that happens easily. See Rosh Chulin 7:31, Tur, Shulchan Aruch and commentaries 453:2, Mishna Berura 612:8

[5] See note 16.

[6] Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 442:6-8, Taz 5, Magen Avraham 10, Mishna Berura 32-33, Igrot Moshe OC I 145

[7] Tur and Beit Yosef OC 331, 334

[8] At night we nullify all chametz in our possession we are unaware of, but not the chametz we are aware of since we may still eat chametz and we want to own chametz for bi’ur (eradication, burning) the next day. The next day after bi’ur chametz we nullify all chametz in our possession, whether we know about it or not. If one has a messenger perform bi’ur on their behalf they should still say this themselves.

[9] Shulchan Aruch OC 442:2, Mishna Berura  ibid 10 and 43

[10] Spoilage can be an issue, as spoiled chametz can sometimes lead to leavening or fermentation, in which case it would be se’or and biblically prohibited. (Example: sourdough starter)

[11] Some halakhic authorities rule that this has the same laws as chametz gamur, others that it’s biblically prohibited but has a lesser punishment for violation, and others that it is only rabbinically prohibited. Some rule it’s prohibited to eat but not to own. For more see Chulin 23b, Pesachim 42a, 43a, 48b. Rif Pesachim 13a Ran, Raavad, and Baal HaMeor, Shulchan Aruch 459:2, 447:12, Mishna Berura 442:2.

[12] Shulchan Aruch and commentaries OC 442:1, 3.

[13] Pesachim 4a-4b. Rashi (s.v. be’vitul) and Tosfot (s.v. midioraita) dispute whether bitul is fulfilled by deciding the chametz is useless or hefker (ownerless). Ultimately, Ashkenazim say both while Sephardim suffice with declaring it useless nothing, which in effect makes it ownerless. (Chazon Ovadia)

[14] Beit Yosef 431

[15] Rashi and Tosafot Pesachim 2a. Magen Avraham 431:2. Mishna Berura 434:6 explains why both bedika and bitul are necessary.

[16] Shulchan Aruch OC 431:1, Mishna Berura 4; and 433:3-4, Mishna Berura 17.

This means different things to different people. People with small children who run around with food (or a rodent infestation) should check everywhere the child can reach that they plan on accessing over Pesach. Someone without small children who only brings food into the kitchen or dining room does not need to check other spaces.

[17] 442:33

[18] Peninei Halacha, Pesach, IV Bedikat Chametz, Section 6

[19] Pesachim 4b

[20] Poskim such as Rav Moshe Feinstein state that it’s insufficient to dispose of chametz in a private trash can on one’s property, since it is still in their domain. In such a case one would have to destroy the chametz first (by burning or rendering it inedible.) It is sufficient to throw it away in a public trash bin. Igrot Moshe OC III 57

[21] Pesachim 12b, Shulchan Aruch OC 445:1, Mishna Berura 6; Mishna Berura 445:18

[22] Pesachim 5b, 21a, 28a. Tosefta 2:6

[23] Shabbat 139b, Rashiexplains that ha’arama is permitted if it is done by a Torah scholar and only transgresses a rabbinic prohibition. Beit Yosef and Shulchan Aruch OC 448:3

[24] Nefesh HaRav pg 177

[25] Hilkhot Chag B’Chag 10:14, Piskei Teshuvot OC 448:10

[26] Mekor Chaim 448:11, Tevuot Shor Pesachim 21a, Tzitz Eliezer 20:51(2), Yalkut Yosef 448:3:1

[27] Some of the reasons rabbinic authorities permit or validate the sale of chametz rely on these actions. Furthermore, these actions fulfill rabbinic obligations as well as the biblical mitzvah to eradicate chametz in our possession (tashbitu), which may not be fulfilled by the sale.

[28] In cases where this is particularly difficult one should consult with a rabbinic authority. It may be possible to do hatarat nedarim to change one’s minhag, although if there are extenuating circumstances for a limited amount of time, such as in the case of your injury, hatarat nedarim is probably unnecessary.

As the vast majority of rabbinic authorities rule that the sale of chametz is biblically valid, when it is not possible to consult with a rabbinic authority, one can rely on the lenient opinions.

[29] While many poskim mention harsh cleaners like bleach or windex, the cleaner does not need to be toxic to render the food inedible or unfit for a dog’s consumption. A fully natural cleaner such as vinegar is probably not sufficient. For those who are worried about harsh or toxic cleaners, a strong concentration of dish soap should be unpleasant enough to spoil crumbs. The smell signals that the item is inedible but the danger of accidental ingestion is significantly reduced.

[30] If this is not possible then after cleaning the sink you may use it with cold water, as long as you do not leave the dishes to soak. This is not recommended.

[31] There are some beautiful passages that find deep spiritual meaning in the eradication of chametz. See Kad HaKemakh by Rabbeinu Bechyeh (Bachya ben Asher ibn Halawa), Pesach 1:5, last paragraph. Such ideas are not halakhically binding.

Rabbanit Debbie Zimmerman Debbie Zimmerman graduated from the first cohort of Hilkhata – Matan’s Advanced Halakhic Institute and is a Halakhic Responder. She is a multi-disciplinary Jewish educator, with over a decade of experience in adolescent and adult education. After completing a BA in Social Work, Debbie studied Tanakh in the Master’s Program for Bible in Matan and Talmud in Beit Morasha.

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