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I have always been perplexed by the vast variation of Pesach cleaning practices. On the one hand I have seen notes of shiurim by respected rabbis who say that virtually the only real work to be done is to prepare the kitchen / pantry for Pesach... and even in the kitchen, only what you are going to actually use for food during Pesach (e.g. if the oven will not be used, it need not be cleaned at all). As for the rest of the house, if you want to close off a room for Pesach, you don't need to clean it at all and if you do want to use the room, you just need to make sure there are no large pieces of chometz in there and sweep the floor.

On the other hand there are people that spend the whole day scrubbing an oven they are not going to use for Pesach, spend multiple hours cleaning each bedroom, paint the walls in the kitchen and dining room, spend hours scrubbing chairs and tables, etc.

To me, these seem like almost different religions. How do I reconcile this?

Related question: Is it true that the first (i.e. easy) scenario is based on what is written in the halacha, and the second (i.e. very hard) is based on custom?

And if so (that the second is custom), couldn't it be considered a sin, since you are thereby taking away so much time that could be used for doing things that are really mitzvos and also the fact that you are implying to others (including your children) that this is the halacha, when in fact it is not?

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To a large extent, yes the former is halacha and the latter is what some people do; rabbis have long acknowledged it as "that's what some women choose to do, okay" (not even a "minhag" per se). You haven't heard the story with R' Levi Yitzchak Berdichever? His wife was scrubbing furiously at the chairs -- "Chana, enough! Shulchan Aruch says that's not needed." "You [men] and your shulchan aruch! - Between the two, we'd be eating bread on Pesach!" –  Shalom Apr 11 '11 at 13:15
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That said, though, @Desert Star, a lot of what you're mentioning has little or nothing to do with Pesach - it's basically spring cleaning, which people are combining/confusing with Pesach cleaning. An example is what you mention about "paint[ing] the walls in the kitchen and dining room." –  Alex Apr 11 '11 at 15:08
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Just want to comment that while some things are not necessary, as noted in the question and answers, each person should consult his local orthodox rabbi regarding what those things are. –  msh210 Apr 11 '11 at 15:53
    
Just want to add another "perplexing" memory for what it's worth... I once showed a rabbi a summary of what is minimally halachically necessary to do... he said "although I cannot point to anything in here which is against halacha, you cannot take this and say 'this is Pesach'". I asked, "ok then what should I do to clean for Pesach?" and he answered, "copy what your neighbors are doing". I was left wondering... for hilchos Shabbos and kashrus and every other halacha, we are supposed to follow what is written in the halaacha, but for Pesach, we copy our neigbors? –  Desert Star Apr 9 '12 at 11:49
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2 Answers 2

It is not just "spring cleaning". See Rosh Pesachim (3:2), brought in Tur/Sh"A (OC:442)

כתב זקיני רבינו אב"ן ז"ל בחיבורו ומה שנהגו לגרר הכותלים והכסאות שהגיע בהן חמץ קודם הפסח מצאתי לו סמך בירושלמי

So it isn't an obligation, but "Jews are holy" (R' Yerucham 5:5) and rid the house of all traces of chametz before Pesach.

Sometimes it rises to the level of obligation, as when there's enough chametz in a single utensil that if combined would amount to a kezayis. Thus the toasters and similar must be cleaned or sold.

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OK, but לגרר is not really the same thing as repainting. –  Alex Apr 14 '11 at 21:14
    
Do we know what the support from the Yerushalmi is? –  Double AA Apr 23 '13 at 3:52
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Halachically you can do the minimum and be 100% Kosher L'Pesach. However the Arizal said that whoever is careful from even a minimal amount of Chometz over Pesach is promised that he will not sin all year.

In addition Pesach is a Yom Tov of Mesora - where we give over to the next generation the fact that Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim and how Hashem watches over every little thing that goes on. Many people do more than necessary as this is what my parents did.

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