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why does the torah (and rabbis) require jews to be so meticulous about removing chametz from one's domain? is there some fundamental moral lesson that we are supposed to take from removing pieces of bread, cake,etc. that we need to be so meticulous in this? (by meticulous i mean the tedious work of removing all traces of chametz from one's house and belongings)

  • Soo meticulous? Why are we so meticulous about not eating pork? – Double AA Apr 2 '17 at 0:27
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    Could you give an example of the meticulousness you refer to, and how it differs from other mitsvot? – mevaqesh Apr 2 '17 at 1:36
  • I don't know what you mean by "meticulous" (please clarify with an edit), but here's a probably-related question: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/81440/472. – Monica Cellio Apr 2 '17 at 3:22
  • @MonicaCellio how's this edit? – ray Apr 2 '17 at 5:31
  • @ray that helps some. I wonder if you're asking about cases of chametz that you wouldn't eat anyway, like crumbs in your car or under the fridge? – Monica Cellio Apr 2 '17 at 16:36
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Leaven (חָמֵץ) which is characterized by raising/leavening is compared to an inflated ego of arrogance (גאווה) while matzah which is flat is compared to humility (עֲנָוָה)

The service (עֲבוֹדָה) of being meticulous in searching and ridding one's house of חָמֵץ is deflating the ego and focusing on self nullification (ביטול) to G-d is a preparation to receiving the Torah.

The above is from what I have learned about the subject in chassidus.

When we conduct our search for חָמֵץ before Passover we are not just making sure there is no more חָמֵץ physically in our house but are searching within ourselves that we should not have any חָמֵץ within us.

The Alter Rebbe went to Mezeritch to study under his master, the Maggid, for the first time in the year 5524 (1764), and remained until shortly before Pesach 5525. When he returned home, he prepared to apply all the spiritual lessons he had learned concerning the search for chametz. On the thirteenth of Nissan that year he did not eat. He did not fast, because it is forbidden to fast during Nissan, but neither did he eat, preoccupied as he was with preparing for the search. His search for chametz lasted the entire night, although he had only one room.

After completing his search, the Alter Rebbe offered a mystic interpretation of the words of the mishnah:3 “On the eve of the fourteenth, we search for chametz by the light of a candle,” explaining as follows: “Thirteen” is numerically equivalent to the word echad — “one.” Oneness is identified with the knowledge of G‑d. On this level, there is no need to search.

“Fourteen” refers to our emotional attributes (the seven attributes of the animal soul and the seven attributes of the G‑dly soul). Here a search is required.

The search must be “by the light of a candle,” a reference to the soul, of which it is said:4 “The candle of G‑d is the soul of man.” And this search must encompass one’s entire being, just as the actual search for chametz must probe into even the “holes and cracks” of one’s home (the Previous Rebbe).5

The difference between chametz and matzah is6 that chametz rises, while matzah lies flat. The rising of chametz alludes to egotism, the tendency to become bloated with self-love. Matzah, by contrast, represents bittul, selflessness, the willingness to commit oneself to others and to G‑d.

This points to another difference between the two words. Chametz (חמץ) and matzah (מצה) share two of the same letters, the difference between them being that chametz contains a ches (ח), while matzah is written with a hei (ה). The ches and the hei have similar forms; they both have three lines and an opening at the bottom. But the hei also has an opening at the top, while the ches does not.7 The opening at the bottom is alluded to in the verse:8 “Sin crouches at the opening.” The opening at the top of the hei alludes to the possibility of rising above oneself in teshuvah.

A person possessed by the self-concern of chametz is far more likely to fall prey to sin. Moreover, when he sins, his tendency is to rationalize his conduct and justify his failings. When, by contrast, a person is characterized by the bittul of matzah, he is less likely to sin. And if he sins, he will regret his mistake and use the “opening” he is granted to turn to G‑d in teshuvah (the Rebbe). Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 129." (http://www.chabad.org/holidays/passover/pesach_cdo/aid/2875332/jewish/The-Search-For-Chametz.htm)

  • interesting idea. thanks. i have also seen the gemora relate it to zeal. not to delay performing mitzvot – ray Apr 3 '17 at 20:13
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There are 2 reasons for this

  1. The punish of eating chametz is Kareth but for example Terefah is just malkot.

shemot perek 12 pasuk 19 שִׁבְעַת יָמִים שְׂאֹר לֹא יִמָּצֵא בְּבָתֵּיכֶם כִּי כָּל אֹכֵל מַחְמֶצֶת וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מֵעֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל בַּגֵּר וּבְאֶזְרַח הָאָרֶץ.

  1. chametz is not just forbidden for eating, it's also for only have it in your house (not like basar vechalav or terefah).

shemot perek 13 pasuk 7 מַצּוֹת יֵאָכֵל אֵת שִׁבְעַת הַיָּמִים וְלֹא יֵרָאֶה לְךָ חָמֵץ וְלֹא יֵרָאֶה לְךָ שְׂאֹר בְּכָל גְּבֻלֶך.

4

This question was basically asked to R. David Ibn Zimra. The questioner wondered why we are so much more stringent about eradicating chametz than any other prohibitions. If it's because chametz carries the penalty of kares, there are other prohibitions which do as well. If it's because it is prohibited to derive benefit from chametz, there are other things which it is also prohibited to derive benefit from. If it's because it is something that is only prohibited for a certain time of the year, there are other prohibitions which also only apply during part of the year.

R. David Ibn Zimra responded by noting that chametz is the only prohibition where we find the confluence of all three of these factors, so therefore the Torah and the Sages were extra stringent regarding its removal. He adds that Chametz is like a davar sheyeish lo matirin (forbidden now but permissible later).

However, he says that this only suffices to explain why chametz is not considered nullified in something even 1,000 times its volume (just like a davar sheyeish lo matirin), but it does not suffice to explain why we have to search for it and eradicate it from our possession.

He points out that even when it comes to avodah zarah, the obligation to search it out and destroy it is only in the Land of Israel, which means that we are more stringent by chametz than by avodah zarah even though one who admits to avodah zarah is as if he has denied the entire Torah!

Therefore, he concludes that the only sufficient explanation is that midrashically chametz represents the Evil Inclination and that is why we have to go to such great lengths to search it out and eradicate it from our midst.

Shu"t Radbaz 3:546

שאלת ממני אודיעך דעתי מה נשתנה חמץ בפסח מכל איסורין שבתורה שהחמירה עליו תורה להצריכו בדיקה ושרוף וכלה וגם ביטול והוסיפו חכמים להצריכו בדיקה בחורין ובסדקין ולחפש אחריו ולשרש אותו מכל גבוליו ועבר עליו בבל יראה ובל ימצא ואסרוהו בכל שהוא ואינו מתבטל כלל וחומרות כאלו לא נמצאו בכל האיסורין שבתורה דאי משום דאית ביה כרת הרי חלב ודם ואי משום דאסור בהנאה הרי כלאי הכרם ושור הנסקל וכמה איסורי הנאה שלא החמירה תורה בהם כ"כ ואי משום דלא בדילי מיניה כולי שתא הרי יין לנזיר דלא בדיל מיניה והחדש דלא בדילי מן התבואה כולה שתא ולא חמירא כולי האי

תשובה שני דברים נאמרו בתשובת דבר זה אחת שלא נמצאו בכל האיסורין שבתורה שיצטרפו בו כל ג' תנאים הללו שהוא איסורי הנאה והוא בכרת ולא בדילי אינשי מיניה כולה שתא אלא חמץ בלבד וכיון שיש בו החומרות הללו החמירה עליו תורה חומרות אחרות ובאו חכמים והוסיפו חומרות על חומרות כמו שעשתה התורה ותו דחמץ בפסח הוי כדבר שיש לו מתירין שהרי איסורו תלוי בזמן ואחר ימי הפסח יהיה החמץ מותר ואע"פ שזה החמץ שהוא מבער אי אפשר שיהיה לו היתר אלא א"כ יעבור בבל יראה ובל ימצא סוף סוף הא איכא חמץ שיהיה מותר לו דהיינו אותו שלא עבר עליו וק"ל עליה דהאי טעמא נהי דסגי האי טעמא לענין דאפילו באלף לא בטל כדבר שיש מתירין דאמרינן דאפילו באלף לא בטיל אבל לחפש אחריו ולשרפו ולשרשו ולהוציא מרשותו לא ידענו למה גם על הטעם הראשון יש לי קצת גמגום ומי עדיף מע"ז דאמרה תורה ולא ידבק בידך מאומה מן החרם וכל המודה בו ככופר בכל התורה כולה ולא מצינו שהצריכה תורה בה בדיקה וביטול אלא שבארץ ישראל מצוה לרדוף אחריה עד שנאבד אותה מארצנו אבל בח"ל אין אנו מצווין לרדוף אחריה אלא כל מקום שנכבוש אותו נאבד את כל עכו"ם שבו עכ"ל הרמב"ם ז"ל מ"מ הרי אתה רואה שלא החמירה תורה בעכו"ם כמו בחמץ הילכך עדיין צריך טעם ועל כן אני סומך על מה שאמרו רז"ל במדרשות כי חמץ בפסח רמז ליצה"ר והוא שאור שבעיסה ולכן כלה גרש יגרש אותו האדם מעליו ויחפש עליו בכל מחבואות מחשבותיו ואפילו כל שהוא לא בטיל והרי זה אמת ונכון והנלע"ד כתבתי

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