Chametz refers to the fermentation of one of five basic grains (wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt). Any time one of these grains comes into contact with water for any length of time above 18 minutes, it is rendered Chometz. Hence, Matza is made, from start to finish, within 18 minutes.
We are forbidden on Pesach to own, find or eat Chometz. Hence, the frenzy before Pesach to get our homes “chametz free.”
Chometz is representative of illusions, imagination, bloated pipe-dreams and ego. It is about the Yetzer Harah – our worst inclinations. Matzah is bare-bones actual reality and the growth that comes from living fully cognizant of reality. Think about it. You have bread and Matzah – they both have equal amounts of flour and water. The bread doesn’t have more of a nutritional oomph to it. Ah, but it inflates itself, doubling, tripling, growing and growing in size, if you let it. Squash out all that inflated air, pop the air-bubbles inside, and your dough goes limp, back to its reality. Matzah doesn’t inflate itself. It is what it is – plain, pure flour and water.
As we remove our physical Chametz from our homes, we are told we must do the same for our emotional and spiritual Chametz forces. We must face ourselves—who are we really, when we take away our puffed-up ego and pride? Stripped of our designer duds and luxury cars, who are we, underneath it all? We must face our reality. Aren’t down-to-earth healthy marriages more stable and enjoyable than what the tinsel of Hollywood has blown into air bubbles that harm our marriages? And then there are the inflated ideas that create fights. So he said that, so what? Does it mean that much? Squash out those growing, festering air from it, and you realize there isn’t that much of a difference between you two. Once you’ve squashed out the Chametz, that is when you see how real you can be…and how great reality can make you become…for by stopping the imagination running away with illusions, we can see our way to G-d.
As Jews, we clean our homes in anticipation of being Chametz free for Pesach. No, you don’t have to whitewash your walls, although in previous times many a household did so. You MUST get rid of all the Chametz, have different dishes and pots just for Pesach and make sure no Chametz will be found in your home or business on Pesach.
First we clean. Focus on places you will be using extensively. Make sure your eating area is well-done.
After cleaning is all done, we can do something called Mecheeras Chametz. We can sell all Chametz we don’t want to destroy so that ownership is moved from us to a non-Jew for the duration of Pesach. In the contract, we get a buy-back clause, allowing the non-Jew to sell us back our Chametz after Pesach. The transaction is done by a rabbi on your behalf.
Then, after cleaning, after arranging for the sale of those things we would like to not destroy, the next step in getting rid of our Chametz is called Bee’ur & Bee’tul. The night before Pesach, we go on a Chametz hunt. We search our homes to make sure we’ve really made it Chametz-free. We declare that any Chometz still left behind is null and void, ownerless and not ours. The next morning, Erev Yom Tov, we burn any Chametz we had found the previous night, and do the declaration again.
In order that the search for Chametz (which includes a Bracha) not be for nothing, the custom is for ten pieces of chametz to be put out prior to the search so that when looking for that Chametz, ten bits are found. Bedikas Chametz instructions and Brachos.
Homes now Chametz-free, it is time to head to the crux of Pesach, which is the Seder.