We spend so much time and energy cleaning our houses and cars from chametz - why?
After all, chametz is bread and bread is the staff of life that we normally respect and are prohibited to waste and destroy. What suddenly happens pre-Pesach that makes bread into something so evil and so prohibited?
The Talmud in Berachot 17a states:
Rabbi Alexandri would end his daily prayers as follows:
“Master of the Universe, You know that it is our desire to act according to Your will, what prevents us from doing so? The yeast in the dough.”
Yeast (se’or) is a leavening agent. Rabbi Alexandri saw yeast as a metaphor and symbol for our powerful drives and inflammatory passions.
Our minds have the ability to distort the reality of our mission, inflate our desires and draw us into directions that we would never take if we were to follow our cold rational side. It is the ‘yeast in the dough' that causes us to lose control.
Seven weeks before we receive the Torah on Shavuot we are required to purge and eradicate the Yetzer Hara (evil inclination) from ourselves.
The search for chametz is performed with a candle or flashlight. A candle symbolizes a mitzvah (Mishlei 6:23) ‘Ki Ner Mitzvah veTorah Or…’ - "A candle is a mitzvah and the Torah is light..." When we search for chametz we should remember the underlying theme, let us search and remove from our own hearts the vestiges of the Yetzer Hara.
This is the symbolism behind the search for chametz which is so important and is performed every year with such seriousness.
May we all merit to see Hashem’s salvation this Pesach.