Our Dog Boaz and the Search for Crumbs before Passover
The night before the first Passover seder, or in this case two nights before the seder, because the Passover starts on a Saturday night), it is a traditional Jewish custom to search for chametz (Yiddish pronunciation—chometz.) Chametz is all the stuff you can't eat on Passover, bread being the most famous food in that category.
After clearing one's house of the offending foods in advance of Pesach, there is a formal chametz clearing ceremony in which one actually places chametz onto areas one has just cleaned. You then turn out the lights, and by the light of a candle, and with the help of a spoon and feather (some save the lulav palm frond from the Sukkot holiday), the young, or young at heart, sweep up the violating materials that have just been put out.
There are different customs, but since I started performing this ritual in my late 20's, I've always put out ten items, squares of bread, corn chips, broken tortilla peices etc. 10 has kabbalistic implications, but it is also a round number, not easy to forget. One doesn't want to leave any of this stuff behind and the number 10 suggests good opportunity for easy accounting.
This year, we only recovered three pieces of the bread we put out. Where are the other seven? Boaz, our cocker spaniel, is the likely culprit. We have eyewitness evidence of him downing four of the pieces. As for the other three...?
As one is trying to bring order and cleanliness before the holiday, this can be a bit disconcerting. The putting out of the chametz is supposed to acknowledge entropy and chaos but still win the battle with those forces. I remember years when we put out the pieces of bread or corn chips on a paper towel, making it quite clear that it was our full intent to keep the chaos at bay.
At the end of this search, we gather for the proclamation that closes this activity:
All manner of leaven that is in my possession, that I have not observed, searched out or had cognizance of, shall be regarded as null and be considered mere common property, as is the dust of the earth.
What a wonderful hocus pokus. With these old words we make magic that doesn't defy reality, but rather nurtures our souls. This ritual turns our attempts into the goal itself, relieving us of any other obligation beyond our sincere efforts.
Boaz' participation in this years chometz search was disconcerting at first. His participation seemed to lend the upper hand to the forces of chaos. But in our house, where he normally gets no food other than his twice-daily bowl, we all enjoyed the real treat he experienced in finding food on the floor!
And to the extent that Boaz helps us "let go", that's usually a good thing. Thank you Boaz, for helping us to let go.
See an impressionistic 2-minute video I made several years ago of the search for chametz.