It seems to me that the reason we search for bread is to remove it from the house. So I’m a bit perplexed as to why we intentionally hide pieces of bread around the house before the search. Any insights?
The purpose of the search is certainly to find and remove chametz from the house before Passover.
However, since nearly most, if not all, of the chametz has already been removed from around the house before the actual search, it is customary to hide pieces of bread in places where chametz is usually found in order to add importance and relevance to the search, as well as create an incentive to search properly and thoroughly.
It’s a good idea to use only small pieces, and write down where each has been hidden in case they are not all found during the search.
On a more symbolic level, the search for chametz is a warning for us against the evil inclination. It teaches us to seek for it in hidden places in order to get rid of it and thereby become liberated from its grasps, as the Jews were liberated from the clutches of Egypt.
According to this understanding, the reason we put down pieces of bread while searching for the chametz is to indicate that even if a person has cleansed himself from sin to the best of his ability, he should not boast, “I am purged of sin”, since if he were to continue his search he would surely find more spiritual chametz of iniquity and pride.
“There is no person so righteous in this world who does only good and never sins” (Ecc. 7:20). One who deludingly prides himself that he has corrected all his faults can be certain that he’s only just begun to uncover his hidden spiritual chametz.