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Apr 21, 2011

Non-Jew Takes His Chametz, How Do the Jews Respond?

Back to the validity of the selling of Chametz, it is always interesting when people's true intentions are put to the test. The main defense of the institution, if it needs a defense at all, is that if the non-Jew who "bought" the chametz would show up and take his chametz, the Jewish sellers would be perfectly fine with that.

There are some people who do not accept the validity of selling chametz, and especially when selling it and keeping it in your own house closed up in a cabinet. They say, if any chametz is going to be sold, and not all types can and should be sold, then it must be off premises and in a completely separate location, with only the non-jew having access to it. Some therefore promote instead of selling chametz to give the chametz to the goy as a present, store the chametz in an off-site location, and after Pesach one can reacquire the chametz, assuming the goy did not stake his claim and take it during Pesach.

In Ramat Shlomo there is a community that does this. the rav says this is the preferred way to "sell" chametz rather than actually selling it the way most people do.

Happy to have a way to sell chametz with a special hiddur instead of just the way everyone else does it (with all its faults), many people joined in and deposited their valuable chametz that they didn't want to destroy in the room designated for the goy. According to Kikar (and originally it was reported on the WAP Haredim site), there was a lot of whiskey worth many thousands of shekels, along with many other things.

Unfortunately for them, the goy put them to the test. He showed up right before the holiday began and cleared out the room, loading up his car with all the stuff. Thousands of shekels worth of expensive whiskeys, a new and expensive baby carriage that had not been cleaned for Pesach but was placed in the room (sorry, but that is just laziness), and other stuff. And there was nothing they could do about it, besides to stand there shocked watching him take all this stuff. After all, they had given it to him as a gift.

The goy went on his way, leaving the room empty for the rest of the holiday. And all they could do was regret, and be upset about, the way they chose to be mehader in getting rid of their chametz.

If it was a sale, perhaps their regret would show it was not valid. Or maybe if the sale had been done they would not have regretted it because at least they would have been paid, while here it was a gift so they lost their stuff and did not get paid for it.

Obviously this whole process is performed with absolutely no expectation of the goy actually showing up and taking his stuff. the fact that they could not do anything about it when it happened doesn't mean anything, as they were upset and in dismay when they saw it happen. It was just too late to do anything about it. Nobody expects the goy to show up. Even if they say they would be perfectly happy if the goy showed up and paid for it (in the case of a sale rather than a gift), at the end of the day it is done with no expectation of the goy showing up.


  1. Ok when I sell things I generally get money for them. I'm sorry but this was just stupid.

  2. If you're going to be that machmir on selling chametz, you need to take into account that you aren't allowed to give non-Jews gifts. I did sell my work chametz to my Islamic co-worker - but I got some money for it and if he does eat some of my cereal and oatmeal that won't be a big deal.

  3. I guess that's what happens when you try to "out-frum" the already established way of doing things. I guess it shows that not everything needs to be done with a hiddur.

  4. My roommate and I DO expect the goy to show up. We sell our chametz to a non-Jewish friend, with a long contract and everything, and indeed she has the key to our apartment and can come whenever she wants to take HER chametz. And she does, in fact, take some of the stuff some years, if it's something she can really use. She was just here today, actually, and mentioned that she might look over her stash to see if there's anything she wants. Anything she doesn't take (which is generally all or most of it) reverts back to us the morning of isru chag, unless she tells us otherwise. I don't know why more people don't do it this way; if we can find a friendly non-Jewish friend in Israel, surely people in chutz la'aretz who have even the most basic relationship with neighbors or co-workers can work out a "real deal," rather than rely on a loophole.

  5. Is there any technical explanation behind the Rabbi's suggestion that it's "better" to give away one's chametz versus sell it?

    Also, how would they know which bottle of whiskey belongs to whom after Pesach - did they LABEL them???!!!

  6. Sarah - perhaps in the USA it might not be so difficult is one was inclined to do it like that (though until 70 or so years ago it seems that is how all chametz sales were done).
    Here in Israel, most people, at least living in religious cities or neighborhoods but I think also most people in general, don't know too many non-Jews personally, and even if they do are not likely to be friends to the point they can ask this of them.
    Your situation might be unique.

  7. anonymous - I am not sure why giving it is better than selling it, unless he thinks the sale is a sham, so giving it as a gift is better.

    I dont know the technical details of how they did it, labeling and boxing, etc. However, I do know a rav who did something similar. he sold chametz, rather than makign it a gift, but he also did this offsite shtick. One of his constituents from back then told me that he would make everyone box and label their stuff. Each box was detailed with what exactly was inside and what belonged to whom. and each box needed to have a separate kinyan made on it.

  8. but if they're giving it as a gift then wouldn't labeling it create a contradiction, maybe even more of one than the "sham" of selling?

  9. When I give a wedding or birthday present I attach a card with our name on it, so I don't see how labeling the person who gave the gift invalidates it.

    I wonder if the Rav has any halachic liability for a ruling against longstanding custom that caused others a loss. If not an enforceable one, at least a moral obligation "latzeit y'dei shamayim" in rabbinic parlance.

  10. But what if no one thinks the couple will stay married more than 2 weeks - so you engrave the gift so at least you can reclaim it. Would that be more like gambling - labeling in this case shows you don't expect to actually *lose* the item?

    Also Mike, the Rav's psak makes me think about what's happened to Rabbanus - a generation ago there was sometimes a difference between a Rosh Yeshiva and a pulpit Rav, so that sometimes the pulpit Rav related better to "real life." But now even some pulpit Rabbis serve a community resembling like an insulated yeshiva environment, so that they come up with halachic ideas that don't always work in reality (they don't consider multiple possible outcomes).

  11. I wonder whether the Rabbi is in on this - like he made up with the non-Jew to take the stuff, but that he'll actually bring it back after Pesach.

  12. was there really intention to sell the baby carriage itself, rather than just the chametz in the carriage?!


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