Selling Chometz

Question: Our eldest son would
be much happier if we didn't sell chometz or buy chometz that another Jew sold
for Pesach. If doing this is not overly burdensome and oppressive, I would consider
it. Can you give me the ground rules for both?


Theoretically, selling chometz is fine. It just has to be really sold. If the gentile actually pays and takes the chometz there is no problem. However, because there was a time in history when one of the few sources of income available to Jews in Europe was owning liquor stores and it was impractical to get the schnapps out of the shop, many creative solutions were found for keeping the chometz in the shop after selling it to a gentile. The history of this development is quite interesting and long. Some leniencies have been used for exceptional circumstances and some of those leniencies have stuck to this day, even in private homes and in situations that do not warrant relying on leniencies. Therefore, unless the sale is really done properly, I recommend getting rid of your chometz. This task is not as daunting as it may seem to people who are accustomed to selling every item in their home that might be chometz. We have to remove from our possession edible chometz that is food for humans or animals. The prohibition of bal tashchis does not apply to chometz. The mitzva is to destroy it.

However, cosmetics, toiletries, medicines, and even shampoo with wheat germ are not chometz. Because these items are not normally eaten, they can be kept in the home over Pesach and even used.

Regarding buying previously sold chometz after Pesach, here I disagree with your son. A Jew who did not get rid of (i.e., destroy or sell) his chometz is fined by having his chometz deemed unusable after Pesach. The fine is meant to teach him to listen to the Torah the next year and dispose of his chometz. If a Jew listens to a halachic authority who tells him he can sell his chometz and thereby fulfill his obligation, then even if the sale is bogus and ineffective, you cannot say he acted in defiance of the rules of Pesach and ignored the mitzva. Therefore he would not be fined and his chometz remains kosher after Pesach. So if there is a notice in the grocery store stating that the chometz was sold under rabbinical auspices, you can buy anything in that store after Pesach.

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