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Frequently Asked Questions About the Sale of Chametz

Frequently Asked Questions About the Sale of Chametz

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What Is the Sale of Chametz, and Why Do We Do It?

On the holiday of Passover, we are commanded not to have any chametz in our possession. Any food that is made out of grain that has been allowed to rise (ferment) is chametz. Common chametz items include bread, cakes, breakfast cereals, pastas, many liquors and more. Any chametz that was in the possession of a Jew during Passover is forbidden, even after Passover ends. This applies even if the chametz is locked up and out of sight.

So what is someone to do if they want to hold on to their prized brandy collection or freezer full of challah?

The solution (as explained in the Code of Jewish Law, O.C. 448) is the “Sale of Chametz,” in which the food is sold to a non-Jew before Passover. After the holiday, the non-Jew sells it back, and it can once again be enjoyed.

Since the mid-1990s, Chabad.org has offered an online form through which you can authorize a rabbi to sell your chametz to a non-Jew on your behalf.

Below you can find frequently asked questions about this special service. If you would like to sell your chametz online, go to our easy-to-use service here.


Is the online sale as legitimate as going to the rabbi in person to fill out a form?

Leading halachic authorities have ruled that online authorizations are acceptable for the purpose of selling chametz. You are authorizing the rabbi to sell your chametz on your behalf. The rabbi (or his designee) conducts the sale of chametz in person with the non-Jew. Multiple methods of transaction are used to make certain beyond any doubt that the chametz is sold. The traditional and preferred practice, however, is for the authorization transaction to be done in person with the local rabbi.

Chabad.org makes this service available online at no charge to provide every Jew with the opportunity to have their chametz sold for Passover.

By what time does the sale have to be performed?

Passover begins on the eve of the 15th of Nissan, but the prohibition of owning chametz begins at the end of “5th halachic hour” on the morning before Passover (the 14th of Nissan). The halachic hours are determined by dividing the time from sunrise to sunset into 12 equal parts. So all chametz in your possession must be sold (or destroyed) by the time 5/12ths of the day (sunrise to sunset) have passed on the 14th of Nissan. Learn when that is in your area here.

On your website, the deadline is 8 a.m. local time for submitting the chametz sale form. The “5th halachic hour” often does not end until more than three hours later. Why must the form be submitted so early?

Selling chametz takes time. The rabbi needs to make sure that the sale is all wrapped up by the time the fifth hour ends. Closing the form in advance ensures that the rabbi has enough time to collect all the data, and sell the chametz well before the prohibition to own chametz takes effect.

On the authorization form, I am asked where I will be the day before Passover. Why is that important?

You need to make sure that you do not own chametz by the time the prohibition takes effect at your location on the morning of the 14th of Nissan. The rabbi needs to know where you will be so that your chametz will be sold before the onset of the prohibition in your specific time zone. To accommodate Jewish communities all over the world, Chabad.org offers no less than 11 “points of sale,” each one timed for a different region to accommodate Jews everywhere.

How is one rabbi able to perform sales in so many places around the world?

By submitting the online authorization form, you grant the power of agency to Rabbi Yosef Landa. He, in turn, authorizes a rabbi to perform the service in each of the time zones listed. Each rabbi meets in person with a non-Jewish buyer and sells the chametz on your behalf.

I will be in a more western time zone at the conclusion of Passover. Which means that when the chametz is bought back by the rabbi at my previous location, it will still be Passover at my new location. Is that a problem?

No. Even if the non-Jew sells back your chametz in the earlier pre-Passover time zone, you don’t have to accept it until Passover ends for you. Note that your explicit authorization is only for the rabbi to sell your chametz. After Passover, the rabbi buys back the chametz as a service to you, but he cannot do that against your wishes or interests. It need not become yours until you agree to take ownership of it after Passover has ended in your time zone.

How soon after the end of Passover can I use my chametz?

The rabbi usually buys back the chametz as soon as the holiday is over, but it can take some time. We recommend that you wait until 10 p.m. before using your chametz again.

Do you send an email when the chametz is bought back?

We buy the chametz back as soon as possible, right after the holiday. We will do our best to let you know via email, but you can be assured that the chametz is officially yours again at 10 p.m.

I have a wonderful neighbor who is not Jewish. Can I sell my chametz directly to him?

You wouldn’t sell your home without a lawyer; neither is it advisable to sell your chametz without a rabbi. The laws of acquisition, both halachically and legally, are complex, especially for this type of transaction in which the buyer is likely never to see the items they bought, and the items are not physically moved into the buyer’s domain. Due to the severity of the prohibition of owning chametz, we have a rabbi transact the sale of chametz for us.

What about pets?

If you own a pet who must eat chametz, you must sell the animal to a non-Jew and have the non-Jew feed the animal for the duration of the holiday since a Jewish-owned pet may not be fed chametz on Passover. Our contract stipulates that the animals are included in the general sale, but leaves you to find someone to care for and feed the animal during the course of the eight-day holiday.

Does this service cost anything?

No, it is free. Many, however, have the custom to make a donation to the rabbi for facilitating the sale. According to some opinions, this strengthens the rabbi’s power of agency. Donations to Chabad.org when you sell your chametz further the work of Chabad.org in making Judaism accessible and meaningful to hundreds of thousands of people every day. Your contribution is very much utilized and appreciated!

I forgot to sell my chametz, and it’s already past the time of the chametz prohibition. Can I still sell it?

Unfortunately, no. And since we are not allowed to keep in our possession any chametz during Passover, you might have to dispose of it right away. But there may be mitigating factors to consider (such as whether you have sold your chametz in past years, etc.), so contact a knowledgeable Orthodox rabbi without delay.

Can I use the chametz after I sell it?

You cannot use the chametz after it’s sold because it is no longer yours. Keep in mind that when you fill out the form, you are merely authorizing the rabbi to sell your chametz on the morning before Passover. Until the rabbi actually conducts the sale, the chametz is yours. Once the rabbi sells the chametz on the 14th of Nissan, it no longer belongs to you, and you cannot use it until it is bought back after Passover.

Does the sale include chametz that comes into the possession of a Jew after the onset of the prohibition?

It does not. You cannot sell something that you do not yet own. Such chametz would be forbidden even after Passover.

What do I do with the chametz after it’s sold?

If you will continue to live in the house where the non-Jew’s chametz is stored during Passover, put it in a designated area and close off access to it. This is done to ensure that nobody will inadvertently eat it during Passover. Locking the rooms or cabinets in which the chametz is stored or closing them with tape should do the job. It is advisable to put a label warning that chametz is inside, and that the contents have been sold.

I sold my chametz last year. Must I do it again this year?

Yes.

Can I sell someone else’s chametz?

Yes, if they authorize you to do so.

Do I need to specify all the places the chametz may be found?

It is preferable to do so. However, the contract is written regarding all of your chametz, wherever it may be found, even if you do not specify the locations.

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