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Selling your chometz seems like such a sham

I sold my chometz last year on erev pesach, via an online form from Chabad, I think it’s BS but it sure made me feel like I still had all of my energy bars, trail mix and granola to look forward to after pesach. Same thing this year, I googled Sell My Chometz Online and sure enough the number one result is chabad and it’s online form. I felt so ingratiated I made a $36 donation – where else could I just click away my chometz ownership?Thank God for chabad!

As a kid I was regaled with ancient tales of the no good shtetl goy coming into the house over pesach and demanding all of his whiskey, I guess chometz selling was a little like my own Santa Clause story – it took some years – but eventually I realized that no one would actually come into your house and test the chometz sales contract. Was it even a real sale? Or was it some Rabbi heter to save money? It all seems like one big halachic sham.

Has anyone even met the person who buys their chometz? I honestly have no idea, where are these goyishe chometz buyers, have any of you ever met a non-Jew that happened to be one of the buyers for the local communities chometz. I am telling yo it seems like a myth.

Then I go online 2 hours before Pesach and sell my chometz on an online form, what’s up with that? I feel like chabad does it to make the lazy guys like me who don’t want to track down the rabbi to take care of it – feel good about saving their chometz.

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  • Chris_B

    Did the form last night. Cant complain.

  • Anonymous

    A bunch of Queens communities sell their chametz to Jim Gennaro, a city councilman. At some point on pesach, he goes to someone’s house to get a shot of whiskey. There was even a NY Times article on him.

    • Ta-daa

      NYTimes article here: http://bit.ly/cAfC8X

    • anon

      Jim Gennaro is a hypocrite. When mayor Bloomberg proposed eliminating term limits for city officials, he spoke out against this proposal. That year, he unsuccessfully ran for State senate and failed. He then ran for a third term as City Councilman, unopposed. He’s a career politician.

  • Lizardqueen11

    agreed – one year I’m going to pose as a non-Jew and cash in all all the Paskesz and Leiber’s goodness I can eat…

  • http://74.125.113.132/search?q=cache:qg2VTYByHWcJ:query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html%3Fres%3D9C06E6DB1531F937A15757C0A9639C8B63+jim+gennaro+rabbi+hochberg+chametz&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a

    Mr. Gennaro listened attentively, nodding frequently and occasionally asking questions, as Rabbi Feivel Wagner, of Young Israel of Forest Hills, explained his rights as a buyer. Later, the councilman took pains to stress that this was no fictional sale. ”If you sell somebody the chametz,” he said, ”he really owns it. I’m under no obligation to sell it back. Theoretically I could come claim it and use it.”

    Indeed, he did just that last year, accompanied by Rabbi Penner, who wanted to impress on his congregants the reality of the sale. ”We went to someone’s house,” said Mr. Gennaro, ”and we knocked on the door, and I said, ‘O.K., I’m here for the chametz.’ I selected a bottle of single-malt Scotch.”

    ”It was a blast,” recalled Rabbi Penner, fondly. ”We just showed up at somebody’s house and took their Scotch. They had no idea what to say.”

    Its a real sale hesh.

  • Shoshi

    My shul sells it to the shul handyman and he jokes every year about coming to collect his whiskey and we always pretend to laugh. “Ha Ha, OK Ron, ours in the third house on the left, we’ll leave the door open, ha, ha.”

  • Be sure to leave the door open for him.

  • Zvi Lampert

    I once missed my rabbi by 10 minutes one erev Pesach. He gave me detailed instructions and I sold my chometz to a local gentile myself.
    Judaism is a technical religion. The letter of the law is more important than the so-called spirit of the law. There are such ‘loopholes’ everywhere, and that’s fine as long as the laws are technically not broken. If not, we could never have a catered kiddush on shabbos, and where would that leave the Jewish people?
    Incidentally, no one is more machmir about Pesach than Chabad, eating matzoh over paper bags and all that. If a web transaction is good enough for them, it’s definitely good enough a gebrucks-eating, Cholov stam drinking MO Litvak like me.

    • “The letter of the law is more important than the so-called spirit of the law. ”

      hey that probably sums up why judaism does nothing for me….

      • Esther

        OMG! That is exactly my problem. Its tough to embrace the frum lifestyle when it seems that the technicalities outweigh the meaning behind the actions…

        • Zvi Lampert

          Let m rephrase that. In Judaism, the letter of the law IS the spirit of the law. I don’t believe selling your chametz is not in the spirit of Pesach, or that it violates the meaning behind any actions. Technical solutions to practical problems is part of the framework of halacha and very much in the spirit of Judaism. Why do you think so many Jews become attorneys?

          • A. Nuran

            Not even close, I’m afraid. The Great Old Ones (gedolim) are always changing the law to make it mean what they want it to. And they have the effrontery to call it “Torah” instead of “legal opinions”. I call it blasphemy of the worst sort since they are making themselves the equal of or even superior to God.

            • HJX

              It is only your lack of understanding that makes it seem that way.

              • A. Nuran

                It’s not lack of understanding. It’s understanding combined with less than a lifetime of brainwashing.

                • Anonymous

                  Wrong again. It’s one thing to question, it’s quite another to assume others unlike you are brainwashed.

  • emily

    as i am totally otd, i’ve decided that while i do have my requisite boxes of matzah, i am not selling my chametz this year. i’d hate to decide to eat some midway through the holiday and then have to deal with the ramifications of being a thief.

  • I’m no businessman, but chametz selling is no less a sale than the majority of business deals that go on today in which no money need change hands, no product need be exchanged and there doesn’t even need to be a product in existence.

  • Online selling? Suits a gypsy like you Hesh.

  • jew

    in my neighborhood the councilman buys it.

  • Ummm the chometz selling deadline for east coast north america on chabad.org is something like 11 am no?

    In my community the shul’s janitor is the one who is buying the chometz.

  • Ra’ananInAlbany

    i remember hearing from someone in my family “fun der alter velt” (from the old country) about something that happened in Germany in the 1930’s. There had been a food shortage, and a whole town of Jews in Germany lost their pots, pans, chametz food… the Germans were looking to survive, and the Jews had food they were not eating.
    BTW, if someone came to MY house to take MY scotch, i’d be pretty pissed off. i have [relatively] expensive scotch. “Here, take my Jameson, and Cutty Sark while yo’re at it.” “What’s that? Oh, just a Lagavullin 16, you won’t like it. The Balvenie? No, it’s kinda cheap, actually…” I would be so pissed….

    • Zvi Lampert

      You might have a halachic problem if you don’t make the sale whole heartedly. A legal sale can’t take place wothout da’as (intent) of both the buyer and seller. which would render your liquor closet ‘chometz sheovar olov pesach.’

  • Moshe

    I just came back from being witness to a sale. It was a guy who works in the office of the other witness. There was a contract, deed of sale in Hebrew and English and a list of the properties he was buying. He bought the lot for 1 and it was emphasised that it was a real sale, but that it was hoped that after Pesach he would gift the stuff back. I’m Masorti, so I don’t know if that’s how it’s done everywhere.

  • hannah

    im not ffb so when i was in seminary and hear about people selling their houses… i was like HUH? till someone explained it to me lol

  • Anonymous

    a) If the goy comes in and takes a shot of whiskey (or anything else) he will have to pay for it. That’s part of the sale too (the payment requirement is merely deferred by 8 days).

    b) Re: the Chabad online contract – when you fill out the contract to give to your rabbi, there has to be a “kinyan”, where you transfer your ownership of the chametz to your rabbi. I’m no rabbi, but I don’t see how a kinyan can happen online.

    c) Selling your chametz should preferrably be done locally. But I guess “preferrably” is not the keyword here.

    • HJX

      Just as an addendum to c) –

      I heard a rumor that if you donate $18 to Va’ad Harabbanim the gedolim shlit”a will perform bedikas chametz for you at the kosel. Is this true?

    • nadav

      b) “when you fill out the contract to give to your rabbi, there has to be a kinyan, where you transfer your ownership of the chametz to your rabbi.”

      This is a common mistake. Ownership of the chometz is never transferred to the rabbi. He merely acts as your agent (shaliach) to perform the sale for you to the goy. Ownership of the chometz transfers directly from you to the goy. The form that you fill out formally gives him power of attorney (hashraa) to become your shaliach, and the kinyan sudar (raising a handkerchief or other object belonging to him) that accompanies this is there just to finalize this authorization. I think this is just a stringency and that technically you could appoint the rabbi orally as your agent to sell your chometz without signing anything. Anyways, even if this online chometz form is not the best way to do it, I am sure Chabad knows what they’re doing and that it’s ok m’ikar hadin.

  • rebel

    I do not believe in the selling of the chametz because most people do not have the intention to let the gentile in their house for a shot of scotch. How is this sale valid (in jewish terms) if you’re not really intedning to hold up your part of the agreement. The only reason the shul member opened the door for the councilman, for a shot of scotch, is that the rabbi was there. However, if a goy off the street came to your house and asked for his chametz you probably would get the cops on him. The history of selling chametz (which was a very valid sale) is much different than the one painted these days.

    • Bob

      Wow you could not be more wrong, ive seen them sell chametz and youre right in that current sale is quite different than done in past. They used at least 5 different forms of kinyan (in case youre curious: shtar, chalipin, agav, kesef and simas kaf) to tranfer ownership so that if one type doesnt work at least one will. Intent is irrelevant, we have halacha and according to those laws the chametz belongs to the goy its that simple

      • Anonymous

        >Intent is irrelevant, we have halacha and according to those laws the chametz belongs to the goy its that simple

        Not to mention U.S. law, which upholds the contract as a legitimate sale. Intent ain’t worth #$%^

        • Esther

          Intent is irrelevant – WTF?????!!! It should be the only relevant aspect. The rest is technicalities and BS to get around the laws.

          • Zvi Lampert

            The techincalities ARE the law.

          • HJX

            Esther, I don’t know why you think that intent is relevant, but it is not. A contract of sale – whether the item sold is a house, a boat, a car, or chametz – is a legally binding document. I’d like to see you go before a judge and try to void the contract based on your “intent” to not fulfill one of the clauses.

            In halacha, intent is no different in this case. D’varim Shebalev (lit. words in the heart) ainom devarim (are not words).

          • A. Nuran

            Nope. A contract’s a contract. If you sell it, he owns it and has full rights to take possession. If you called the cops and admitted you sold the chametz to him they’d say “If it’s his, it’s his. Stop wasting our time.”

            • Esther

              My point is that your actions should be governed by your intent, not by hoping to be more clever than the law you’re trying to get around based on technicalities. Basically, I agree that it is certainly easier and more convenient to sell your chametz via an online form, but isn’t the point NOT to have it in your home at all? Regardless of who owns it on paper – that’s the sort of stuff that bothers me and makes me think that folks following this logic think they’re smarter than G-d.

              • HJX

                By your reasoning, are you also opposed to the construction of an Eruv? After all, it gets around the prohibition against carrying on Shabbat. Or eruv tavshilin – which gets around the prohibition of cooking on Chag for Shabbat?

                How about pidyon haben? Shouldn’t your first-born have to live a consecrated life rather than use some technicality akin to “palm greasing” to free him of his obligations? Are you trying to be more clever than the Law?

                And don’t even get started on the laws of bittul.

                Try to see it this way – the Law is full of technicalities. The sages knew all about human fallibility and therefore added restrictions and prohibitions to guard us from transgressing the Law and all its subtleties. However, they did allow us to avail oursleves of certain “outs” whereby we avoid the Rabbinic prohibition in a way that will not cause us to transgress the Torah.

                Selling your chametz to a goy and closing off the area it is contained in is one of the ways the sages constructed to enable us to live normally and not transgress the Torah. According to the Torah only you would be allowed to own Chametz on Pesach as long as it is put away. The sages prohibited owning it as a “fence”. By selling the chametz and closing off the area you are technically compliant with the Rabbinic prohibition and fully compliant with the spirit of the Rabbinic prohibition, i.e. not transgressing the Torah prohibition.

                I hope that is helpful. If you want more insight, I’m sure any competent Rabbi would welcome your questions.

                • Esther

                  HJX – I love that you bolded the word “spirit” …if I am reading what you wrote correctly, your actions, down to the smallest technicalities, ARE governed by the SPIRIT of the law. I think its important to remember that, because being compliant with the SPIRIT of the law/prohibition/whateveryouwanttocallit is, in my eyes, infinitely more significant and important than being technically compliant. The INTENT of these laws is most certainly relevant and it IS what governs these rules and regulations. I got angry because, as someone who is not frum, I try very hard to learn more, to understand what drives people to keep being observant despite the fact that it is undoubedly difficult – and it is a serious turnoff to read comments from FRUM folks that dismiss the intent behind their own actions/the spirit that governs their actions as irrelevant.

                  Side note: I prefer to get my insights from blogs like Heshy’s rather than from a rabbi, no matter how competent. I think hearing the daily struggles and questions from people who remain observant despite that, is much more helpful than being lectured by someone who (I feel) will look down on me and the way I live. Hesh – thanks! You’ve been very helpful. I love that you’re honest, that you’re conflicted, that you contradict yourself – I think that is probably the healthiest way to approach Judaism. Its the only way I can even being to approach and absorb it. It is a breath of fresh air 🙂

                  • HJX

                    Thanks, Esther.

                    The brutal truth is that sometimes there is a “spirit” of the Law, and sometimes there is not. Sometimes conflicted Jews end up wandering to places like India to find “spirit”uality. I’ve been taught that there always is meaning in Judaism, but sometimes we just don’t understand it. Hence my comment about a competent Rabbi. I understand the value of hearing about Judaism from those “in the trenches”, but we don’t know or understand everything. You are shortchanging yourself by limiting your understanding to what a bunch of confused bloggers have to say.

  • anon

    chabad’s not the only online form to sell your hametz. i used an online form from a local rav, and he’s not the only one around my area that does it via internet.

  • Avrumy

    It’s bogus. But required.
    I am looking forward to repossessing my chametz next week.

  • Not a Sham.. here’s pictures of the transaction AND the person buying the Chometz. So if he comes knocking at your door for your Mashke, you know who to give it too 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Rabbis Selling Chometz!!!
    http://www.crownheights.info/?itemid=25411

  • I deal with Lubavitchers all the time. They use their websites to see chometz because often the members of their congregation are too far away, or are not interested enough in actually coming into the Chabad house to sell their chametz. When the people come in to the office, the rabbi sits down and does the kinyan with them as it should be done, but often that’s not possible. As well, many if not all, of these websites give the opportunity for you to make a donation for selling your chametz. Maybe that would work as the kinyan.

  • Anonymous

    Selling your chometz is a scam, but so is half of Judaism

    • Michal

      meaningful and profound, thanks for sharing

      • Levy Bernstein

        I know, right? Aren’t the best comments always left by anonymous internet trolls?

        • HJX

          What makes a commentor anonymous? Choosing a screen name doesn’t make you less anonymous. Am I anonymous? Are you?

          • Unless you link back to your personal website, twitter or facebook page you are anonymous.

            How do we know that Levy Bernstein is who he says he is?

            • I don’t care much for Facebook due to my job and I have no need for a personal web site. Twitter looks like fun, though. Thanks for that.

    • Ephraim

      Well, you’ve got the rabbis to thank for that and, according to the Talmud, God was quite happy to hand power over to them when they “defeated” him.

  • When I was religious I hated going to the rabbi because there was so much pressure to make a large donation.
    The last 2 years that I was still “practicing”, I used the chabad website because there was no pressure and I could leave a $1 donation.
    Hesh, why did you donate so much ($36)? Do you believe in the work they do?

    • Zvi Lampert

      Didn’t you see Heshy’s post about how he loves Chabad?

    • Of course I believe in the work they do – Chabad for all their wrongs, is in my opinion the single greatest Jewish Organization since there have been Jewish organizations.

      Without Chabad, the population of traditional Jews would be much lower and the rate of intermarriage would be much higher. Combine all of the other Jewish organizations together and I still think chabad has done more. Just look at what they did for soviet and persian Jews.

      If Satmar or any large chassidic group had as much publicity as chabad I guarantee you that they would receive a lot of hate, jealousy is a bitch.

  • Bubba Metzia

    A friend of mine put all of his chametz in a box and sold it to his roommate and put the box of chametz in his roommate’s room. I like that idea, it’s not just signing a contract that you’re selling it, it’s actually delivering the stuff to the person who buys it.

    • Tirtzah

      I like the sentiment but I have a family of eight. Can you imagine what I would be hauling to my chametz goy? Oh No ,I hope this dosen’t become the next necessary Lakewood thing. Could you see all of us pushing our garage freezers down the street to that one non-jewish house.

  • Back in 2006, I lived in Albany with a gentile roommate. We had our own separate sinks and dishes. When Pesach came, I drafted a piece of paper, had my roommate sign it, and stuck the said document to the refrigerator door. Dan became owner of my cereal, loaf of bread, and plates.

    Last year, I gave my chametz to my gentile neighbors, but signed the form for the sake of my chametz dishes.

    It felt simple and authentic to actually meet the gentile in person, instead of selling my chometz by proxy.

    • HJX

      I hate to rain on the parade, but your sale might be an example of why a Rabbi does the sale instead of people doing their own. Having a gentile roomate who owns chametz might be a problem of Chametz shel Accum b’Rshuscha (the goy’s chametz in your possession) depending on the structure of your lease agreement.

      No doubt you will defend what you did to the death, and I’m not here to argue that. I merely want to point out that what you think of as “authentic” might not be the same as “legitimate” from a Torah POV.

    • HJX

      Plus, if you sold your dishes to the goy you need to Tovel them after you buy them back. That’s why Rabbis won’t sell your dishes but instead will sell “any chametz stck to the dishes” (or in the case of the more Modern rabbis, not sell anything at all and simply tell you to be mevatel the chametz stuck on the dishes).

      • tesyaa

        Ooh, if I were a non-Jew I’d really really want to buy chametz stuck on someone’s pots. I might even go over on Pesach to get it, or refuse to sell it back. In fact, I wouldn’t just want what’s stuck on, I would want what’s dissolved and absorbed into the metal. It’s my favorite!

        • HJX

          LOL. I’ll make a note of that and remember to overcharge you just in case.

          If you peel your grapes for Pesach, you probably sell your sticky-plate-crumbs.

          If you’re like everybody else, you are simply mevatel it (as it is completely worthless).

  • Puzzled

    You know, I tend to think that spiritual/religious things ought to have meaning. Yes, I know the halachic arguments, my point is to question them, and the typical response simply explaining the halacha is not a valid response.

    That said, I do have to say, my biggest problem is not with someone going crazy and driving everyone around him crazy about the danger of a carrot having once touched something that might be bread, or the horror of matzoh dust on a table where seltzer is served, while having a cabinet full of things he “sold.” My biggest problem is someone doing all the above while making racist or violent remarks about other ethnic groups, behaving rudely to store clerks…

  • Zvi Lampert

    “doing all the above while making racist or violent remarks about other ethnic groups, behaving rudely to store clerks”

    Are you stereo typing frum people? Because I find that equally offensive an bigoted.

    What a cheap shot.

  • nadav

    “Then I go online 2 hours before Pesach and sell my chometz on an online form”

    I assume you mean 2 hours before the burning chometz time, which in SF was at 12:00:08 noon (or 12:12:08 according to the Gra, Baal haTanya). Because if you sold it afterwards the sale was useless and you cannot enjoy those energy bars after Pesach. (And you should do biur to them now).

  • notexactlyjewish

    I would buy the Chometz 🙂

  • MissM

    I just find the whole thing confusing… but then I am in a perpetually confused state of mind since I moved into a frum area from an area where there were only a few other Jewish people that I never even stumbled across…

    Feel like I feel like the outsider whereever I am lol…

    Owch!

    Btw I enjoyed reading this blog, and the comments, stumbled aross it quite accidentally

    best wishes

    MissM in UK

  • Some goy

    What a sick religion. Aside from the absurdity of having multiple derogatory names for non-Jews, you come up with these elaborate schemes to avoid complying with your own retarded religious edicts, schemes which require the participation of the previously-derided goys.

    The one documented time in recent history that a non-Jew actually, physically takes the stuff he’s forced to buy, it’s such an affront to Jews that it becomes a news story in Israel and the U.S., and Jewish message boards light up with old stories about the dangers of unclean Gentiles supposedly swindling the good Jewish people out of their chametz.

    Just in case it’s not clear to you guys: NO ONE wants to buy the contents of your pantry and your old bottle of whiskey. The derided “goys” do it because many of them genuinely want to get along and respect your religion, and you reward their kindness by viewing them as scum who you deal with only reluctantly. Maybe you ought to really think about that, and how you would feel if you were on the other side of the arrangement.