Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Sale of Chometz by Nonobservant Jews

From Yated Ne'eman (link):

HaRav Eliashiv told us that the sale of chometz by a nonobservant Jew who signed on the commonly-used document empowering an agent to sell his chometz for him to a non-Jew, cannot be relied upon. Such a document has no validity whatsoever and is worth no more than the paper on which it is printed. The chometz must be regarded as having remained the Jew's property over Pesach and its consumption or any other form of benefit is forbidden. The proof that there has been no sale is that if the buyer wanted to actualize the transaction, the nonobservant seller would object that he only signed the document for religious purposes, not to be carried out. The document must therefore be written in a way that makes it legally binding. When the signatory knows that its terms can be enforced legally, the transaction can be regarded as valid...

After discussions with a number of legal experts, four paragraphs were added to the standard document which establish that any further discussion of the transaction will be conducted before beis din only, and that the seller is aware at the time of signing that beis din will not accept the argument that he only signed for religious purposes. In addition, he forgoes the right to claim that the document is "merely for religious purposes." This renders his signature binding, thereby giving it halachic validity as well.

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