Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Chametz She'avar Alav Hapesach

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

One is forbidden to eat or even benefit from any chametz which was in the possession of a Jew over the course of Pesach.[1] Chametz which was under Jewish ownership over Pesach is referred to as "chametz she'avar alav hapesach" and is forbidden to all Jews, forever.[2] The prohibition of making use of chametz she'avar alav hapesach is a rabbinically imposed penalty for having violated the Torah prohibition of owning chametz during Pesach. [3] It is for this reason (among others) that one should be sure to arrange a mechirat chametz before Pesach. Mechirat chametz is the process whereby one sells all of one's chametz to a non-Jew in order that one not violate the prohibition of owning Chametz over Pesach. In this way, one's chametz becomes permissible once more at the conclusion of Pesach when it is "bought back" from the non-Jew. Even if one had performed the required bitul chametz, nullification of chametz, but had neglected to perform the mechirat chametz – one's chametz may still be forbidden after Pesach.[4]

Click here to read moreSo severe is chametz she'avar alav hapesach that even if one accidentally left chametz in one's ownership or for reasons beyond one's control, such chametz remains forbidden forever, as well.[5] In fact, even chametz which was discovered long after Pesach which was not found during the bedikat chametz may be in this category as well.[6] Cooking utensils and dishes which were used with foods categorized as chametz she'avar alav hapesach must be kashered.[7] Those items which one is only forbidden to own over Pesach by rabbinic decree due to even minimal chametz content are not subject to the restrictions of chametz she'avar alav hapesach.[8] So too, inedible products containing chametz such as make-up, perfumes, shampoos, and cleaning products are not subject to chametz she'avar alav hapesach, either.[9]

If one is unsure whether or not a particular food item is subject to the rules of chametz she'avar alav hapesach one is permitted to derive benefit from the item, though it is forbidden to eat it.[10] In the event, however, that not being able to eat these items will cause one significant financial loss, then they may be eaten, as well.[11] One who was unaware of the prohibition, such as one who is newly observant, is not subject to any penalty.[12] One should not hesitate after Pesach to eat foods which although certified kosher for Pesach, one would not eat on Pesach itself due to a preference for stricter kosher standards over Pesach.[13]

The members of a charity, such as a food distribution center or a soup kitchen, who forgot to sell the organization's chametz before Pesach are permitted to make use of the chametz after Pesach, and such food does not fall under the category of chametz she'avar alav hapesach. This is because there is no single owner of such foods, but merely an appointed committee for its distribution.[14] When one buys chametz products from Jewish owned stores and supermarkets after Pesach one is required to ensure that the owner had sold his chametz before Pesach in a mechirat chametz, as required. One should wait at least thirty days following Pesach before purchasing chametz in Jewish owned establishments which may have not performed mechirat chametz in order to ensure that new stock has replaced old stock which may have been in the owner's possession over Pesach.

Next Week: What You Thought You Knew About Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, zy"a


[1] Pesachim 28a, O.C. 448:3, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 114:13
[2] Pri Chadash O.C. 448:3, though there is a minority view that chametz she'avar alav hapesach is only forbidden to the actual owner of the chametz. Rabbeinu Manoach;Chametz U'matza 1:5
[3] Rambam Chametz U'matza 1:4
[4] O.C. 448:5, Biur Halacha 448
[5] Rambam Chametz U’Matza 1:4
[6] Mishna Berura 448:25
[7] Piskei Teshuvot 448:4
[8] Shulchan Aruch Harav 442:13, Mishna Berura 447:101
[9] O.C. 447:12, Magen Avraham O.C. 447: 46
[10] Magen Avraham 449:2
[11] Shulchan Aruch Harav 448:30
[12] Rivevot Ephraim 5:312
[13] Sharaga Hameir 8:51:1
[14] Piskei Teshuvot 448:1

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