Shabbat Parashat Tzav| 5765
Ask the Rabbi
Question: Where does one who is traveling for Pesach sell his chametz?
Answer: All things being equal, it is better to sell chametz in the place where the chametz is found, because it makes it possible for the non-Jew who buys it go claim that chametz. Despite the fact (or, possibly, because of the fact) that the sale is somewhat unrealistic from a commercial perspective, it is proper to make it as practical as we can.
However, other factors are involved. If one is traveling significantly to the east (for example, from New York to Israel) then there is a problem to sell one’s NY chametz in NY. The laws of Pesach and other time-based mitzvot are determined by the halachic time at the place where one is at a given time, irrespective of his place of origin. When the time to destroy chametz and the time it is prohibited to possess it occur in Israel, the laws apply to all chametz that one owns, including that in his NY home. Furthermore, once the 6th hour of Erev Pesach comes, the chametz becomes forbidden in benefit and, as a result, halachically impossible to sell (see Pesachim 6b). When that takes place in Israel, it is still the previous night in NY and most chametz has not yet been sold. Therefore, the sale has to be done in Israel at the right time for the person, even though his chametz is in a place where it would not yet seem to be problematic.
One can solve the problem by approaching a NY rabbi who carries out two sales, the earlier one being called a mechirat yud gimmel. This early sale, done before the time of bedikat chametz (searching for chametz), is primarily intended to exempt those who will be away for all of Pesach from checking their house (see Mishna Berura 436:32). By selling their chametz and renting out their house at that time, the obligation to check the house never starts. This sale also solves the timing issue for our Israel-bound traveler, as it precedes Pesach morning in Israel.
Someone traveling west who leaves chametz in Israel has fewer problems getting rid of his chametz before Pesach. If he sells in Israel, he is covered time-wise. (It is preferable but probably not absolutely necessary to inform the rav as to who will have access to his apartment should the non-Jew want to claim his chametz on Pesach.) Regarding the possibility of selling “Israeli chametz” in NY, the matter is more complicated, as follows. Assuming the sale takes place after it is already too late in Israel, we must decide how to look at chametz in a place wheretheprohibitions applythat is owned by one for whom the 6th hour of the day before Pesach has not yet arrived. It is agreed that a person violates the prohibition of possessing chametz only if he himself is in a place where the prohibition applies. However, Igrot Moshe (OC IV, 94) says that we also have to be stringent not to allow chametz to be in Jewish hands when chametz in its place is forbidden, even if, for the owner, there is still time. (He bases this on a precedent that the laws of isur hana’ah and chametz sheavar alav hapesach apply even in cases where there is no personal liability.) Although Rav Moshe presented his position tentatively and the majority opinion that argues on him seems logical, it is hard to discount his opinion (see Mechirat Chametz K’hilchato 3: 14-17). (An early sale in NY could solve this problem, as well.)
The problem of a westward bound traveler selling in Israel is the re-purchase after Pesach. (According to Rav Moshe, the problem exists for one selling NY chametz whilein Israel.)When the rav buys back the chametz after Pesach in Israel, it is still Pesach for the owner in NY. The seller should inform the rav that he will be abroad and the re-purchase should not apply to his chametz until after Pesach is over for him. If the seller forgets to tell the rav and cannot reach him, he should declare that he cancels the rav’s authority to buy back his chametz until later.
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