Goy in Jerusalem Runs Off with Hametz at Start of Passover

three bottles of scotchUpdate: Goy Returns Hametz
This amazing story appeared in the Haredi website, Kikar Hashabbat.

There is a long-standing custom to sell hametz, the leavened foods forbidden during the Passover holiday. According to the Torah, one can’t own any hametz during the week of the holiday. But because food businesses would suffer a great loss from disposing of so much of their stock, the rabbis developed a means of selling the hametz to a goy (non-Jew) to avoid the issue. Many rabbis permit individuals to sell theirs as well.

Usually the Jew empowers the rabbi to sell the hametz on his behalf. The non-Jew makes a down payment and agrees to delay transfer of the goods until after the holiday, when the contract is canceled. Many people are uncomfortable with this fiction, and with the idea of cleaning the house so carefully only to have the hametz in a closed cabinet nearby.

So on Shabbat, leader of the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in Jerusalem Rabbi Simcha Rabinovich announced a hiddur mitzvah (enhancement of the commandment). He told his followers that he would be setting aside a room in the Beit Midrash (synagogue/study hall) for storing hametz. But instead of selling it, he explained that it was preferable to give it as a gift. He explained that if the goy didn’t use it, the Jews could get the hametz back after the holiday.

But the community was in for a surprise. At the beginning of the holiday, the non-Jew decided to exercise his rights. He arrived in a car (probably just before the streets were closed off) and collected tens of thousands of shekels worth of goods. Valuables included expensive liquors and a stroller that one unfortunate family didn’t have a chance to clean before the holiday.

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Comments

  1. Wow!

  2. It was his according to the Halacha.

  3. Shame on the rabbi. He sounds arrogant… either that or just very naive?

    I cringe at the use the word, “Goy”, in reference to non-Jews. I know that it’s not meant to offend but my non-Jewish family are VERY insulted by the word, “Goy”.

  4. If the rabbi had prepared the contract correctly, then the goy would not have the right to the stroller, as he is only entitled to the chametz on it or stuck to it. But, the liquors shouldn’t be a surprise!

  5. Ms. Krieger says:

    Ouch.

    This story explains why the tradition in my shul growing up was for the firstborn to all attend beit midrash the morning of the fast before Pesach, complete (or listen to someone complete, and then teach) a portion of Talmud…and then all go and have shots of whatever lovely grain-based libation were left in the synagogue kitchen. I suspect some of the alter kakers brough better quality liquor from their own stock that they just couldn’t bear see go to waste… 😉

  6. To quote my husband, “There’s a reason why this method isn’t in popular use already.”

    In fact, had the whole thing worked, they would have had another problem – who’s to say the items you were mafkir to the machsan are only to be reacquired by YOU? First come first served on the blue label….

  7. The best ending to this story would be if, now that Pesach is over, he drives back up to this bet midrash and returns all the chametz, having decided he didn’t want it after all.

    But re. the stroller – it doesn’t take 5 mintues to vacuum it quickly, or turn it upside down outside to get rid of any chametz. Or just put away in a cupboard you’re not going to use – that’s why you mevattel the chametz you haven’t removed. So you can not have to worry about things like that.

  8. I feel terrible for everyone affected, but I can’t help laughing–because the college friend I used to sell my chametz to always asked about that–“Well, what if I don’t want to sell it back? What if I just keep it?”

  9. Balabusta – that’s why the price should be close to the value of the chametz. If the goy refuses to sell it back, they have to pay for it so it’s a wash.

  10. sorry, but it serves them right! sounds to me like it wasn’t a hiddur mizvah at all. but something to to get around seelling the chamatz.

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