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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