What Is the Sale of Chametz, and Why Do We Do It?

On the holiday of Passover, we are commanded not to have any chametz in our possession. Any food that is made out of grain that has been allowed to rise (ferment) is chametz. Common chametz items include bread, cakes, breakfast cereals, pastas, many liquors and more. Any chametz that was in the possession of a Jew during Passover is forbidden, even after Passover ends. This applies even if the chametz is locked up and out of sight.

So what is someone to do if they want to hold on to their prized Scotch collection or freezer full of challah?

The solution (as explained in the Code of Jewish Law, O.C. 448) is the “Sale of Chametz,” in which the food is sold to a non-Jew before Passover. After the holiday, the non-Jew sells it back, and it can once again be enjoyed.


Is the online sale as legitimate as going to the rabbi in person to fill out a form?

Leading halachic authorities have ruled that online authorizations are acceptable for the purpose of selling chametz. You are authorizing the rabbi to sell your chametz on your behalf. The rabbi (or his designee) conducts the sale of chametz in person with the non-Jew. Multiple methods of transaction are used to make certain beyond any doubt that the chametz is sold. The traditional and preferred practice, however, is for the authorization transaction to be done in person with the local rabbi.


By what time does the sale have to be performed?

Passover begins on the eve of the 15th of Nissan, but the prohibition of owning chametz begins at the end of “5th halachic hour” on the morning before Passover (the 14th of Nissan). The halachic hours are determined by dividing the time from sunrise to sunset into 12 equal parts. So all chametz in your possession must be sold (or destroyed) by the time 5/12ths of the day (sunrise to sunset) have passed on the 14th of Nissan. This year the sale of chometz must be completed by Monday, April 22, 11:36 AM. However, if you are selling chometz through our online system please submit your form by Thursday, April 18, 7 pm.  Selling chametz takes time. The rabbi needs to make sure that the sale is all wrapped up by the time the fifth hour ends. Closing the form in advance ensures that the rabbi has enough time to collect all the data, and sell the chametz well before the prohibition to own chametz takes effect.