New York – Mechiras Chometz Through Cyberspace: A Halachic Analysis

    33

    New York – Chabad.org, a Lubavitch website, is offering Jews worldwide the opportunity to sell their chometz online. They advertise that it takes less than one minute to delegate a Rabbi to sell your chometz, by filling out a simple form specifying name, address, location of chometz. For those located in Eretz Yisroel, there is even a box to check off indicating if they are keeping Pesach for seven or eight days.

    Chabad.org began providing this service online ten years ago. Last year alone, 25,000 people availed themselves of this service. The process is overseen by Rabbi Yosef landa, Chairman of the St. Louis Rabbinical Council. The question is, however, is such an arrangement permitted according to halacha? And if indeed it is permitted – is it ideal?

    Rav Gavriel Zinner in Chapter 45 of Nitei Gavriel Hilchos Pesach Vol. ! cites the Sefer Tcheiles Mordechai #96 (By the Maharsham apparently in the Shabbos HaGadol Drasha section) that an effective Kinyan is required to effect the Shlichus – messengership of the Rabbi to make the sale. The note states that Dibbur – speaking it out is not enough. He does rule, however, that if he is in a distant place he may indeed appoint a Shliach through a letter or by telephone or in some similar manner.

    One might infer from this that it is best to avoid conducting such a transaction by telephone or by the internet. However, it is clear from the Shulchan Aruch (CM 182:1) and the Vilna Gaon that there is, in fact, no need whatsoever to make a Kinyan when appointing a Shliach. This is also clear from the Gemorah in Bava Metziah 98b. This applies to all cases of sales as well. There is also no need for witnesses either. The Ramah explains that a Dibbur, a statement is enough, as all that is required is Gilui Daas, a revelation that this is the desire of the owner.

    The Minhag, however, has always been to sign the shtar harshaah for the Rabbi, appointing him as a Shliach. We see this in the responsa of the Tzemach Tzedek OC 46. Perhaps the reason for this Minhag is so that the gentile purchasing the Chometz from the Rabbi will have the correct smichas daas to ensure that it is a valid sale, since many question the entire process and label it haarama. The Rambam (laws of Mechira 5:13) is suggestive of such an understanding. He writes there that there are things that do not require a Kinyan, but people do so anyway to indicate that they are not joking but that there is real gmiras daas.

    Another possibility is that when selling Chometz that is not yet extant, an appointment of a Shliach may not be enough, and a Poel, a worker of the owner, may be preferable. Some of the people’s Chometz is a davar shelo ba leolam if they are to purchase new chometz that they will sell and the oral permission may not be sufficient for this. The concept of yad poel keyad baal habayis though may address this issue too. So a kinyan may make the Rabbi an employee rather than a mere messenger. Not everyone would necessarily agree to this understanding, however. And many people do not conceive of an employee relationship being developed with the maaseh Kinyan.

    All this discussion deals with orally agreeing – we are discussing, however a case of performing the appointment of the messenger on the internet. Although a transaction on the internet is questionable in terms of Jewish (and gentile) contract law – it actually addresses the issues brought up here better than a mere oral statement. In terms of the Rambam’s explanation, the issue of not joking and having Gmiras daas is certainly addressed. The process on the internet, does not seem to constitute a form of kinyan, though.

    All this is in terms of the actual halacha as to whether it may be done by internet or phone. There is another issue, however. It is a tradition in Judaism to sell one’s Chometz through the Rav of the community. This is, in fact, part of the traditional means of compensating the Rabbi for all that he does throughout the year. In the past few years, we have witnessed a dramatic proliferation of Rabbis who are “opening up shop” just for Mechiras Chometz. While there is nothing wrong with multiple sales of Chometz through a number of Rabbis (See Minchas Yitzchok VI #38 – who encourages the practice) – the sale of Chometz through the internet or by phone should not replace the Shlichus money given to one’s regular Rav for all that he does.

    There is no question that the service provided by Chabad.org is wonderful. And the intent certainly constitutes a tremendous service for Klal Yisroel as well as an educational tool. Indeed, Rabbi Motti Seligson of chabad.org explained to VINNEWS that giving people a quick, simple way to sell their chometz transforms the concept of mechiras chometz from something theoretical to something that is practical and easy to do. It is especially relieving to those whose schedules are so busy that they just cannot get to their regular Rav. Rabbi Seligson further explained that, “The idea is to make Judaism more than just an ancient tradition, but something that is accessible, contemporary and meaningful.”

    However, if one normally has a Rav who one deals with on a regular basis – then the internet sale should be done in addition to the sale of one’s regular Rav and not instead of it – or the regular Rav should be given a gift equivalent to what the Chometz owner usually gives him each year. Rav Moshe Feinstein, in a responsa to the president of a shul in Oceanside, states that in those communities where it is done the obligation to shake hands with the Rav after one receives an Aliyah is part of the Kavod that is part and parcel of the Rav’s salary. Mechiras Chometz schar is no different. There are many Rabbis, both Lubavitch and others who rely on the yearly income of selling Chometz to support their fine work. So let us keep this in mind.

    May we all have a Chag Kasher veSameach!

    The author may be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

    Follow VosIzNeias For Breaking News Updates



    Entertaining Videos and Delicious Recipes on Kosher.com



    33 COMMENTS

    1. “it should be done in addition to the sale of one’s regular Rav”
      You can’t sell it twice!
      If you sell it again, either it means that you didn’t really mean it the first time thus invalidating the first sale or if you did mean it, the second sale is invalid because it’s not yours to sell.

    2. So basically you’re saying selling through the internet is okay, but we should still sell to a rav so he can make money?!

      Do you think that is really how halacha works?!

      • Yes. The importance of preserving another’s Parnosah is a well established Halachah. Its relationship to Mechiras Chametz, however, is just coincidental.

      • “The process on the internet, does not seem to constitute a form of kinyan, though.”

        I think that is far from obvious. Products and services are purchased all the time over the internet through exactly the same types of forms as are used here for Mechiras Chametz, and without the possibility of refund. And legally electronic “signatures” (which can just consist of clicking a button) are fully enforceable (in the US anyway).

        (The above could also be argued – in practice no one makes a million dollar contract this way due to the uncertainty and the lack of strong case law).

        So if a kinyan consists of what the minhag of the place is, this may qualify (at least it is certainly a discussion on its own) although it is not picking up the Gartel or pen at the time you sign with the Rov, which is a Halachicly universal Kinyan, but it may be a good Kinyan anyway.

    3. It is like a tip. We can’t ignore our Rebbeim and our Kli Kodesh. Yes, that is how halacha works. They say that this is one kosher way of a Rav making money – as a sales agent.

    4. Dear #3,
      He has chosen to give his life to learning and answering our shailos. We should support him. Why do you have a problem with that? Take a look at the sefer hachinuch on the matanos of leviim. We need such people around. What is wrong with giving our local rabbonim money?

      • Once apon a time there was a shtetel rav who relied on this money to survive.

        Today a large number of hired rabbanim are making 6 figure salaries and live a higher standard of living than most of their congregants.

        I don’t see why in such cases we need to continue to donate to them personally at every twist and turn when they are making more than we are!

          • “Reply to #5 Show Quote
            Anonymous Says:
            “ Dear #3,
            He has chosen to give his life to learning and answering our shailos. We should support him. Why do you have a problem with that? Take a look at the sefer hachinuch on the matanos of leviim. We need such people around. What is wrong with giving our local rabbonim money? ”

            Once apon a time there was a shtetel rav who relied on this money to survive.

            Today a large number of hired rabbanim are making 6 figure salaries and live a higher standard of living than most of their congregants.

            I don’t see why in such cases we need to continue to donate to them personally at every twist and turn when they are making more than we are!”

            Two issues are raised :
            how much are Rabboniom etc being paid is it more than schar battala-for many it probably is.
            There are Rabbonim who REFUSE to accept anything for being the agent for selling chametz-a minority and BTW-the examples I can think of were not poor but far from the wealthiest Rabbonim.

    5. I personally know Horav Landa and he is a great and mighty Talmid Chacom. I’m sure he has well investigated this issue and he is a Posek and Gadol in his own right! Iunderstand that the local Rav relies on some income via the kinyan so let it be……..

      • I agree, I believe the on-line site was set up to try to encourage those who wouldn’t sell otherwise that they should and it’s as simple as one minute on line.

    6. There are some opinions that the reason for paying the rabbi is in order to “Hire” the rabbi to sell for you, in this way he is an even more halachicly affective shaliach.

      • I don’t mind in the case of underpaid rabbanim, but why do people think we need to constantly “tip” rabbanim who are making much more than we are?!

        What happened to the huge membership, Rosh Hashana, and aliya charges that pay his enlarged salary so he can drive a nice car and visit Israel with his family several times a year?!

    7. Just Sold my chametz through Chabad.org – great service and very convenient! Much better than waiting on a long line in shul. (Don’t worry, I also gave chabad a donation)

    8. Dear 24, I guess you didn’t read. halacha states the exact opposite of what you are saying. It is right here in this article in English. Look it up in Choshen Mishpat 182:1. It is right there. How much clearer and more explicit can someone be??

    9. Appointing a shaliach does not require a kinyan. The shaliach then does the kinyan halachically.
      The only problem being that we are not using the local rabbi .

    10. you can tell that the guy who wrote this is not a Lubavitcher. he missed the whole poiint of Chabad.org and selling Chomtz, its not meant for the guy living in Boro Park or Crown Heights or any other Frum Area where they have a Rabbi or they are in touch with a Rov, its made for ppl who dont know a Rabbi or who wouldnt bother going to one to sell their Chometz, and now they can and will.

      its not here to give you the easy way out!!

    LEAVE A REPLY

    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here