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Shabbat Parashat Metzora| 5766
Ask the Rabbi
[If you want to see our Q&A on the issues of eating on the upcoming, interesting Shabbat Hagadol, see our website for next Shabbat, which we will try to post early.]
Question: When do we burn or otherwise get rid of the chametz before Pesach this year, when Erev Pesach falls on Shabbat? How does this situation affect mechirat (sale of) chametz?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 444:2) writes: “It is good to eliminate [chametz] on Erev Shabbat before midday [apparently an hour before midday- Mishna Berura 444:9] so that people do not come to make a mistake in other years to eliminate the chametz after midday.” Despite this, one may leave the amount of chametz that he plans to eat through the [early] Shabbat morning meal (Shulchan Aruch, ibid.:1). This “halachic request” is not an absolute halacha and should not create a situation whereby, due to haste, one might miss some chametz.
The question of mechirat chametz is more complicated, and there are different possibilities and practices. The individual follows the system the local rabbinate is using. However, it is worthwhile to understand the issue, not only for the sake of limud Torah, but also to act appropriately in accordance with the local practice’s particulars.
Acharonim discuss whether the desire to follow the time frame of regular years applies also to mechirat chametz. Is selling the chametz an accepted form of eliminating it, in which case it should be done at the regular time? Or is it a use of the chametz (as if one did so for profit), which one can continue to do as long as he can benefit from it? (See Maharam Shick, OC 205.) According to the stringent approach, the rabbi should carry out the sale to the non-Jew on behalf of his congregation during the latter part of Friday morning. However, stringency sometimes causes more halachic problems than it solves. Those who continue during the afternoon to deal with their chametz (e.g. stores) and those who decide to add chametz to that which is to be sold, which they had previously not expected to sell, will unknowingly miss the sale for those chametz products. Therefore, most rabbanim will not rely on only an early sale, and, if they want to be machmir, will add a later one to cover last minute issues that the first one missed.
There is a further question as to how late is late. Some say that when doing the sale on Friday, the rav can stipulate with the seller, orally and in the document, that the sale will take effect soon before the time that chametz becomes forbidden in benefit- on Shabbat. This can conceivably be done in one of two ways. The sale can take effect on delay to Shabbat morning. It may also be possible to have it take effect at the time of the transaction on Erev Shabbat,but the items to be included in the sale will be determined retroactively according to what remains in the seller’s possession on Shabbat. Either way, one cannot include chametz that he did not own when the acts of transactions took place [see P’ninat Mishpat]. The prospect that the transaction will take hold on Shabbat is controversial, even if he is inactive on Shabbat, because R. Akiva Eiger (Shut 159) and others say that it is a violation of the prohibition of commerce on Shabbat.
Rabbanim who do not want the sale to be completed on Shabbat can have it take effect soon before Shabbat. This can be done in one of two ways. It can be done on a time delay, in which case the rabbi can pick a time that is very close to Shabbat. If he is concerned that this type of sale might not be able to be done on a delay, he can actually do the transaction as close to Shabbat as feasible. In these cases, the chametz owner must be aware by what time he must decide whether he is selling a chametz foodor keeping it for Shabbat, as he cannot add it in later.
Let us reiterate that the local rabbinate will be the one to choose, based on halachic and/or practical considerations, which system to use. [We hope our readers will understand and implement the basic nuances of the system used in their location. See also P’ninat Mishpat.]
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