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Shabbat Parashat Tzav 5783

Ask the Rabbi: Mechirat Chametz and Tevillat Keilim

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: I never do tevillat keilim after Pesach on keilim I sell. Can that be justified?


Answer: Your excellent question has been bothering Acharonim for centuries. If one follows the apparent consequences of mechirat chametz, the relevant keilim should require tevilla because when a Jew sells a kli to a non-Jew and buys it back, it needs tevilla (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 120:11). The determinant, regarding both stringency and leniency, is non-Jewish ownership, not his physical contact with the kli (ibid. 10-11). In fact, we take significant steps to ensure the chametz is halachically sold to the non-Jew (see Mishna Berura 448:12).  

So maybe we should just do tevilla? While a handful of people do such a tevilla (it would be without a beracha – Yabia Omer VI, YD 11), the very broad minhag is not to do tevilla. The need for leniency is clear. If one sells all of his chametzdik keilim, it is a lot of work; if he sells just those it is hard to clean, the daunting problem is that a kli must be without chatzitzot for the tevilla to work (Shulchan Aruch, YD 202).

What is the mechanism for leniency? The straightforward approach is to not sell keilim that require tevilla. One does not need to sell a clean chametzdik utensil, as the prohibitions to possess chametz (= bal yeira’eh …) and the resulting chametz she’avar alav haPesach (=chshahp) apply only to chametz that is b’en (roughly, intact), not that which is absorbed in a kli (Pesachim 30a; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 451:1). Any mechirat chametz contract that refers to selling particles that are absorbed in keilim is employing extreme chumra, and it is far from clear one can even sell them (see Mishpat Hamechira II:4:4).

A more reasonable problem relates chametz that is b’en but is difficult to remove (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 442:11), which can be the subject of bal yeira’eh. Some recommend selling only the stuck-on chametz without the kli (Shut Chatam Sofer I:109). The problem is that it is questionable if and how one can sell something while it is in the seller’s utensil (see Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 200:5). Therefore, some require to sell the keilim also (Ben Ish Chai I, Tzav 9). There are two alternatives to selling these keilim: 1. Rent out the keilim to the non-Jewish buyer, while selling the chametz stuck to them, which many say solves the acquisition problem (see Mishpat Hamechira ibid.). 2. Make sure the remaining chametz is totally inedible (see Shulchan Aruch, OC ibid.).

One who wants to avoid selling keilim must check the mechirat chametz text he is signing. Some are very broad, and include even chametz and keilim one does not realize he is selling. You can shop around for a less inclusive text or specify in your personal form that you are selling only things you put in the assigned places. If you do that, you will have chshahp problems if you failed to put in its place something that needed to be sold (see Living the Halachic Process III:D-20). (It is unclear to what extent one can rely on selling chametz one did not know about; the classic mechanism for such items is bitul chametz (see Pesachim 4b, 6b).)

There are poskim who approve of selling chametzdik keilim and not doing tevillat keilim. Haelef Lecha Shlomo (YD 193) says that mechirat chametz, as a “deception,” is only effective enough for the chametz because we have bitul chametz as a fallback and not valid enough a sale to require tevilla for the keilim. The Aruch Hashulchan (YD 120:52) takes the same basic approach, that we do not need a full sale, but explains that even to the extent the non-Jewish buyer owns the keilim, it does not require tevilla because “the name of the non-Jew is not upon it.” These ideas are plausible but their weakness is self-evident (see Mishpat Hamechira ibid.)

I personally prefer limiting the scope of mechirat chametz to what is needed, as extreme chametz chumra creates the need to rely on unusual tevillat keilim kula. However, one may simply follow his rabbi’s mechirat chametz system and not do tevillat keilim thereafter.
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