Thursday, April 24, 2008

Surprising areas of strength

Picture this, if you can imagine it: One of my co-workers is telling me that her landlord sold her chametz, and I'm telling her, in no uncertain terms, that, no matter where her chametz is stored, if her landlord didn't pay for it, he doesn't own it, and is not authorized to sell it unless she specifically makes him her agent for the sale! I, a Conservative Jew who never went to yeshiva a day in her life, am arguing a major point of halachah (Jewish religious law) with an Orthodox yeshiva graduate who has a Bachelor of Hebrew Letters degree! My husband agrees with me, by the way. How can anyone legally sell anything that doesn't legally belong to them unless the owner authorizes the sale? If I'm wrong, please let me know. [Update: I e-mailed the link to this post to the folks on my e-mail contacts "G-d Squad" list--rabbis and rabbinical students--as well as to the lawyers in my e-mail contacts list. Thanks to rabbinical-student Steg for posting the first comment.]

More weirdness: I've noticed recently that people whose Hebrew I expect to be better than mine make mistakes in liturgical Hebrew that I myself don't make. I've heard people tripping over the psalms and prayers in the part of the Haggadah that comes after the meal, saying "bashar" instead of "basar" in Ashrei (mostly Psalm 145, with a few additions at the beginning and end), "im habanim s'meichah" instead of "eim habanim s'meichah" in Psalm 113 (the first psalm in Hallel), "alei ashor" instead of "alei asor" in Mizmor Shir l'Yom HaShabbat (Psalm 92). Some of these people got a better Hebrew education that I did; some are even yeshivah grads; some have been my role models for decades! The only explanation I can come up with is that my recent round of Ulpan Hebrew studies combined with roughly a year of davvening three times every day (well, almost every day) has improved my ability to read Hebrew text that's included in the various services, though not my ability to read a Hebrew text that I don't already know.


Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

you can't sell someone else's hhameitz unless you've gotten their permission to do so.

Fri Apr 25, 01:43:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

That's what I thought. Thanks for the confirmation.

Fri Apr 25, 10:44:00 AM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In order to fulfill the obligation of having no h.ametz in one's possession, one must legitimately not be the owner of any h.ametz. The simple (and preferred) way to do this is to use it up or give it away. To avoid a significant financial loss, we are granted the leniency of selling h.ametz which would be costly to give away and then replace after Pesach.

To be effective, this MUST be a legitmate sale. The seller must have the intention of permanently transferring ownership to the buyer. There must be a contract, and there must be a minimal deposit on the sale price. While the contract may allow for buy-back after Pesach, it should not make this a condition of the purchase. Of course, both parties must enter into the agreement knowingly and willfully.

Fri Apr 25, 11:11:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I heard of a situation in which a rabbi who had acted as agent for the sale of chametz somehow never got around to buying it back. (His congregants didn't find out about this until years later.) Is the sale halachically valid if the agent fails to buy back the chametz?

Sun Apr 27, 11:36:00 PM 2008  

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