Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The blind leading the blind :(

When the chazzan/cantor of our local Conservative synagogue announced that he be would our synagogue's agent for mechirat (the sale of) chametz this year, I asked him, point-blank, whether he was sure that he knew how to do a chametz sale correctly. He protested that he'd certainly seen this done enough times, but I insisted that he consult a rabbi. To be honest, I would vastly have preferred to appoint the rabbi of my "kaddish-minyan's" synagogue as our agent for mechirat chametz, but I was concerned that I might offend our cantor even more than I had already offended him and risk creating friction between him and my husband (our shul's "acting rabbi," for lack of a better description).

Fast-forward about a week.

As I was completing the contract authorizing the cantor to be our agent for mechirat chametz, and after hearing his assurance that he'd consulted two rabbis, I asked him when the contract would become effective. What I wanted to know was the last hour and minute that we would be permitted to eat chametz. Apparently, I didn't phrase my question clearly enough. (In retrospect, I should have consulted a calendar and/or a Jewish website, instead of asking that question. I just got the answer from MyZmanin.com.) But his answer still came as a most unpleasant surprise.

"The contract becomes effective immediately."


I looked at him as if he had two heads.

"It can't become effective immediately! If it did, [our synagogue's senior Shabbos Goy] would already own our chametz and we wouldn't be allowed to eat it!"

[For the record, I said this in the presence of the senior Shabbos Goy, who probably found this a most informative conversation.]

The cantor went to an Orthodox Jewish day school of outstanding reputation. I went to an afterschool-and-Sunday-morning Hebrew School run by a Conservative synagogue. How did it come to pass that I understand this and he doesn't? Um, logic scores one over education?


Blogger Miami Al said...

You don't learn how to conduct a Rabbinic sale of Chometz in a K-12 school, any more than you learn US Contract law.

If you are concerned, use Chabad to sell your Chometz, they have an online form.

Chabad: Sell Your Chometz Online

Tue Mar 27, 03:15:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Good point, Miami Al.

On the other hand, doesn't it stand to reason that the sale *can't* be effective until the hour at which possession of chametz by a Jew is forbidden? How could we munch our way through the rest of our leftover hamantashen and cookies before Pesach if the Shabbos Goy already owned them?

Thanks for the Chabad chametz-sale link. I hope it will prove helpful to my readers. Unfortunately for us, might logic also dictate that one would not be permitted to sell one's chametz to two different buyers?

Tue Mar 27, 03:54:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Miami Al said...

Yes, you shouldn't steal.

"How could we munch our way through the rest of our leftover hamantashen and cookies before Pesach if the Shabbos Goy already owned them?"

My kids polish those off real damned fast. But yes, if you sold it, than you'd be stealing it. Since you know the buyer, perhaps you can arrange with him to continue to consume your chometz and agree to compensate him for any loss incurred by him... Set the date after the buy-back, and you're in the clear.

Re Chabad and double sale:
I suppose you could list the Chometz as all chometz owned by you at that location, not including any chometz owned by Mr. X stored at your location for his convenience.

That way, if the Cantor conducted a legal sale, then Chabad isn't selling any Chometz. If he didn't, than Chabad does it for you.

If you are really concerned, I would consult a JD/Semicha holder to be safe.

Tue Mar 27, 05:39:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Done. I hope to receive some replies within enough time for them to be helpful.

Tue Mar 27, 09:46:00 PM 2012  
Anonymous Reb Barry said...

In the mechirat chametz document you specify the time at which the contract takes effect, generally just before the isur chametz takes effect. If he did not specify this in the form, you could nullify the deal as a mekach ta'ut because it was done incorrectly out of ignorance.

You need two forms: one the actual contract with the non-Jew buying your chametz, and the other for people in the community designating whoever sold the chametz to the non-Jew as their agent.

You should have a rabbi do it so you can be sure it's done correctly.

Wed Mar 28, 03:32:00 AM 2012  
Anonymous Reb Barry said...

Also note for the people in your community, there is a p'sak from Rabbi David Golinkin saying the designation of someone as the agent for the sale of chametz can be done by paper, fax, or even email. The actual sale of chametz should be done by paper contract, however.

Wed Mar 28, 03:34:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I didn't have a form, so I wrote my own contract. I wrote the word CONTRACT at the top, wrote my and my husband's full names, specified the name of the agent who will sell our chametz, the name of the Shabbos Goy to whom our chametz will be sold, our home address, my office address, and the time of sale as "April 6, 2012 at 10:30 AM or whenever it becomes forbidden for a Jew to own chametz, whichever is earlier," signed the form, and, holding one end of the chanzzan's handerchief (kinyan?), appointed him our agent.

Is this a legally- and halachically-binding sale?

Wed Mar 28, 10:31:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Said Rabbi Gil Student, of the Hirhurim/Torah Musings blog, via e-mail:

"He presumably (hopefully) means that your appointment of him as your agent became effective immediately."

Oh. I hadn't thought of that possibility. So maybe I'm having a conniption for nothing.

Wed Mar 28, 10:03:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

While not exactly answering my question, Rabbi Ethan Tucker, co-founder, rosh yeshiva, and chair in Jewish Law at Mechon Hadar, e-mailed this interesting reply:

"I think there is something to be said for some kind of centralized, halakhic consultation subscription service that would enable a knowledgeable, ideologically broad person to help communities like yours and others. The question would be one of economics and time management (i.e. how much time that person needs to earmark to answer how many questions and the amount of money needed to support that person to do an excellent job). Would be interesting to hear your and other's thoughts on this idea and the business plan that might sustain it."

Hmm, I see a new post coming up.

Wed Mar 28, 10:13:00 PM 2012  
Anonymous jdub said...

and we're in the "complaining about my Conservative shul" mode.

Give the guy a break. Let me tell you that Orthodox education doesn't cover many areas of practical halacha that will only come up when one is in a rabbinic role. I'm a BT with a public school education, but between my years at JTS and a year in yeshiva in Israel, I have a fair amount of practical knowledge my wife doesn't have with her k-12 (plus Israel year) Jewish education.

I think you like the "I'm smarter than the orthodox-educated" bit, but you need to remember that more than anything, you should be dan l'caf zchut. While I rarely agree with Gil Student, I thought that his interpretation was the more likely one any way.

Once again, if you focused on yourself and your own actions, you'd probably be a bit happier.

Mon Apr 02, 09:08:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

JDub, I, too, concluded that Rabbi Student probably had the right interpretation.

"I think you like the "I'm smarter than the orthodox-educated" bit,"

Good point. Guilty as charged. That's something I'll have to work on.

"but you need to remember that more than anything, you should be dan l'caf zchut [judging a person favorably (giving a person the benefit of the doubt)]."

True. That's also something I'll have to work on.

Mon Apr 02, 04:38:00 PM 2012  

Post a Comment

<< Home

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>