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Laws of Selling Chametz

  1. The common custom today is to appoint a beis din or a Rabbi to act as an envoy in selling one’s chametz to a non-Jew, and in renting him the place where the chametz is located (in previous generations, each person would make an individual sale arrangement with a non-Jew). The rental of the place is enacted for purposes of transferring the chametz to the non-Jew’s property.
  2. Although a document is customarily used (see below no. 6), it is possible to appoint an envoy verbally, and the appointment is valid even if the envoy himself is absent. Of course, one must notify the envoy of the appointment (by phone, mail, and so on) so that he will know that he must sell the person’s chametz. The envoy must also be informed as to where the chametz is located, enabling him to pass on the information to the non-Jew.
  3. There is no need for witnesses to be present at the time of appointing the envoy.
  4. It is customary to make a kinyan sudar at the time of appointment. However, there is no obligation to do this, and the practice is not universal (the Chazon Ish used to make the appointment without a kinyan sudar).
  5. A kinyan sudar is carried out by the seller taking an item belonging to the envoy in his hand, through which he acquires the item (before giving it back to the envoy). There is no need to raise the item, and it is sufficient to hold the item in one’s hand, even if it is held together with the envoy (an area of three by three fingerbreadths must be held by the seller).
  6. The preferable custom is to appoint an envoy by means of an authorization form (which is legally binding according to secular law as well as Torah law). The form can be filled out at home and sent to the Rabbi. If the form is sent with a child, one should verify that the form actually reached its destination (and not rely on the child alone).
  7. Because the authorization form is used to appoint the Rabbi (and no verbal appointment is made), one must ensure that the document is legally (halachically) valid for its purpose.
  8. A person can fill out a number of authorization forms. According to most authorities, the second appointment does not void the first appointment, so that the first envoy to make the sale will decide which sale takes effect. According to those authorities who rule that a second appointment voids an earlier one, the sale of the last envoy to be appointed will take effect.
  9. The person selling the chametz must understand that he is not selling his chametz to the Rabbi, but rather appointing the Rabbi as an envoy to sell the chametz. Post factum, the sale is valid even if the seller thought he was selling the chametz to the Rabbi. Authorities have sharply reproached those who think that signing the document is a matter of religious ritual alone, without legal significance. However, even under such circumstances the sale remains valid.
  10. After signing the authorization form, a person should preferably not buy any chametz he wishes to be included in the sale. Post factum, the sale applies even to chametz bought after the appointment is made. If the seller intends to buy chametz after signing the form, he should write on the document that he appoints the envoy to sell even the chametz that he will buy after signing. After buying the chametz, he should appoint the Rabbi again, by verbal appointment, to sell the bought items.
  11. Although there is no obligation to date the authorization form, it is preferable to date the form, and this is the common custom. If the date is recorded wrongly (either pre-dated or post-dated), the document remains valid.
  12. If the seller of the chametz cannot be identified by means of his signature, the seller’s name should be clearly written on the form, so that the non-Jew will know his identity. Likewise, the address where the chametz is located must be clearly recorded.
  13. When chametz is sold by means of a Rabbi who sells chametz for many householders, there is no obligation to detail the individual items of chametz that are sold. Nonetheless, many Rabbis make a detailed inventory of sold items.
  14. The non-Jew must have access to the chametz he purchases. Therefore, one should ensure the following: 1. To give the non-Jew keys to all the places where the chametz is kept, or to notify him that in the event that he wishes to, he can receive the keys; 2. The authorization form must state that the seller authorizes the Rabbi to enable the non-Jew access to the chametz, and to permit him to enter his property to retrieve the chametz. However, the sale remains valid even if the non-Jew was not given access to the chametz.
  15. A person who leaves his home for the duration of Pesach must leave his keys with a neighbor, and record the neighbor’s details on the authorization form, so that the non-Jew will have access to the chametz. Somebody who only leaves his home for part of the festival does not need to leave his keys with a neighbor. If the seller goes away for the entire festival, and fails to deposit his keys with a neighbor, the sale remains (bedieved) valid.
  16. The Rabbi purchases back the chametz and the rented property from the non-Jew after the festival ends. If the Rabbi has not bought back the chametz, one may not use it, for this would imply ‘theft’ from the non-Jew. Yet, prohibited use of the chametz does not void the sale.
  17. The Rabbi should preferably buy back the chamtez from the non-Jew immediately after the festival terminates. However, if the resale is delayed, and there is a great need to use the chametz, it is permitted for seller to use the chametz, with the intention of paying the non-Jew its full price. The Rabbi should explicitly write on the authorization form that the seller is permitted to make use of the chametz, in exchange for payment, after the festival terminates. Some authorities state that this arrangement should be made verbally, and not included in the authorization form.

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