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Chometz in the Mail – Part II


This week’s article delves into the halachic intricacies surrounding chometz shipments that arrive after Pesach. What happens when a Jew sends chometz without selling it? What happens to chometz sent by a non-Jew to a Jewish recipient via Israeli Postal Services or a Jewish-owned delivery company? Who owns the chometz during transit? Can a prisoner who appointed someone to handle his chometz sales and has no way of following up on it, rely on the sale? Can one consume stolen chometz, after it was returned? Is there a difference if the thief was Jewish or not? Is it permissible to book flight tickets with chometz meals on Pesach? Of this and more, in the following article.

Chometz Deliveries

Last week, we delved into the complexities surrounding chometz sent by mail, which may arrive on Pesach or thereafter, as well as the implications of ordering chometz online. This week, we shall continue this topic, focusing on the scenario where the deed is already done – when a chometz delivery ordered before Pesach arrives after the holiday.

Chometz Delivery After Pesach

The delivery of chometz that arrives via mail or delivery service can come up in the following ways: 1) a Jewish individual who sent chometz by mail, but failed to sell it before Pesach, 2) a non-Jew who sent chometz to a Jewish recipient, 3) a non-Jew dispatched chometz through a Jewish delivery service or Israel Postal Agency, and 4) a Jew who orders chometz online, pays for it, and subsequently receives the delivery from the non-Jewish seller.

In our previous discussion, it was established that when chometz is in transit via mail, it remains the property of the sender until the recipient physically takes possession of it, such as by lifting it, pulling it towards himself, or when it is placed within the recipient’s property – his designated mailbox or premises.

Rav Moshe Feinstein contends (Igros Moshe OC, Volume I, 146) that since chametz once sent is irretrievable, the chometz remains owned by the sender, albeit not in their immediate possession. Consequently, they cannot sell it nor render it ownerless. However, in exceptional circumstances, there may be grounds to rule that the one who sent it does not violate the prohibition of “bal yira’e u’val yimatze.”

If the sender can control the package, cancel the delivery, and retrieve the package, and the cost of the cancellation is lower than the value of its contents, the package is considered in the property of the sender and under his ownership, in which case he can sell it to a non-Jew or render it ownerless.

In order to prevent such problematic scenarios, Rav Moshe Feinstein instructed people to refrain from sending chometz in the mail before Pesach if it might remain in the mail over the holiday. The only way to send chometz in the mail right before Pessach is by giving it as a gift to a non-Jew, who should, in turn, send it in the mail. This solution is only relevant when the mail company or delivery service is not owned by Jews, or if it bears no responsibility for deliveries. (Rav Moshe does not instruct what to do with the package after Pesach).

Un-disposable Chometz

What can a Jew who did not heed Rav Moshe’s instructions sent chametz right before Pessach do? To address this issue, we refer to several situations that are discussed in the Shulchan Aruch.

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 448:3) rules that chometz owned by a Jew, even if unintentionally, or due to circumstances beyond his control which prevent its disposal before Pesach, remains forbidden for consumption and benefit after the holiday. Additionally, the Shulchan Aruch (ibid., 5) states that even if a Jew nullified the chometz before Pesach and declared it ownerless, it remains forbidden after Pesach.

Although the prohibition to derive benefit from chometz after Pesach is a penalty enacted by Chazal, this penalty is universally applied, even upon one who was unable to dispose of the chometz due to circumstances beyond his control.

Unavoidable Circumstances

However, the Mishnah Berura (OC 442:59) differentiates between different types of unavoidable circumstances. He rules that where there was no conceivable way for the individual to dispose of the chometz, there is room for leniency to benefit from it, but not to eat it if the owner will suffer a large loss. However, if the loss is small, one should be stringent not to even benefit from it.

The Mishnah Berura (OC 448:25) addresses the case of a person who conducted a proper bedikas chometz before Pesach and did not find any chometz, but later discovered chometz that was well hidden or was situated in a location that he was not required to search. The poskim are divided whether this chometz may, or may not, be used. In retrospect, if it involves a small amount of chometz, it is advisable to be stringent. However, if it concerns chometz of significant monetary value, it may be permitted to benefit from it, such as by selling it to a non-Jew. Nevertheless, it is not permissible for a Jew to consume the chometz even in cases of significant loss.

However, a person who was traveling and did not have a non-Jew to whom he could sell the chometz in his possession, and also lacked the technical means to dispose of it due to circumstances beyond his control but annulled the chometz where he was, may be lenient, and the chometz is permitted for consumption and benefit.

Another example provided by the Mishnah Berura (OC 433:39) is when the chometz is buried under debris that is deeper than three handbreadths (approximately 30 centimeters), and there is no concern that the object will be uncovered over Pesach. The Sages did not require the owner to dig up and burn the chometz. Therefore, the chometz under the debris is not forbidden, and if the chometz is recovered after Pesach, it is permitted for consumption and benefit.

In light of these laws, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo, Pesachim 10b) explains that chometz in the mail can be viewed in two possible ways: one possibility is that since inspecting and disposing of it is impossible if its owners properly annulled it, it should be permissible after Pesach; or — perhaps the Sages enacted a universal decree without making distinctions. He cites numerous cases where certain authorities prohibited the chometz despite the impossibility of the person to dispose of it, while others did not. In practice, he did decide the issue.

Stolen Chometz

Another pertinent issue that could shed light on the matter is a disagreement among authorities concerning stolen chometz. Since it is no longer in its owner’s possession, he cannot properly annul it or sell it. Opinions among later authorities vary on the reprecusssions. The Noda Beyehuda (OC 120) asserts that since the owner of the chometz cannot dispose of it, he does not transgress the prohibition of “bal yera’eh u’bal yimatze,” and therefore, it is not prohibited for consumption or benefit (once retrieved). However, Rabbi Akiva Eiger (Kama 23) and the Shoel U’Meishiv (Volume 3, 31) contend that the chometz is prohibited for benefit, a viewpoint supported by the Mishnah Brura (OC 448:3). Nevertheless, in the case where a non-Jew steals the chometz from a Jew, the Mishnah Brura (ibid.) rules that the chometz is not prohibited at all. The reason for prohibiting or permitting the chometz is because it was in the possession of the thief. When the thief was a Jew, he transgressed the Torah prohibition of “bal yimatze” since the stolen chometz was in his possession and he was responsible for it. But chometz stolen by a non-Jew is in his possession, and therefore when returned to its Jewish owner – not prohibited. [See Sdei Chemed, Chometz u’Matzah, (8:16), Chazon Ish (OC 118:4), and Minchas Shlomo Psachim 10b]. According to this rationale, it is advisable to exercise greater stringency when the mail or delivery company is owned by Jews, as chometz for which a Jew is responsible involves the prohibition of “bal yimatze”, rendering the chometz forbidden.

Online Purchases

Ordering a chometz product online raises a similar question: When does the halachic ownership of the product transfer to the buyer – when making the payment, or with the delivery?

Assuming that there is no ownership of the product until it reaches the Jewish buyer, ordering chometz on the internet which will not arrive before Pesach is still prohibited, since once payment has been made, the responsibility for the product lies with the buyer, and damage or loss would be at his own cost (depending upon the sale’s conditions).

The Mishnah Berura (OC 448:1) cites the Sha’agas Aryeh (paragraph 80) who notes a dispute among early authorities regarding “chometz she’avar alav haPesach” – chometz that remained over Pesach. Does the prohibition apply only to when the chometz is in one’s possession and responsibility, and chometz outside of one’s possession and home is not prohibited — or does any form of responsibility render it prohibited? The Sha’agas Aryeh concludes according to the latter opinion, that retroactively chometz that mistakenly remained in a Jew’s responsibility but outside of his property may be consumed after Pesach.

The Mishnah Berura (OC 448:3) adds that retroactively, if the chometz was in a designated spot from which its owner could not move it, it is also not prohibited. Therefore, responsibility for the loss alone does not prohibit it.


  • Chometz dispatched by a Jew by the mail, without being included in a chometz sale, remains in Jewish possession, rendering it prohibited for any benefit or enjoyment. The poskim argue over whether chometz can be sold after it is mailed, particularly considering the impossibility of retrieving it. Practically, when the value of the chometz is trivial, it’s advisable to be stringent and refrain from using the chometz. However, if significant financial loss is at stake, it’s prudent to seek guidance from a knowledgeable halachic authority.
  • Chometz dispatched by a non-Jew to a Jew: If the item does not reach the Jewish recipient before Pesach, there is room for leniency, b’dieved. However, if the Jew was made aware of the delivery, particularly if it was sent via by the Israel Postal Services or another Jewish-owned delivery service, we are concerned that the Jew has received possession of the chometz, necessitating its sale and annulment. In cases of necessity (b’dieved), a rabbi should be consulted.
  • Chometz sent by a non-Jew via a Jewish-owned mail system: Registered mail or a package with a tracking code becomes the responsibility of Jewish service provider, and travels on Jewish-owned premises (such as postal service facilities). This chometz cannot be utilized or sold on Pessach. However, after Pessach the chometz product is not prohibited, b’dieved.
  • An online chometz purchase which has already been paid for and sent, necessitates consultation with a competent rabbi for guidance.

A Negligent Messenger

You assigned selling your chometz to someone who failed to do so. What’s the chometz’s status? The Chok L‎e’yaakov (Toras Hashlomim, question 6) addresses a situation where a Jew, while incarcerated, appointed someone as his messenger to sell his chometz. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, the messenger did not fulfill his task. Upon his return home, the former prisoner discovered that all his chometz was in his possession over Pesach. Is the chometz now prohibited? The Chok Yaakov rules that since the prisoner was entirely unable to take any action, the chometz remains permitted.

Unaware of Chometz Shipment

Rav Dov Ber Eliezerov addresses the questions of Jewish refugees detained in internment camps during the final days of the British Mandate (Sha’ali Tzion, volume II, 16). These refugees were oblivious to the packages sent to them and were unaware that they contained chometz. They failed to sell them, assuming the camp rabbi, who was responsible for all the religious matters in the camp, would also sell their chometz. Rabbi Eliezerov permitted the chometz, considering that the refugees relied on the camp’s rabbi.

Flying On, or After Pesach

Can one buy or own tickets for a flight that include a chometz meal? A similar question was presented to Rabbi Dov Ber Eliezerov (ibid, 16): refugees in interment camps were each allotted a chometz meal every day, which was stored for them on their name, and which they received after Pesach. When they received their missed meals, the refugees wanted to know if they could partake of them. Since they were unaware of this chometz or of their obligation to sell it, could it be permitted? In this case, Rav Eliezerov answers that on Pesach the chometz was still owned by the British camp authorities, who would have been responsible to replace a stolen or lost meal. Together with the fact that the camp rabbi should have taken responsibility for selling the chometz, and their lack of awareness of their ownership on this chometz, he permitted the chometz after Pesach (although they did transgress a prohibition).

As for plane tickets, Rabbi Alter Eliyahu Rubinstein (Migdanos Eliyahu volume IV, chapter 85) writes that one does not purchase a meal along with his ticket, but rather receives the right to a meal similar to a restaurant coupon, which he becomes the owner of the food only after cashing. However, l’chatchila, one should include the meal on his plane ticket in his chometz sale to ensure there is no such concern.

Next week’s article will complete this series, and focus on when one transgresses the prohibition of “bal ye’raeh u’val yimatze” even though there is no chometz on his property. The issues here are relevant wherever a Jew and gentile live under the same roof, whether as a student living on a college campus, or a handicapped individual who employs a non-Jewish aid.

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