In some households (naming no names), ridding the home of chametz, foods prohibited during Passover, is an eagerly awaited tradition. As one woman admits, “We see it as license to eat all those treats, donuts and cookies and cake, that we feel so guilty about the rest of the year!”
Of course, those foods can be given or sold to a non-Jew, but where would be the fun in that? There are the killjoys who insist that be done, but like with so much in Jewish tradition, there’s an “On the other hand…”
What comes next can be hard work, cleaning every corner and crevice to make sure not a crumb remains. It can be fun too, if children are lured into seeing it as a challenge. In some homes, they tap their inner shtetl-selves to do the job, with a candle to light the way, a feather to sweep with, and a wooden spoon to scoop the chametz.
The spoon can also be used to start this next part, burning whatever is gathered. Some sages say it can be crumbled and tossed to the wind or into a river or ocean, or for the more prosaic or limited in movement, into a toilet. But for most of us, fire has symbolism flushing just can’t match.
As long as all that forbidden stuff is gone before the fifth hour of the morning before Pesach begins, all should be good. Here again, there is an infinite supply of details to worry about, and all sorts of ways to slip up.
- Were you planning to use the garbage into which chametz was tossed in the preceding days?
- Or was the fire that burned the chametz started with wood, not coal or paper or gas, as some recommend, and were the offending fragments sufficiently charred that not even a rat could nibble on them?
- Were any other products, like deodorant or shaving lotion, retained, that might contain denatured ethyl alcohol?
Fortunately, in their wisdom, the sages provided an “out” to save those who might become obsessively anxious about getting it 100% right. In fact, this approach is recommended. Under carefully prescribed conditions, a contract can be made with a non-Jew to take ownership of whatever chametz remain’s in one’s possession. Alternatively, such an agreement can be made empowering a rabbi to make such a deal on one’s behalf. And these days, of course, it can be done online.
ChabadWorld.org offers a contract that begins this way:
“I, the undersigned, fully empower and permit the Rabbi of this website to act in my place and stead, and on my behalf to sell all Chametz possessed by me, knowingly or unknowingly as defined by the Torah and Rabbinic Law (e.g. Chametz, possible Chametz, and all kinds of Chametz mixtures).
It ends with the words: “This power is in conformity with all Torah, Rabbinic and Civil laws.”
Our own Wilf Campus Rabbi can also help you with a contract to sell your Chamatz or your local synagogue Rabbi, its customary to give a donation for there efforts.