Wednesday, April 12, 2006

On selling chametz

I've only done Pesach in my very own kitchen once. The alternative is just too tempting.

It was the year I lived in Israel. I spent 10 days in March in the United States, traversing the country and interviewing for jobs for my triumphant return stateside, and returned to Israel just before Pesach. Everyone thought I was crazy (and in retrospect, perhaps I was) and should have stayed in the US for Pesach, since I was there anyway. But I stubbornly held onto the fulfillment of "Lashanah haba'ah bIrushalayim", and spent Pesach in a jetlagged funk. That Pesach sucked. That was the year of the seder bombing, and then more bombings every day. And it rained every day. Siman kelalah indeed.

Otherwise, I've never missed a seder in the old country. During college, I would hop into the old country for a day or two, then eat the rest of my meals at Hillel. Now that I work in the NYC schools, where we get the whole week of Pesach off, I don't spend any of Pesach in my apartment. This year I'll be with my parents for the beginning and middle, and with ER and her parents for the end.

So we're just selling off all of our chametz, having done a quarter-assed (at best) job of cleaning the apartment. The contract reads:

[BZ] and [NAF] hereby sell all leaven (and food containing leaven) in their apartment at [742 Evergreen Terrace], New York NY, as well as any leaven of which they are unaware (whether in the apartment, or owned by either or both of them in any other location), to [JN], for a sum of $5250.00. This transfer of possession of the leaven will go into effect at 10:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time, Wednesday, April 12, 2005, regardless of whether any money has been paid. [BZ] and [NAF] relinquish all claim to the leaven at that time.

If the full sum of $5250.00 has not been paid to [BZ] and/or [NAF] by 9:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time, Thursday, April 20, 2005, then all goods (leaven and money) will revert to their previous owners, and this transaction will be null and void from that time on.

This transaction will be valid upon the signatures of all three parties.

$5250 represents a 5% cost-of-living increase over last year's sum of $5000. Yes, the contract goes until Thursday night even though I observe 7 days of Pesach, so Pesach ends for me on Wednesday night. This is so that the chametz doesn't get the status of chametz owned by a Jew during (a time that some people still consider to be) Pesach, so that everyone can still eat in my kitchen afterwards. Not only is Thursday not Pesach for me, it's not even yom tov, so I won't go hungry that day even if I don't reclaim the chametz in my kitchen; I can buy whatever I need at that time (and leave no leftovers).

We didn't go through a rabbi to sell the chametz. I had an epiphany about this last year.

I come from rabbinic lineage, and was the first fetus in history to be ordained as a rabbi in utero. Last year, when other people were designating agents to sell their chametz, I said "When I was growing up, we never went to a rabbi to sell our chametz; my mother just sold it. Um. .... Oh. Right."

The epiphany:
One might look at my Jewish life trajectory (grew up as a rabbi's kid in a suburban synagogue; now involved only in independent grassroots Jewish life) and conclude that my embrace of do-it-yourself Judaism is a rebellion against my upbringing. In fact, it is a continuation and realization of my upbringing. Just as the rabbi's family (in a congregation where most people are dependent on the rabbi) does not defer to any external authority to be Jewish or do Jewish for them, so too do I as an adult seek to be self-reliant in my Jewish life.


  1. 742 Evergreen Terrace


  2. This year I nullified my hametz. I am too zionist to sell it to a non-Jew. I hid it all, did the biur and now it is ownerless, until the end of the holiday.

    I prefer a Judaism that deals head-on with the conflict of the amount of hametz we own rather than finding a legal loophole. So for me, no sale of hametz, the land of Israel, or use of a Shabbes goy.

  3. Interesting story on this topic...;_ylt=Agh4HMtZdOynRwiCXwO3gYXbEfQA;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl

  4. I'm not sure why that didn't work.
    Let's try this again.