Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Mr. Leiner recently started working as an office manager for a company. One of his responsibilities was ordering the food for business meetings and events. This included picking up fresh pastries, when needed, from a local bakery.

Sometime before Pesach, Mr. Leiner’s boss notified him: “I scheduled an important meeting in a month, on April 13. It’s important that you be there. You’ll have to order lunch and pick up pastries for refreshments from the bakery.”

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Mr. Leiner checked the calendar, and saw that April 13 came out on Chol HaMoed. “I was considering taking off that day,” Mr. Leiner told his boss.

“It’s a very important meeting, with longstanding clients of the company,” his boss replied. “You must be there to make sure things run smoothly. Please arrange your schedule accordingly.”

Mr. Leiner was not happy about having to come in on Chol HaMoed, but realized he didn’t have much choice. He was more concerned, though, about handling the food on Pesach.

“I don’t see what the problem is,” a colleague said. “It’s not your chametz at all! You’re buying it for the company.”

“Still, I’m responsible for ordering it,” said Mr. Leiner.

“But it never comes into your possession,” argued the colleague. “You’re responsible to buy the chametz, but it’s not yours. Many people work in a non-Jewish environment, where their colleagues have chametz on Pesach. If the chametz is not yours, there’s no prohibition against being around it.”

“Being around chametz is one thing; buying it is another,” said Mr. Leiner. “I’m not comfortable with the issue.”

“You can raise the question with Rabbi Dayan,” suggested the colleague. “It has to do with your work. Anyway, I’m sure he also deals with Pesach questions.”

Mr. Leiner called Rabbi Dayan. “I work as an office manager,” he told Rabbi Dayan. “I need to order food and buy chametz from a local bakery for an important meeting on Chol HaMoed. Is that a problem?”

“If you can take vacation on Chol HaMoed, it is preferable to do so and not work,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “If you need to work, the chametz issue is not simple. The Rama rules, based on a responsa of the Rivash, that a Jew is not allowed to buy chametz for a non-Jew on Pesach, even with money provided by the non-Jew.” (O.C. 450:6)

“Why not?” asked Mr. Leiner.

“The Rivash [#401] provides two reasons,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “First, there is concern that the Jew might accidentally eat from the chametz he is handling. Second, because a Jew cannot serve as the halachic agent of a gentile, when he pays for the chametz and buys it he acquires it and violates bal yeira’eh. Even if he intends not to acquire it, he is now responsible for the chametz as a guardian, which is also prohibited. Therefore, you should arrange that a non-Jewish worker buy the chametz on Pesach.” (B.M. 71b; O.C. 440:1)

“This would apply if I pay with cash or pick up the chametz,” noted Mr. Leiner. “What if I simply order the chametz by phone through the company’s account and it is delivered directly by the bakery?”

“If you place the order but take no personal responsibility for the payment or the chametz, you do not violate bal yeira’eh,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “However, since it is prohibited to benefit also from chametz of a non-Jew, ideally you should avoid placing an order which consists primarily of chametz, because then you are interested in the existence of the chametz for your livelihood.”

Thus, to order lunch is permissible, even if it contains some chametz elements, but a bakery order preferably should be placed by a non-Jew or arranged before Pesach.” (See M.B. 550:23; Teshuvos V’hanhagos 1:299; Piskei Teshuvos 450:4.)

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Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, a noted dayan. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e-mail to subscribe@businesshalacha.com. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e-mail ask@businesshalacha.com.