Mrs. Levine was cooking up a storm for Pesach. Three of her married children and their youngsters would be coming to spend the holiday. “It’s going to be hectic,” she said to her husband, “but I look forward to having the family together.”
After a couple of hours in the kitchen, the meat was on the fire, the chicken in the oven, and some kugels already out on the table. Mrs. Levine took a break to tend to some other household errands. In the mail was a colorful brochure from a food company specializing in baked goods. She had often seen their products in the supermarket, but they were not certified kosher.
“We’ve just become kosher,” the brochure announced. “Try our new line of delicious home style cookies and cakes. For free samples of our products, please fill out the attached postcard.”
“How nice,” thought Mrs. Levine. “I always like to encourage newly certified companies.” She detached the postcard, filled it out, and dropped it in the mailbox. Then she returned to her Pesach cooking.
On Chol HaMoed, Mr. and Mrs. Levine took their family out for the day to the park and a Jewish music concert. When they came home, there was a notice from the mailman that a parcel had arrived for Mrs. Levine, but no one had been home to accept delivery.
Mr. Levine looked at the notice and saw the parcel was from a food company. He teasingly asked his wife, “What is this company sending us on Pesach? Did you order matzos from them?”
“I can’t believe it!” she exclaimed. “They were just certified kosher, and offered free samples. I ordered the samples before Pesach, but never expected them to arrive so fast.”
“What are we going to do with the samples on Pesach?” asked Mr. Levine.
“I guess we tell the mailman to dump them in the garbage,” said his wife.
“I wonder if we can put them in the pantry closet,” said Mr. Levine. “We sell all the chametz in the pantry closet anyway. If we put it there, it will be included in the sale.”
“Do you think it’s possible to include new chametz in the sale?” asked Mrs. Levine.
“Perhaps,” said her husband. “We don’t give the Rav an exact inventory of the chametz anyway. The chametz samples will never be ours; they will go straight from ‘Baker’s Best’ to the non-Jew who bought the chametz.”
“It still seems funny to me,” said Mrs. Levine. “You should consult Rabbi Dayan on this. We don’t want to risk having chametz in our possession over Pesach.”
“Of course,” agreed her husband. “If it is a problem, maybe he has another suggestion.”
Mr. Levine called Rabbi Dayan. “Gut Mo’ed, Rabbi Dayan. Can I ask you a funny Pesach question?”
“Certainly,” answered Rabbi Dayan.
Mr. Levine explained what had happened with the chametz samples. “The mailman will probably bring the parcel again tomorrow, so we need to know what to do. I thought that perhaps we could just put it away with the chametz that we sold, but my wife wasn’t sure about it.”
“Your wife is correct that a chametz delivery cannot be included in the sale of chametz,” said Rabbi Dayan. “This is because usually a person is not able to sell something that does not yet exist. Similarly, he is not able to sell something that is not yet his. [C.M. 209:4-5] Since the chametz was not yet yours at the time of sale on Erev Pesach, it cannot be included in the sale.”
“I guess that means telling the mailman to throw the parcel in the garbage,” said Mr. Levine. “We clearly don’t want to violate the prohibition of owning chametz.”
“Not necessarily,” explained Rabbi Dayan. “Although the delivery was not included in the sale of chametz, a person cannot be forced to acquire something against his will. Don’t sign for the package and leave it in the post office until after Pesach.” [O.C. 448:1]
“What if the mailman does not want to take the package back?” asked Mr. Levine.
“If need be, you can ask him to deliver the parcel to a non-Jewish neighbor and you can collect it after Pesach,” said Rabbi Dayan. (Sha’ar Hatziyun 448:7)
“And what if the mailman simply leaves it at the house without asking?” asked Mr. Levine.
“You can still declare that you intend not to take possession of it until after Pesach,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “Although it is not included in the sale, it does not become yours either; it remains the sender’s in the meantime. Nonetheless, it should be covered securely so that you will not accidentally eat it.” (Mishnah Berurah 448:5-6)
Mr. Levine thanked Rabbi Dayan. “I’ll let you know what happens. And, after Pesach, how would you like a sample?”