It is forbidden to eat or even derive any benefit from chametz that was owned by a Jew during Pesach.1 This is true even if the chametz was in a Jew’s possession for reasons beyond his control and even if he was unaware that there was any chametz in his possession.2 Such chametz is referred to as “chametz she’avar alav hapesach” and remains forbidden forever.3
The prohibition against benefiting from chametz she’avar alav hapesach is a rabbinically imposed penalty for having ignored the Torah’s severe prohibition on owning chametz during Pesach.4 It is for this reason (among others) that one must be sure to arrange a “mechirat chametz” before Pesach. The mechirat chametz is a legal process in which one sells one’s chametz to a non-Jew before Pesach in order not to violate the prohibition against owning chametz on Pesach. At the conclusion of Pesach, one’s chametz becomes permissible once more when it is “bought back” from the non-Jew. Even if one performed the required bitul chametz, nullification of chametz, before Pesach but neglected to perform the mechirat chametz, one’s chametz may still be forbidden after Pesach. A rabbi must be consulted.5
As mentioned, so severe is chametz she’avar alav hapesach that even chametz which remained in one’s possession for reasons beyond one’s control becomes forbidden forever as well.6 Even chametz that one did not know about, or chametz that one finds in one’s possession long after Pesach, might also be forbidden due to chametz she’avar alav hapesach.7 In some cases, dishes and cooking utensils that come into contact with chametz she’avar alav hapesach must be koshered.8 Those foods that are only forbidden to be in a Jew’s possession during Pesach by rabbinic decree, such as foods with minimal amounts of chametz, are not subject to the penalty of chametz she’avar alav hapesach.9 So too, inedible products containing chametz such as make-up, perfumes, shampoos, and cleaning products are not subject to the rules of chametz she’avar alav hapesach.10
If one is unsure whether or not a particular food item is subject to the penalty of chametz she’avar alav hapesach, one is permitted to derive benefit from the item, though it remains forbidden to be eaten.11 However, if not being able to eat such food would cause one a significant financial loss, then it may be permitted to eat it as well.12 One who was completely unaware of the prohibition against owning chametz on Pesach, such as one who is newly observant, is not subject to the penalty.13 After Pesach, it is permitted to eat foods that were essentially kosher for Pesach even though one does not eat such foods on Pesach itself due to a preference for stricter kosher standards.14
A charitable organization, such as a soup kitchen, which forgot to sell its chametz before Pesach, is permitted to make use of the chametz foods after Pesach. Such chametz does not become prohibited due to chametz she’avar alav hapesach because such food items have no single owner but rather belong to a committee for the purpose of distribution.15 One who inherits chametz she’avar alav hapesach is permitted to accept it and benefit from it in every way.16 Although there is an opinion that the penalty of chametz she’avar alav hapesach does not apply to a non-observant Jew who does not sell his chametz,17 the halacha is not in accordance with this view.18
When one buys chametz products from a Jewish-owned grocery store after Pesach, one must ensure that the owner sold his chametz before Pesach, as required. An unfortunately common situation is when Jewish-owned food establishments actually “sell” their chametz before Pesach but remain open on Pesach and conduct business with such chametz products as usual. In such a case, many authorities insist that the mechirat chametz is completely invalid and that such chametz remains forbidden forever.19 Other authorities disagree and rule that the mechirat chametz is valid and the sale of such foodstuffs is “merely” a form of theft. This is because the chametz they are selling does not belong to them.20 One should wait at least 30 days following Pesach before purchasing chametz in Jewish-owned establishments that may not have performed mechirat chametz, in order to be sure that new stock has replaced any old stock that might have been in the owner’s possession over Pesach.21 Some even wait until after Shavuot to begin purchasing chametz goods from such establishments.22
- Pesachim 28a; OC 448:3; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 114:13; Mishna Berura 448:7.
- Mishna Berura 448:8,9.
- Pri Chadash, OC 448:3. There is a minority view that chametz she’avar alav hapesach is only forbidden to the actual owner of the chametz but permitted to all others, see Rabbeinu Mano’ach, Hilchot Chametz U’matza 1:5; Noda B’yehuda, OC 1:20.
- Pesachim 29a; Rambam, Hilchot Chametz U’matza 1:4.
- OC 448:5; Biur Halacha 448.
- Rambam, Hilchot Chametz U’matza 1:4.
- Mishna Berura 448:25. 8. Piskei Teshuvot 448:4.
- Shulchan Aruch Harav, OC 442:13; Mishna Berura 447:101.
- OC 447:12; Magen Avraham, OC 447: 46.11. Magen Avraham 449:2.
- Shulchan Aruch Harav, OC 448:30.
- Rivevot Ephraim 5:312.14. Shraga Hameir 8:51:1.15. Piskei Teshuvot 448:1; B’tzel Hachachma 6:95.
- Noda B’Yehuda, OC 1:20.17. Makom Shmuel 17; Sheilat David, OC 5.
- Mishna Berura 448:11.
- Sedei Chemed, Chametz U’matza 9:35.
- Igrot Moshe, OC 1:149, 2:91. See also Aruch HaShulchan, OC 248:20.
- See Rivevot Ephraim 6:440:2.
- Nitei Gavriel, Pesach 38:5.