Monday, March 15, 2010

Mechiras Chametz Online!

Received via email from TorahLab:

Dear Friends,
To accommodate those wishing to sell their chametz online and in order to help
raise much needed funds for our Pesach Fund, we are offering our
Mechiras Chametz service. Your chametz will be transferred from and to your
ownership according to the time zone in which you live through our Beit Din.
After you submit your form you will be invited to make an online contribution.
If you do not wish to contribute at this time, your chametz will be
sold just the same.
If you would just like to contribute without selling your chametz,
please visit
If you have any questions please feel free to email me:
Very truly yours,
Rabbi Yaacov Haber

This sounds like a nice service, and a good opportunity for those who otherwise would have difficulty selling their chametz.


Jeremy said...

No analysis of whether it works?

Presumably any online transaction would be problematic, except for the fact that the seller then sends you the goods which you have an opportunity to do a kinyan on. But where the goods (chametz) stay in your house, how does the sale work?

joshwaxman said...

i've seen several that do this, using rabbis (e.g., chabad).

i don't have time for a full analysis, but as far as i can see, signing the form doesn't sell your chametz. signing the online form appoints the rabbi as your agent (shliach). he then goes in person to the non-Jewish person and conducts the appropriate kinyan (or rather, kinyanim).

i should add that the last stage of conducting this appointment for mechiras chametz online is to clear the cookies from your browser. ;)


Yaacov Haber said...

Appointing an agent through an electronic medium
There is no absolute requirement that the appointing of an agent be done through a physical act of "kinyan" or in the presence of witnesses - even private verbal instruction is sufficient (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat #182; 1). One can even appoint an agent without his knowledge; even by way of a written "harsha'ah" contract. See "Seder Mechiras Chometz" of the Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Shaar Hakollel, Note 38):

"Someone who wants to appoint an agent without his knowledge in order to sell chometz should write as follows: …"

"Signing" a harsha'ah contract via the internet is actually not significantly different from signing a harsha'ah without the knowledge of your agent, and, thus, it works. See also Teshuvas R' Shmuel di Medina (Shu"t Maharashdam, Choshen Mishpat, #146) who brings the words of the Rambam and the Tur who wrote that appointing an agent does not require a formal transfer (kinyan) but that the privately spoken word is sufficient. The Maharashdam then adds,

"if so, since the power of a written command is surely greater than of speech, and once a person writes to the agent in his own handwriting, everything that he wrote is binding. And all the more so if it is the way of merchants to complete transactions by way of such written instructions…From this we can learn that one who instructs his fellow (in writing) to do such and such, and the fellow does it, the act is valid and it's impossible for someone to (later on) raise any claim against his agent."

So signing an electronic harsha'ah via the Internet (which has become a universally accepted medium of commerce), should certainly be considered equal to a signature and, if it works for regular commercial dealings, it should similarly work for selling chometz.

Josh said...

The link is not live, the correct web address is

yaak said...


joshwaxman said...

it worked for me, but i will correct it anyway.

Jeremy said...

Yaacov - Excellent analysis.

I wonder though if electronic media would be considered writing (especially as it relates to the pretty well accepted kula of erasing shem hashem).

The better claim seems to be that this is how people do business nowadays. Though I wonder how long it takes for halakha to recognize a change in the way people do business, and what specific factors are necessary.

yaak said...

Mechiras Chometz Through Cyberspace: A Halachic Analysis


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