The Rabbi and the Goy:
Ershtens: this edition of the highly popular Michiras Chometz to the goy Toirah, is dedicated to the complete and speedy recovery of our neighbor and friend Tzivya bas Yehudis. May she taka heal and recover fully and quickly: We are with you.
Shoin: back by popular demand ober with a brand new introduction mamish, is the heylige Oisvorfer’s missive on Michiras Chometz (sale of chometz) to the unsuspecting goy in a halachically acceptable yet kimat totally sham transaction. How halachically acceptable and kimat-sham coexist, ver veyst? Do you continue to live with the eishes chayil despite the fact that you are mutually exclusive,opposites, mamish and have kimat nothing in common? And didn’t we learn just yesterday mamish that the Korban Todah (thanksgiving offering) contains both Matzo and chometz and they get along just fine? Zicher we did. Shoin! Nu, mistama this question is also appropriate for other strange minhogim and laws we observe so diligently, ober those for another day. Let’s stay focused on the sale of Chometz which is mandated by the heylige Toirah mamish. Though taka mostly a repeat, avada there are stylistic and other updates and avada it’s more than kidei (worthy) of another read.
Nu, another year has come and gone and neither Eliyohu nor Moshiach have made an appearance since last Pesach despite the fact that we diligently filled Eliyohu’s cup, opened the doors, sang all sorts of songs, including leshono-habo- b’yirusholayim (next year in Jerusalem). Avada we also invited them at last year’s seder. And in years prior. In fact, the Oisvorfer made a second seder last year just to invite them again and is getting tired mamish of filling Eliyohou’s cup yearly with no results. It’s becoming a shtikel personal between us ober we’ll try again this year. Far vus nisht (why not)?
At the moment, the Ruv finds himself aboard Delta # 2079 en route to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to yet another Pesach program, designed as are most, to help Yiddin forget they were once slaves to ‘’paroy the minumvil in Mitzrayim. This particular hotel is epes near the beach, not quite on the beach but epes close enough (200 yards) to enable those who want to reenact how the Yiddin jumped into the water as Paroy was giving chase and were miraculously saved when the waters split, to taka reenact the kriyas Yam Suf experience, only here in Ft. Lauderdale they will be surrounded by other jewels, if you chap. Judging by what the Oisvorfer witnessed on his last trip to this area, it wouldn’t take too mcuh cajoling to get the Yiddin into the water. Even non swimmers can jump in; es ken zeyn (likely) that one or more of the halb nakite (half naked) meydlich typically assembled here in Ft. Lauderdale for Easter vacation, will taka jump in and attempt a rescue. Gishmak and veyter.
Mamish just before boarding, the gate agent made epes a shtikel strange announcement. He asked for 20-25 volunteers. Not because the plane stalled and needed to be pushed out of the gate area and not even because they needed volunteers to give up their seats due to overcrowding. Instead this particular request was for the passengers, prior to boarding, to voluntarily check in their carry- on baggage. Taka a strange request ober when the Oisvorfer took a look at those waiting to board, he quickly chapped what the gate agent had in mind. Seemingly there were too many sheitel (wig) and black hat boxes that were lining up and getting ready to fight for space and positions in the overhead bins. The gate agent had a vision of Pesachs past, he had seen this picture before: sheitel and black hat boxes have been redesigned and today come in large protective shell coverings that ensure the safe and sound arrival of these head coverings.. These items have gone high- tech and seemingly afford better protection than do the helmets football players wear on the playing field. The NFL would do well and save millions in payouts were they to protect their players heads with gear made from similar materials: indestructible mamish. Nu, when it comes to protection, improved technology is avada always helpful, if you chap. Ober they take up quite a bit of space and seemingly there was going to be little room left over for those carrying the customary carry on items which today include gourmet meals and avada the bidikas chometz kit.
It so happens that on the drive over to the airport, a good chaver of the Oisvorfer asked if we remembered to pack the Bidikas Chometz kit that arrives in the mail yearly from one of the out of town yeshivas and which also heralds in the pre-Pesach season. Avada, everyone in the orthodox community receives at least one such package from a yeshiva hopeful that their unsolicited gift item will illicit warm feelings and of course a huge donation. Nu, if only someone would once bother explaining why the kit contains a holtzine lefel (wooden spoon), this would taka be helpful and might taka even lead to a generous donation. Grada this question beleaguered the Oisvorfer for many years and he has memories of bringing this kit to yeshiva to ask his Rebbe this very shaylo (question). Nu, the Rebbe did not appreciate the serious nature of the question, was convinced the future Oisvorfer was only making laytzonis (clowning around), removed the lefel (spoon) from its protective covering (envelope), and beat the living daylights out of the Oisvorfer; no further questions were ever asked. The Rebbe did however wish to introduce another shtekin, also without much explaining, ober that for another day. Giloibt der abishter (thanks the RBSO), today, with healthy doses of therapy, efsher the question can be asked again. Does holding the wood in one’s hand, if you chap, allow for a better, or more thorough and halachically sanctioned bdika? Ver veyst! Nu, mistama it does, depending of course on where one is being boidak, if you chap. Avada this item was packed and when it comes to Pesach and even other occasions, everyone could use a little extra wood, if you chap.
And when it comes to celebrating the freedom the Yiddin achieved after 210 years of slavery in Mitzrayim, can you think of a better place than a hotel to help celebrate this spectacular yom tov and to commemorate the one single event that led to the Yiddin becoming a nation and accepting the heylige Toirah? Avada nisht! Some might klerr (think) that other yom toivim (holidays) are more significant- say limoshol- the big ones- Roish Hashono and Yoim Kippur ober Raboyseyee, let’s get serious: it all began with yitziyas Mitzrayim (our leaving Egypt) and the RBSO makes sure that we recall this seminal event multiple times daily. Every move we Yiddin make, especially during davening, kiddish and elsewhere, we are reminded that the RBSO redeemed us from slavery from those Egyptian chazerrim and took us out of Mitzrayim. And avada you all recall that the Yiddin were so busy packing gold, silver and other riches including jewelry and even chastity belts (so says Rashi and others), they left without having time to bake the bread. Nebech (sadly), the yeast had no time to rise and therefore it’s our duty to eat matzoh for eight days along with a few hundred pounds of other goodies, mostly though, potatoes and cake, while watching our waistlines rise to new highs; yikes! And ever since, we celebrate Pesach with our families, even the extended one, including a few relatives we can’t stand looking at and mostly talk about behind their backs.
On Pesach night(s), we read the Haggodo, which for centuries now has been the text through which the Yiddin have engaged in the retelling of their exodus. With the reading we fulfill the mitzvah of “Ve-higadeta le-vincha”—(“And you shall tell your son,” Shmois 13:8), and to “Remember this day that you came forth from Mitzrayim” (Shmois 13:3). It’s taka a beautiful story but two nights in a row? Efsher you want to know who wrote this Haggodo and even if you don’t, the Oisvorfer will shed some light while the plane is shokeling like a lulav. Nu, it’s taka palm Sunday, efsher the pilot is doing the nanuim in the cockpit, ver veyst? The Haggodo is basically a collected work of prayers, brochos (blessings) and excerpts from the heylige Toirah, Mishnah, and the Midrash and was not written by one particular author. It kept growing over time and was gradually supplemented by psalms and songs. And listen to this: The first printed version of the Haggodo was published in Guadalajara in 1482, ten years prior to the expulsion of the Yiddin from Spain. By the 16th century, there were approximately 25 printed versions; 300 years later, there were more than 1,000. Today Art Scroll alone has nearly 100 versions; of course each is sponsored by some mishpocho. Grada the Oisvorfer’s mishpocho also sponsored one version some $75k and many years ago.
Earlier this morning, the eishes chayil biz hindred in tzvuntzig (till 120) asked if the Oisvorfer remembered to sell the chometz . As any rebbitzen should, especially one married to the heylige Oisvorfer, she was farzurget (worried) about being oiver (violating) this great issur (no no) of owning Chometz on Pesach. Taka an excellent question hours before the mishpocho was headed towards the airport. And though it was only 7:00AM, the Oisvorfer was klerring azoy: which Rabbi wouldn’t appreciate yet one more client, even in the wee hours of the morning? An envelope containing cash or a check made out to cash for acting as the Oisvorfer’s agent to consummate the deal with the goy, is easy, gishmak and highly profitable. On the other hand, would they be available so early on a Sunday morning? The Rebbitzen was told not to worry and that the sale would take place within minutes, mamish. The Oisvorfer had a plan. Three minutes later the deed was done, the sale you chazir! Efsher you’re wondering which lucky Rabbi was instantly available and lucky enough to be the agent to sell the Ruv’s chometz, are you? The emes is that this year, as in the last few Pesach seasons, the Chometz was posted for sale on on eBay, isn’t that where everything gets sold these days? Avada this is but a shtikel attempt at humor and the emes is that the Ruv did sell his chometz – online- by entering into a shtikel (sham) transaction…..shhhhhhh. What’s taka pshat? Here’s what went down. A transaction was entered into in which he sold his chometz to an unsuspecting goy; hopefully he won’t find out, call the authorities or even worse, demand delivery. A business transaction was entered into, chometz was sold, but no chometz was delivered, nor was there a hava mina (a first thought) for such a closing to take place. . oy vey! Moreover the Ruv, as the seller, wasn’t paid a plug nickel for the sale. Shoin: a sale for no cash or other consideration. It gets even worse: he had to pay. A shtikel donation was made to get rid of the chometz and taka why? Because of the middleman, and who might that be? Nu, for most of us, it’s our local Rabbi who has, over the past 50-100 years, set himself up as the selling agent who arranges the sale and buyback, and for that service, he gets a shtikel vig (typically in cash). Rabbis have built a nice little side business that flourishes once yearly that puts a few extra shekels into their pockets. And why not? Some say, though it still remains to be proven, that a few Rabbis use these funds for charitable purposes. Others, ver veyst? Nu, back to the sale: As I said, money did actually change hands ober unfortunately; the seller (me) didn’t see one red cent. In this case, the middleman got the cash. How all this works, ver veyst but when it comes to making money, don’t sell our clergy short. And if you do, you’ll have to pay for that as well. Though trained in the heylige Toirah, Gemora and other such subjects, business is business, first and foremost, and selling chometz is big business.
What’s pshat? Have you ever made a sale where you had to pay? Back in business 1.1, I was taught that the seller receives and the buyer pays. And is this what takes place when one sells his chometz? A nechtiger tug and fuggitabout it. Grada I can’t think of one other such lopsided transaction, and all this, is somehow approved, ratified, certified and supervised by none other than our local Rabbis who have established such an amazing and givaldige business model. And all this, with but a handkerchief or pen. Is an IPO far off? Alts kint (as a young child), I have vivid memories of accompanying de tata (my father) to the Rebbe where de tata signed his name alongside many others, lifted the Rebbe’s dirty handkerchief, slipped him a few dollars (typically in cash) and shoin: like magic mamish- all the chometz we had in the house was suddenly no longer ours. And then eight days later, in David Copperfield fashion, an hour or so after Yom Tov, we opened the door to the chometz closet and mamish a neys min hoshomayim (miracle from heaven) took place. The same chometz we sold to the goy for X dollars and for which we received Y dollars (Y=$0) and for which we paid the selling broker (the Rebbe) Z dollars, was there just where we left it. Nu, could there be a bigger miracle than that? Avada nisht. How did all this start and is this glatt kosher or even kosher at all? Nu, let’s see.
Lommer unfangin: it all started with a Mishne (Pesachim 2a) which discusses the inyan (topic). Ober we’ll skip that for now and begin instead with some historical background. Pesach is, after all, about history.
The practice of selling chometz to remove it from Jewish ownership on Pesach, as dictated by the RBSO, has gone through four historical stages and with the advent of the Internet, we may be on the verge of witnessing a fifth. Says Reb Shlomo Yosef Zevin (Homoiadim Behalocho ch.4) azoy: way back when, individuals taka permanently sold their chometz to goyim (gentiles) and avada this seems to be a glatt kosher way of observing this mitzvah. Let’s call this stage one. The Yiddin weren’t too happy with this method but halocho is halocho and they kept it.
Eventually the Yiddin started acquiring more goods including spirits (read: scotch and other fine drinks) and quickly figured out that this sale before Pesach was a losing proposition and epes Pesach didn’t feel all that right when they goy was making money off their backs after the Yiddin had slaved for 400 years. What to do? Enter stage two: in this iteration of keeping Pesach correctly, the Yiddin were selling their chometz and then repurchasing it after Yom Tov. Taka it doesn’t sound all that different than does stage one ober Raboyseyee, it is. Back then in both stages, the seller (the Yiddin) sold and delivered the sold goods to the goy. The goy paid and received goods, mamish the way a real contract should work. Ober the Yiddin soon tired of packing up and schlepping chometz to the goy’s house and then having to schlep it all home again. Besides, how can they trust that the goy didn’t dilute the scotch with some water or use our special dishes for himself for Easter meals? What to do? Introducing stage three.
In this stage, the Yiddin sold their chometz without removing it from their own homes. Yes, I sold it to you Mr. Goy but I think I’ll just hold onto it. Of course you are more than welcome to come by anytime and retrieve it, not!! Nu, and when the Yiddin saw that this stage was working out to their advantage – no more schlepping- they went out and perfected what we now call stage four and in this stage we authorize our local Rabbi to conduct the entire sale and repurchase the chometz on behalf of the gantze kihila (community). As you can only imagine, each stage was quite controversial and wasn’t adapted universally, but with time each new look of chometz selling, took hold with the support of major halachic authorities who avada also enjoyed their commissions for arranging the sale/buyback. And taka why not? Isn’t life supposed to get easier?
Grada this easy form of ridding one’s house of chometz, has dominated for over a century. Individuals appoint (read: pay) their rabbi as an agent to sell the chometz. Each individual is technically the seller but the rabbi, having been empowered by you touching his dirty handkerchief or otherwise making a kinyan, if you chap, serves as an agent for many people and conducts one communal sale on behalf of all those who appointed him. Shoin, got all that? Let’s go veyter so that you amaratzim (less than neophytes) know a shtikel more than you ever did about Pesach.
As you can imagine these last two stages weren’t without controversy and what in our religion isn’t without some? Some people were quite upset about a sale where goods never left the possession of the seller. In other words: it doesn’t epes have the feel of a real sale. In plain English: is this efsher maybe a sham transaction? And even with money as the great driver, the fourth stage — the communal sale by the rabbi, didn’t sit well by all. If one is not even selling the chometz directly to the poor unsuspecting goy, there is a greater chance that one (I mean you) may not really intend to sell it and that one (you) is just performing a ritual. Is this what the RBSO wants from us? Is this how we repay the RBSO for performing all these miracles for our mishpocho? Seemingly the answer is yes.
And like everything else in life, over the past decade, we have witnessed a new development —sale of our Chometz over the internet. This latest iteration entails the seller entering his/her address and other information on a web form and clicking on a button to appoint a rabbi — sometimes unspecified — as an agent to sell chometz. Without seeing or even speaking to the rabbi performing the sale, the seller is even further removed from the transaction. The seller doesn’t have to visit the Rabbi, chap him, have him chap you, do the kinyan, schmooze, wait on line, make small talk and, above all, hand over large sums of money, typically in a white envelope. Does this work? Seemingly yes and many are quite happy bit zicher not all Rabbis. And avada now you can chap why Rabbis are trying to ban the gantze internet. They don’t care about bochurim (young teenagers) watching naketa mydlich (naked girls) or that the boys and girls are ichatting, bbming, sending tantalizing messages and otherwise hooking up: what they do care about is profits and internet sales of chometz are zicher and avada cutting into their profits. And when it comes to putting your hands into the Rabbi’s pockets, you can rest assured that somewhere a plot is unfolding to find a halachic reason to ban the gantze farshtunkine and tumidikke Internet. On the other hand, some Rabbis I knew growing up, didn’t at all mind sticking their hand into our pockets, if you chap- which they did, nebech.
And taka how does the Internet sale take place? Is this sale kosher: nu, let’s see. Says the Shulchan Oruch, Choishen Mishpat 182:1 azoy: Technically, one may appoint an agent merely by stating that you are appointing him. Ober says the RambaM (Mishneh Toirah, Hilchos Mechirah 5:12-13): that there’s taka a minhag (custom) to solidify an appointment of an agent by making a kinyan sudar, performing a symbolic act of acquisition which demonstrates the transfer of authority. As we stated above, typically this was accomplished by lifting the Rabbis handkerchief or pen and telling the Rabbi that you were appointing him. Nowadays, a few contemporary Rabbis have introduced new and fun items to hold, each meant to convey the spirit of you, the seller appointing the Rabbi as your agent to conduct this so called sale where nothing ever leaves your possession except the cash that does leave your hands and never comes back. Ober says the Rambam: this ceremonial lifting does make clear that you truly want to appoint this agent to act on your behalf. One can also just lift his/her laptop and ceremoniously appoint the internet Rabbi through this new type of Kinyan.
The bottom line: you appoint an agent, you make the sale, the goods never leave your home, you don’t get paid but the agent makes out well.
In the meantime, don’t forget to do bidika ad sheyodoy maseges (checking for chometz as far as your hand reaches), if you chap.
A zissen Pesach