Mechiras Chametz – Sale of Chametz for Passover
What is Chametz?
Chametz is defined as any leavened food product made with one of the “five grains” – wheat, barley, oats, spelt and rye. Chametz is prohibited for Jews during the Passover holiday, according to Jewish law. This prohibition includes eating, using, and even owning any products that are or contain Chametz, hence the requirement of the sale of chametz leading up to Passover (as you’ll see below).
The Relevance of Chametz in Kosher Certification.
The kosher status of a food item is normally determined by its ingredients and formula, as well as the equipment and processes used in production. This also applies to the additional laws that constitute Kosher-for-Passover certification. However, during and after Passover, the mere ownership of the food by a Jew affects its kosher status, even when all ingredients and processes are kosher-approved. Chametz that is owned by a Jew during Passover (beginning from the morning before Passover until the conclusion of the 8-day holiday) is not permitted for consumption even after Passover. Jewish ownership during Passover renders a formerly kosher product to be non-kosher.
Why Companies Sell Their Chametz for Passover.
In order to enable Jewish businesses to abide by these laws without suffering a monetary loss, Jewish law allows for any chametz or potential chametz that is owned by a Jew to be sold to a gentile prior to the holiday, and OK Kosher requires this for all of our Jewish-owned companies. The logic behind the sale of chametz for Passover, known as mechiras chametz, is that when one sells his chametz to a gentile, he transfers ownership of the chametz and thereby avoids the prohibition of owning the chametz during Passover. (Of course, all other prohibitions of chametz, such as eating, still apply.)
The prospect of having one’s assets sold to a stranger may not seem to be in one’s best interest; it should be noted however, that precautions are taken to protect business owners. In addition, this is a halachic practice that has been observed for hundreds of years (including by fortune 500 companies) with no negative impact ever reported.
With this sale, the chametz belongs to a person who is not Jewish for the duration of the holiday, and is then permitted for kosher consumption after the holiday. At the conclusion of Passover, the original Jewish owner can purchase his chametz back from the buyer. The sale contract gives the original owner exclusive rights to buy it back after the holiday.
How to Sell Your Company’s Chametz
The particulars of the sale arrangement depend on whether or not the company is open for business during the holiday, (i.e. purchasing, selling or producing chametz). For a company that is open for business during Passover, the sale contract contains broader language related to the sale of future acquired chametz as well. If a company will be closed during the entire Passover, the sale includes only chametz that is already under the ownership of the Jewish proprietor.
The requirement to sell the chametz applies even if the Jewish owner is not the sole proprietor. Please note that OK Kosher cannot certify any products that are chametz or contain chametz if this sale has not taken place.
The laws of selling chametz are complex and detailed. Typically, a POA is given to a Rabbinic authority, who then arranges the sale with the non-Jew. OK Kosher has prepared POA forms (with the above mentioned options) for Jewish-owned OK companies to fill out. Our Rabbinic team has the expertise to execute these sales according to Jewish law, in order to ensure the kosher status of these products.
For questions on the requirements or process of selling chametz for Passover, please contact the OK Kosher Service Desk, or reach out directly to your account representative.