MEKHIRAT HAMETS: To sell or not to sell?

In our days, most communities, Ashkenazi and Sephardic,  arrange a Hamets-selling system in which the community members empower the rabbi to sell their Hamets.  This procedure is an Halakhic leniency done to avoid people from keeping “expensive” Hamets at home during Pesah.  Obviously, the validity of this selling should not be questioned, since every Rabbi leads his community according to what he considers the best for his congregants.

Personally, I don’t sell my Hamets and I encourage my community members to do the same.

Historically, Sephardic Jews did not practice the mekhirat hamets (=selling of Hamets) procedure. They simply got rid of their Hamets before Pesah began in accordance with the Mitsva of “tashbitu”, as we explained yesterday ( see here ) .

The only exceptional case in which Sephardic rabbis authorized selling the Hamets was the case of a food-store owner. In this case, a non-Jew would make a down payment for the total of the merchandise and from the moment he made that payment, the Hamets merchandise would belong completely to the buyer, and he would be entirely responsible for the goods, if damaged, stolen, etc. So, for example, if the goods were stolen during Pesah, the buyer will have to pay for them to the seller after Pesah. The buyer would also rent the store where the merchandise is stored for the duration of Pesah, and he would keep the store’s keys, which granted him total and unrestricted access to the premises of the store. The non Jewish buyer had the right to use, consume or even trade the Hamets merchandise during Pesah. And if he wished so, he could pay the balance and keep the merchandise for himself. As you can see, although the clear intent was that the seller would eventually buy back the Hamets after Pesah, the selling transaction was real, legal and binding.  The rabbis would not have accepted any phony selling transaction which would not have complied with Jewish and local Law because obviously, they took very seriously the prohibition of owning Hamets during Pesah.

Except for food business owners Sephardic community would not sell their Hamets.   What would they do with their left overs of Hamets food?

1. First, before Pesah, people would buy just whatever was necessary until Pesah, avoiding to have extra Hamets-food close to Pesah.

2. Second, whatever left overs of Hamets, if in good condition, would be given to a non-Jew as charity or as a gift, or if that is not possible, it would be disposed of.  Disposing of Hamets left-overs the day before Pesah is a Biblical Mitsva. So this is not considered “waste” ( בל תשחית).

3. If some Hamets accidentally had not being detected, then the bitul Hamets, the formula of renunciation to our ownership of any unseen Hamets in our properties, would prevent the transgression of owning Hamets during Pesah.

If one follows these simple steps, then there is no really need to “sell and buy back” any Hamets.

I would obviously encourage Sephardic Jews to preserve the ancient Minhag and not selling their Hamets, but getting rid of it.

(TO clarify all the technical problems involved in the Mekhirat Hamets procedure I wrote a separate text APPENDIX where I briefly describe the main Halakhic objections to the selling of Hamets. )

Remember that you only have to get rid of Hamets which is a food item (for human or animal consumption).

You do not need to sell your pots and pans, or anything that might contain “invisible” hamets (hamets balua’). Just put those utensils away during Pesah.

Medical pills, perfumes, cosmetics or any non edible items could be kept, regardless of their composition.

Food items: you could keep anything as long as you make sure that it does not contain any of these five grains: wheat, barley, oats, rye, spelt (FYI, anything which contains gluten, is Hamets. Check online!).

All those community members who wish to follow the tradition of removing all Hamets from your premises and avoiding the selling of the hamets, can email me ( a list of food you wish to keep and I will email back the status of that food (K: Keep.  D: Discard, or give as a gift to a non Jew).

Selling or not selling your Hamets, is at the end of the day, as any other halakhic leniency or stringency,  a personal choice we do in consultation with our community’s rabbi.

Those who wish to keep their valuable hamets products (whiskey, vodka or liquors made from grain alcohol, etc), should arrange the selling of the Hamets thru their local rabbinate and avoid online selling