Purchasing Chometz After Pesach & Defining Real Chometz
Rabbi Dovid Heber, Star-K Kashrus Administrator
There are thirteen days of Yom Tov listed on the Jewish calendar. However, the impact of each holiday is often felt long before and after the thirteen actual days. The entire month of Elul is spent preparing for Rosh Hashana. Hopefully, the commitments of Yom Kippur last long after the final shofar blowing following neilah. The banging of nails can be heard throughout Jewish neighborhoods weeks before Succos. The excitement of Purim often lasts until the next Purim.
In this respect, Pesach is the most unique Yom Tov. In addition to the many hours spent cleaning and preparing the home for Pesach, and perhaps baking matzos, actual Halachos begin before Pesach, and extend long after the Yom Tov ends. On Erev Pesach, chometz may not be eaten after the end of the fourth hour of the day. All chometz must be sold or destroyed by the end of the fifth hour on Erev Pesach, because on Pesach, there is a Torah prohibition of bal yara'eh u'bal yematze, one may not have possession of chometz on Pesach. Thus, one may not retain possession of leavened products made from wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye (chameishes minei dagan).
After Pesach, there is a Rabbinical injunction of not eating or deriving benefit from Chometz SHeAvar Alav HaPesach (hereby referred to as Chometz SHAAHP), chometz that was in the possession of a Jew on Pesach. Therefore, after Pesach, consumers must ascertain the chometz they purchase was not in the possession of a Jew on Pesach. Chometz may be purchased from a store owned by a gentile. In Hilchos Pesach, a store is considered owned by a gentile if the gentile owns more than half of the store. In a corporation, at least 51% of the voting stock must be owned by gentiles, otherwise, the chometz should be considered Chometz SHAAHP.
Chometz may be purchased from a Jewish owned store whose owner properly sold the chometz before Pesach (e.g. Star-K Jewish owned facilities). A "proper" sale means the chometz is sold to a gentile (through one's Rav) and put away in a designated enclosed area for all of Pesach. A Rav should be consulted regarding stores who "sell" their chometz before Pesach, yet continue to allow customers to purchase the chometz on Pesach.
If one has a reasonable doubt whether a product was in the possession of a Jew on Pesach, it may be purchased after Pesach. For example, one may purchase pizza crusts with a reliable certification from a store owned by gentiles even though the chometz may have been in the possession of a Jewish distributor on Pesach who in turn sold the pizza crusts to this store . The prohibition applies only when one is certain, or where there is a strong reason to suspect chometz that was in the possession of a Jew on Pesach. What is most confusing is determining which foods fall into this category.
Various foods which may not be eaten on Pesach may not have a problem of chometz that was in the possession of a Jew on Pesach. In order to be eaten on Pesach, the product must have a reliable Pesach hechsher or must be approved for use on Pesach by a reliable authority. However, a product does not necessarily have to be "Kosher L'Pesach" to be purchased after Pesach from a store that has Chometz SHAAHP. A good example of this is kitniyos. Although Ashkenazim may not eat rice, corn, and other legumes on Pesach, these products do not have to be sold before Pesach. There is, also, no concern of Chometz SHAAHP. Therefore, legumes may be purchased from any store after Pesach.
Although products containing any amount of chameishes minei dagan should be sold before Pesach, not all products containing these grains are included in the prohibition of chometz that was in the possession of a Jew on Pesach. The guidelines are as follows:
It is important to note that products found in major supermarkets have a two week turnaround time. This means, if one finds chometz gamur more than two weeks after Pesach on the shelf of a Jewish owned store that did not sell it's chometz, one may assume the store acquired the product after Pesach, and there is no problem of chometz that was in the possession of a Jew on Pesach. Products found in smaller "Mom & Pop" shops may have remained on the shelf for a longer period of time, and clarification of turnaround time for each store must be made.
If one accidentally purchases chometz gamur immediately after Pesach from a store that sells Chometz SHAAHP, one may not derive benefit from the chometz. However, one may return it for a refund as the sale is a mistaken sale. Returning the product does not constitute deriving benefit.
The turnaround time for alcoholic beverages at liquor stores is longer than that of products in supermarkets. Popular liquor stores generally maintain inventory for about six weeks. A prudent person should wait until after Shavuos before buying liquor from a store that has a Chometz SHAAHP problem. At that time, one can assume all inventory arrived after Pesach. Wine and grape juice not Kosher for Passover do not pose a problem of chometz that was in the possession of a Jew on Pesach.
If the total content of the chameishes minei dagan is a kezayis or greater (1.33 fl. oz., 40 ml, approximately the size of a golf ball) in the entire package (and is more than 1/60 of the product) there would be a Chometz SHAAHP concern. For example, most breakfast cereals containing wheat or oat flour have a kezayis of chometz flour in the entire box, and would, therefore, be a Chometz SHAAHP. However, a product with less than a kezayis of chometz, where the chometz is not cooked together with the other ingredients, would not have a Chometz SHAAHP concern, since the volume of the actual chometz is less than a kezayis, even though the entire product is greater than a kezayis. When the chometz is less than a kezayis, and is cooked together with the other ingredients to form a product greater than a kezayis, or when the chometz is a flavor component (e.g. malt and barley extract), one should purchase the product from a store owned by a Jew who sold his chometz or from a gentile.
Additional products in this category include ketchup, pickles, mayonnaise, mustard, and extracts. Flour is also safek chometz, as it does not come in contact with liquid (this includes bleached flour). Although all of the above must be sold, they may be purchased from any store after Pesach. Commercial bakers yeast is generally grown on a molasses medium. It is, therefore, not chometz and may be purchased from any store after Pesach.
However, ta'aruvas chometz where the obligation to burn, is only m'derabanon, or at least according to some opinions only m'derabanon , is not chometz gamur. In addition, safek chometz, medications and non-edible items, and products processed on chometz equipment, are not Chometz Gamur. These products are sold before Pesach even by individuals who are stringent not to sell chometz gamur. Many individuals who do not sell chometz gamur will sell alcoholic beverages before Pesach. Each family should follow their custom.