Updated February 2023
See HERE for the printer-friendly 2023 BUYING CHOMETZ AFTER PESACH CHART.
1. A Jewish-owned store that did not sell its chometz to a non-Jew before Pesach
The Torah forbids a Jew to own chometz on Pesach. In order to dissuade people from owning chometz on Pesach, there is a rabbinic injunction not to eat or benefit from chometz which was owned by a Jew during Pesach. Such chometz is known as chometz she’avar alav haPesach, and it remains forbidden permanently.1
For this reason, one should not buy chometz from a Jewish-owned store immediately after Pesach, unless the owner sold all chometz that he owned before Pesach to a non-Jew for the duration of Pesach and did not acquire any further chometz during Pesach. The laws of mechiras chometz (selling chometz to a non-Jew for Pesach) are complex; therefore, the sale must be made by a competent rabbi or kashrus authority.
If a Jewish-owned store did not sell its chometz for Pesach, may one buy chometz from that store a few weeks after Pesach? It is difficult for the consumer to ascertain whether the chometz was in the store during Pesach and is subsequently forbidden, or whether it came into the store after Pesach and is permitted. Since chometz she’avar alav haPesach is a rabbinic injunction, one can be lenient if there is a reasonable doubt as to whether or not the chometz was in the store during Pesach. (This is because we apply the principle that “safek d’rabanan lekula” – we are lenient when it is uncertain whether or not a rabbinic restriction applies).2
Supermarkets generally have a two week turnaround time. It should be assumed that all chometz sold during the two weeks after Pesach was already in the store on Pesach. Chometz may be bought from a supermarket after that time if it is known that the distributor was non-Jewish. Regarding a store which receives chometz from a Jewish distributor, see below. Other stores, especially smaller ones, may have a longer turnaround time. The turnaround time for alcoholic beverages is longer than that of products in supermarkets. Liquor stores generally maintain inventory for six or seven weeks. One should wait until after Shavuos before purchasing liquor from such a store.
2. A Jewish-owned store that sold its chometz to a non-Jew before Pesach
As mentioned above, a Jew who owns a store can sell his chometz to a non-Jew for the duration of Pesach. If the Jew is observant and does not sell chometz to customers during Pesach, there is no doubt that he really intended to sell his chometz to the non-Jew before Pesach. However, if the owner is not observant and does not close his store for Pesach, it can be argued that he considers the sale of chometz to be a legal fiction and does not have real intent to sell the chometz. Nevertheless, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, paskens that bedi’eved the sale is valid because legally the chometz no longer belongs to him.3 However, other poskim are stringent.4 Rav Moshe agrees that chometz that the Jewish owner purchased during Pesach is not included in the sale and cannot be eaten after Pesach.
3. A store owned by a non-Jew or by a person that may or may not be Jewish
If a privately-held store is owned by a non-Jew, one may buy chometz from that store immediately after Pesach. However, a consumer may not know whether the owner is Jewish or non-Jewish. If the store is located in an area where the majority of people are non-Jews, he may assume that the owner is not Jewish. Unfortunately, even if the owner has a Jewish sounding name, the rate of intermarriage in America is such that the name may no longer provide an indication as to whether or not the person is Jewish.
Some food stores are owned by a number of partners or shareholders who each have stock in the company. If non-Jewish partners or shareholders own a majority of the business, there is no concern of chometz she’avar alav haPesach.5 To the best of our knowledge, the following are currently some of the supermarkets which are majority owned by non-Jews, and chometz may be bought from them in Baltimore immediately after Pesach: BJs, Costco, CVS, Food Lion, Giant, Petco, PetSmart, Rite-Aid, Royal Farms, Safeway, Sam’s Club, Save-A-Lot, ShopRite, Target, Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, Walmart, Wegmans, and Whole Foods. To the best of our knowledge, in Baltimore these stores do not receive chometz from a Jewish distributor (as explained below). For locations outside of Baltimore, the local kashrus organizations should be contacted.
4. Buying bourbon
The Sazerac Company is a privately held alcoholic beverage company. Sazerac is a large distiller distributor company in the United States. Although it produces a variety of alcoholic drinks, the primary focus of its business is bourbon. There is some discussion amongst the poskim, and the general consensus is that the prohibition of chometz she’avar alav haPesach applies to bourbon. The chairman of Sazerac is Jewish. Since the Sazerac company does not sell its distillery, products sold by the Sazerac company should be considered chometz she’avar alav haPesach.7