A Guide To Purchasing Chometz After Pesach

Published Spring 2015

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 after  Pesach from  chometz  which was owned by a Jew during  Pesach .  Such  chometz  is known as chometz  sheovar olov 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 gentile 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 on  Pesach  and is therefore forbidden, or whether it came into the store after  Pesach  and is permitted.  Since  chometz  sheovar olov 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 on  Pesach .  (This is because we apply the principle that “ safek derabbanan 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 in the two weeks after  Pesach  was already in the store on  Pesach .  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.
If one accidentally purchases  chometz   immediately after  Pesach  from a store that sells chometz  sheovar olov haPesach , one may not derive benefit from that  chometz . However, one may return it for a refund as the sale is a  mekach  ta’os , a mistaken sale. Returning the product does not constitute deriving benefit.

A Jewish-Owned Store That Sold Its  C hometz  To A Non-Jew For  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, bedieved the sale is valid because legally the  chometz  no longer belongs to him.3  However, other  Poskim  are stringent.4  Even  Rav  Moshe agrees that  chometz  that the Jewish owner purchased during  Pesach  is not included in the sale and cannot be eaten after Pesach .

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 by 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  sheovar olov 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 immediately after  Pesach :  BJ’s, Costco, CVS, Food Lion, K-Mart, Kroger, Mars, Petco, Petsmart, Rite-Aid, Royal Farms, Sam’s Club, Save-A-Lot, Shoppers, Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, Walmart, Wegmans, and Whole Foods.

A Store That Receives  Chometz  From A Jewish Distributor

How does a supermarket get the food that it sells?  A distributor brings the food from the manufacturer to a warehouse, from where it is sent to individual supermarkets.  If the distributor is Jewish, and he owned the  chometz  during  Pesach , that food would be forbidden after  Pesach .  Even if the supermarket is owned by non-Jews, the food would still be forbidden after  Pesach , as it was owned by a Jew during  Pesach .

C&S Wholesale Grocers is a wholesale distributor of food and grocery store items.  It is a privately held company, and is the largest wholesale grocery supply company in the United States.  It currently serves about 5,000 stores in 15 states (including California, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania).  Its customers include Safeway, Target, A&P, Stop & Shop, Giants, Ralphs,Foodtown, and Winn-Dixie.  However, the STAR-K does not have information as to which specific products are distributed by C&S, nor which specific stores are serviced by them.

The company was founded in 1918 by Israel Cohen and Abraham Siegel.  Rick Cohen is the current chairman and CFO, and is the third generation of the family to lead the company.  It is assumed that he is Jewish.  In the past, a prominent rabbi arranged a  mechiras   chometz for C&S distributors.  However, as mentioned above, according to  Rav  Moshe Feinstein  zt”l this sale would not include the  chometz  that C&S acquired during  Pesach .  Recently, another prominent  Posek  has been selling the entire company to a non-Jew for the duration of Pesach , so that any  chometz  bought during  Pesach  would also belong to that non-Jew. While this sale is to be welcomed, it is not without  halachic  difficulties, and some feel that the sale of a multi-million dollar corporation for the duration of  Pesach  is  halachically questionable.

Stores which receive goods from C&S may also work with other non-Jewish distributors, and it is very difficult to determine whether any particular product was distributed by C&S or by another company.  As mentioned above,  safek  chometz sheovar olov haPesach  is permitted, and this would include goods which may or may not have been owned by C&S during Pesach .  However, if a person has the option of shopping at a store which does not receive goods from a Jewish distributor that may have owned  chometz  on  Pesach , it is commendable to do so until four weeks after  Pesach .6

There are more than 35,000 supermarkets in America, and it is not possible to know who owns them or distributes to every one of them.  A local Orthodox rabbi should be consulted for guidance regarding local stores and supermarkets, as well as resolution of any  halachic issues.

A&L Foods is a Jewish-owned distributor of kosher food.  A&L Foods sells their  chometz  to a non-Jew through the STAR-K and does not buy or sell any  chometz  during  Pesach .

Buying Bourbon

The Sazerac Company is a privately held alcoholic beverages company, and is the largest distilling company in the United States.  Although it produces a variety of alcoholic drinks, the primary focus of its business is bourbon.  Although there is some discussion in the Poskim , the general consensus is that the prohibition of  chometz  sheovar olov haPesach applies to bourbon.  To the best of our knowledge, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Sazerac Company is Jewish.  Although the Sazerac Company recently began selling some of its  chometz  for  Pesach , it will be eight to ten years before that bourbon comes to market.  The Sazerac Company ages bourbon for years before selling it, so all their bourbon should currently be considered  chometz  sheovar olov haPesach  and is not recommended year-round.7


1.  Mishna  Berura  448:25.

2. See  Igros  Moshe O.C.  4:96, which distinguishes between small and large Jewish-owned stores.

3.  Igros  Moshe O.C.  1:149, 2:91, 4:95.

4.  Maharam  Shick O.C.  205,  Sdei  Chemed  vol. 7 page 352.

5.  Zeicher  Yitzchok siman  8.

6. Heard from  HaRav  Heinemann  shlit”a .

7. A list of their products can be found at http://www.sazerac.com/BrandPortfolio.aspx?NBid