Pesach vacation had finished and Nadav returned to his high school dormitory. He was excited to see his roommates Ezra and Daniel. They had become good friends and they had missed each other over the chag. They entered their room and began unpacking. Nadav soon realized that he had packed too much. His closet was completely filled and he still had more clothes to unpack. “I guess I’ll just have to store some of it under my bed” he told himself.
“Hey. What’s this?” Nadav pulled a shopping bag out from under his bed. Inside he found an extra large package of chocolate chip cookies. “I completely forgot that I had these! I actually brought them from home after Succos. I stored them under my bed because my closet was too full then as well.”
Ezra patted Nadav on the shoulder and said “Fortunately the mechiras chametz contract also covers food that you forgot about. Let’s eat!”
“Actually” said Nadav slowly “I didn’t sell my chametz before Pesach”. .
“Why not?” asked Ezra and Daniel in unison.
Nadav tried to explain “By the week before Pesach I thought that I had eaten all my chametz.. How could I sell my chametz if I had nothing to sell?!”
Ezra tried to comfort Nadav. “Don’t worry. Pesach is over and so is the issur to eat chametz. Let’s eat!”
“I don’t think I’m allowed to eat it now” said Nadav. “You two can have them.”
Daniel hesitated and said “I’m not sure that we’re allowed to eat them either. Look – you still have the receipt. Just take the cookies back to the store and get a refund”.
Q: What should Nadav do with the chametz?
A: He can not use it for any purpose. This is because of a rule that the rabbis made to punish a Jew who was not careful with their chametz: the person is not allowed to receive any benefit from that chametz (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 448:3). If Nadav took the cookies back to the store for a refund, or gave them to his friends then he would be benefiting from them.
Q: What is the connection between our story and the parsha?
A: The law that we are not allowed to benefit from chametz that was not sold on Pesach is learned from our parsha. The third aliya teaches that if the meat of the korban comes into contact with something tamei, then “it cannot be eaten, it must be burned in the fire” (7:19). Why do we need the words “it cannot be eaten”? If the meat must be burned in the fire, then obviously it cannot be eaten! The reason for the extra words is to teach that in other halachic situations where food becomes forbidden to eat it must also be destroyed, such as chametz that was not sold (Pesachim 24a).
Q: If someone has no known chametz, is it wrong for him to sell his chametz before Pesach?
A: Actually no. This is because the non-Jewish buyer does not have a direct relationship with Jewish seller. The seller assigns his food to his agent (rabbi), and the agent sells the collective sum of chametz from all the Jews who came to him to the non-Jewish buyer. The buyer understands that he cannot know the precise amount of chametz of the whole group. Therefore it’s not critical whether Nadav does or doesn’t actually have chametz.
(Written by Josh and Tammy Kruger in collaboration with Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer of the Institute for Dayanim. Based on the writings of Rabbi Yechiel Michal Stern – Chamisha Chumshei Torah Im Medresh Halacha)