Arts & Culture
5:00 am
Mon March 25, 2013

N.H. Jews Go Online For Ancient Passover Ritual

Selling chametz before Passover

 

Matzo is eaten during Passover, rather than leavened bread.
Credit Ron Almog (http://www.flickr.com/people/ronalmog/) / Flickr

   Passover begins at sundown on Monday.  One of this holiday's many traditions includes selling all bread products in a Jewish household to a non-Jew.  These days, families don’t even have to venture from their computers to accomplish that ancient ritual.

During the week of Passover, practicing Jews don’t eat Chametz.  Which is, more or less, anything  made from grain that has been in contact with water for more than 18 minutes -- like bread, or cereal. What Jews eat instead, is matzo – unleavened crackers that symbolize freedom of Jews from slavery in Egypt.

As Passover approaches, many Jews across New Hampshire – and the world – scour their homes, removing any trace of chametz. Why? For one, if you take the Torah literally, eating chametz during Passover will result in the extinction of your soul. So, you wouldn’t want to accidentally swallow a cookie crumb. But mostly, removing chametz is a symbolic ritual. Manchester’s Rabbi Levi Krinsky says "chametz is symbolic of the ego, our own leavening of ourselves, our boastfulness."

To get rid of the chametz, you can either burn it, or you can sell it to a non-Jew.  After Passover, that person can sell the chametz back to the Jewish family.

But instead of seeking out some random goy – congregants usually sign a contract allowing their rabbi to sell the chametz for them.

And with the help of technology you can even go online to do it, delegating the power of attorney on your behalf.

That’s what Krinksy does for his Manchester congregation. Then, he delegates the responsibility again, to a single rabbi in New  York.

He signs an agreement paper that says everything I send him I hereby authorize him to make the sale.

Then, hours after Passover, that non-Jew theoretically sells the food back to the thousands of original owners via those two rabbis, without the chametz ever leaving anybody's home.  On a larger scale, Israel sells $150 billion in prison and emergency food supplies to a non-Jewish hotel owner, who sells it back a week later.