By Rabbi Meir Orlian

Mr. Leiner recently started working as the office manager in a firm. One of his responsibilities is ordering the food for business meetings and events. This includes picking up fresh pastries, when needed, from a local bakery.

Some time before Pesach, Mr. Leiner’s boss notified him: “I scheduled an important meeting in a month, on April 13. It’s important that you be there. You’ll have to order lunch and pick up pastries for refreshments from the bakery.”

Mr. Leiner checked the calendar, and saw that April 13 came out on chol ha’moed. “I was considering taking off that day,” Mr. Leiner told his boss.

“It’s a very important meeting, with long-standing clients of the company,” his boss replied. “You must be there to make sure things run smoothly. Please arrange your schedule accordingly.”

Mr. Leiner was not happy about having to come in on chol ha’moed but realized that he didn’t have much choice. He was more concerned, though, about handling the food on Pesach.

“I don’t see what the problem is,” a colleague said. “It’s not your chametz! You’re buying it for the company.”

“Still, I’m responsible for ordering it,” said Mr. Leiner.

“But it never comes into your possession,” argued the colleague. “You’re responsible to buy the chametz, but it’s not yours. Many people work in a non-Jewish environment where their colleagues have chametz on Pesach. If the chametz is not yours, there’s no prohibition to be around it.”

“Being around chametz is one thing; buying it is another,” said Mr. Leiner. “I’m not comfortable with the issue.”

“You can raise the question with Rabbi Dayan,” suggested the colleague.

Mr. Leiner called Rabbi Dayan. “I work as an office manager,” he said to Rabbi Dayan. “I need to order food for my company’s business meetings, and it involves buying chametz from a local bakery for an important meeting on chol ha’moed. Is that a problem?”

“If you can take vacation on chol ha’moed, it is preferable to do so,” replied Rabbi Dayan (see “Money Matters,” below). “And if you need to work, the chametz issue is not simple. The Rema rules, based on a responsum of the Rivash, that a Jew is not allowed to buy chametz for a non-Jew on Pesach, even with money provided by the non-Jew” (O.C. 450:6).

“Why not?” asked Mr. Leiner.

“The Rivash (#401) provides two reasons,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “First, there is concern that the Jew might accidentally eat from the chametz that he is handling. Second, because a Jew cannot serve as the halachic agent of a gentile; when he pays for the chametz and buys it, he acquires it and violates bal yeira’eh. Even if he intends not to acquire it, he is now responsible for the chametz as a guardian, which is also prohibited. Therefore, you should arrange that a non-Jewish worker buy the chametz on Pesach” (B.M. 71b; O.C. 440:1).

“This would apply if I pay with cash or pick up the chametz,” noted Mr. Leiner. “What if I simply order the chametz by phone through the company’s account and it is delivered directly by the bakery?”

“If you place the order but take no personal responsibility for the payment or the chametz, you do not violate bal yeira’eh,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “However, since it is also prohibited to benefit from chametz of a non-Jew, ideally you should avoid placing an order which consists primarily of chametz, because then you are interested in the existence of the chametz for your livelihood. Thus, to order lunch is permissible, even if it contains some chametz elements, but a bakery order preferably should be placed by a non-Jew or arranged before Pesach” (see M.B. 550:23; Teshuvos V’hanhagos 1:299; Piskei Teshuvos 450:4).

From The BHI Hotline: Chametz In The House
On Pesach

Q: Our non-Jewish housekeeper will be coming to the house to clean during Pesach. Often she comes with her groceries. Am I obligated to instruct her not to bring chametz into my house? Must I demand that she eat her chametz food outside of the house? Can I give her money to buy herself lunch or do I have to be concerned that she will purchase chametz?

A: Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 440:3) permits a homeowner to allow a gentile to enter his home on Pesach with visible chametz. The prohibition of bal yeira’eh–“seeing” chametz–is limited to chametz that one owns. It does not include chametz that belongs to others. Although a custodian must construct a partition in front of a gentile’s chametz to prevent the Jew from mistakenly eating it, that requirement does not apply to chametz a gentile is holding (M.B. 440:16).

Shulchan Aruch (O.C. op. cit.) rules that generally, a Jew may allow a gentile to eat chametz in his home. However, one may not allow a gentile whom one is obligated to feed, e.g., a housekeeper or live-in maid to eat chametz in his home, since people may think that the Jew gave the gentile chametz to eat (maris ayin, Shulchan Aruch HaRav 440:3; Shaar HaTziyun 440:30). Hence, a Jew may not allow a housekeeper to eat her own chametz in his home.

Even in circumstances where one may allow a gentile to eat chametz in one’s home, e.g., a repairman, the Jew may not eat at the same table with the gentile. Although when two Jews eat together, one dairy and the other meat, it is sufficient to place a separation on the table, sharing a table with a gentile eating chametz–even the minutest amount–is prohibited because it is possible that a chametz crumb will become mixed into the Jew’s food (Magen Avraham 440:7).

There are poskim who apply this to one who eats a meal or snack while seated next to a gentile on a plane or train on Pesach. Although they are eating from different tray tables, due to their close proximity to one another, a Jew should not eat until the gentile finishes (see Piskei Teshuvos 440:3).

Sending a gentile housekeeper to a cafeteria to purchase her own chametz to eat there is permitted, since the money is or becomes hers. However, it is prohibited to explicitly instruct her to purchase chametz since she would then be acting as the Jew’s agent (M.B. 450:15). Obviously, it is prohibited for a Jew to pay, at the time of the sale, a gentile’s bill for chametz.

However, sending her to purchase chametz on his account depends on whether he has store credit or will be billed later. Using store credit is prohibited even if one is not certain that the gentile will purchase chametz. The reason is that the store owner acts as an agent for the Jew and it is comparable to the Jew feeding the gentile chametz (O.C. 450:6; M.B. 19). If, however, the Jew will be billed at a later date for the purchase, the matter is subject to debate. Some maintain that the storekeeper acts as the Jew’s agent and it is prohibited. Others are lenient since the Jew never owned the chametz and is merely responsible to pay the debt generated by the sale of chametz. When a Jew is obligated to feed his housekeeper and is confident that the gentile will purchase chametz, he should adopt the stringent approach (O.C. ibid.; M.B. 18).

Money Matters:
Work On Chol HaMoed

Based on the writings of Rav Chaim Kohn, shlita

Q: My office is open on chol ha’moed. Am I required to take vacation?

A: Certain melachos are prohibited during chol ha’moed and others are permitted. One category that is permitted is davar ha’aved, work that if not done immediately will lead to loss (O.C. 530:1; 537:1).

Thus, if the absence of the worker will endanger his job or cause the employer financial loss (not just lack of additional profit), he is permitted to work.

If you can take vacation, it is certainly preferable. This upholds the sanctity of chol ha’moed and allows you to maximize celebration of the holiday with family and friends.

Nonetheless, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, maintains that a person is not required to skip vacation in the summer to leave vacation days for chol ha’moed Sukkos; some disagree. If you have available vacation days, you should take vacation on chol ha’moed, unless there is a specific need to save for the summer or other occasions; a rav should be consulted (Zichron Shlomo, Hilchos Chol HaMoed, p. 62; Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa, vol. II, 67:11). v

This article is intended for learning purposes and not to be relied upon halacha l’maaseh. There are also issues of dina d’malchusa to consider in actual cases.

Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, which is headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, shlita, a noted dayan. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, please call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e‑mail ask@businesshalacha.com. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e‑mail to subscribe@businesshalacha.com.

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