Web site helps restore Jewish tradition

By Kass Stone / Post-Tribune correspondent

Munster, IN — Passover is almost here and what are you going to do with all that chametz filling your cabinets?

Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov of the Munster-based Chabad of Northwest Indiana has the solution. From now until April 21, he will symbolically purchase it from you.

Passover is the Jewish holiday that commemorates the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt. According to tradition, the Jews were in such a hurry to flee Egypt they had no time to allow their baked goods to rise. They had to quickly bake the unleavened dough.

Because of this, it is against Jewish law to eat leavened food items (chametz) during the eight days of Passover.

According to Zalmanov, it is also against Jewish law to own or benefit from leavened food products during the holiday. If a leavened item is owned by a Jew during Passover, Zalmanov says it should not be eaten even after the holiday because it is contaminated.

Chabad is an international movement dedicated to promoting traditional Jewish practices. According to Zalmanov, it is an old Jewish tradition to make a symbolic sale of leavened food items prior to Passover.

A rabbi, or someone who is well versed in Jewish law, should be involved in the sale. Once the food items are symbolically sold, the rabbi conducts another symbolic sale of the items to a non-Jewish person.

The non-Jewish purchaser keeps the chametz until the end of Passover and symbolically returns the items to its original owners. This prevents the chametz from being contaminated.

Zalmanov is providing Jewish people in the area with a modern twist on the chametz sale. On his organization’s Web site, there is an online contract giving him the right to act as an agent in a chametz sale.

Zalmanov brings the contracts to a non-Jewish recipient, who will hold them until the end of Passover, when the chametz will revert back to its original owners.

The chametz remains in the original owner’s home. It should be locked up and kept out of site for the duration of the holiday.

“The reason I’m here is to help the Jewish community bring back old Jewish traditions to this Jewish community and teach people how these traditions can be observed in the modern world,” said Rabbi Zalmanov, who is providing his chametz sale services free of charge.

“By doing it this way, I thought I would make it accessible to people it would not be otherwise,” Zalmanov said.

To learn more about Rabbi Zalmanov, Chabad of Northwest Indiana and the chametz sale go to www.chabadnwind.com.