Selling Leaven

Rabbi Eli Gersten

Selling leaven of Jewish owned companies for Passover accomplishes two functions. Firstly, it prevents the owners of the leaven from violating the Bibilical prohibition of owning leaven as it states in Exodus (12:19), “For seven days leaven shall not be found in your houses”. Secondly, it saves the leaven from becoming forbidden after the Passover holiday. Ideally we try to arrange all sales in the most optimal way so as not only to protect the kosher status of the products but also to prevent the owners from violating several prohibitions.

Selling leaven today is typically arranged by authorizing a Rabbi to act as the legal agent on behalf of the one selling the leaven. This same procedure is utilized in regards to selling leaven for companies. However the question arises, who may authorize the sale of leaven on behalf of a Jewish owned company?

• The best procedure is to have the Jewish owners themselves sign the power of attorney authorization form.

• Where this is not possible, OU policy allows a non-Jewish manager to authorize such a sale on the Jewish owner’s behalf. However, this manager must have decision making powers regarding buying and selling on behalf of the company.

• If the Jewish owner delegated the responsibility of selling the leaven to someone in the company then this is also acceptable even if this person does not have any decision making powers. However, this must be done with a formal written authorization. One who has no decision making powers and was not delegated may not authorize the sale of leaven.

Rav Moshe Feinstein, of blessed memory, validated the sale of leaven performed on behalf of Jewish owned supermarkets, even though they did business with the leaven on Passover. However, Rav Moshe’s leniency only applies to items that were in stock from before Passover and were not sold during Passover. Therefore, this leniency has little relevance for Jewish owned companies that continue to receive, produce, and/or sell leaven on Passover. Additionally, Rabbi Genack had been told by Rabbi Soloveitchik not to allow sales which clearly show there was no intent to conduct a sale, unless there are other mitigating factors. Therefore, OU policy has been:

• When a company is completely Jewish owned and is involved with production of real leaven products then a sale is only acceptable if the company ceases all leaven operations for the duration of Passover. They may not accept deliveries of leaven, nor may they ship out leaven products. For these purposes we consider flour to be real leaven.

• If non-Jews are the majority stock holders in the company then we may allow the Jewish partners to sell their share of the company to the non-Jewish partners for the duration of Passover.

• Even if the Jewish partners are the majority owners, there are still instances where we permit the sale of the company to the non-Jewish partner. For instance, we can allow for a sale, if the leaven in question is only admixture of leaven or is whiskey or there are other mitigating factors.