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QUESTION

Westchester, NY

I have some חמץ שעבר עליו את הפסח. My school is doing a food drive this week. Can I donate my חמץ without concern for הנאה? The food drive is also a competition between classes. If I put it in one of the classes’ boxes, would that be a problem?

ANSWER

The Gemara says in a different context that a gift is like a sale, since it usually is in repayment of some good that the person did for you (a little cynical view on human nature, I’ll admit). This is used, for example, in the halakha of doing business with non-kosher animals and whether this would apply to gifts (see Shulchan Arukh YD 117:1). Those discussions aside, it is clear that you cannot give it as a gift. The Gemara talks about burying or destroying issur hana’ah, which makes it clear that there really isn’t anything else that can be done. There is even a debate about throwing it to a dog that is not your own. See Pitchei Teshuva YD 94:5.

I haven’t considered the case of a food drive before, where you don’t know the person who is receiving it, so maybe it could be defined as a case without any benefit. But in the case you describe, where it is helping one class, it definitely is a problem.


FOLLOW-UP QUESTION

If I give it separately from the class boxes, it might be okay? Or even just drop it off at a food bank?

ANSWER

I wouldn’t. Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Ma’achalot Assurot 8:16) forbids giving issurei hana’ah to a non-Jew or to dogs. From the context it sounds like even if the dogs are wild. This possibility also arises regarding chametz in Yerushalmi Pesachim 2:1. Why is this assur? Some say because you used them in the way you wanted and there is some gratification there. Others say that the issur from which issur hana’ah is based on is לא יאכל , anything that is a form of eating, even if you get no benefit, is forbidden.

The first approach applies to the food bank. The second approach is questionable: chametz after Pesach is a kenas.

In addition, some say that this whole extension to throwing to the dogs is rabbinic because it undercuts the mitzvah to bury them.

See Levush OC 448:6 and Imrei Binah 19.

So, what does that leave us with? A gift to someone you know might well be a fundamental violation of hana’ah. A gift, not based on לא יאכל, but it might be seen as an extension of the issur chametz.

A gift to someone you don’t know is more comparable to the case of the dogs that are not yours – no benefit, but you are doing with them something that you want, and they are being eaten. Here there is much more reason to assume it is rabbinic, perhaps specifically based on the word יאכל.

So – one could argue any of the following to permit:

  1. Chametz after Pesach is just a kenas, so the issur hana’ah should be measured more practically. Chazal wanted to prevent you from benefitting from your actions – and would not apply to these types of cases
  2. Since throwing to dogs or – presumably – giving to non-Jews you don’t know is most likely only rabbinic, one could question whether they applied that to a rabbinic kenas (sort of like #1, but here more about gezeirah lagezeirah type of logic)
  3. The issur of dogs / non-Jews you don’t know is based on לא יאכל which most likely doesn’t apply here, and
  4. It is possible to say that the case of dogs is only your dogs, and there is real benefit, and giving to someone anonymous would not be a problem at all.

And since at the end of the day this is a kenas, we can certainly rely on an argument to be lenient, especially as it prevents wasting the food. That being said, I personally would throw it out.