Mr. Yosef Herman, who gets a large share of credit for the
current worldwide revival in the lechatchila approach
to keeping the mitzva of chodosh, has found a new
field of research: chometz she'ovar olov haPesach.
Chometz that has spent Pesach in Jewish ownership is
forbidden for use after Pesach, and is known as chometz
she'ovar olov haPesach. Many Jews try to dispose of all
their Pesach in advance, but many others sell their
chometz to a non-Jew for the duration of the yom
tov. Much effort has been spent in Israel in recent years
on ensuring that the contract is written as a legally
enforceable one to make the sale a real one for the duration
of Pesach, even if it is bought back after the holiday.
The problem of owning chometz before Pesach is very
serious for a Jewish-owned business that may have hundreds of
thousands or even many millions of dollars worth of
chometz products in its inventory before Pesach.
Jewish owners have varying degrees of sensitivity to the
issue, depending on their own convictions and the convictions
of their customers. Some sell their chometz and close
down on Pesach; others sell their chometz but continue
to do business as usual on Pesach; others ignore the issue
After Pesach, everyone knows what the status of his own
property is, but there has been a considerable amount of
ignorance about the status of chometz that is in the
normal distribution chain of wholesalers and retail stores.
It is important to know how products pass through the system,
how long they take to pass through, and who owns them at the
various stages of the process.
Yosef Herman has now gathered a considerable amount of the
information and released it to the public. His goal was
merely to gather the information and to present it to the
public. He does not make halachic recommendations or
decisions. From past experience in his work on
chodosh, it can be expected that the availability of
reliable information about what is happening can have a
considerable impact on how individuals behave, and eventually
how large companies react.
It should be stressed that the information was gathered in
the northeast U.S., an area with a great concentration of
Orthodox Jews, but it is not known how similar other areas
even in the U.S. are to the northeast, and of course the
applicability of the results to the rest of the world is also
The two main issues that Mr. Herman researched are: how long
products spend in the distribution chain, and who owns them
at the various stages in the chain.
From his work on chodosh Mr. Herman has considerable
knowledge of the codes that all producers put on their output
that indicate the date of manufacture. Using this, he
surveyed the goods found in various stores to determine how
much time had passed from their date of manufacture. He found
that "for the supermarkets we surveyed the packages were
about 127 days old, measured from the time of production at
the factory." This means, "on the average," that all products
on supermarket shelves for four months (until after Tisha
B'Av!) were manufactured before Pesach.
He also found that the packages at the back of shelves are
much older than those at the front. The stores are supposed
to rotate their stocks and put the freshest products at the
back, but they did not do so in the stores he surveyed. In
the stores he surveyed, packages at the back were an average
of 103 days older than those at the front. This implies that
by carefully selecting the freshest products, a customer
could buy products manufactured after Pesach much sooner than
Another important issue is the ownership of the products from
the time of manufacture to the time of sale. There are two
major stages in the progress of the products from manufacture
to consumer: the final retail merchant and a wholesale
Mr. Herman's report includes detailed ownership and
management information for the major food merchants in the
northeast United States. Some of these large companies are
active in other areas as well. Ownership changes all the
time, and many companies that were originally founded by Jews
are now owned and managed by non-Jews. In other cases even
large chains are really co-ops in which the stores are
individually owned. In this case the ownership of each store
has to be ascertained individually, and it is also relevant
to find out whether the majority of the stores are owned by
Jews or non-Jews.
However, one of the biggest surprises from the research is
that the store is not such an important factor. In general,
the stores keep an inventory of only a few days' supply of
the products they sell. They rely on timely delivery of the
goods from one or more major wholesalers.
Mr. Herman found that three major food wholesalers, including
the largest, are owned by Jews. Furthermore at least two --
including C&S Wholesalers (the largest) and Di Giorgio which
claims to be the largest in metropolitan New York City -- are
privately owned. It was found that two sell their
chometz and Mr. Herman was unable to determine if Di
Giorgio sells its chometz. All of them continue to do
business during Pesach thereby undermining the sale.
These findings indicate that there is a lot more work to do
in this area. It may also prove important to find out what
the parallel situation is in other parts of the U.S. and in
other Jewish communities around the world.
The situation in Eretz Yisroel is certainly much different
since many companies specifically produce for the chareidi
community after Pesach. Nonetheless, it has never been
thoroughly checked out.