Kenneth Cohen

Owning Chametz

There is a fascinating statement in the Talmud in Baba Kama 29b. Rabbi Yishmael declares that there are two things that are not in the possession of an individual, and yet, he is responsible for them.

The Torah taught that they are still viewed as though, they are in his possession. This refers to a pit that was dug in a public domain, and Chametz after the sixth hour and onwards.

One cannot declare ownership on property belonging to the public. Nevertheless, if one creates a hazard by misusing public property for his personal use, he would be liable for damages. He does not own the pit, but he is responsible.

The case of Chametz is more complex. The Gemara observed that one cannot be considered the owner of an object, when he has no benefit from it.

The Torah forbids the eating of Chametz, or leaven, from the sixth hour, which would be midday. Therefore, if one did not remove his Chametz from his home, or sell it to a non-Jew, he bears responsibility.

He cannot be considered the owner of the Chametz after the sixth hour, because he is not allowed to benefit from it. But he is still liable for two negative commandments. “You may not see,” and “you may not find.” This is the Torah’s expression of giving a penalty for possession of a foreign substance in the holiday of Pesach.

It is my desire to share with you the brilliance of Talmudic scholars. And it is also my desire to teach some of the laws of Passover.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at