You relax in your seat and open your airline meal only to discover that it’s chometz. What should you do now? Halachic review by Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Raskin, Rov of Anash in Stamford Hill, London.
Many thousands of Jews travel to spend Pesach with their families, with the plan to return to their home immediately after Pesach. One much-appreciated luxury available nowadays is the Kosher airline meal. Even the journey to the airport may prove arduous, add to that the miles of corridor until you board. A hot Kosher meal [usually served to you before most other passengers are served] is truly a balm for the weary traveler.
Kosher providers do give instructions to the airlines and similar, that only ‘Kosher for Passover’ meals should be served for the duration of Pesach. But, humans do err. So, you’re on an airplane during Chol haMoed Pesach, and are served a Kosher meal. You proceed to open it, and – to your horror – it’s a Chometz meal. Can you simply call the stewardess and ask her to take it away?
Had you declined the meal before it was handed to you, you would be able to relax. Even if your name is appended to the offending food packaging, it is still not your responsibility, because: a) the non-Jewish company isn’t qualified to be your Shliach; b) a Shliach acting for your detriment doesn’t count as your Shliach.
The problem arises once accepted the Chomeitz package, albeit unwittingly. In this case you have a duty to destroy that Chometz immediately. This can be done by crumbling it and then flushing it in the toilet.
Seemingly you should say the brocho ‘al biur chomeitz’ before performing this Mitzva. There is, however, some doubt at play here: does an acquisition in error count as an acquisition? Also: sometimes the foods served are ‘possibly’ Chometz rather than ‘definitely’ Chometz. Therefore, proceed with the disposal without reciting the bracha.
What about ordering a kosher meal for one’s return trip immediately after Pesach? Is that considered to be buying chometz on Pesach?
I recently came across this interesting Halachic ruling (Bedikas Chometz uBiuro, Linder, p.43):
“When purchasing an airplane ticket, whether on or before Pesach, for travel on Motzei Pesach, one should not order a Chometz meal for the journey. This applies even if the airline is not a Jewish company, because they will have bought that Chometz for you on or before Pesach.”
The source for this ruling is in Mishna Brura (siman 450:23). An illustration of the situation discussed there:
I am very friendly with my non-Jewish neighbor. On Chol HaMoed Pesach I see her preparing for her weekly shopping trip to the local supermarket. I give her $5 and ask her to buy two boxes of cereal, and request that she should hold on to the goods until after Pesach. Says the Mishna Brura that this should not be done, because some Poskim maintain that in a case where it is l’chumra, a non-Jew has the power of Shlichus. Accordingly, it is as I myself had bought those cereals on Pesach.
Coming back to our question regarding airline meals:
I have made some inquiries into the procedure of how the airlines acquire the meals. Wholesalers buy large quantities of frozen meals from the various specialized producers: Kosher, Halal, low sodium, Vegan, etc. A day before every flight, the airline provides the wholesaler with a list of passengers, stipulating who requires which type of specialist meals. The ‘middle’ company deliver these meals direct to each aircraft, prior to boarding.
This means that the Kosher meal served to you on a flight on Motzei Pesach was most likely purchased for you during Pesach. Although the purchase of the Chometz was indeed done by a non-Jew, according to the Poskim who opine that a non-Jew has the power of Shlichus l’Chumra, it’s as if you bought Chometz during Pesach.
[After the fact the meal may be eaten, relying on the majority of Poskim who maintain that a non-Jew doesn’t have the power of Shlichus, even when it is l’chumra].
It is noteworthy that the Alter Rebbe (siman 450:20) words this Halacha differently. The objection in the above scenario – where I gave the non-Jew money to buy Chometz for me during Pesach for my use after Pesach – is because the non-Jew “appears to be” my Shliach. Arguably, this mitigates the problem with the airline meals, because after all, having booked a flight and ordered a Kosher Chometz meal is a far cry from handing money to a non-Jew and specifically instructing him to go and purchase Chometz for me for after Pesach.
A further mitigating argument:
On a practical level, when travelling the day after Pesach you will very likely be served a kosher l’Pesach meal. This is because the vendors seek to rotate their stock ASAP. So indeed, when you order a kosher meal for after Pesach, you have no assurance that your meal will contain Chometz. Consequently, even if your airline does purchase a Chometz meal for you on Pesach, they should not be seen as your Shliach to do so, because from your part you are open to getting a Pesach’dike meal too.
To summarize: One should not specifically request a Chometz meal right after Pesach, because that would entail that it was purchased for you during Pesach. Conversely, one may order a Kosher meal for the same journey. If you are then served a Chometz meal, you may partake of it.
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