May one work at a grocery store during Pesach?
Question submitted to “Ask the Rabbi” by:
City: Columbia, Missouri
School: Public school
“I heard that during pesach you can’t even touch chometz. I work at a grocery store as a cashier. I took off for the Yom tovs of course, but am I allowed to work on the days in between the Yom Tovs? All the food except fresh produce is always in packages.”
Rabbi Tully Bryks responds:
There are three potential issues working in a grocery store over Pesach (Passover):
- Handling bread products – You are correct that one is not allowed to even touch chametz (food containing bread) during Pesach, even if one does not own it. The concern is that a person may inadvertently eat it, since, unlike non-kosher food, chametz is food that we regularly eat the rest of the year. As long as you only handle the packages that contain the food and never touch the chametz itself, then you would avert this concern.
- Benefiting from Chametz – A potentially much more serious issue is the biblical prohibition of benefiting from chametz during Pesach. Feeding chametz to your pets, decorating your room with chametz, creating incense from chametz or selling chametz for profit, are just a handful of examples of “benefit”. So even though you are not the store owner, if the store was a bakery, then the wages you earn would be ultimately be considered a benefit from chametz. However, as long at the majority of products being sold in the grocery store are not chametz, then we can assume that your wages came from the profit of the non-chametz products that were sold.
- Work during Chol HaMoed – It is best not to work at any time during Pesach, even when it is not Yom Tov, as the days of Chol HaMoed (intermediary days) are still considered holy. If one needs to work during Chol HaMoed in order to support oneself, or if one would lose their job if they did not work, then it would be permitted. But even in such a case, one should study the laws of Chol HaMoed ahead of time so that you would know how to deal with melachos (creative activity), such as writing, which may need to be done with a shinui (in an unusual way).
Bottom line – While it is better not to work at all during Pesach if possible, it is still permitted. In such a case, even working in a grocery store would be permitted, provided that the majority of products being sold are not actual chametz and that you try to avoid handing the chametz directly.
Wishing you and your family a Chag Kasher v’Sameach (Kosher and Happy Passover)!
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