Why do I need to sell my hametz? Can I sell my hametz online? Is it better to do it in person with the rabbi?
These questions and others in a similar vein have been asked of me every Pesah since I've been a rabbi. First of all, the origin of selling hametz at Pesah time only came about during the Middle Ages. It was done for Jewish merchants who had much produce and to avoid them financial ruin the rabbis arranged for them to sell their hametz to other non-Jewish merchants. Regular Jews never sold their hametz and made sure to consume all their hametz by Erev Pesah.
As times changed and non-merchant Jews began to have larger amounts of hametz, the rabbis allowed for more Jews to sell their hametz. As food production became more complicated rabbis began to recommend that all Jews should sell their hametz on the chance that some food they thought was hametz free was actually hametz.
Originally the Jew would sell it to a non-Jew directly but as these laws can be quite complicated it became the practice to appoint the local rabbi your agent to sell the hametz and he would sell the hametz to a non-Jew over the Pesah period and then have the hametz bought back after Pesah was over. To see a more detailed account on this please read this article by Rabbi Gil Student.
This sale is no mere ceremony. It is not enough to just put one's hametz in the garage and seal it for Pesah. The non-Jew must have the ability to have access to the sold food over Pesah. So much so that someone going away for Pesah must leave information for where keys to the home would be left.
When meeting with the rabbi to sell your hametz a kinyan is normally done. The kinyan shows that you are appointing the rabbi your agent to sell your hametz. Some consider this to be so important they would consider it better to sell the hametz in person than to sell the hametz by mail or online.
Although it is good to do a kinyan with the rabbi, it is not in any way saying that selling online is inferior. Far from it the online selling can ensure that you have it done well before the deadline leaving you free to take care of the other things for Pesah. You can either fill the form out online or see me personally at the synagogue office. You can sell your hametz online by clicking here. Please remember to state your location city if you will be out of town for Pesah this year.