Wednesday, April 29, 2009
OK, this public service ad is from the 70s, but still...
This is just to demonstrate to those who think this thing is being 'managed' and 'contained' just how difficult it is to do either in a world where people are so mobile.
Just to make sure everyone knows what we are up against, here's a good overview from the CDC:
Hat tip to my friend Dave for sending this my way
Monday, April 27, 2009
You can tell a lot about a country by the songs that become popular during times of war. If there is one reason I am here, and nowhere else in the world, it is because of a song that became popular after the Yom Kippur war in 1973. The words of the song contain the hopeful chorus, “I promise you my little daughter that this will be the last war”.
Today and tomorrow are the ‘one-two punch’ that tends to give the country emotional whiplash:
Today is Yom Hazikaron (memorial day for Israel’s fallen soldiers) and tomorrow night begins Yom Ha’atzma'ut (Independence day).
The back-to-back proximity of these two days is intentional. It forces the mourners of the former (there are almost no families that have not lost a member or close friend) to recognize that their loss helped make the latter possible. Likewise, it forces the celebrants of the latter to understand the staggering price paid by the mourners of former.
In ceremonies around the country for Remembrance Day, the country will mourn the men and women who have been killed while serving in the Israel Defense Force. Soldiers, young and old, will stand at attention with tears streaming down their faces as they remember missing friends, playmates and neighbors. These soldiers, from the newest recruit, to the Army’s Chief of Staff, will stand in their unadorned uniforms, with only worry lines and scars, besides the modest indicators of rank, to differentiate them. You see, unlike any other military in the world, The IDF does not pass out a lot of medals, ribbons, sashes, or other decorations to its soldiers for bravery.
Every soldier that serves during a war is given a small colored bar to indicate his/her participation. Besides that, the only adornment on even the most senior officer’s uniform is the unit tag on the shoulder, the indication of rank, and the IDF insignia (an intertwined sword and olive branch) on the beret. War is not something to be celebrated here…and it is assumed everyone, in their own way, and at their own time, will have been brave.
When a parent looks at his or her children growing up, they have boundless hopes for the future. Today is the day when parents stand and cry over dashed hopes…over a pain that can never be eased; the loss of a child. While families mourn for their members who were killed…this is not a time for private mourning. The country truly becomes one large family for at least this one day, and somehow the shared grief is easier to bear.
During the ceremonies at the Western Wall, President Moshe Katsav pointed out that, while we may mark tomorrow as Independence Day…today is necessary to remind us that the war of independence is not yet over. Most of the countries that attacked Israel on the day it declared its statehood in 1948 still consider themselves to be at war over the issue. With each passing year we hope that we will be able to finally live in peace.
Israel’s national anthem, like its soldier’s uniforms, is unadorned and free of martial trappings. No mention of battles or rockets. No bombs or flags. The national anthem is called ‘HaTikva’- literally, ‘The Hope’. The melody is borrowed from a simple eastern European folk song. The words speak about 2000 years of longing to live as a free nation in our homeland.
As an Israeli, and as a father, I can’t promise…but I hope we have truly seen our last war.
[I first published this entry April 26th 2004.
A [cytokine] storm seems to be brewing
I try to leave the medical stuff to the the professionals. After all, they went to school and actually studied the science behind most of the stuff that scares the bajeezus out of laymen (like yours truly). But today I am still too scared to sit still... so I'm going to blather on about yesterday's topic.
First a working definition for the medically challenged:
A cytokine storm (pronounced 'sigh-toe-kine') is a potentially fatal immune reaction consisting of a positive feedback loop between cytokines and immune cells, with highly elevated levels of various cytokines.
The primary symptoms of a cytokine storm are high fever, swelling and redness, extreme fatigue, and nausea.
When the immune system is fighting pathogens, cytokines signal immune cells such as T-cells and macrophages to travel to the site of infection. In addition, cytokines activate those cells, stimulating them to produce more cytokines. Normally, this feedback loop is kept in check by the body. However, in some instances, the reaction becomes uncontrolled, and too many immune cells are activated in a single place. The precise reason for this is not entirely understood but may be caused by an exaggerated response when the immune system encounters a new and highly pathogenic invader.
Cytokine storms have potential to do significant damage to body tissues and organs. If a cytokine storm occurs in the lungs, for example, fluids and immune cells such as macrophages may accumulate and eventually block off the airways, potentially resulting in death
So here's what has me worried:
In recent years scientists have exhumed the frozen bodies of victims of the 1918 flu pandemic who were buried in Alaska's permafrost and successfully extracted live virus samples from their lungs for study.
One of the things they have discovered from studying these long-frozen samples of the 1918 flu virus is that the reason it was most deadly among healthy adults (rather than infants and the elderly as one would assume), is that it seems to have set off a cytokine storm in the bodies of those who contracted it.
The stronger the immune system, the more violent and destructive the storm.
An infant or elderly person's immune system isn't strong enough to mount a sufficiently violent insurrection against a pathogen, but a healthy adult... that's another story. And if you look at who is dying from the Mexican swine flu, it is healthy adults... not infants, not the elderly and not the immuno-compromised.
I also want to expand on something that I have been noticing in the way the media is treating this story:
The mainstream media is first and foremost a marketplace. They are all competing for market-share and will do pretty much anything to woo readers/listeners/viewers from the competition. For this reason when a story comes up that can be exploited to elicit a strong emotional response (e.g. fear, anger, joy, etc.) it is usually flogged mercilessly with screaming headlines and breathless commentary.
However, if you pay attention to what is going on today in the media, everyone (and I do mean everyone) is carrying the story... yet they are all being extremely careful not to overplay it. If anything, they seem to be down-playing the story; and hiding behind canned recommendations from the CDC and government health representatives rather than offering their own commentary.
It's almost as if they are saying, "This is not a drill... this is the real thing, so we need everyone to stay very calm and wait for the people in charge to tell us what to do".
Lastly, I want to share my own personal theory about the current mortality patterns, which is based on so little scientific knowledge that it probably wouldn't even be taken seriously among avid fans of television medical dramas:
I think that the reason we are seeing a much higher mortality rate in Mexico than in the US is a serendipitous result of our abuse of antibiotics and other modern medical miracles here in the first world. Our immune systems are so over-protected and pampered by our tendency to run to prescription and over-the counter medicines at the first sign of discomfort, that they never get much of a work-out.
By comparison, people living in developing countries and the third world are less reliant on drugs to protect them, so their immune systems tend to be much more robust than ours. What this means (to me) is that if this strain of flu has the ability to set of a cytokine storm in the bodies of the people who contract it, it stands to reason that the ones who will die are those with the strongest immune systems.
Living, as I do, in a country where doctors are extremely careful about the use of anti-biotics, and where a large portion of the population are immigrants from developing countries and the third world... I am very frightened right now.
I hope against hope that I am completely wrong about this.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Masque of the Red Death
There have been many outbreaks of disease throughout recorded history that have gone beyond local epidemics, and into the realm of pandemic... cutting huge swaths through cities, countries and even civilizations.
The Bubonic Plague, for example, has resurfaced repeatedly throughout history. And due to ideal conditions for its proliferation, it is presumed to have been responsible for as many as 200 million deaths throughout history.
Then there are others, such as influenza, which have been with us as more of an annoyance than a real danger... except, of course, when it suddenly appears in a strain that cuts us down like wheat. Such was the case with the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic that some estimates reckon may have killed off between 2.5% and 5% of the human population at the time.
These days, just before 'flu season' the news media trots out a few experts who talk about the importance of getting a flu vaccine... and a few others who patiently explain the folly of giving flu vaccines to anyone but the most vulnerable (the elderly and very young), because the process of trying to guess which strain of flu will dominate any given area in any given year is a sucker's bet at best.
Then, of course, if a particularly virulent batch of bird flu pops up, the talk shows will immediately start booking experts who relate horror stories about how it's only a matter of time before some potent combination of animal and human virus pops up and smites us with a pandemic of never-before-seen proportions.
I have to tell you folks, I usually switch the channel when they start predicting the end of the world based on a localized outbreaks of bird flu. But there is something about the way the media is treating this Mexican swine flu thing... kind of like a kid who has been crying wolf for years and suddenly finds himself staring into the drooling maw of the real Canis Lupus... that has me wanting to lock myself (along with my family and friends) away in a mountaintop somewhere until this all blows over.
But anyone who has read their Edgar Allan Poe knows the folly of such a solution.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Hitchhiking through the past
Most of the time when I write about hitchhikers, I am talking about the soldiers and students who routinely catch a ride with me on my daily commute from Gush Etzion to Beer Sheva. But occasionally Zahava needs to use our car... and on those days I'm the one doing the hitchhiking (or taking the bus).
Yesterday was one such day, and since it was a bright beautiful morning, I simply asked Zahava to drop me off at the Gush Etzion Junction so I could try to catch a ride south through the Judean hills towards Beer Sheva.
Before I go on, a little background is required for those who are not familiar with the history of Gush Etzion:
The first modern Jewish attempt to settle within the area known today as Gush Etzion took place in 1927 by a group of Yemenite Jews who founded an agricultural village called Migdal Eder (Hebrew: מגדל עדר), in reference to a biblical quotation (Genesis 35:21). The location was purchased because it was roughly equidistant from Bethlehem and Hebron, and thus fell between the zones of influence of the local Arab clans. This early community did not flourish, mainly due to economic hardships and escalating tension with neighboring Arab communities. Two years later, the 1929 Arab riots and recurring hostilities forced the group to flee. The inhabitants of Migdal Eder were saved by the villagers of the neighboring Arab village of Beit Umar but were not able to return to the land they left behind.
In 1935, Jewish businessman Shmuel Holtzmann provided backing for another attempt at settling the area. The initial kibbutz, built on or near the remains of Migdal Eder, was named Kfar Etzion, in his honor ("Etzion" being a Hebraization of "Holtzmann"). The 1936-1939 Arab revolt made life intolerable for the residents, so they returned to Jerusalem in 1937.
The Jewish National Fund organized a third attempt at settlement in 1943 with the refounding of Kfar Etzion by members of the religious Mizrachi movement. Despite the tough soil, shortage of potable water, harsh winters, and constant threat of fatal attacks, this group managed to succeed. Their isolation was somewhat relieved by the establishment in 1945 of two more kibbutzim]; Masu'ot Yitzhak and Ein Tzurim, also populated by young members of the religious Mizrachi. Against the backdrop of an impending struggle for Israeli independence and as a show of solidarity, the secular Hashomer Hatzair movement founded a fourth kibbutz, Revadim.
On November 29th 1947 the United Nations approved the partition plan. However despite the fact that the Yeshuv (the defacto Israeli government) accepted the plan, all of the surrounding Arab nations rejected it and immediately attacked. The entire Gush Etzion block came under intense attack by both Arab irregulars and the well organized Arab Legion, and was besieged for a period of five months.
Initially there was some discussion of whether the four kibbutzim should be instructed to withdraw. But because of their strategic location as the only Jewish stronghold protecting the southern approach to Jerusalem from the direction of Hevron, they were told to stay and defend their area even though it was nearly impossible to resupply them with food, medicine and ammunition.
In January of 1948 the British helped evacuate most of the women and all of the children from Gush Etzion, but the rest of the women and men remained to defend the settlements.
On 12 May the commander of Kfar Etzion requested permission from the Central Command in Jerusalem a permission to evacuate the kibbutz, but was told to stay. Later in the day, the Arabs captured the Russian Orthodox monastery, which the Haganah used as a perimeter fortress for the Kfar Etzion area, killing twenty-four of its thirty-two defenders. On May 13 a massive attack involving parts of two Arab Legion infantry companies, light artillery and local irregular support commenced from four directions. The kibbutz fell within a day, and the Arab forces massacred the entire population of Kfar Etzion, soldiers and civilians alike, the total number of killed during the final assault, following massacre and suicide was between 75 to 250. Only three men and one woman survived.
The following day - the day of Israel's declaration of independence - the three other kibbutzim, Masu'ot Yitzhak, Ein TZurim and Revadim, surrendered. The surviving kibbutznikim were taken as POW's by the Arab Legion and held in Jordan for a year before being released.
During the period when Jordan occupied Gush Etzion, all of the kibbutz buildings were destroyed and the thousands of trees which had been planted were uprooted. All the trees, that is, except one extremely large old oak tree.
It was this lone tree, visible from the Israeli side of the armistice lines, that many people looked at longingly... praying for a day when Jews would once again return to Gush Etzion. I've taken my children to see this tree on many occasions. It sits next to a small town called Alon Shvut - meaning 'the Tree of the oath', so named for the promise to return to resettle the area that the tree represented.
Anyway, back to the present... or rather, since we're talking about yesterday, the recent past:
I hadn't been standing on the side of the road at Gush Etzion junction with my finger out (we use the index finger here for hitchhiking, not the thumb) for more than 5 minutes before a large, late model car pulled over and the older gentleman behind the wheel said in Hebrew, "I'm driving to Beer Sheva... do you need a ride?"
Finding a ride door to door after such a short wait is almost unheard of, so I thanked him warmly and got in.
Israeli hitchhiking etiquette dictates that the passenger sit quietly and let the driver initiate conversation if he/she is so inclined. Usually one rides in silence, but this gentleman was in a chatty mood, so we began to talk. He asked me where I worked... where I lived... how long I had been commuting to Beer Sheva from Gush Etzion, etc.
For my part I asked him similar questions, and it emerged that he had been working in Beer Sheva for more than 30 years. When I asked him if he had lived in the Gush all that time, he smiled and hesitated. He explained that for the first few years that he had worked in Beer Sheva, he had lived in that desert city. But eventually he and his family had decided to move to Gush Etzion.
Now, this struck me as a bit odd, since it's one thing to live somewhere and accept a new job an hour away. But few Israelis willingly move an hour or more away from their current place of work. When I pointed this out and asekd him 'Why Gush Etzion and not one of the bedroom communities ringing Beer Sheva', he smiled again and said, "Because I'm a child of the Gush.
I may not be very good at math, but I knew the following two bits of data:
I was driving with a man who was at least 60 years old, if not older.
Gush Etzion had been in Jordanian hands from 1948 until 1967
Given that he couldn't have been a child in Gush Etzion later than 1967, and was likely born before 1948... he had to have been born on one of the four original kibbutzim.
When I asked him about this he responded that he had been a child on kibbutz Masu'ot Yitzhak, and once Gush Etzion was again in Israeli hands he decided to move back to the area where he had been born.
In 1967, immediately after Israel's victory in the Six Day War, many survivors of Gush Etzion returned to reestablish the communities. Kibbutz Rosh Tzurim was been established on the ruins of the destroyed kibbutzim Ein Tzurim and Revadim. And kibbutz Kfar Etzion was re-established on its old site.
But if you go to the site where Masu'ot yitzhak once stood, all you will find are the silent ruins of the old kibbutz buildings and some tumbled stone walls sitting amid a thick, second growth forest on a mountainside.
I've been to the ruins many times by myself and with my family... and it has always bothered me that kibbutz Masu'ot Yitzhak was left forgotten while the rest of Gush Etzion has spring Phoenix-like from the ashes. But after having had the privilege to ride with a survivor of this old kibbutz, I realize now that it is far from forgotten.
As he shared some of his memories of the place, and stories that he had heard from friends and family, I realized that like almost all of Israel, it is a fitting symbol of historic renewal that shiny new towns and cities sit side by side with ancient... and not so ancient ruins.
The crucial link between the old and new is that the people of Israel preserve the memories and knowledge of their past, and share it with each successive generation. I'm just glad I had the opportunity to speak with a living link to the historic area I now call home... because it has allowed me to share this bit of our history with you.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Bret Stephens nails it again
Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens wrote a fantastic opinion piece yesterday asking (and answering) a fair question: Why do Palestinian deaths garner such disproportionate outrage and sympathy from the world as compared to other conflicts around the world between Muslim and non-Muslim entities.
Here's a taste:
"Few places on earth have been as systematically brutalized over the past decade as Chechnya. So you might have thought that the Russian government's decision last week to declare an end to its "counterterrorism" operations in the territory would have been an occasion for somber reflection in the Western media. Forget it. It's a 600-word news item at best."
"Here's a contrast to ponder. Since the beginning of the second intifada in the autumn of 2000, roughly 6,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire. That figure includes combatants, as well as those [civilians] killed in January's fighting in Gaza."
"As for Chechnya, there are no solid figures for the number of civilians killed since the second war began in late 1999; estimates range anywhere between 25,000 and 200,000. Chechnya's population, at a little over one million, is about one-third or one-fourth that of the Palestinians. That works out to between 25 to 200 Chechen deaths per 1,000, as against 1.5 to 2 Palestinian deaths per 1,000."
"I have a hypothesis. Maybe the world attends to Palestinian grievances but not Chechen ones for the sole reason that Palestinians are, uniquely, the perceived victims of the Jewish state. That is, when they are not being victimized by other Palestinians. Or being expelled en masse from Kuwait. Or being excluded from the labor force in Lebanon. Things you probably didn't know about, either. As for the Chechens, too bad for their cause that no Jew will ever likely become president of Russia."
You can read the whole thing here.
[Warning: His essay contains a particularly gruesome description of an incident of Russian brutality against a female Chechan combatant... so you might want to finish your breakfast before reading.]
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Moral support please
I have to admit it... when the weather turned cold last year, I sort of slowed down on my daily walking regimen. Um, okay, maybe I abandoned it altogether, but let's not quibble.
If you look down on the lower right hand column of this site you will see my 'Walker Tracker' stats. As of two days ago I have started adding my daily steps again. I need a little push from my friends if you see the numbers trailing off (or stopping altogether) again... and maybe an occasional pat on the back when the stats are particularly good.
Thanks... I knew I could count on you.
Monday, April 20, 2009
What's all the fuss?
Everyone seems to be in a lather today about the imminent opening of the Durban II anti-racism conference in Switzerland. What the hell, people?! Isn't there a ballgame on cable somewhere... or maybe a rerun of 'Friends'?
Seriously, a bunch of banana republics and costumed despots want to get together and air out their anti-semitism (dressed up as anti-Zionism) in the lush presence of a bunch of spineless appeasers... and you think this is worth getting your collective panties in a bunch?
These are not our friends, folks. Never were and never will be. They hate us... but they buy our battle-tested weapons. They despise us...but they want us to show them how we are able to make our planes and missiles fly circles around theirs. They loathe us... but they fly their children to our hospitals and beg us to make them better.
Yeah, yeah, it sucks that they will trade with us for technology and/or goods that they simply can't live without... while supporting quite literally, anyone with whom we have a quarrel. But this isn't new. So why all the fuss?
It's all good. Really.
You see, even if our medical and technological exports don't keep them lining up (and trust me, they will), there is a new reason the haters can't leave us alone. You see, Israel is like the last decent looking girl at the bar near closing time. They all want - correction, make that need - something from us. But they don't want to look like desperate pansies in front of their buddies. So they call us names... and hope for an opening to get us alone.
And what do they need? Energy. The era of oil is nearly over folks, and it is pretty much a slam dunk that Israel is the only country making any serious investment in technologies for providing the world with alternative sources of energy. Yes, the energy of the future will almost certainly come from this little racist slut everyone is badmouthing... but secretly wanting to bed.
Oh we'll put out when the time comes, don't you worry. But there will be a steep price to be paid... even if stretching the previous sexual analogy to money changing hands makes us appear even more unsavory. Supply and demand, people. Weren't you paying attention in economics class?
And while our technological breakthroughs will make fossil fuel about as sought after as whale oil, it will also relegate these many noisome sheikdoms back to their natural state of decay and incestuous tribal infighting,
And best of all, Europe and much of Asia will be stuck dealing with a glut of the middle-east's second most volatile export; Islam (and it's invading mobs of restive practitioners).
When that happens, it will be interesting to see how well the virtuous and 'even-handed' opponents of racism and discrimination participating in Durban II are able to live up to the impossible standards of democratic rectitude with which they saddle Israel.
It'll be a whole 'nother ballgame trying to appear enlightened when faced with a choice between enacting Israeli-style security measures or suffering Dhimmi status in their own countries.
Good luck with that, guys.
Oh, and pass the remote control... I'm bored.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
A few things I love about Passover
By the time Passover is over, I find that I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder (not to mention an impassable rock in my gut), and am thoroughly sick of the holiday. So before I completely turn the page on the Festival of Freedom, I felt I should sit down and remind myself about some of the things I truly love about it:
1. The Seder - Not just the ritual meal held on Passover evening with family and friends, but also the actual meaning of the word 'seder'; order. I love that for a few brief weeks after we do a full pre-Passover cleaning, and the clutter hasn't yet begun to pile up again, the house actually has some semblance of order.
[Lest some people who happen to be my wife think this is a dig at her housekeeping skills, let me state for the record that I am one of the primary contributors to the chez treppenwitz clutter problem.]
2. Matzoh - For about ten minutes, that is. At the seder... yum. The first morning with a shmear of butter and jam... heaven! But after that I want to toss the stuff into the trash. Truly the 'bread of affliction'.
3. Passover food - Aside from Matzoh, there are some things that Zahava only trots out during this holiday. Among the most beloved are her Meringues (with chocolate chips, no less!) and her incredible Mandel Bread (better than any biscotti you ever tasted!!!).
4. Mainstream Holiday media references - This may be a distinctly immigrant thing, but I still love that pre-Pesach advertisements in Israel feature songs from the Seder, pitches for stuff we all want/need for the holiday, and countless shared cultural references. Everyone - secular and religious alike - wishes you a Chag Sameach before and during the holiday, and even the DJs on the rock stations naturally toss in 'Moedim L'Simcha' (roughly 'Happy Holiday') to their mid-holiday week on-air patter. By comparison, having to endure the cringe-worthy "We would like to wish all our Jewish friends a Happy Passover" when we lived in the U.S. made me feel like a complete and total outsider. You just knew from the awkward way the announcer pronounced 'Passover' that he has no Jewish friends, and wouldn't know a macaroon if someone threw one at him!
5. Time off - I love that for a solid week (almost 2 weeks this year!) I could wake up late, snuggle with the kids, get to know my wife again, take family trips, stay up late watching movies... and of course, not have to work. I have to admit I'm already thumbing through the calendar to see when my next day off is. Yom Atzma'ut' (Israel Independence Day) here I come.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
I got a nasty email from someone who shall remain nameless, implying (oh who am I kidding, she came right out and said it) that the only reason I shared that video yesterday is because the female model who appears in it is totally hot. Which, she goes on to add, makes me totally shallow.
Okay, there might be a little something to that... the model in the video's is kinda easy to look at. But the really compelling thing about the video is the artistry with which the words and images are woven together in a time lapse montage. Really.
But just to make sure nobody thinks I'm this shallow guy who only finds videos with hot looking women compelling, here is proof to the contrary. Try not to cry. I dare you:
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
My new favorite music video
Oren Lavie, a singer/songwriter from Tel Aviv made this fantastic music video (actually more like a human clay-mation dream sequence set to music) entitled 'Her Morning Elegance'. I can't even imagine how long it took to do all the still photography and then piece it together, but every time I watch it I see some new detail that is packed with meaning.
Feel free to close the Google ad which sometimes blocks part of the frame
Sheikh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi explains who has a right to Jerusalem
According to Wikipedia, Sheikh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi is the leader of Italian Muslim Assembly and a co-founder and a co-chairman of the Islam-Israel Fellowship, based on what Palazzi believes are the authentic teachings of Muhammad as expressed in the Qur'an and the Hadith.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Some hope for the Kitniot deprived
A friend who knows how frustrated I've been over the whole kitniot issue since we moved to Israel forwarded a very interesting piece written by Rav Dov Lior (the Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arbah).
While Rav Lior's politics might be called extreme (by some), he is not normally seen as being on the fringe of the Rabbinic community on halachic issues. This is important because to date the only Rabbis who have come out with lenient positions regarding Kitniot on Pesach have been perceived as being fringe elements and/or 'light-weights' in the halachic community... rendering their pronouncements difficult for mainstream observant Jews to follow.
The following is the Hebrew version of Rav Lior's ruling on a host of topics related to Passover observance (English translation follows)... but as I mentioned, his relatively lenient views on Kitniot are what really caught my eye:
א. מותר לכתחילה לברך ולבדוק לאור פנס חשמלי.
ב. מקום שהוחזק שמכניסים בו חמץ, ובדק וניקה אותו היטב לפחות שלושה ימים לפני בדיקת חמץ, וברור לו שלא הכניס בו שוב חמץ (כגון: ארון מצרכי מזון שהפך אותו לארון כלים), הרי שהוחזק למקום שאין מכניסים בו חמץ, ומעיקר הדין אינו טעון בדיקה. על כן נהגו שלא לדקדק בבדיקה יותר מדי במקומות אלה.
ג. אם יש לאדם חנות או מחסן בקרבת ביתו, מרחק שבדרך כלל הולכים ברגל, יפטור אותו בברכתו בבית, ולא נחשב הילוך כזה להפסק והיסח הדעת. אולם אם צריך לנסוע לשם ברכב - יברך שוב בחנות.
ד. מי שעוזב את ביתו לפני יום י"ג בניסן, ולא ישוב בזמן בדיקת חמץ (כגון: בחור ישיבה בחדרו), יבדוק בלי ברכה (אך יבדוק בדיקה כהלכתה, לאור הנר ובתחילת הלילה), בליל אותו יום בו הוא נוסע.
א. עדות שקבלו על עצמן שלא לאכול קטניות בפסח, עליהם לשמור על מנהג ישראל. אולם כתבו האחרונים, שבמנהג זה אין לנו אלא מה שאסרו, ואין להחמיר בו מעבר לכך.
ב. קטניות שבתהליך הכשרתם לאכילה לא באו במגע עם מים, אין להחמיר בהם. ולכן שמן קטניות שידוע שלא בא במגע עם מים בתהליך הייצור - כשר לפסח.
וכן קליות של קטניות, שברור לו שנשמרו ממגע עם מים (ובודאי שגם נשמרו ממגע עם קמח), כגון שקולה אותן בעצמו - מותרים.
ג. קטניות שלא היו בזמן הגזירה אינן בכלל האיסור. ולכן יש להתיר סויה, וכן קינואה.
ד. אפונה ושעועית ירוקה וכיוצא בהם, כשהם בתרמיליהם - נחשבים לירק ואינם בכלל קטניות.
ה. תערובת קטניות שהתערבה לפני הפסח - מותרת לכתחילה.
ו. כלים שבלעו קטניות אינם נאסרים.
ז. ליפתית אינה בכלל איסור קטניות, מכיוון שאינה נאכלת בפני עצמה.
חומרי נקיון וקוסמטיקה
לגבי מצרכי מזון, יש להקפיד, כמובן, לקנות רק כאלו שיש עליהם הכשר לפסח. אולם חומרי ניקוי, כגון: אקונומיקה, אבקת כביסה, סבוני רחצה וכן כל תכשירי הקוסמטיקה, כולל שפתון לנשים, ואפילו משחת שיניים - אפשר להשתמש כרגיל כמו בכל ימות השנה.
משהו חמץ במי כנרת
חמץ בפסח אוסר במשהו בין במינו ובין שלא במינו. אולם כלל זה אמור דווקא בדבר תלוש, כגון פירור חמץ שנפל לתוך סיר גדול או לבור מים, אך מחובר לקרקע אינו נאסר. ולכן אין מקום כלל להחמיר שלא לשתות מי כינרת וכיוצא בזה.
הגעלת כלים והכשרתם
כיור ושיש - יש לערות עליהם מים רותחים. ובכל זאת, יש להקפיד בימי הפסח, שלא להניח סירים רותחים על השיש, אלא בהפסק קרש או ציפוי נייר כסף.
כלי חרס, חרסינה וקרמיקה - אם השתמש בהם בחמץ חם או בחריף - אי אפשר להכשירם.
כלי בקליט, פלסטיק וניילון - אם השתמש בהם בכלי שני - אפשר להכשירם על ידי עירוי מים רותחים מכלי ראשון.
כלי זכוכית - תלוי במנהגי העדות, לעדות הנמשכות אחרי פסקי מרן - הכלים אינם טעונים הכשר. ואילו לעדות הנמשכות אחר פסקי הרמ"א - נוהגים להשרותם במים שלושה ימים, ולהחליף את המים כל 24 שעות.
דורלקס - ניתן להכשיר במים רותחים ממש.
תנורי אפייה וטוסטר - יש לנקותם היטב ולהדליק על מידת החום הגבוהה למשך כרבע שעה. יש להשתמש בתבניות אפייה מיוחדות לפסח.
מערבל (מיקסר) - ניתן להכשיר לאחר ניקוי יסודי של כל החלקים. אולם, אין נוהגים להשתמש בפסח באותם חלקים המשמשים כל השנה ללישת בצק.
שיניים תותבות - יש להכשירם ע"י עירוי מים מכלי.
מיקרו-גל - יש לנקותו היטב, ולאחר מכן להכניס קערה עם מים ולהרתיח עד שיעלו אדים. אם הניחו חמץ ישירות על הצלחת - יש להחליף צלחת, או לכסות בדבר מפריד.
מדיח כלים - יש לנקותו היטב (כולל המסננת), ולהפעיל אותו פעם אחת ללא כלים, באותה מידת חום שמפעילים בדרך כלל.
סיר לחץ - לנקותו היטב, וטעון הגעלה (כמו כן יש להחליף את הגומייה).
אכילת מזונות בערב פסח (שחל בשבת)
א. מותר לאכול בערב פסח כופתאות מבושלות מקמח מצה (קניידעלך); וכשחל ערב פסח בשבת אפשר לצאת בזה ידי חובת סעודה שלישית.
ב. עוגה אפויה או פשטיד"א אפויה שיש בה קמח מצה, אין לאוכלה בערב פסח.
אכילת מצת מצווה
א. מצות מכונה שמורות, כשרות לכתחילה למצת מצווה.
ב. שיעור כזית מצה הוא כשליש מצת מכונה סטנדרטית.
ולכן הכמות המינימלית של מצה, הנדרשת לכל אחד ואחת למשך כל ליל הסדר, הוא שיעור של מצה ושליש ממצת מכונה שמורה; שני שלישי מצה לברכת המוציא ומצוות מצה (דבעינן 2 כזיתים), שליש מצה לכורך, ושליש מצה לאפיקומן.
ג. יש לאכול את הכזית תוך משך זמן של כ- 5 דקות.
ד. יש להקפיד לאכול את האפיקומן לפני חצות.
ה. מי שיש לו משמרת או נשאר ללמוד אחר חצות הלילה בליל הסדר, וזקוק לשתות תה או קפה; על אף שבדרך כלל אין לאכול או לשתות אחר אכילת האפיקומן (חוץ מתשלום ארבע הכוסות או מים), יסמוך על השיטות שאיסור זה הוא רק עד סוף זמן אכילת מצה, דהיינו עד חצות.
עלה בינוני של חסה יש בו שיעור כזית מרור.
א. יש לשתות כל כוס מארבע כוסות תוך 4 שניות.
ב. למדקדקים ראוי לחוש לשיטת הרמב"ן, שלא די בשתיית רוב שיעור כוס (רביעית), אלא יש לשתות את רוב הכוס (גם אם היא יותר מרביעית), לכן מי שקשה לו לשתות הרבה, העצה היא שיקח כוס של כ- 100 סמ"ק, שאז רוב רביעית הוא בדרך כלל גם רוב הכוס.
ג. שיעור רביעית הוא 86 סמ"ק כשיטת ר' חיים נאה.
א. יש לכוון בברכת בורא פרי האדמה לפטור את אכילת המרור.
ב. יש להקפיד לאכול פחות מכזית כרפס.
 שהרי הטעם בגמרא הוא משום שאור הנר יפה לבדיקה ופנס יעיל יותר מנר (לא מטפטף ואין חשש שיגרום לשריפה). ולא דמי לנר חנוכה, דהואיל ונעשה הנס בנרות המנורה צריך התם דווקא נר, ואפי' בנר שבת פסק הרב פרנק בשו"ת הר צבי או"ח חלק א' סי' קס"ג, שאם אין לו נר יברך על נורה חשמלית, כ"ש בבדיקת חמץ שלכתחילה אפשר בפנס.
 הרב שלמה קלוגר בספרו חכמת שלמה סי' תל"ג. ושלושה ימים הויא חזקה. והדין שכתב המחבר, שהמכבד ביתו ביום י"ג טעון בדיקה, היינו דווקא י"ג אבל שלושה ימים קודם - לא.
 דנחלקו הפוסקים (מובא במשנ"ב סימן תל"ב סק"ז), אי הילוך מבית לחצר אחרת חשיב הפסק והיסח הדעת לענין בדיקת חמץ, ונראה לענ"ד לעשות מעין פשרה ולהכריע כך להלכה.
 וזה עדיף מלמנות שליח שיבדוק בזמן, שמצווה בו יותר מבשלוחו. ובליל י"ד ראוי שישמע הברכה מבעל הבית במקום שמתארח, ויבדוק כשלוחו חדר אחד עכ"פ.
 אג"מ או"ח ח"ג סי' ס"ג: 'ואין לנו בדבר אלא מה שמפורש שנהגו בו לאסור'. וכן מרן הראי"ה קוק זצ"ל, באורח משפט סי' קי"ב: 'אלא שיסוד איסור שהוא מנהג הוא ג"כ תורה, אולם מ"מ אין להפליג בו בחומרות כל כך ...'. וכן כתב חק יעקב סי' תנ"ג ס"א סק"ט: 'דגם קטניות עצמו חומרא בעלמא הוא, והבו דלא לוסיף עלה'.
 לא יהא הטפל חמור מן העיקר. סברא זו הובאה בשו"ת מהרש"ם או"ח סי' קפ"ג, וכן בשו"ע הרב לגר"ז סי' תנ"ג ס"ה.
 גם לנוהגים שלא לאכול קטניות. כפי שמרן הרב זצ"ל התיר שמן שומשומין, באורח משפט סי' קי"א.
 לא יהא הטפל חמור מן העיקר וכנ"ל, והרי אף קליות חיטה שנשמרו מותר לאוכלן בפסח, הרי אמרו בגמרא, שמחלקין קליות ואגוזים לקטנים בערב פסח, כדי שלא יישנו.
 כך כתב באג"מ או"ח ח"ג סי' ס"ג, בדיון לגבי בוטנים, שאין לאסור: 'לא נאסרו אלא המינים שהנהיגו, ולא שאר מינים שלא הנהיגו מפני שלא היו מצויים אז'.
 שהרי התגלה רק לפני כמאה שנה ביבשת אמריקה והובא לאירופה, ולא היה כלל בגזירה בדורות הקודמים, והבו שלא להוסיף עלייהו. וכן מטעם שתהליך הייצור של שמן סויה הוא ללא השריה מוקדמת במים, לכן שמן סויה כשר לפסח גם לשאינם אוכלים קטניות.
 לא היה בדורות הקודמים.
 כי החשש בקטניות הוא, שמא יבוא להתבלבל בינם לבין דגן, אבל ירקות לא מכניס לאוצר, ולא דמי למידי דמידגן.
 כך פסק ר' יצחק אלחנן ספקטור בשו"ת 'באר יצחק' סי' י"א. לפי זה, כל מעדני תנובה, על אף שכתוב עליהם 'לאוכלי קטניות' - מותרים לכולם.
 שו"ת יחווה דעת ח"ה סי' ל"ב. לכן מותר לאלה הנוהגים שלא לאכול קטניות להתארח אצל אוכלי קטניות, ובלבד שיקפידו שלא לאכול את האורז ואת הקטניות עצמן. אולם מידת חסידות שלא לאכול גם מן הכלים, וגדול השלום.
 ומה שאינו ראוי לאכילה בפני עצמו - אינו בכלל גזירת קטניות.
 לגבי תרופות בפסח, ראה בסוף שיעור "ביעור חמץ ואיסור אכילתו".
 אף אם יש בזה תערובת חמץ, משום שכל דבר שאינו ראוי לאכילת כלב - פקע שם חמץ ממנו. שו"ע סי' תמ"ב ס"ט, ומשנ"ב סקמ"ג.
 כתב ערוך השולחן, ביו"ד סי' קי"ז סע' כ"ט, שאין להחמיר בשאר איסורים (וה"ה חמץ בפסח) בסיכה כשתיה, מכיוון שזהו דין מיוחד רק לעניין תרומה ויום הכיפורים.
 למרות שניתן על השפתיים ויש לחשוש שמא תבלע; ואם כן, הרי כתב הרא"ש בפסחים בפרק כל שעה ס"א, שבחמץ חרוך שאינו ראוי לאכילה, אם בכל זאת אוכלו - יש בזה דין של 'אחשביה' ואסור; במקרה שלנו, הרי אינה מתכוונת לבולעו, ואדרבה, אינה רוצה שירד מהשפתיים, לכן כאן אין דין של 'אחשביה'. והוא הדין במשחת שיניים שאינה ראויה לכלב, ואף שיש לה טעם - הרי אדם נורמלי לא מתכוון לבולעה, ולא שייך לומר כאן 'אחשביה'. ואף אם הקטן התכוון לבולעה - אין קטן בר דעת להחשיבה.
 ריטב"א מס' ע"ז דף עג. לגבי איסור הנאה מעבודה זרה, שאף היא אוסרת במשהו, כדתנן 'מים במים במשהו' קובע הריטב"א, שבאופן עקרוני מחובר אינו יכול להאסר, ומתיר באר של ישראל שגוי שפך לתוכה מים של ע"ז. וה"ה לחמץ בפסח, וכן כתב ערוך השולחן בהל' פסח סי' תס"ז סעיף ל"ג, שכל מקום שכתוב חמץ שנפל לבור, הכוונה דווקא בור של מים מכונסים ולא באר שהם מים הנובעים מן האדמה.
 עוד בענייני הכשרת כלים ראה בסוף השיעור "ביעור חמץ ואיסור אכילתו".
 האיסור לאכול מצה בערב פסח, הוא רק במצה שיוצאים בה ידי חובה בליל הסדר; ובמצה מבושלת אין יוצאים ידי חובה. מאידך, ברכתה מזונות, ולכן היא עדיפה לסעודה שלישית מאשר פירות.
 מהר"ל מחמיר במצה עשירה בערב פסח, כי בדיעבד יוצאים בה ידי חובה בלילה. אך אם יש רק מעט קמח לדיבוק - לית לן בה.
 אין זה דומה לשחיטה, דבעינן שהאדם יעשה בעצמו לשמה, די בכך שתיעשה המצה ע"י המכונה לשמה, זהו גדר הלשמה הנצרך במצה. כך נהג גם מו"ר הרב צבי יהודה זצ"ל. וכן אין לחשוש במצות מכונה שמא לא נאפו כהלכה. אמנם, אם יש מאפיית מצות יד שגם מיומנים במלאכתם וגם יראי שמיים אז יש מהדרים לקחת דווקא מצות יד.
 כיוון שבשיעור כזית אנו נוקטים כשיטת הרשב"א, שיש ארבעה זיתים בביצה (לא כביצת תנובה שגדלה בטיפוח, אלא ביצה בלאדית שהיא קטנה יותר). וכן כשיטת הרמב"ם, שכזית הוא קצת פחות משליש ביצה, ודלא כשיטת התוס', המובאת במחבר סי' תפ"ו.
הזית הגדול בזמננו הוא הזן הנבאלי שמשקלו עד 6 גרם ונפחו 7.5 סמ"ק. במצות מכונה סטנדרטיות, בשליש מצה ודאי שיש יותר משיעור כזית, וזה הן לקולא והן לחומרא. והשיעורים הם לפי מה שמדד הר"ח נאה, וכן הסכימו חכמי ירושלים הספרדים. (ציטוט מתשובת הרב בנושא שיעור כזית)
 כדי אכילת פרס.
 לחוש לשיטות הראשונים הפוסקים כראב"ע, שזמן אכילת קרבן פסח, וממילא גם זמן אכילת מצה - הוא רק עד חצות. אך ברור שמי שלא היה יכול לקיים את המצווה לפני חצות, כגון חייל בפעילות מבצעית, יאכל אחר חצות אך בלי ברכה.
 שו"ת אבני נזר, או"ח סי' שפ"א.
 כדי שתיית רביעית.
 מו"ר הרב צבי יהודה זצ"ל מסר, שכך נהגו גדולי ירושלים לפסוק.
 על מנת שלא יתחייב ברכה אחרונה, ואז יכנס לספק ברכות באכילת המרור.
Bdikat Chametz-The Search for Chametz
1) It is completely permissible to check with an electric flashlight, and to say the appropriate blessing beforehand. A flashlight is preferable to a candle since is it won't drip or cause a fire.
2) A place that Chametz was kept regularly, (for example, a food cabinet that one wants to use now for dishes) and was cleaned and checked thoroughly at least three days before Bdikat Chametz, and it is certain that no Chametz was put there afterwards; that place is now assumed to be free of Chametz* and according to the essential law, is exempt from Bdikat Chametz. Therefore, the Minhag to give such places a quick check during Bdikat Chametz. (*By virtue of those three days, the place has a Chazaka of not having Chametz).
3) If one has a store or warehouse close to his home (walking distance) then the Bracha he says for checking his home includes the second place, and walking there is not considered in interruption (Hefsek) or a distraction (Hiseach Hadaat). But if he has to drive in order to get there, he should say another blessing in the store, etc.
4) One who leaves his residence before the thirteenth of Nisan and will not return at the time of Bdikat Chametz (for example, a Yeshiva student in his room), must check according to the Halacha (by candle or flashlight, at the beginning of the night) without a Bracha, the night before he departs. (This is preferable to appointing a Shaliach to check at the regular time, since a Mitzva is greater when one does it himself. If possible, he should hear the Bracha from the host (Baal Habayit) where he is staying on the night between the 13th and 14th of Nisan, and be the host's Shaliach to check at least one room).
Kitniot on Pesach
1) Communities that accepted upon themselves not to eat Kitniot on Pesach must keep their Minhag (custom). However, great Torah scholars of recent generations, among them HaRav Kook and the Iggrot Moshe, wrote that the Minhag encompasses only those species included in the original prohibition, and that the stricture shouldn't extend beyond that.
2) There is no need to be strict about Kitniot that did not come into contact with water during their preparation. (The logic being that we shouldn't be stricter about Kitniot that about we are about grain.) Therefore, Kitniot oil that is known not to have come in contact with water during its production is Kosher for Pesach, even for those who don't otherwise eat Kitniot. Similarly, roasted Kitniot, that one is certain that they were prevented from contacting water (and obviously flour as well); for example, Kitniot that one roasted by himself, are permitted.
3) Kitniot that didn't exist (that is, they were unknown and/or existed only in far-away lands) at the time of the Gzeira (prohibition) were not included in it. Therefore, Soya and Quinoa should be permitted.
4) Legumes such as green beans and peas which are still in their pods are considered vegetables and not Kitniot.
5) A food mixture which includes Kitniot, which was mixed before Pesach, is entirely permitted (Lechatchila). Therefore, all dairy products which are stamped "for those who eat Kitniot" are permitted for everyone.
6) It is permissible to eat from dishes on which Kitniot were previously served, as long as one is careful not to eat the Kitniot themselves.
7) Liftit (which is used for making chocolate, and is derived from the same plant as Canola oil-ed.) is not included in the prohibition of Kitniot, since it itself is inedible.
Detergents and Cosmetics
Regarding food, obviously, one must be careful to buy only that which has a Hechsher (Rabbinical certification) for Pesach. On the other hand, cleaning agents such as bleach, laundry detergent and bath soap, as well as women's cosmetics and even toothpaste, can be used as usual year-round, since these products are unfit to be eaten.
A Bit of Chametz in the Kinneret Sea
Even a tiny amount of Chametz which mixes into food or drink on Pesach causes all of it to be forbidden. (This is true whether the Chametz mixes with food similar to itself or dissimilar.) However, all of this is relevant when the food or drink is detached from the ground, as in the case of a crumb of Chametz falling into a large pot or into a water reservoir (which the water was drawn into.) However, whatever is attached to the ground does not become forbidden. Therefore, there is absolutely no basis to be stringent and not to drink water from the Kinneret or any other natural body of water.
Kashering Dishes and Appliances for Pesach
1) Sink and countertop: are kashered (after thorough cleaning) by pouring boiling water on them. (If you are not sure the material they are made of can stand up to the heat without damage, consult with a Rabbi-ed.) Even after this, one should be careful during Pesach not to put a boiling-hot pot directly on the countertop, but only on a separation such as a wood board or aluminum foil.
2) Utensils made of clay pottery, china, porcelain, ceramic: if they were used for Chametz that was either hot or sharp-tasting (spicy, pungent, etc.) then they cannot be kashered.
3) Plastic, Bakelite, Nylon utensils: if they were used only for eating (cli sheni) and not for cooking, they can be kashered by pouring boiling water on them directly from the vessel the water was boiled in (cli rishon.)
4) Glass utensils: this depends on the customs of different communities. According to Minhag of the Sephardim (who go according to the Shulchan Aruch, no kashering is required. The Ashkenazi Minhag (according to the Rama) is to immerse glass dishes in water for three days, and to change the water every 24 hours.
5) Duralex: can be kashered in boiling water.
6) Baking ovens and toasters: need to be cleaned meticulously and turned up to the highest temperature for 15 minutes. Special baking pans or trays for Pesach should be used.
7) Mixer: can be kashered by meticulously cleaning all the parts. However, those parts that were used all year for kneading dough shouldn't be used for Pesach.
8) False teeth: should be kashered by pouring boiling water on them from a vessel.
9) Microwave oven: should be cleaned thoroughly. Afterwards a bowl of water should be placed inside and boiled until steam comes out. If Chametz was placed directly on the rotating plate, the plate should either be replaced or covered with something that will separate between it and the Pesach dish being heated. (But not with metal-ed.)
10) Dishwasher: needs to be cleaned thoroughly (including the filter) and operated once without dishes, at the same temperature it is usually used.
11) Pressure cooker: needs to be cleaned thoroughly and immersed in boiling water. The rubber seal should be changed.
Eating "Mezonot" Erev Pesach
1) One may eat cooked Matza balls ("Kneidelach") on Erev Pesach. When the day before Pesach is Shabbat, this is one way to perform the obligation of eating the Third Meal (Seudah Shlishit).
2) Cakes and other pastries baked from Matza flour should not be eaten Erev Pesach.
Eating the Matzot Mitzva on the Seder Night
1) Machine "Shmura" Matzot are completely valid for Matzot Mitzva.
2) The Halachic amount (Shiur) of "Kezayit" is approximately a third of a standard machine Matza. Therefore the minimum amount of Matza required for every man and woman at the Seder is one and a third machine Shmura Matzot, that is, four "Kezaytim". The breakdown is, one Kezayit for the Bracha "Hamotzei", another for the Mitzva of eating Matza (these two Kezaytim are eaten together), a third for "Korech" and a fourth for Afikoman.
3) Each Kezayit should be eaten within 5 minutes (C'dai Achilat Pras).
4) One should make sure to eat the Afikoman before Chatzot (Halachic midnight.) (Consult a Jewish timetable, updated every year, for the exact times regarding all the Mitzvot of Erev Pesach and the Seder-ed.)
5) Regarding someone who will be on duty, or continues to learn Torah after Chatzot on the Seder night and needs to drink coffee or tea: ordinarily one shouldn't eat or drink after eating the Afikoman, except for completing the 4 Cups or drinking water. In the abovementioned cases, however, one may rely on the Halachic opinions that the prohibition is only until the end of the time allotted to eating Matza; that is, until Chatzot.
Maror, the "Bitter Herb"
An average leaf of lettuce is sufficient for Maror. (Comprises a Kezayit)
The Four Cups
1) Each cup of the four cups should be drunk within four seconds.
2) Those who are careful about Mitzvot should take into account the opinion of the Ramban, who says that it is not sufficient to drink the majority of a Reviyit ("Rov Reviyit") each time, but one must drink the majority of the actual cup he is using. Therefore, if drinking a large quantity is difficult for someone, the solution is to use a cup of approximately 100 cubic centimeters in capacity, whereas the majority of a Reviyit is usually also the majority of the cup.
3) The quantity comprising a Reviyit is 86 cubic centimeters, according to Rav Chaim Naeh.
1) When making the blessing "Boreh Pri Haadama" one should intend that the blessing include the Maror he will eat later.
2) One should make sure to eat less than a Kezayit of Karpas.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Something for everyone
Posting will probably be spotty over the next few days, so here's a little something for everyone to tide you over.
This first one is like a Keith Haring graffiti wall come to life and singing:
And if you need something more physical...
Don't thank me... I'm a giver.
Chag Kasher V'Sameach!
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
A Passover Haiku
given the choice of
one week of thin or fat bread
may your bread be thin
Monday, April 06, 2009
A humble prayer
There will come an awkward moment this Wednesday, just after the point in time when Hametz can no longer be consumed, but about two-thirds of a day before the Seder actually begins. Our bodies will be telling us it is lunch time... but our wives will be telling us to get the hell out of their kitchens!
I dream of being finished with enough of the pre-Passover preparations by mid-day on Wednesday that I will be able to take a break and fry/grill up a big batch of liver, onions and potatoes to nosh on with a few of my buddies from the neighborhood.
By that time my friends and I will all have wrenched backs from schlepping boxes of dishes and Passover supplies for our wives, and our stomachs will be rumbling from the incredible aromas emanating from the 'forbidden zone' (our kitchens).
So my humble prayer is to be released from my domestic servitude early enough on Wednesday to be able to prepare and enjoy this meager (but delicious) fare with my friends.
Sunday, April 05, 2009
A friendly request
If you have already finished your Passover cleaning...
If your kitchen has already been 'turned over', with all the passover dishes, pots and pans in their places...
If all your silver has been polished...
If your family is now only eating 'Hametz' outside...
If your Seder table is already set (with place cards and matching Haggadahs)...
If you are now leisurely sitting around reviewing Passover songs and traditions with your children...
... please don't share any of this information with me, as it is likely to negatively impact our friendship.
Oh, and for the love of G-d, don't even hint about any of that stuff to Zahava... because she will kill you.
Thursday, April 02, 2009
This Year Near Jerusalem….
….there is at least one family who will not need the Seder salt water for dipping their bitter herb to symbolize the tears of our ancestors….
[a guest post by Zahava]
The name has not yet been released. But I can taste my own bitter tears as I type. I can barely see the screen as my heart and soul cry out in pain and in anger.
ברוך דיין אמת
A family in a neighboring yishuv will have the unbearable task of burying their 13-year old son sometime today….
This boy – the same age as our beloved Gilad -- was killed when a terrorist armed with an axe and a knife entered their picturesque community and attacked him and a 7-year old (who is in serious condition).
May Hashem comfort this family. May He grant a full recovery to the 7-year old.
All that glitters isn't... ours
We have been blessed with many visitors at Chez Treppenwitz over the years. Some have been old friends who have come for a Shabbat, and others have been more recent acquaintances or even readers who have made the leap from virtual to real life friends.
However one thing almost all of the guests have in common is that they invariably leave something behind. Sometimes it is an article of clothing or a book. Other times it is a pair of glasses or a Hanukia (menorah).
Most of the time we find these things within hours (or even minutes) of our guest's departure and we are able to reunite them with their lost property almost immediately. Other times it can be days or weeks before we stumble upon something that looks 'out of place' and have to use traveling friends as couriers of lost property.
But the pre-Passover cleaning is a time when many things come to light that clearly aren't ours... but we have no idea to whom they might belong.
Such is the case with a couple of pieces of Jewelry that were found yesterday while excavating our guest room. One is a bracelet and the other is a necklace. They weren't found together, so I doubt they belong to the same person... but if you have been a guest in our house and are missing either a bracelet or a necklace, please let me know.
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
The bread of affliction
There's an old joke that tells of a bum (PC: Urban Outdoorsman) who approaches a wealthy, well-dressed woman on the street and says, "Lady, I haven't eaten in three days." To which she responds, "Force yourself!".
The essential humor of this joke comes not (G-d forbid) from the idea that poverty or hunger are funny... but rather from the reality that so many of the 'haves' simply can't fathom what it's like to walk in the tattered shoes of the 'have nots'.
In the case of the wealthy woman in the joke, the concept of not eating for an extended period of time might seem reasonable - or even tempting - given the rich content of her regular diet and the need to fit into her expensive wardrobe. And with the widespread scourge of eating disorders today, the idea of someone having to force themselves to eat is, sadly, all too easy to conjure.
In yesterday's post I made a passing joke about how pre-Passover menus tend to be rather odd; consisting of whatever odds and ends we have in our refrigerators and pantries that we somehow never got around to eating during the year. I think the example I gave for a typical meal was "pickle & sardine sandwiches served with canned olives and a side order of Basmati rice... and a dessert of breakfast bars or fruit salad".
In response, my friend Jack offered the following sage comment:
"pickle & sardine sandwiches served with canned olives and a side order of Basmati rice."
Why, everyone knows that this is a delicacy and a major treat....if you are homeless and haven't eaten in three weeks.
This got me thinking, not only about how lucky we are to have refrigerators and pantries full of things we never got around to eating... but also about how casual our attitude towards food in general can often be.
I get a weekly shopping list from Zahava and invariably come home with 15% more stuff, simply because I walked into the store hungry and everything suddenly looked delicious. We also occasionally splurge on exotic wines, cheeses, prepared meats and other such delicacies, just because we want to... and because we usually can.
But when every pre-Passover season finds us with pantries full of gourmet foods that struck our fancy while we were shopping, and which somehow never made it onto our tables... this is a clear sign that we are indulging our whims a tad too much, and perhaps not giving enough thought to families for whom a chicken meal on shabbat is a luxury.
I'm not suggesting that people with means should deny themselves the finer things that their good fortune and hard work have provided. I'm just saying that maybe people who can afford to make jokes about being 'forced' to eat 'pickle & sardine sandwiches with canned olives and a side order of Basmati rice' can also make sure that at least some of their good fortune is shared with those who work at least as hard, but whose fortune has not been quite as good.
If you are doing a spring/Passover cleaning, maybe you could also:
give away any unwanted / extra food you might have to food banks and organizations that can distribute it after the holiday.
take a good look at the kind of wine and delicacies you are buying for your Passover/Easter table and ask yourself if some of the expense might better be offered to charity without the slightest reduction of your own holiday enjoyment.
involve your children in the distribution of assistance to organizations that support less fortunate families. Giving charity is like any other exercise in that the more often it is done, the less it hurts.
We hold up the Matzoh at the Seder table and recite the words "This is the bread of affliction...". But in truth, far too many of us (like the woman in the joke) fail to grasp what affliction really is, or that many would be pleased to eat even such meager fare.
It isn't that we don't want to do the right thing. It's just that sometimes someone has to look us in the eye and say, "force yourself".