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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Oy, the humour-impaired among us

I wish I had $9.69 for every email I've gotten over the past few days containing breathless 'news' of the gas station in New Jersey selling Chametz-free (actually, kitniot-free) gasoline for exactly that inflated amount per gallon. 

People, people.... take a deep breath.  This is joke... and apparently a well written one at that.   I have seen it attributed to several websites but have yet to locate the original (please send me the original link if you know it so I can provide attribution). 

If you haven't seen it, here it is in all its glory:

*Kosher for Passover Gasoline*

By Danielle Wolfbergand and Henry Lorman
Bergen County
Jewish Times Teaneck,
New Jersey March 1,2007

Yaniv Ban-Zaken, a local gas station owner, will be selling Kosher for Passover gasoline during the holiday this year. The move, Ben-Zaken says, has become necessary due to the increased ethanol content in gasoline required by the government. The ethanol istypically derived from corn, which is a forbidden food for Jews on Passover. And, according to Ben-Zaken, underJewish law, it is also forbidden to derive any benefit from corn.

"We will be providing a number of services to anyone interested in making their motor vehicle Kosher for Passover," Ben-Zaken says. Services will include siphoning off the non-Kosher gasoline and replacing it with the Kosher gasoline. The entire process will be supervised by Rabbi Yitzchok Mendelbaum. A special exemption to the EPA rule regarding the plant ethanol content of gasoline had to be obtained from the government to allow for the use of this gasoline. The move has created some controversy among local community leaders. Rabbi Shalom Silver, of Congregation Ohel Emeth in Teaneck, has recommended to his congregants that they not buy the gasoline.

"Although Jews of Ashkenazi descent are not permitted to eat corn on Pesach, they are permitted to derive benefit from corn byproducts, such as gasoline with ethanol additives," he said. However, Rabbi Mordechai Silver (no relation to Shalom Silver), of Yeshivas Torah Ohr in nearby Englewood, disagrees, and maintains that while it might technically be acceptable to use mass-produced gasoline, those who can afford to purchase the new alternative should. "In Jewish law, we have a principle of lifnim mshuras hadin--going above and beyond the basic requirements of the law," he explained in an email. "Thank G-d, many people in the area can afford to do so in this case."

Some local Jewish leaders have also complained about the high price of the ethanol-free gas, which Ben-Zaken estimates will be $9.69 per gallon, but Ben-Zaken insists that it is necessary. "The Kosher gas is made in small quantities and not mass produced, so the costs are high." In fact, Ben-Zaken, an immigrant from Israel who is not himself religious, claims that he will not be making any profit on the sale of the Kosher gas. "I'm doing this more as a community service. My hope is that people will be more likely to patronize my station the rest of the year." Julio Sanchez, one of Ben-Zakens employees, also expressed some concern over the high price, explaining that it might drive away customers and reduce his income from tips. Co-worker Naveen Samhari disagreed, because, as he says, "Orthodox Jews are among the best tippers in the area."

Ben-Zaken also says he will be contracting with a local car rental agency to provide customers with a Kosher for Passover car if they would prefer not to use their own. This will also save the time of having to clean chametz from the car before Pesach--time that many local two-income families do not have.

"Jews use different dishes for Passover. They ought to be able to use a different car, as well." Ben-Zaken says.

Danielle Wolfberg is a freelance writer and reporter. Henry Lorman has published several novels and is currently working on a memoir, to be published by Random House.

The first hint that this might not be totally legit should have been that there is no such periodical as the Jewish Times of Teaneck (although it beggars the imagination that there isn't). 

Next, There are more mispellings and grammatical errors in the 'article' than in a typical treppenwitz post (and that's saying something!).  And although the piece is attributed to the collaborative efforts of Danielle Wolfberg and Henry Lorman, both ostensibly well-published writers, a google search failed to turn up any of their previous work (or any references to it) other than the send-up presented above.

Lastly, while there really is no limit to the idiotic stringencies to which certain Jewish communities will subject themselves in the name of Passover holiness (or more correctly, holier-than-thou-ness), the yawning bastion of modern orthodoxy known as Teaneck would be more likley to be leading the charge towards controversial leniencies... not new 'chumras'.

So I suggest that before anyone else gets their knickers in a twist and clogs up anymore email inboxes with some variant of "OMG, did you hear about...", that everyone put down the blowtorches and wire brushes... step out of the kitchen for a few minutes... and maybe even 'dispose' of some of that pesky chametz lurking in the family liquor cabinet.  Trust me, you'll feel better for it.

BTW, in case anyone is looking for a serious leniency on kitniot (one that I wish I had the courage to follow), check out this ruling from Machon Shilo.  [Hat tip Jameel]

Happy Passover cleaning.


Posted by David Bogner on March 25, 2007 | Permalink


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You didn't say which websites you saw it at, so I don't know if this is truly the original or not. But here's where I saw it (after following a discussion in a "Torah.org" forum): http://www.bangitout.com/articles/viewarticle.php?a=1802

They don't credit anyone else for the material. (except "By Yitz")

I managed to convince my wife it was true, and we wouldn't be able to go anywhere during Passover. Of course then I got a whack when I explained it was a joke.

Besides, the ethanol gas isn't a joke. It really cleans out your gas tank. All the dirt then went right into my motorcycle's carburetors. Had to get the tank drained and the carbs cleaned out.

Posted by: JDMDad | Mar 25, 2007 1:46:35 PM

OK, this is my first Pesach in Eretz Yisrael, so I have a halachic question.

Can I eat Milky's? And if so, are there any varieties that are chametz or kitniyoth?

And to add to the halachic difficulties, if Milky's are chametz or kitniyoth, would it make a difference if I have become addicted to them, and must continue to eat them for medical reasons?

Posted by: dfb1968 | Mar 25, 2007 3:12:59 PM

JDMDad... Most of the version I got were via email and not on a given website. Those that I saw on people's sites were obviously 2nd or 3rd generation cut and past jobs. Sorry about the bike... but the smack you got from your wife... well, you had that coming. :-)

dfb1968... You're getting ahead of yourself asking if Milky's are kitniot or chametz. First you need to ask 'are they kosher?', which is a question about which there are several schools of thought. The problem is that they contain a questionable (by some standards) gelatin. Sorry to rain on your picnic.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 25, 2007 3:38:02 PM

Trep: Aw, c'mon, don't rain on dfb's parade. If he/she is in Israel, there's plenty of room for leniency on that one...

Haven't a clue on the Pesach question, though; should be fairly straightforward to look at the package, neh?


Posted by: matlabfreak | Mar 25, 2007 4:28:48 PM

Milky's are now kosher enough for all the local kosher supermarkets to sell here locally. The said that because originally it was only approved by the Rabbis in Netanya (I think) that is wasn't, but now, and excuse me because I am not familar with the language of how this all works, the head rabbis in Jerusalem have given them their blessing, so they are now kosher enough. And I couldn't be happier. I love them and was only able to get them previously whenever I visited NY.

And did you find out if the info on Kitniot was indeed legit? Wouldn't want to continue sending out info to people if it's not.

Posted by: jaime | Mar 25, 2007 5:40:26 PM

I check bangitout.com often because of their funny news. i really did not pay attention to see if there were any links to the a real website, i just thought this is an Israeli guy trying to make a quick buck. $9.69 for a gallon of gas? i just skipped the rest of it. If it was really a problem this pesach, then the rabbi in my shul would address it.


Posted by: David S | Mar 25, 2007 7:15:51 PM

Jeremy Weider, a Rosh Yeshiva at RIETS, says his brother in law at Stanford wrote it.

Posted by: jordan Hirsch | Mar 25, 2007 7:28:05 PM

The whole thing is pretty funny.

Posted by: Jack | Mar 25, 2007 8:07:28 PM

as he says, "Orthodox Jews are among the best tippers in the area."

This should have been the giveaway that it is all a joke. Perhaps we need to stop sniffing the oven cleaner (or is that just me?) ;~)

Posted by: Chedva | Mar 25, 2007 10:26:45 PM

The best response to the joke I heard was form my Rabbi. He first emphasized it was a total joke, and then took it a step further. If we were really concerned we would first half to kasher our gas tanks through libum, that is by blowtorching it.

Posted by: Ed | Mar 26, 2007 12:15:26 AM

matlabfreak... I'm just trying to strive for full disclosure here. If I were to neglect to share this information I would certainly be taken to task by someone who feels that they aren't kosher at all. I will not say here how I feel about the issue [wipes chocolate and cream from upper lip].

jaime... The phrase 'kosher enough' doesn't make sense to me. Either something is kosher or it isn't. That there are various criteria for deciding if something is kosher is a given, but the sense that there are various levels of kosher seems dangerous to me.

David S... Ah, so by that logic, if your Rabbi didn't mention it, it wouldn't be an issue? ;-)

jordan Hirsch... OK, can you get me a name so I can set the record straight?

Jack... I agree. Kind of like the infield roster out there in L.A. :-)

Chedva... Yes, in retrospect that should have been a huge tip-off. Thanks. :-)

Ed... Good point. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 26, 2007 12:20:57 PM

"The phrase 'kosher enough' doesn't make sense to me. Either something is kosher or it isn't."

Isn't there degrees of what is kosher depending on the community who abides by it (and which Rabbinical authority oversees and approves it?)

Posted by: jaime | Mar 26, 2007 3:14:39 PM

The joke is funny, but this season is awesome. 3500 years later -- and Jacob (despite his broken hip) still walks the Land.

Posted by: Bob | Mar 26, 2007 4:43:08 PM

jaime... Certainly if one steps back and looks objectively at the entire range of kosher standards there are varying 'levels' of kosher. But for an individual to use the term 'kosher enough' suggests a sliding scale which shouldn't (IMHO) exist. Either something is acceptable (which is what kosher actually means) or it is not. That's all I meant. TO illustrate this with a silly example: Back when I was involved with NCSY I overheard a couple of kids talking about Mrs. Field's cookies. One said to the other; "But those aren't kosher, are they?"... to which the other responded, "Oh, they're 'kid kosher' not 'counselor kosher'."

Bob... Yes, this is pretty much my favorite holiday season (seeing as the bulk of the cleaning and preparation falls to someone else [ahem]. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 26, 2007 4:46:58 PM

My favorite joke for this time of the year: A resident of Yerushalayim, in the course of his Pesach-cleaning, decides to finally replace his ancient toilet fixture. However, he is informed by his plumber that the fixture, being both ancient and rare, can only be obtained at a certain plumbing-supply shop in Tel Aviv. So the Yerushalmi gets on the Egged bus (you can tell this is an old joke), and heads out to Tel Aviv to pick up a new toilet. He lugs it back to the bus station, and wrestles it onto the bus. A yeshiva bochur looks on in bemusement, and finally says, "I have to admit - that's one chumra I've never heard of!"

Posted by: psachya | Mar 26, 2007 6:06:47 PM

Good point David, but somehow the wife and kids never finish the job and it falls to you to do the final dusting. Oh the burden you bear.

Posted by: Bob | Mar 26, 2007 6:21:32 PM

I guess it's also like me telling the kids that it's ok to eat at a non-kosher restaurant or home, as long as you don't shellfish or pork - treife doesn't limit itself to just the type or part of an animal. Or is there a difference between treife and kosher?

Posted by: jaime | Mar 26, 2007 11:09:48 PM

I don't get the whole discussion about milk products and kosher for passover. Just look on the product to see if it is supervised kosher for passover. If it's a mark you trust then it's fine. Why make it so complicated?

Posted by: Yitz | Mar 19, 2010 11:32:31 PM

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