Saturday, March 31, 2012

To - do - List for Pessach


Only a few days left until Pessach and there is still so much to do. I am going to start my serious cleaning for the Chag. Moving furniture and getting rid of the last Chametz products. 

Thursday night is already BEDIKAT CHAMETZ – the search for the last Chametz in everyone’s household. Before the search, we are saying a special Bracha (Blessing). The Chametz we find during the search, we are going to burn (BI’UR CHAMETZ) the next morning. Ashkenazi Jews follow the tradition not to eat KIDNIYOT on Pessach. We don’t eat beans, peas, corn, humus and any further product containing Kidniyot. It is extremely important to look at the labels on all kinds of food products during Pessach. What is kasher le’Pessach and what without Kidniyot additions. Sephardi Jews, on the other hand, eat Kidniyot and most (not all) Sephardic Jews eat rice. For Ashkenazi Jews, rice is Chametz. 

The Torah commands every Jew to get rid of any Chametz on Pessach. Grains such as oats, wheat, barley, spelt or rye are totally forbidden and the Torah adds a severe punishment: Jews consuming Chametz during Pessach are excluded from the Jewish nation. This doesn’t mean being excluded in a literal sense but rather a spiritual exclusion. 

In case one doesn’t want to throw away all his Chametz, he can sell it. This procedure is called MECHIRAT CHAMETZ and can even be done online. The selling of the Chametz is a more symbolic act. The Jew receives a certificate saying that his Chametz is not his anymore. A few days before Pessach, Israel’s two Chief Rabbis sell all Chametz to a Druse leader (it has to be a non – Jew). Another symbolic act and right after Pessach is over, ownership goes back to the Jews. Especially bakeries sell their Chametz, as well as other food producers but also private households. 

Some Jews go really nuts about their Pessach cleaning and cover their shelves and kitchen counters with aluminium foil. I do a normal cleaning and don’t drive myself crazy. There are Jews who exchange their entire kitchen dishes. Pots, pants and cutlery. I do this to a certain extend. 

Jews who do use their regular dishes during Pessach take their pots to public places where the pots are boiled in hot water and thus thoroughly cleaned out. Shopping before the holiday is an important subject too. I still have to get Mazza Shmurah. 

Mazza Shmurah

Photo: Miriam Woelke

The Pessach holiday is an expensive event and many Jewish families depend on charity in order to have a Seder. In Israel the intermediate days (Chol HaMo’ed) of Pessach and Sukkot are like a travel season. Thousands of Israelis are off from work and either travel abroad or going on trips around our country. Parks, museums, the Dead Sea, beaches, nature … everything will be packed. 

Pessach is a holiday where Jews go up to Jerusalem. Just like in Temple times when Jews came to Jerusalem in order to bring their holiday sacrifice (Korban Chagigah). 

The To – Do – List is still very long and time is running out. Every year the same craziness …


Bi'ur Chametz, the burning of the last Chametz (forbidden grains during Pessach) in the middle of Bnei Brak. Near Rabbi Akiva Street.

Its a custom that religious Jews burn their Lulav from Sukkot together with the Chametz before Pessach. Many Haredim came with their Lulavim and even with the brooms the family cleaned up for Pessach. Everything was thrown into the fire.

Chametz represents the own Yetzer HaRah and with the burning a few hours before Pessach starts, we are symbolically getting rid of our Yetzer Harah.

Public Kashering Kelim (Dishes) for Pessach in Rabbi Akiva Street.

The boiling water where the dishes are put in for a few seconds.

The father of the girls in the background brought his Kiddush cups for kashering.

Further Kashering.

Copyright / Photos: Miriam Woelke

Friday, March 30, 2012

Chassidic World - Parashat ZAV

Rabbi Yitzchak Tuvia Weiss speaking at Dushinsky


Rabbi Yitzchak Tuvia Weiss from the "Edah HaCharedit" is giving a Pessach Drasha at the Dushinsky Beit Midrash. This Shabbat at 5.15 pm. 

Please check whether the time is in accordance with the Israeli daylight saving but I assume that the Edah is not changing its clock.

Technical Announcment


Don't forget to change the clock tonight. One hour ahead, as daylight saving begins !!!

Neturei Karta participating in the Arab "March to Jerusalem"


The Arab world is planning a "March to Jerusalem" this weekend and Israel is on high alert, as Arabs may try storming our borders. Especially the Lebanese and Jordanians. For years, Palestinians have been denying Jewish history by claiming that there never existed two Jewish Tempels and that any Jewish history in Israel is nothing more but a Zionist lie. 

Nevertheless, who is going to participate in the Arab "March to Jerusalem" ? No one else but the Neturei Karta. I don't know whether the Neturei Karta really exists because the Palestinians may claim so but the NK definitely needs public relation and thus, donations coming in. 

Being in the press is always good for the donation business.:-)

Where is the Mechitza ??? :-)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Parashat ZAV - פרשת צו


This week's Parasha, Parashat ZAV, is all about Korbanot (Sacrifices) in the Temple. The word KORBANOT comes from the Hebrew verb LEHITKAREV - Getting closer to something / someone. While Jews are bringing sacrifices (during Temple times, Gentiles did so on Succot) they are getting closer to G - d. Not necessarily by the sacrifice itself but by their deep and honest repentance. However, Korbanot were not always brought after someone had done something wrong. There used to be sacrifices in order to thank G - d or special Korbanot for the holidays.

When you do something wrong, your Jewish soul (Neshama) will be influenced by your wrongdoing. Our task in this world is to elevate ourselves and souls and not to give in and blemish the Neshama. Of course, we may correct our wrongdoings by repentance but what makes everything a bit more complicated is that even thoughts can blemish your soul. You think something and don't even have to carry it out but it still leaves an influence in your mind and soul.

Today we are much more vulnerable to all kinds of thoughts and it is not only Facebook, Twitter or the entire Internet world causing us confrontations with all kinds of worldy things. Of course, it always depends on how you use the Internet  but still, temptations are around everywhere you look. 

On the other hand, we cannot just lock ourselves away but have to interact with the world. There are times when I would love to lock myself into closed chassidic communities such as Toldot Aharon. Just live in my own backyard and not interfering with the outside world. Just live my own life without being confronted with news about Iran, economy, bombs, unemployment, etc. To be realistic, I wouldn't manage that kind of life for too long and just explode after a while. But for a certain period of time, every human needs a break and has to go inside of himself and think. Do Cheshbon Nefesh, meditate or simply taking some time for himself without media and other people around. 

I think it was the Maharal saying in his commentary on "Pirkei Avot" that a Jew has to interact with the world, as he is not alone on this planet. Worldly affairs are not always negative but what we have to do is learning how to approach them in a positive sense.

Pessach Preparations in Mea Shearim

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Searching our own personal Chametz

"OZAR HA'MOADIM" - A collection of Poskim on Pessach. I just bought this great book in Bnei Brak.

Photo: Miriam Woelke


The book includes "Hilchot Pessach" from the "Shulchan Aruch - Code of Jewish Law", "Hilchot Pessach" from the "Mishna Berura", Pessach commentaries from the ZOHAR, Pessach commentaries from the Bnei Yissachar, the Baal Shem Tov, the Maggid of Mezritch, Chesed le'Avraham, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonnoye, the Noam Elimelech, Beer Mayim Chaim, Ma'or veShemesh, the Sfat Emet as well as Minhagim from different Zaddikim. 

Rabbi Yaakov Yosef from Polonnoye, the famous student of the Baal Shem Tov:
Before Pessach, the Jews are busying themselves with cleaning the house from any Chametz (forbidden grains and grain products such as wheat, rye, oats, spelt, barley, beer, noodles, etc). Entire families hardly stop scrubbing anything in the household but what about the Chametz inside of us ? 

Before the holiday starts, we should sit down and think about our own personal Chametz and how we get rid of it. In Judaism, Chametz also stands for our Yetzer HaRah (the negative side in each of us) and our task is to overcome our evil Yetzers. The night before Pessach, when we do "Bedikat Chametz - The search for the Chametz", we should take some time and search the Chametz inside of us.

Halacha: Downloading Music and Movies


We all know the situation: The Internet provides us with free music and movies. Why then buy the latest pop songs when almost everything is available online ? And, how does the Halacha refer to someone copying music or movies ? Is this allowed ? 

According to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, copying music, movies, art, etc. is prohibited. We are not allowed copying other people’s creations because they loose money. (See Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim, Vol. 4 Siman 40:19). 

In addition to that, we are guilty of theft. Especially when it comes to copyright claims.

Street Scene in Ramat Gan (near Tel Aviv)

Photo: Miriam Woelke

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Noodles and Soup Nuts "Kasher le'Pessach"


Not too many years ago, we were complaining about not having noodles during Pessach. As a wheat product, noodles are Chametz and we are forbidden to consume Chametz (forbidden grains such as oats, wheat, spelt, rye or barley) on Pessach. Only dry Mazzot and potatoes, fish, meat, onions, pepper, cabbage and carrots for Ashkenazi Jewry. Sephardi Jews have an easier Pessach, as some of them eat rice (forbidden for Ashkenazi Jews) and Kidniyot (peas, humus, corn or anything made of it). Then the first cakes kosher for Passover were available. Made out of potatoe flour. 

When I went to the supermarket tonight, believe it or not, I saw noodles kosher for Pessach. Noodles and soup nuts ! Some noodles kosher for Pessach are for Kidniyot eaters such as Sephardi Jews but I also saw Pessach noodles without Kidniyot.

Here are a few impressions from the MEGA supermarket branch in Dizengoff Street / corner Pinsker in Tel Aviv:

Kosher for Pessach !

Noodles kosher for Passover

With Kidniyot and made from rice.

Soup nuts kosher for Passover.

Wine for the Seder


Biscuits kosher for Pessach

Photos: Miriam Woelke

No doubt. Pessach is an expensive holiday and many Jewish families in Israel, including plenty of haredi families in Mea Shearim or Bnei Brak, depend on charity organizations handing out food baskets.
One of those organizations is located in Mea Shearim and run by Chassidut Toldot Avraham Yitzchak: "LINAT HA'CHESED". Two years ago, I talked to some of the Chassidim running LINAT HA'CHESED.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tour through Bnei Brak

"Pessach" and "Shabbat Ha'Gadol"


This year, Jews in Israel are celebrating Pessach (Passover) from the evening of 6 April until the evening of 13 April 2012. Jews living in the Diaspora traditionally keep an additional day. Pessach is a biblical holiday for Jews and stands for the Exodus from Egypt. For seven days, we are not allowed to eat any grains like rye, wheat, spelt, barley or oats. In addition to that we also have to avoid products made of these grains such as beer, noodles, pizza, flour, soup powder (without the "kasher le'Pessach" label) etc.

The translation for PESSACH is PASS OVER. 

The actual meaning of the word comes from the night when G - d took the lives of the Egyptian firstborn and showed mercy towards the Jews. The Tenth Plague, the death of the firstborn, caused Paraoh to change his mind and let the Jewish people go. Before the night started, G - d commanded the Jews to slaughter a lamb or kid and place the animal's blood on the doorposts. Thus, the Angel of Death would pass over the Jewish home and not take the life of the Jewish firstborn. (see Exodus – Sefer Shemot 12:3 – 7). 

The Shabbat preceding Pessach is called SHABBAT HA’GADOL (the Great Shabbat). Why is the Shabbat called by this name ? 

This year, according to the Jewish calendar, the Shabbat Ha'Gadol is going to be the 8th Nissan (Chet Nissan). In the year when the Israelites were leaving Egypt, the Shabbat Ha'Gadol was the 10th Nissan (Yud Nissan). According to the Torah, the 10th Nissan was the night when G - d carried out the 10th Plague and let the miracle happen that the Jewish firstborn survived. See about the date Exodus 12:3 as well as the Mishna Berura - Hilchot Pessach, Siman תל תלא. 

This upcoming Shabbat we are celebrating SCHABBAT HA'GADOL ! 

Bnei Brak preparing for Pessach


I only walked through Bnei Brak's shopping mall Rabbi Akivah Street this morning and although I was looking for Mazza Shmura, I found the locals buying new clothes and kitchenware. The only Mazzot I saw were either handmade or regular ones. Until Pessach, however, I have to get my traditional Mazza Shmura.

Junction Ramat Gan - Bnei Brak: Ramat Gan on the left and Bnei Brak to the right.

Kitchenware for Pessach in Rabbi Akivah Street

Zedakah (Charity) is a tremendously important issue in Bnei Brak, as the town is the poorest place in Israel.

Photos: Miriam Woelke

Israeli hotel industry is looking for 1500 new workers


The Israeli hotel industry is looking for approx. 1500 new employees such as kitchen and security staff or waiters. However, the jobs are on a temporary basis: Only during the days of Pessach. 

Local unemployment offices are going to send many of their unemployed clients to hotels in need of staff. These available jobs are usually not for tourists but unemployed Israelis who may have a chance finding a permanent job.

Daylight Saving 2012 in Israel


This week, the annual daylight saving is going to start. Time will be changed (one hour ahead) during the night from Thursday to Friday !

Nevertheless, not everyone is participating in the state - organized daylight saving. The Neturei Karta, Toldot Aharon or the Toldot Aharon Yitzchak don't change their clocks one hour ahead. Take this into consideration when you go to their Shabbat Tishes.:-)

The Great Synagoge in Ramat Gan (near Tel Aviv)

Photos: Miriam Woelke

Picture of the Day

Seen in Ramat Gan (near Tel Aviv)

Photo: Miriam Woelke

Pessach Preparations


Besides work, I have been busy with a few Pessach preparations. Not the big cleaning yet but some shopping including a few great books. However, I will give a few more details in the course of the day. Especially about the books I just bought at the OR HA'CHAIM bookstore in Bnei Brak. 

Just coming back from Bnei Brak, my intention was to buy Mazza Shmura but I didn't find any in Rabbi Akivah Street where I was walking around. No Shmura but regular Mazzah or Asui Yad (handmade Mazzah). At least I finally got some pre - Pessach atmosphere, as there is nothing like this in Tel Aviv. However, Bnei Brak seems to be busier with buying new clothes than putting out Mazzot for sale.:-)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

All wishes will never be fulfilled

Wealthy area in Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv: Housing and office complex.

Photo: Miriam Woelke 

No man departs from this world having attained half of his desires (Kohelet Rabbah 1:13).

Every human being on this planet has desires, wishes and expectations. There is a theory in psychology that unfulfilled expectations can cause depression. Not all our wishes are being fulfilled. Thta's life and G – d alone decides what we get, what we don’t get and where we succeed or fail. 

Most people only seem to concentrate on material things instead of looking at the spiritual side. Let me tell you one thing from experience: Money doesn’t make you happy ! What money does is providing you a secure life without any worries about paying the rent. However, money won’t give you joy but more sorrows. Just wait until the tax authorities will come after you.

JERUSALEM is not mentioned in the Koran

The OPHEL (Archeology Garden) right next to the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem. In the background you can see the minaret as well as the Al Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount.

Photo: Miriam Woelke

The Koran doesn't mention Jerusalem once ! What Muslims do claim is that their Prophet Muhammed was riding on a magic flying horse towards heaven. According to Muslim ideology, this happened on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Fact is that there is no proof, whatsoever, that Muhammed ever visited Jerusalem. It is very likely that he had never been in the holy city but in order to keep the legend alive, someone cut two holes into the outer wall of the Second Temple. The explanation for those holes is that Muhammed, while "being in Jerusalem", tied his horse at this place. The holes, however, actually look quite new and not as old as almost 2000 years. :-)

Photo: Miriam Woelke

Jerusalem has a difficult atmosphere


If I was a millionaire, I would rent two apartments at the same time: One in Jerusalem and a second one in Tel Aviv. Those two cities are my favourite places in Israel. Unfortunately, I am not a millionaire and have to make a decision where to live.

A few days ago I announced that I am planning to move back to Jerusalem within the next upcoming months. My friends in Jerusalem were happy to here it but my friends in Tel Aviv are now trying to convince me to stay. If not in Tel Aviv so, at least, in Ramat Gan, Bnei Brak or Petach Tikvah. 

"Jerusalem ? What do you want there ? It is a dead city and full of Haredim".

These are the main arguments against Jerusalem. At least according to the Tel Aviv way of thinking.

Jerusalem is the holy city and Haredim don't bother me at all. Years ago I have been one of them and thus know society. 

After living in Jerusalem for a bit more than ten years I noticed that the main difference between the holy city and Tel Aviv is a mentality question. Jerusalem is a very difficult place to live. Full of tension. Not only political tension but also on a society basis. Jerusalemites are, compared to Tel Avivim, suspicious. People always look what you are doing and everything has to be in accordance with certain expectations. In other words, Jerusalem doesn't give you much space to be different. It is definitely not a creative place and makes it difficult for artists to express themselves. 

Tel Aviv, on the other hand, gives you any freedom you want. Sometimes too much of it and there are many things bothering me. For instance, when gays walk around holding hands in public. This you wouldn't see in Jerusalem. The only thing you can do while living here is ignoring such behaviour and concentrating on the positive aspects. For artists and writers, Tel Aviv is the best place to be, as you won't find that many different people and interesting stories anywhere else in the country. 

I have thought about the whole dilemma today and it is anything but easy to make a decision. At least I have still got some time to go.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Back to Jerusalem

Jerusalem, Archeology Garden (Ophel)

Photo: Miriam Woelke

It looks like I am missing a certain kind of insanity, the air, the environment, friends and Mea Shearim and therefore I decided to move back to Jerusalem. Hopefully before summer starts and if not, I am going to move during the summer months. 

I have lived in Jerusalem for many years until I left in order to try out some other parts of the country. Zfat, Tiberias and Tel Aviv. Although most Jerusalemites neither like nor understand Tel Aviv, I always felt happy here. While living in the "city which never sleeps", you basically have to create your own Shabbat and Yom Tov atmosphere. So far, I haven't even seen anything hinting to the upcoming Pessach (Passover) holiday. 

I have been planning to move into a bigger apartment anyway and first thought about remaining in Tel Aviv or moving to Ramat Gan; right at the border to Bnei Brak. Somehow I wasn't sure if I should do so and thought about different options. Someone told me to move to Ramat Beit Shemesh, others told me to move to Zfat. However, I am a person who loves big cities and why not returning to Jerusalem ? Most of my friends live there and don't forget about the kind of insanity you only find in Jerusalem.:-) 

I won't move into the Toldot Aharon backyard but rather look for a place to live in the city center. Nachlaot has become tremendously expensive due to all the Americans moving in. Kiryat Yovel is too far away and I can't stand the German Colony / Katamon mentality.:-) On the other hand, I wouldn't mind the French Hill but prefer the city center.

Nevertheless, if anyone has an offer at the Toldot Aharon backyard, I may still take it into consideration but wouldn't last much longer than a week or two.:-)))

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Rosh Chodesh Nissan - ראש חודש ניסן

Seen in Jerusalem.
Photo: Miriam Woelke

Tomorrow night (Erev Shabbat) and on Shabbat, we are going to celebrate Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the beginning of the Jewish month of Nissan. Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh together always stand for a double portion of Kedusha (holiness). 

There is a long rabbinic discussion in Talmud Rosh HaShana whether the first of Nissan is the actual beginning of the new Jewish year or the first of Tishrei (Rosh HaShana). The Ohr HaChaim brings a great explanation: In Nissan, G – d was planning to create the world and in Elul, He turned His plan into reality. On the first of Tishrei, G – d created the first humans Adam and Eve

According to the kabbalistic book “Sefer Yetzirah- Book of Creation”, each Jewish month symbolizes a special letter, an Jewish tribe, a horoscope, a human sense and an organ. The letter of the month of Nissan is the Heh ה, the horoscope is Aries, the tribe is Yehudah, the sense is speaking and the organ is the right leg. 

Every year on 15th Nissan (Pessach) is full moon and we are enabled to get our life under control. It is the beginning of our inner freedom. 

The most important task in Nissan is cleaning the house for Pessach. Getting rid of all the Chametz (forbidden grains such as wheat, rye, oats, spelt and barley) during Pessach. We are not allowed to own Chametz on Pessach, nor eat it or look at it. 

Kabbalistic literature sees in Chametz our own Yetzer HaRah (evil side in us) and the Passach cleaning symbolizes the “getting rid of our Yetzer HaRah”. I am cleaning and cleaning but my Yetzer is still around and just doesn’t want to leave ! 

"A great, healthy and successful new month to all of you - Chodesh Tov "

IDF Elite Unit Combats Hamas Smuggling Tunnels

Eruvin 13b: "About Prominence and Success"


Whoever searches for prominence, prominence flees from him. But whoever flees from prominence, prominence searches for him. And whoever forces time, time forces him. But whoever yields to time, time will eventually halt for him.

Talmud Eruvin 13b


The Chassid Yechiel Me'ir (Chilik) Frank. As far as I know, he comes from an old Breslover family.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The question Israelis don't like to ask

Home Front drill today


Lets assume that Israel is going to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. Then what ? Hasn't the Iran threatened our country with a severe counterattack ? 

We always hear about attacking Iran and destroying its nuclear plants but who is able to guarantee that such an attack is really going to destroy Iran's nuclear weapon archive. If I was Achmadinejad, I would move all important facilities, laboratories etc. to a secret place. If necessary, underground. 

This is why I am asking the question if any politician or army general is able to guarantee a success. Couldn't it be that Israel or / and the United States are attacking Iran and fail in destroying the plants ? What if Iran is launching a counter strike against Tel Aviv and further Israeli cities ? 

Today, Israel's Home Front Command (Pikud HaOref) exercised another drill and I heard the sirens this morning. Despite all kinds of drills, lets be honest: Who is really prepared for any wider attack on our country ? No matter if with conventional or unconventional rockets; let alone an atomic bomb. Almost every household in Israel has a private bomb shelter but the majority of those shelters is in terrible condition. Dirty, full of junk and mainly used as storage rooms. 

A city like Tel Aviv is totally overcrowded and buildings stand very close to each other. Israel is a tiny country and there isn't much space for building houses. Every little piece of space is used and many times, you can watch your neighbours through the window preparing food in the kitchen. 

Crowded cities in Israel: Ramat Gan (near Tel Aviv)

Photo: Miriam Woelke

In general, the Israeli press as well as politician have been trying to stay away from the question "What is going to happen in case Iran is going to attack us ?" We simply don't have an answer nor can anyone say what kind of weapons Achmadinejad's country has or how an Iranian response is going to take place. On the one hand, politicians as well as the press love to panic sometimes. On the other hand, many Israelis feel completely save because our country has a strong army. 

To tell you the truth, I am not that sure and don't feel save. If Iran doesn't start an immediate counterattack, it may command the Hizbollah in Lebanon and the Hamas of doing so. We don't have to wait for an Iranian attack but should concentrate on our direct neighbours.

Life in a Shtetl

No words in a Restroom


Jews are not allowed to speak in a restroom. It happens many times that someone is busy in a restroom while a second person is looking for him. In this case, the first person knocks on the inside door of the restroom so that the second person is able to hear him and thus knows where he is.

Furthermore, the Talmud teaches us that no one should use the word SHALOM in a restroom, as SHALOM is one of G - d's names.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bagele with Flavour

 Learn Hebrew and Yiddish at the same time.:-)))

187,000 new apartments for Israel


It is not a secret that there aren't enough affordable apartments in Israel. Now the government decided to build another 187,000 new apartments and rent them out for reasonable prices. Who believes that, as real estate agencies as well as constructors have already put their eyes onto the new future apartments. Israel's real estate market means plenty of money and nothing is being sold or rented out cheap. The opposite is the case: Estate prices and rents are continuing to rise and there is no end at sight. 

Last Friday, I saw an offer in the Israeli paper MA'ARIV: 

67 squaremeters, 3rd floor, downtown Tel Aviv, King George Street, for 5800 Shekels per month (approx. 1550 $).

I would call this offer THEFT ! Nevertheless, rents at the coastal line and Tel Aviv area are just skyrocketing. But not only cities like Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Ra'anana, Rishon LeZion or Rehovot have high costs of living; even in the formerly cheap Zfat (Safed) in the north, prices keep on jumping. More and more Americans are planning to move in and this is what causes the rents to go up. 

Today I checked prices and found out that Jerusalem insn't that expensive at all compared to the coast. However, it turned out that rents in the Nachlaot neighbourhood have just climbed incredibly. Probably also due to the many Americans moving in. It is good to be central in Jerusalem but Nachlaot has just become far too expensive. The funny thing is that many apartments there are old, wrecks and have a leaking roof.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Non - Jews at the Pessach Seder ?


Every year before Pessach, the same question is comes up: 

"Are Gentiles allowed to sit at a Jewish Pessach Seder table ?"

Reform Jews don't seem to find anything wrong inviting non - Jews to their Seder table in order to celebrate the Exodus from Egypt together. Orthodox Jews, however, rather feel uncomfortable having Gentiles sitting at their Seder. How come and what exactly seems to be so problematic about non - Jews at a Jewish Pessach Seder ? 

First of all I have to say that I find it rather strange when church communities inviting their members to a Christian Pessach Seder where the Christian priest is trying to imitate a Rabbi or the person leading the Seder (it doesn't have to be a Rabbi running the Seder but anyone Jewish). It feels quite inappropriate when I see non - Jews celebrating a Seder although Pessach is an entirely Jewish holiday. G - d gave the Torah to the Jews commanding them to keep Pessach. Gentiles, on the other hand, are not obligated to keep Pessach and are allowed to eat Chametz and do anything they want. What Gentiles should do is recognizing the existence of ONE G - d, as it says in the "Seven Noachide Laws". Those Gentiles copying a Jewish Seder take over something they are not entitled to. 

The Halacha says that a Jew may cook from an existing flame on a Jewish festival (not on Shabbat !!!). This Halacha is for Jews and not for non - Jews. The main reason why non - Jews should not go to a Jewish Pessach Seder is the danger that Jews may cook for him. 

The AFIKOMAN, the broken Mazzah, which is being hidden at the Seder will be eaten later during the evening. During Temple times, all kinds of Jews came to the Temple in Jerusalem sacrificing their "Korban Pessach - a Pessach lamb" in order to eat it at the Seder. A biblical commandment (Exodus 12:43) says that Gentiles are not allowed to eat from the Korban Pessach. 

Until the coming of Meshiach, we don't have a Temple and are, therefore, not allowed to sacrifice any animals. On Pessach, the actual Korban Pessach (the lamb) is being replaced by the AFIKOMAN and non - Jews are not allowed to eat from it. 

Furthermore, there are halachic restrictions regarding kosher wine bottles. Gentiles are not allowed to touch open wine bottles where the wine was not cooked. The Talmud (Tractate Avodah Zarah) tells us that, in ancient days, Gentiles used to worship idols with wine and this is one of the reasons why they are not allowed to touch an opened uncooked kosher wine bottle. In Israel, cooked wine always carries the label "Ya'in Mevushal - Cooked Wine". Those bottles, even if open, a Gentile is allowed to touch. Halachically, they may be a Kashrut danger during the Seder when a Gentile is participating. He doesn't know about cooked wine and may just touch anything around him. I myself have experienced ignorant Gentiles touching anything although they have been told otherwise before.  

In the Talmud Tractate Pesachim 3b we are taught the following: 

An Aramean came to Jerusalem in order to eat from the Korban Pessach. Once, before leaving for Jerusalem, he said to Rabbi Yehudah ben Bateirah: "It says that a stranger is not allowed to eat from the Pessach sacrifice; - and it also says that an uncircumcized man is also not allowed to eat from it. Why, then, do I eat the best pieces of the Korban Pessach ?
Rabbi Yehudah ben Bateirah said: "Do they give you the fat from the tail to eat ?" – "No, responded the Aramean.
Rabbi Yehudah ben Bateirah said to him: "When you go to Jerusalem, ask them to give you the fat from the tail to eat."
And this is what happened; the Aramean demanded the fat of the tail. In Jerusalem, however, the Rabbis told him that the fat of the tail is being sacrificed on the Altar (Mizbeach) and, this way, only G - d gets this particular fat (see Leviticus 3:9). The Rabbis asked the Aramean who had told him that he should ask for the special fat of the tail. "Rabbi Yehudah ben Bateirah", replied the Aramean. The Rabbis couldn't believe their ears, asked further questions and found out that the Aramean wasn't Jewish at all. The result was that the Aramean was executed. Afterwards, the Rabbis sent the following message to Rabbi Yehudah ben Bateirah: "Shalom, Rabbi Yehudah ben Bateirah – Although you live in Netzivin (Babylon), your word reaches until Jerusalem." 

This Gemara (rabbinic discussion) doesn't want us to hate Gentiles or kill those eating from the Afikoman. The intention of this Gemara is to teach us how strict those laws should be kept and how relevant they are until today. As we know, the Torah is valid for ever and the Talmud teaches us that people should stick to their duties in this world and not take over what is not theirs. Example: When King david's son Avshalom wanted to be King but G - d wanted Shlomo (Salomon). Avshalom started a whole rebellion and ran after something which wasn't his: The crown. Korach rebelled against Moshe and was also aiming at something which wasn't meant to be his. 

The Pessach sacrifice is meant to be for Jews. The Exodus from Egypt and the entire Pessach Haggadah is a Jewish topic. Why then should any outsider interfere when he has nothing to do with it ? The same, by the way, with Yom Kippur being an entirely Jewish holiday. 

Another question coming up is whether converts to Judaism are allowed to eat from the AFIKOMAN: In Orthodox circles, converts who are still studying at Orthodox conversion courses are being invited to the Pessach Seder. However, there are families who only invite converts after their actual conversion process. Eating from the AFIKOMAN is only allowed after the convert became halachically Jewish. 

ISRAEL: Unmarried Couples and the Law


Not every Jewish Israeli is religious and countless young unmarried secular couples like living together in order to try out whether the relationship works out. If yes, the couple may get married later on; if not, then the couple splits and the relationship is finished. No obligations and everyone will be free again. But is this really true ? 

A Canadian friend told me once that there is a law in Canada (at least in British Colombia) where partners of an unmarried relationship may claim inheritance in case one of the partners dies. Unbelievable, I thought and in Germany one must show a marriage certificate in order to inherit. 

Today I learnt that Canadian law seems to apply to Israel. Unmarried couples, no matter what age, living together in the same place and leading a marriage - like relationship, may find themselves in unconvenient positions. An unmarried couple living together for four or five months can already face obligations and court cases. 

For example:

Girlfriend and boyfriend living together, the boyfriend has to go to the army and is killed in action. In case the couple had live together for more than four or five months, the girlfriend may turn out as the main inheriter. Lets say the boyfriend owned the apartment, the girlfried is entitled to inherit the estate if the boyfriend didn't make a will or there is no further legal agreement. 

Problems also may occur in case the boyfriend / girlfriend throws his or her partner out of the house. Then the person thrown out may claim compensation for a certain time (three months or whatever the judge decides). 

The solution is that while you are deeply in love, not to loose your common sense. Before moving together, an unmarried couple should go to a lawyer and make an agreement in advance. Furthermore, if you have money or property, make a will. 

Another solution would be: Remain single and don't move in with anyone.:-)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tel Aviv: Africans stealing iPhones and Money


A working colleague told me today that a bank clerk working at a bank nearby was robbed by Africans here in Tel Aviv. The clerk was walking at the old Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv when three or four Africans showed up and started beating him. The African thieves were looking for smartphones and money and after taking everything from the bank clerk, they just disappeared.

At the old Tel Aviv Central Bus Station. An abandoned place full of drug addicts and Africans.

Photo: Miriam Woelke

I very much recommend not walking around openly with any smartphone at the old and new Central Bus Station area in Tel Aviv. Thousands of illegal Africans have been living there and you should avoid the area after 10 or 11pm ! 

Kashering your kitchen for Pessach

The CARDO in Jerusalem, Part 2

Ancient Jerusalem

Photo: Miriam Woelke

A small series about archeology in the Old City of Jerusalem. 
Please see Part 1 HERE !

The CARDO in the Old City of Jerusalem used to be an ancient shopping mall built by the Romans. After the destruction of the Second Temple, the Roman emperor Hadrian changed the name "Jerusalem" into "Aelia Capitolina". The former shopping mall led from today's Damascus Gate (East Jerusalem) into today's Jewish Quarter.

From the ancient part of the Cardo into the modern shopping mall part of the Cardo. Especially tourists like to shop but there is no doubt that prices are exaggerated. Going down the Cardo shopping mall, you will get into the Muslim Quarter.

In the course of time, Jerusalem was destroyed several times and always rebuilt on top of its ruins. Thus, parts of the city have several layers and the Jerusalem of 2000 years ago, we find 10 or 20 meters below today's Jerusalem.

Here are the ruins exibited in the Cardo:

Pieces of the city wall from the First Temple period

 Copyright / Photos: Miriam Woelke