Rabbi Dr Nathan Lopes-Cardozo on the Hagodo

I’m amazed at Dr Cardozo’s  latest piece. You can read it. I found it facile. I will summarise my reaction

  1. We are the people of the book. It is called the Torah. It can’t be “read” away. It is immutable.
  2. There purposely has always been an oral component, handed down at Sinai. We don’t need Plato for the insight of reading and understanding.
  3. The text is called HAGODO which means “telling/saying”. In other words, the point is dialogue. The text is the starting point. Not having a locus to commence from leads to the neo style evenings which turn Pesach into yet another commemoration of the Holocaust, something Rav Soloveitchik railed against vociferously. The left will of course humanise the story of Jews and turn it into “the evening of social justice” where we commemorate Darfur, Slavery, and what have you. Sorry. This is about Yetzias Mitzrayim which is indelibly woven both rationally and Kabbalistically  with Matan Torah. Matan Torah is what it’s all about. The former, Pesach, is the journey.
  4. Reading doesn’t require verbalising. The Hagodo does as he notes, but doesn’t amplify
  5. Rebbi Yehuda Hanosi wasn’t concerned with pharmakon! He was concerned that the oral discussions not be lost. Learning Gemora is the quintessential exercise in trying to piece together any contradictory mesoras that were transmitted
  6. I’m not at all clear what Dr Cardozo’s message means in the context of an audience that doesn’t understand the basics of what was written, and to expand that into dialogue. As I alluded to above, this is not ab nihilo. The Baal Hagodo gave us a starting point. If one isn’t even at the level of the starting point, then the starting point becomes exactly what should be taught this year, so that new insights are introduced in the following year. The beginning is most definitely reading and more reading and more reading. We most definitely do start from a point. It is called Mesora.
So much for Plato


Poetry to my ears, a paunch to my boich

Remember, our parents and grandparents couldn’t have been wrong. Poskim always have trouble saying something is forbidden if Rishonim and Acharonim said it was ok.

Reverend Shimon Allen will of course tell me that there is nothing new in this.

Finally, I have some ammunition. (click on the link)

My father ע’’ה exulting in his yearly dose of Gribenes on Erev Pesach
My father ע’’ה. R’ Shaul Zelig HaCohen Balbin exulting in the yearly dose of Gribenes and liver and Kartofel on Erev Pesach

Statement from מו’’ר, Rav Hershel Schachter שליט’’א

This puts an end to R’ Meir Rabi’s attempts to use Rav Schachter’s name in support of his Laffa. I hope he has the good sense to remove Rav Schachter from his marketing and information websites.

In English:

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERNI have been asked many times over the past years if it is correct for Ashkenazi Jews to fulfill their obligation to eat Matza on the night of Pesach with Sephardic Matza. I have always answered that, in my opinion, this is not against custom provided that the Matza is produced under expert supervision and under the strict guidance of reliable and responsible Rabbinic authorities. My intention was in strict reference to the Sephardic Matzas that are known to us here in New York. I have now been informed from afar that there are new varieties called Laffa and Mountain Bread that I have never seen and know nothing about and I have not expressed any opinion concerning them, for one may only rule on what one’s eyes have seen. It is impossible to give my opinion on anything that I am not familiar with. I am greatly astonished how a “living person can contradict a living person” and how it is possible that anyone can say things in my name that have totally never entered my mind.Signed: Tzvi Schachter

Diet Coke on Pesach (segue)

In a previous article, I was critical of the wording and approach to this issue by Kosher Australia. In particular, they announced that people should not buy these diet drinks as they were Kitniyos. I argued that they were likely Kitniyos Shenishtane and therefore a matter of disagreement among Poskim and Kashrus Agencies and that people should ask their local orthodox rabbi (who would presumably liaise with Kashrus Authorities and advise their congregant as to the Halacha). I did not feel that Kosher Australia should make a certain pronouncement on the matter.

It is true that the Diet products have a Hechsher of the Rabbanut. It is equally true that some will rely on such a Hechsher and some will not. Some may rely on it during the year, but not on Pesach. Others may never rely on it. Some will only rely on a specific Rabbanut Hechsher: e.g. Yerushalayim.

I have also learned that R’ Lande has issues with one variety of Diet Coke preparation even during the year (let alone Pesach). It seems then that those who follow R’ Lande’s hashgacha need to investigate this fully with his office, depending on where in the world they find themselves wishing to drink Diet Coke and the like.

I asked the OU about the Israeli Diet Coke which doesn’t have a Mehadrin Hechsher, and only bears a Rabbanut Hechsher. The reply I received from the OU stated:

“Diet Coke from Israel is certified by OU. However, the OU symbol is not used on Coke products in Israel. One of the issues involved is kitniyos shenishtane”

In other words, like other Mehadrin standards, the OU does have some issues with this production which prevented them placing their Mehadrin OU stamp, however, the product is certified for use (clearly for those who do not necessarily seek Mehadrin).

Unsurprisingly, my attempts at eliciting further details failed. The OU are not about to provide me with details of changes that ought to take place before they put an OU on the product. I understand that  the OU have instigated some changes in USA production and therefore are able to place their imprimatur on that production line. Whether they rely on Bitul for Kitniyos Shenishtane when they have their OU imprimatur, I do not know.

So, in summary, if I was a Kosher Supplier of groceries in Melbourne, I’d either

  • approach the OU to see if they are able to instigate a process whereby the Israeli product gets the OU stamp, or
  • import the diet drinks from the USA with the OU stamp

Clearly the former is better, as we support Israel and Israeli goods.

The other contentious issue is that of Quinoa. As I mentioned, there was a finding by a respected Kashrus Agency that some Quinoa was proximate to Chametz during production. This is a concern. I notice that Eden has a Quinoa that is certified year-round by the OK. If I was a Jewish greengrocer, I’d be approaching the OK to see if they can ensure that Eden Quinoa is certified as OK Kosher for Pesach as well and stamp it as such. That way, those who use Quinoa because it is not Kitniyos, will be confident and free to do so.

Disclaimer: I must stress again, that all my comments on Halachic topics should be deemed pitputim b’almo. In other words, they are not L’Halacha, and not L’Maaseh. Discuss the matter with your local orthodox Rabbi.

I’m closing the Kosher V’Yosher vs other Rabonim comment stream

I posted an article about Diet drinks on Pesach. The comments section was respectfully filled with important information from Rav Moshe Gutnick of NSW and others. I found myself eventually having to tone down some of the comments of interlocutors through editing. Rabbi Rabi of Kosher V’Yosher sent me a comment last night and it is not one that I can edit in the way that I wanted to. I would have removed the misleading Gravatar. Seemingly unable to find a picture of himself alone, Rabbi Rabi continues to use conjunctions of his image with a famous Posek (in this case Rav Belsky, may he have a Refuah Shelemah). In my opinion, this is G’neyvas D’aas as it may well constitute a transparent attempt to ascribe importance and respectability to his business and hechsher. It’s most unbecoming. I’m not going to be a mouthpiece for marketing of business/hechsherim. So, I’ll reproduce his comment below (lightly edited) without his gravatar and that’s the end of this issue for me unless I see written information either to his business/hechsher from Rabonim which contradicts the information that is issued by the Rabbinic Council of Victoria/NSW or if Rabbis from Victoria or NSW produce written information to them which contradict’s Rabi’s information.

In our first year we did not have flour that was Shemurah from Ketzira, harvest, but only Shemurah from milling. An alert was placed upon the Matza packets of that year – suggesting that people use Matza that is Shemurah from Ketzirah for their Mitzva of Motzi Matza. There was no ambiguity that would lead any reasonable person to think that regular flour was used. If there is anyone who has a record indicating otherwise, I urge them to bring this immediately to my attention. Failing that, all remarks and those on this site saying/suggesting otherwise ought to be removed.In the same vein, quite a few postings here have been edited, the same courtesy and moral fibre dictates that all unsubstantiated remarks that reflect negatively upon my work and reputation should also be removed.A remarkable claim has been made, that HaRav Schachter rules that soft Matza may only be made by those with a Mesora; however, Rabbi Lebowitz has written that “I spoke to Rav Schachter about this several times. He holds it is completely permissible and has nothing to do with mesorah.” SEE full email http://www.realmatza.com/r-a-lebowitz-email.html Rabbi Moshe Gutnick emailed me that HaRav Schachter’s ruling can be found on the web. Can anyone assist me to locate this? We have not been able to locate it.

Diet Drinks: Kitniyos that have undergone a process of change

[Disclaimer: everything I write is not להלכה and not למעשה. In this case, my knowledge of food science is also, at best, cursory. Do discuss this issue with your Rabbi and don’t be influenced in practice by my pitputim]

In Halacha, legumes which have been traditionally not used over Pesach for a number of well-known reasons, are forbidden. This is the Ashkenazi prohibition of Kitniyos. Some, like Rabbi David Bar Chaim (who I remember as David Mandel when he was in Melbourne many moons ago, and who went to study at BMT/Hakotel at around the same time that I went to KBY 🙂 asserts that it’s not a blanket Ashkenazi prohibition, but rather one that is an Ashkenazi prohibition outside of Israel. His view is that Minhag Eretz Yisrael was never to adopt the minhag not to eat Kitniyos. I would assume, that Rabbi Bar Chaim, should he find himself in Chutz La’aretz over Pesach, would adopt the Minhag of Ashkenazim in Chutz La’aretz and not partake of Kitniyos. My assumption may not be true, of course, as he would appear to have a renaissance-style agenda for reinstating what he sees as Minhag Eretz Yisrael, even prior to Mashiach coming, rejecting any imported Minhagim from those who have made Aliya over the last 3-400 years.

What is the הלכה if Kitniyos is an admixture of a food stuff? Do we assume that it is Batel B’Rov, nullified by the majority of the ingredients which are fine, and bought before Pesach? This is a disagreement amongst the Poskim, however, where there is any semblance of a medical need, given that the issue of mixtures isn’t black and white, Poskim are certainly lenient across the board.

What about the derivatives of Kitniyos? This is known as מי קטניות? Famously, Rav Kook ז’ל declared that they were completely acceptable, because Ashkenazim never had a Minhag not to consume this, and the process negated all the issues that Kitniyos came to protect in the first place. Rav Kook’s permissive ruling is halachically sound, however, Charedim rejected it and as such it has become a default “not to rely on this Hetter”. Having said that, I well recall that even in Melbourne, as the outsiders “infiltrated” our midst, certain Kitniyos or questionably Kitniyos derived oils (מי קטניות) were definitely used by almost everyone. Peanut oil is a good example. It is highly unlikely (as per R’ Moshe ז’ל) that peanuts were ever included in the ban on Kitniyos. If we couple that doubt together with the fact that we aren’t dealing with peanuts per se, but rather a product derived from peanuts, and prepared before Pesach with a Hechsher, it can cogently be argued that there should be absolutely no problem. However, we have a long-standing custom to choose something with zero doubt over Pesach: that is, we are Machmir. Being Machmir (stringent) seems to be a long-standing Minhag. In a similar way, during Aseres Yemei T’Shuva we have a custom to be Machmir on Pas Palter and perhaps Chalav Stam even though we aren’t Machmir a whole year around.

Enter the Diet Drink. Our society loves their Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Diet Prigat etc. When you pick up a bottle of these at your local Kosher greengrocer, you will see that the Coke has at least one “Charedi” Hashgacha, such as from the Chug Chasam Sofer, or Rav Lande from B’nei Brak. Yet, the diet version has a Hashgacha from the Rabanut. What gives? Artificial sweeteners are often derived from Kitniyos. They are another level away from מי קטניות. Why? Because they have been chemically altered/processed. This is known as קטניות שנשתנו, Kitniyos that have undergone a process (chemical) change/development. Again, the Poskim are divided on this issue. Unlike Kitniyos derived oils, however, on this issue even Charedi Poskim stand on either side of the debate. One cannot just dismiss it because it emanated from the “Zionist” Rav Kook (did you know, by the way, that Rav Kook refused to join a religious zionist political party). On this issue, we have very respected Kashrus authorities who permit it: such as Rav Belski (senior Posek of the OU and a Charedi Rosh Yeshiva) and Rav Gedalya Dov Schwartz of cRc—not to be confused with the anti-zionist CRC—(who I was fortunate to meet and speak with when he came for a wedding I played at in Melbourne) and others. Rav Schwartz is well-balanced and respected by all. The model of co-operation in Chicago is an icon for the rest of the world.

With this in mind, I’d like to quibble with the wording that was sent out by our own Kosher Australia recently. Yankel Wajsbort, who does a fantastic job, and is partly responsible for bringing our lists to the modern world of communication wrote:

A reminder that all the Diet drinks (Coke, Pepsi, Prigat) available in Australia use kitniyos sweeteners (a check of the label will show that the regular Kosher certification does not cover Pesach).

I have three problems with this statement, especially in the context of the later comments about Hommous and Techina products being Kitniyos for Ashkenazim.

  1. This is not, in the main, Kitniyos. Rather it is Kitniyos that has undergone a process change, as above.
  2. It is not true that the label will show that the “regular” certification doesn’t cover Pesach. There is a different certifying body that approves of Diet drinks, as above. At least, that is true for Prigat. I haven’t looked at Coke.
  3. Kosher Australia has three ways of issuing a pronouncement on the issue of Kitniyos that has undergone change: It either takes its own stand on the issue, which I assume would be accompanied by a formal Tshuva, or it decides to follow one group of opinions on the matter (the strict one) given that it is a body that needs to certify for a range of groups across Melbourne, or it lists the two sides of the coin and suggests that people check with their local orthodox Rabbi (LOR).

My preference, similar to what I wrote about Quinoa, is that Kosher Australia briefly list the major Kashrus organisations on both sides of this halachic divide, and then suggest that one should consult with their LOR. The approach taken in the communication above is just too black and white for my tastes (sic).

Kosher Australia acknowledged that the wording could have been better, and their consistent policy is to follow R’ Lande on these matters. They prefer, apparently,  not to get into the intricacies, as above, as this may confuse. Fair enough.

Disclaimer: I don’t use Diet drinks on Pesach, only because I’m somewhat of a Machmir over Pesach, and if I ever want to be lenient, my wife steps in and puts a halt to it 🙂

PS. I discovered that Georgio Armani products seems also not to have Chametzdik alcohol in their liquid perfumes/after shaves. I saw this on one of the major hechsher websites. Anyone checked on it? Seems that the American one is fine. Not sure if Armani produce it anywhere else and/or differently.

PPS. Does anyone know why Chabadniks who avoid all processed food on Pesach, seem to rely on Hechsherim for wine these days (but not, for example, Vodka)

Mad Chumros for Purim

Saw this one over at Daas Torah. It’s not a Purim joke. Some crazies have suggested cleaning out ears before hearing the Megila so that you “catch every word”. Perhaps they will advertise cut-rate GPs or Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeons, who will syringe the embedded wax for those who are Machmir for the opinion of the Chazon Ish.

I'm afraid this is real
Technique approved by Badatz Shochtim

What’s next? The Hungarian decreeing that one should only listen to the Megilla this way, because חדש אסור מן התורה and מנהג אבותינו בידינו?

and our conservative types suggesting that it can be done remotely via a live podcast

But wait, there is more. I’m going to suggest to these wise litvaks (is that an oxymoron?) that immediately after the megilla they replenish their wax supply so that חס ושלום no distant לשון הרע find its way into the canals. The Poskim have ruled that the following product may be used without a hechsher

Not Kosher Certified

For two reasons:

  1. It’s not ראוי לאכילת כלב
  2. It’s נותן טעם לפגם

However, if there is a חשש that the לשון הרע is fresh, and not בן יומו, it is best to be Machmir.

On Erev Pesach, one should be מבער the wax or sell it to a Ben Noach. Those who want to be מחמיר should either

  1. Use a dropper, and insert a רביעית of kerosine into the ear canal (be careful not to do this near a flame), or
  2. to be safe, insert (micro-organism free) boiling water, that is יד סולדת according to all opinions into the ear canal.

Some entrepreneurial Avreichim are working with the company to develop a Kitniyos free, Glatt (gelatine free) Vegan alternative with a Hechsher for Pesach from a number of reputable Authorities.

Let’s expunge the “ladies”

Hat tip to Anon who sent me the picture below. It’s outrageous. They were afraid it would be a breach of Tzniyus to call these things Lady Fingers, which is what they are. What next, a podgy version of these called Rebbishe Fingers made by a company called Shirayim?

Removing the Lady from the Finger

Interestingly, even the Wikipedia entry for Lady Fingers mentions Pesach. I’m just waiting for the Charedipedia—pasteurised and homogenised at boiling point, with multiple hechsherim and plombes on each page. Some pages may get through only as gebrochts, but that would be configurable in the options section.

If it wasn’t so sad it might be funny.

Remembering a giant: the 18th Yohr Tzeit of Morenu HaRav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik ז’ל

I received  the following loose transcript of an oral shiur given by the Rav on the 31st March 1999. It isn’t clear when the Rav actually delivered this shiur.

Sippur, as in Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim, comes from the word Saper, the same root that includes Sofer, which is Hebrew for scribe. A scribe is not the same as a simple writer. Throughout Tanach the word Sofer is used to indicate that the position of scribe was one of importance, for example Sofrei Hamelech in Megilas Esther. In Talmudic parlance, Sofer means a Talmid Chacham, a scholar. In contrast to Divray Torah we have the term Divrei Sofrim, which are the teachings of the scholars. There are many examples in the Talmud where the word Sofer refers to the scholar. Apparently the Hebrew language scribe or scholar is distinguished by his ability to write. A Talmid Chacham must be capable of writing. Historically, when a Jew showed the ability to write, he was accepted as a scholar. The statements of the transmitters of learning, the Maatikay Hashemuah, are referred to as Divray Sofrim.

The definition of Sippur goes beyond simple oral story telling, but it includes the ability to tell a story through writing it down. The word Sefer, book, derives from the same root, L’Saper, to tell a story. In Hebrew, writing and oral communication are both included in the framework of the root word Saper. The Gemara says that Megilas Esther refers to itself first as an Igeres, letter, and later as a Sefer, a book. There are significant differences between these 2 forms of writing. A letter is written for a short term purpose. It does not need to be written on parchment; it can be missing letters and may not be complete yet it still conveys the gist of the story. In contrast, a Sefer is intended to transmit the story to future generations. It requires parchment and if even one little letter is missing it is halachically voided. For example, the prophet commanded the people to write contracts on their land in a Sefer and place them in earthen vessels so that they may last a long time. Sefer documents an event for present and future generations. Another example: Hashem commanded Moshe to document the eternal conflict between God and Amalek in the Sefer and transmit it to Joshua. This message could only be transmitted through a Sefer.

Chazal note that a major Kabbalah principle is that Hashem created the world through acts of Kesiva, writing. For example, the notion of writing is found by the 10 commandments that were written Betzba Elokim, K’vayachol, by the finger of God. The Sefer Hayetzira maintains that the world was created through 3 Seforim (forms of the word Saper): B’sfor, B’sippur U’Bsefer, through counting, relating a story and through the book. We know from the Torah that Hashem wrote the Luchos, but how does the Sefer Yetzira know that the world was created through these 3 forms of the word Saper? According to the Kuzari, when the Torah repeatedly mentions Vayomer Elokim, it is referring to the act of Sippur by Hashem. The result of this Sippur was the Sefer, all of creation. It was the word of God that created the world and is embedded in nature and continues to drive it. At the same time, nature must obey the will of Hashem. If  the flowers bloom, the birds fly, man walks and the heavenly bodies remain in motion it is because this is the Ratzon Hashem, the will of God. The manifestation of the will of God was inscribed into every function of nature. According to the Baal Shem Tov, the word of God, the Vayomer Elokim, that created everything is as real and ongoing today as it was at the time of creation, Udvarcha Emes Vkayam Load, and Your words are true and everlasting.

Chazal valued very highly of the ability to write. Chazal say that Ksav Vmichtav were among the miraculous things that were created at twilight of the sixth day prior to the onset of the Shabbos. Chazal recognized the amazing gift in the ability of man to  to record events that happened thousands of years ago in such a way as to allow subsequent generations to identify with, understand and appreciate the thoughts and feelings that moved the author so many years before. The events of past generations are alive for us today. For example, when we read in the Torah the stories of the patriarchs and the 12 tribes, we feel as if we are part of the actual events that are unfolding before us. We cry with Joseph when he is sold into slavery by the brothers and we rejoice with him when he is elevated to the position of Viceroy of Egypt. We travel with Abraham as he leaves Charan for the unknown land of Canaan and our hearts skip a beat as Yaakov narrowly departs with the blessings before Esau enters his father’s room. Reading the written word allows us to span generations in an instant and to identify with our ancestors. Educators today must make the stories of the Torah come alive for their students and make them feel as if they are part of the story and not some impartial bystander.

In contrast, the Rav noted that today, unfortunately, parents and children can’t communicate across a gap of a single generation. Children of today can’t understand or relate to the experiences of their parents. To many Jews today, the Lech Lecha of their parents, their life experiences and their Judaism, means nothing to them. In order for us to inject meaning into the stories that we write during our lives, we must do more than simply put words on paper. We have to create a climate through which we appreciate all the events that shaped Jewish history, for example to feel the pain of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash or to understand other events in Jewish history. Today we have many aids to study, unprecedented numbers of  translations of the various texts are readily available to the masses to assist them in study. However in too many cases, we have words written on paper, but we lack the atmosphere of involvement and participation in the events we study. The greatest Sofer, scribe, is not one who can write on parchment or paper, but rather the one who can write on the hearts of living beings and influence their lives. The great scribe is the one that can transmit a living Torah that passes on the Torah world of Rabbi Akiva, the Rambam and the Vilna Gaon to the next generation. This is Torah Shbeal Peh, which is dependant on the ability of each generation to make these experiences come alive for the subsequent generation to ensure that the flame of Torah burns for eternity. The scholars were called Sofrim because they were the transmitters of the tradition between generations. Their greatest accomplishment was not the writing of Torah on paper, but rather etching Torah into the hearts and souls of their students to keep it alive for subsequent generations, creating living Seforim.

One need not write tomes during his life to earn the title of Sofer. For example, we have no recorded writings from the Baal Shem Tov. Yet his vast Torah was spread throughout the world by his living Seforim, the many students that he taught during his life. Moshe Rabbeinu was called Safra Rabba D’Yisrael, the great scribe of Israel. Did Moshe spend his time as a scribe of Sifrei Torah, Tefilin and Mezuzos (STAM)? We find that Moshe wrote a Sefer Torah towards the end of his life. Yet he earned the title as the great scribe in Israel because of the Torah he taught all Bnay Yisrael and how he inscribed it into the parchment of their hearts and souls so that they might act as the scribes that would teach the next generation. Just as the original word of God continues to drive nature, so to the Torah that Moshe gave Bnay Yisrael in the desert is as alive for us today as it was thousands of years ago. It is the ability to transmit from generation to generation, despite great difficulties, without diluting the message that makes Bnay Yisrael unique.

Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim is more than telling a story. Vhigadta L’Bincha means that the father must write the book that will become his son. It is the obligation of the father to view his son as a Sefer to be carefully written and not as an Igeres. The obligation to be the scribe of this book extends well beyond the Seder night to encompass all of life. Bchal Dor V’dor Chayav Adam Liros Es Atzmo K’ilu Hu Yataza M’Mitzrayim, in every generation the Jew must view himself as if he has just left Egypt. Man must feel that he has participated in the entire, collective Jewish experience and he must inscribe this knowledge into the book that is his child. Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim is the book of Jewish existence. The greatest accomplishment is when a father carefully transmits his experiences so that he may pass it on intact to his child before he passes on.

There were many great scholars who were not able to permanently inscribe themselves into the Sefer that was their children. They were only able to write an Igeres, a short term note, that their  children quickly erased when they left home. Yet there are simple parents who succeeded in making a permanent inscription into their children’s personality. They were able to write on the hearts of their children their Seder, their feelings on Tisha Bav, the beauty of their Shabbos, the solemnity of their Yom Kippur and their blessing of their children before Kol Nidrei in a way that made a lasting impression on the child, an impression that stayed with him throughout many years of separation and struggle. The Rav asked why should the scholar fail where the simple person succeeds?

Chazal say that there  are 10 synonyms for prophecy, one of which is the word Masa. There are 2 explanations why Masa refers to prophecy. The first is that the prophet would raise his voice when presenting the message of God to the people. The second is the Rambam in the Guide (Moreh Nvuchim) who explains that Masa is used to indicate that prophecy was a heavy load for the prophet to bear. The essence of prophecy is that it is a truth entrusted only to the specific prophet. He is the only one privileged to know this truth communicated to him by Hashem. The vision is a burden that does not let him rest. He has a need to spurt forth spontaneously and a desire to share it with others. For example, when someone is entrusted with a secret they have a difficult time maintaining the confidence. They find themself constantly struggling to refrain from blurting it out. The prophet seeks to unburden himself by telling the message of God to others.

When it comes to a prophecy or to Torah that a Jew knows, the only relief from his load comes through sharing it with others. The Rambam says that the prophet is required to tell his prophecy to others even when he knows that his intended audience is not interested in the message and may seek to harm him as a result of it, even if it costs him his life. Jeremiah was an example of a prophet who wanted to hold back his prophecy when the scoffers opposed him but he could not hold it back. When the Jew has a prophecy or Torah to transmit, he must view it as a Masa, a heavy burden, that in order to endure must be transmitted with great care and exactness as a Sefer to the next generation and not as an Igeres.

The ability of the Jewish parent to sacrifice themself for their child is so great that it approaches the point of self negation. How can such a person refrain from transmitting to his child the beauty of Shabbos, Yom Tov, Tanach or Torah Shebal Peh and the great Jewish personalities? Like the prophet of old, he can’t control himself, he must blurt out the message. If he does not transmit it to his child, the reason must be because he himself is lacking the feeling for these things. In order to be a successful scribe, you yourself must feel the burden of prophecy, the Masa Dvar Hashem.

In essence, this is the Mitzvah of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim, V’Higadta L’Bincha, and you shall instruct your children. A Jew must present his child with a Sefer and not an Igeres. Inscribing such a Sefer for the next generation is the way for every Jew to attain the level of prophecy in his lifetime. If you would ask what is the greatest characteristic of Knesses Yisrael, it is the  great wonder of Jewish History, the ability to engage in Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim not just on Pesach night. It is the ability for one generation to turn the subsequent generation into its carefully written Sefer.

The Rav noted that the night of Pesach is a symbol for this inter-generational transmission process. We are all familiar with the story of the great rabbis that were assembled in Bnay Brak and were involved in Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim all that night till dawn. The Rav asked which night was it? The Rav interpreted the night as extending beyond that immediate night of Pesach. The “Night” refers to the long and dark exile period that we have endured for 2 thousand years. It is the long night of pogroms and blood libels and crusades and inquisitions and holocaust that we have endured. Not only were Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Yehoshua at that table, but Gedolei Rishonim and Achronim who lived through the rain of Jewish blood and misery throughout the ages were there as well. Yet despite all these difficulties, Gedolei Yisrael recognized that they had a mission to be the scribes of the their generation, not in terms of writing books but as scribes that engrave a love of Torah in the heart of each Jew. Gedolei Yisrael carried the burden, the Masa Hashem, and transmitted their Torah as an inter-generational Sefer and not as a fleeting Igeres. They seized on the method Hashem uses, the Sippur Bsefer, writing on the book of creation, to ensure the continuity of faith in Hashem and the eternity of the Jewish people. The Torah remains alive to us today because of them. If not for their efforts, we would not be able to sit at our Seder table and discuss the exodus on the night of Pesach.  Jews are called the Am Hasefer, the people of the book, not because they are avid readers, but because each and every Jew is a living book that has been authored by the previous generations.

How long must we function as Sofrim, as scribes? When does the Jew complete his assignment of studying Torah? How long must we emulate the ways that Hashem created the world, through Sfor, Sippur and Sefer? Until we see that the next generation is ready to shoulder the load and assume its role in this never ending chain. Until the students knock on their teachers’ door and say “Our Teachers, the time to recite the morning Shema has arrived”, that they are now ready to assume the leadership role. The essence of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim is to create the living books, the Seforim, that will ensure the continuity of Torah and Judaism, is not limited to the night of Pesach. It is an eternal mission.

Copyright 1999, Josh Rapps and Israel Rivkin, Edison, NJ. Permission to reprint this Shiur, with this notice, is granted.

Precious Pesach Minhag in danger of extinction!

Seek out that fine “Americanishe” vaybel, or the Yisroo-ldike vaybel or indeed the second or third generation Oystralishe vaybel. Ask them if there is a Minhag to eat certain types of food at lunchtime prior to the Seder. I’m betting that apart from some hungarian charedi circles the Minhag is in a grave (sic) state  of decline bordering on extinction. More people know about the connection between Quinoa and Pesach than Gribbenes and Oylom Habo let alone its holy role in our Pesachdike folklore.

Minhag Avosaynu needs to be re-established, re-publicised, re-JEWvinated, and re-envigorated.  If you speak to today’s urban, upwardly mobile, modernishe husband, he is so far gone, he isn’t even aware there are specific delicacies gracing culinary Jewish tables from the days of the snake, that he is missing out on.

Yes, it’s a very busy time—the proverbial calm before the storm. The women are exhausted. The men are buying the Yom Tov gift for their wives and heading off to the Mikvah. All is ready for the Seder, or it should be by now. Breakfast had been a quick gulp and greps, any itinerant kids are carefully corralled so they don’t bring or spread chametz into the house. The last bit of unsold chametz is burnt.

You look at your 2011 “new” Haggada with a “Moiredik” set of new pirushim that will finally have you acknowledged (by ignorant guests) as the true genius of the Pesach Seder, worthy of the mantle of the חכם פון דער מה נשתנה.

Lunchtime approaches. It’s been a hectic day. You won’t be eating till after מגיד, and if those pesky know it alls start showing off, and the Ba’al HaSeder loses control of time or is himself a know it all, you’ll be tipsy and famished by the time that coveted salt water and hard-boiled egg dish makes its annual academy award appearance from the bowels of the kitchen.

But what did you eat for lunch on Erev Pesach?

There is no מצה and normally your wife isn’t going to cook any special פלייש … so let me guess, you were given this anemic bowl of green rabbit food carefully checked to make sure that worms or quasi kitniyos were nuked. Maybe you were lucky and were thrown a shtickle fish (you know, the piece that looks a bit “off” or anorexic and shouldn’t be served to the guests at the seder)

Rabosay! That’s not the way it was, nor was it the way it’s meant to be. Let’s return to our roots. Begin the revolution.

שמע בני מוסר אביך ואל תיטוש תורת אימך

The minhag is easy, nutricious, filling and is common across all different groups: chassidic, misnagdic, sefardic, centric, and I-Don’t-Know-nic. All Major Poskim have re-approved the Minhag, and even has a tick from the Heart Foundation as long as you begin with a cholesterol pill and finish with another cholesterol pill (yes, to be sure even your neighbours meshigenneh dog won’t eat the pills, wrap them in kosher lepesach glad wrap, as approved by the gastroenterological guild of gubernia)


  • Laybalach
Leybalach (Fried Liver)


  • Kartofle

 Note: Some modernishe houses have now invested in chip making machines (Rachmono Litzlan). Please note that this was never allowed in Europe as it didn’t exist, and חדש אסור מן התורה and in any case, it’s questionable whether such devices can fry in a way that allows the Nefesh Elokis to puff with real Ruchniyus. Rumour has it that the Nefesh HaBehamis, the Yetzer Hora, is strengthened by these chip machines. To be safe and keep up fealty use a simple cooked Kartofle, with lashings of fried onion and schmaltz.

  • Borscht
Roiten Borscht

Listed by the Gemora to be good for pimples, there are some who prefer the greeny/white schuv borscht extracted from lip-smacking sorrel leaves. Me? I vomit after a mere glimpse of schuv borscht as it reminds me of my first ever enema. Well, I didn’t know it was an enema until my Booba cajoled it past my epiglottis using the same wristy technique employed to stuff the gizzard of the gantz.

Quinoa revisited

Commendably, Kosher Australia has revised its earlier information and now tells us:

Subsequent to the printing of the 2011 KAPG, we noted that both the OU and the Star-K have altered their respective positions regarding the acceptability of quinoa. The OU now recommend consulting with one’s Rav and the Star-K now require formal Pesach supervision due to the concern of likely contamination from chometz. However, the London Beth Din and the Eidah Charedis, among others, maintain that quinoa is kitniyos. Based on information from the OK, those people who use quinoa on Pesach may purchase Eden brand quinoa which we have confirmed is free of cross-contamination with Chometz.

This is good. The Eidah Charedis’ stance isn’t surprising. For them, חדש אסור מן התורה and so there is no need to even find out what Quinoa is.

I still take issue with Kosher Australia’s wording in respect of the Star K position. The Star K did not state that Quinoa is likely to be contaminated by Chametz! What they did say, was that it was possible that Quinoa came into contact with Chametz. That’s true. Guess what, though, that applies to just about everything we buy because of the nature of food lines and cross contamination. In particular, we also get Potato flour with a Hechsher! The salient point is that the Star K do NOT consider Quinoa to be Chametz. Here is what they do say:

Tired of potatoes, potatoes, potatoes for Pesach? Try quinoa (“Keen-Wa”), a sesame-seed-sized kernel first brought to the United States from Chile nineteen years ago, according to Rebecca Theurer Wood. Quinoa has been cultivated in the Andes Mountains for thousands of years, growing three to six feet tall despite high altitudes, intense heat, freezing temperatures, and as little as four inches of annual rainfall. Peru and Bolivia maintain seed banks with 1,800 types of quinoa.

Quinoa was determined to be Kosher L’Pesach. It is not related to the chameishes minei dagan-five types of grain products, nor to millet or rice. Quinoa is a member of the “goose foot” family, which includes sugar beets and beet root. The Star-K tested quinoa to see if it would rise. The result was as Chazal termed, sirchon; the quinoa decayed – it did not rise. However, recent investigations have found that there is a possibility that Quinoa grows in proximity to certain grains and processed in facilities that compromise Quinoa kosher for Passover status. Therefore, Quinoa should only be accepted with reliable Kosher for Passover supervision

The Psak from the Star K mirrors the Psak from my wife 🙂 Although, I had noted, as per the advice from OK, that Eden Quinoa has no Chashash of Chametz because it is an organic company that has nothing to do with wheat as per the OK checking including the milling.

The bottom line is that it’s best to either have a Hechsher on any ground Quinoa. Then again, some of you also boil your sugar 🙂

For Chabad I’d say no Rebbe ever found grains in their Quinoa, but since none except for perhaps the last Rebbe  z’l, was exposed to Quinoa you’d better not use it 🙂 I wonder what Chabad would say about someone who washed Quinoa before Pesach and checked there was no inadvertent grain therein?

R’ Moshe Feinstein ז’ל unlike the Edah Charedis, held that we do not create new types of Kitniyos.

I hasten to add that in my opinion, which is not להלכה nor למעשה (ask your Rabbi), it is desirable to use (certified or at least Eden) Quinoa for babies and little children who have a hard time eating on Pesach, let alone the unfortunate ones who are gluten intolerant and elderly people who have issues with their digestion and stomach.

Regards from Kuala Lumpur where I haven’t seen any Quinoa as yet 🙂

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