What I Saw Today in Jerusalem #3

Daddy with double stroller!

That’s right, we have real men here in Jerusalem.


What I Saw Today in Jerusalem #2

A sign for the Ministry of Magic.

I did a double-take, and realized it actually said “Magic Carpet.”

(Carpet and Ministry in Hebrew are one letter apart)

Magic Carpet makes much more sense.

Hero or Sidekick?

I think Yom Kippur is about Superheroes.

I hate Yom Kippur. I hate fasting, I can never concentrate when I’m hungry, so before this abysmal day begins I’m going to share some thoughts while my mind is still awake.

On this day we do two things which do not come naturally to humans: fasting and forgiving. Forgiveness is the hardest thing in the whole universe. It is a brutal confronation with our mortality and vulnerability. It’s a sacrifice we make to maintain connections that are important to us. Sometimes we can be too forgiving and suffer from that as well. And yet we take an entire day and devote it to this terrifying act.

Fasting is torture. I was told once that it’s good for your body, that it gets better with practice. Still, I spend all year praying I’ll get a stomach virus on Yom Kippur so I won’t have an appetite because I would rather be sick than hungry. The fact that we willingly do not eat for an entire day is, in my opinion, superhuman. It shows that we have powers above our instincts and basic human needs. We have the ability to connect to something greater – the spirit – a place where we are strong enough to not need physical satisfactions. That is our superpower. The ability to conquer ourselves.

With that in mind, the last step is to take these powers we have and use them to triumph over our greatest enemy – our doubt in ourselves. On this day we have to act in the face of fear and forgive ourselves for being human. Only then can we rise to our full potential and save the world.

“Triumph begins with try and ends with Umph!” – Happy Feet

Fun fasting everyone!


Clean As You Go

One of the things I enjoy when I’m upset is baking. It’s distracting and fun, and the end product is a tasty edible thing. But baking is incredibly messy – when the muffins are in the oven you have goo all over the counters and floors, you’re covered in flour, ingredients are scattered about the kitchen and dishes piled to the sky. After being on my feet for an hour preparing the batter, cleaning up is not an exciting prospect. Over time I’ve learned  that the trick is to clean as you go. That way, when you’re done baking, only the muffin pan is left to clean, and it’s not such a big deal.

It’s so much harder to leave the mess for the end. Who feels like washing a huge pile of dishes at 11:00pm after a long day and a baking project? Now imagine your siblings left their dinner dishes as well. Now you have to clean up your mess and all these extra things you weren’t counting on. 

Adorable Chocolate Chip CookiesHuman relationships are kind of like baking. It takes a lot of work, it can be rewarding but also messy. And just like baking, it’s hard to clean up huge relationship messes. I think it makes more sense to “clean as you go” – meaning, if you mess things up, fix them immediately instead of putting it off and waiting for the pile to grow. This is probably what most of us do with people we care about.

We have a beautiful tradition in Judaism: just before the high holidays, we have an entire month designated to forgiveness. The month of Elul, the one we are currently in, +we  forgive those who have wronged us in the hope that God will do the same for us. However, along with this beautiful tradition is a very odd one. In the first grade we learn to ask forgiveness from everyone, and it comes down to sending notes saying, “I’m sorry if I hurt you! <3” to all of your classmates, or even posting a facebook status, “If I hurt anyone, please forgive me! Mwa.” It’s shallow and meaningless, and I think it’s comparable to cleaning up all the other people’s dishes. Why are we cleaning up messes we didn’t make? (Even though it may seem like a nice thing to do.) Some people say it’s because we are not always aware when we hurt someone’s feelings, but I think that’s ignorant. If you hurt someone, you should know it. And if there’s someone you might have hurt, you’ll know who that person is. But there’s no need to text your roommate’s best friend just because it’s Elul.

I believe in “Clean As You Go.” I think we should be apologizing to each other all year long – when we mess things up. If we leave it until the month of Elul, we lose sight of what’s important and get so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the mess that we just throw apologies everywhere, hoping that the one or two people we really need to make amends with will be satisfied by that. Most likely, they won’t be.

Elul doesn’t mean apologize to everyone. Elul means if you’re holding a grudge, it’s time to let go.

Let’s Talk About This: Keeping Kosher vs. Internet Bullying

First, two quick facts about me:

  1. I’m Jewish
  2. I keep Kosher

These facts are important players in this story, which is partly about a Facebook post, but mostly about the horrendous politics of the Kashrut industry. (Kashrut = the state of being Kosher.)

The following picture was posted on Facebook, along with a plea to share it. Several of my friends had shared it, so I read it, and was ENRAGED.


Public Announcement to avoid certain Restaurants because of Kashrut dispute


This hereby is to announce to the public who observe kashrut in Jerusalem that we, the Rabbinate of Jerusalem are not responsible for what occurs in the following restaurants:

(List of 5 restaurants and their addresses)

AND that these restaurants sell non-kosher meat and vegetables which have not been supervised and contain abominable insects.

AND that the Certificates of Kashrut displayed in these places are provided by criminal institutions of Kashrut which are purposely deceiving the public.

The Department of Kashrut

Jerusalem Rabbinate

OK, wow. Fisrt of all, a little background: A restaurant can be considered Kosher by following certain guidelines, and if they do they receive a certificate of Kashrut which they are required to display to the public. The certificate can be revoked if they violate the Kashrut guidelines. However, the Kashrut industry also happens to be extremely corrupt, meaning, you can lose your certificate for other reasons, such as failing to pay rent, or insulting someone’s brother-in-law, which have nothing to do with Kashrut. It’s all about who you know.

Now let’s take a look at this announcement before we talk about the implications it has on society.

“Abominable insects” – Fair enough, I wouldn’t want to eat insects either. But come on, there’s no way the department of health would let them get away with not washing their lettuce.

“Purposely deceiving the public” – wow, that’s a nasty accusation. Why are we discussing this on Facebook instead of in court?

“The Certificates of Kashrut” – wait, what? They hold certificates of Kashrut? Oh, but they’re not applicable since they were provided by a different organization. Got it. (Am I the only one who thinks this sounds shady?)

There is a very important principle in Judaism which is giving the benefit of the doubt. Actually, in the case of Kashrut, we are supposed to assume that a person is not trying to cheat us or trick us into eating non-kosher food. (For more on this topic, see my post “Can You Eat in the Home of a Non-Observant Jew?“)

So, after sorting through these messy and dangerous thoughts, I wrote a comment on the post on one of my friends’ walls. I wrote,

“But how do we know it’s not just a matter of politics?”

And she responded,

“It could be. Why don’t you go eat in these places and then we’ll meet in the world to come and you can tell us if the food was not kosher, or if it was just about politics.” *(The world to come refers to the redemption, messiah, etc.)

All right, I was asking for it. Still, I was stunned by her response. The level of certainty with which she is able to say that every word of that post is %100 true, and back it up with the opinion of God in the world to come, well, that baffled me. I stewed over it all night, and decided that if she was going to play that card, why couldn’t I?

I went back to the post and wrote, “Deal!”

My response was erased within an hour, but as far as I’m concerned, we made a deal.

Here’s what I think. I don’t think it’s right to sabotage someone’s business because of a Facebook post (I have this strange habit of not believing everything I read on the internet.) This post provides me with no information with which to make an educated choice. What I see in this post is someone trying to destroy someone else’s business based on something I don’t know. Since I don’t know the story, I can’t really choose a side. But I think it’s important to support local businesses, and since they do have Kashrut certificates, who am I to decide they don’t apply? Who am I to agree with the statement that they are “purposely deceiving the public”? Who am I to help destroy someone’s source of income based on a story I’ve never even heard?

So I’m keeping the deal. My friends and I are going to go to these restaurants and eat their food and show our support. We’ll have a great time and make someone happy. We’ll make the important statement that we don’t buy into internet bullying.

So I was just trying to start a conversation. We can talk about this now if you like, but if you’d rather wait till “the world to come,” that’s fine with me.