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Israel Hotels Attracting Tourists with OU Kosher Certification

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Israeli restaurants and hotels are more interested n seeking kosher certification from the American-based Orthodox Union (OU) in order to attract foreign tourists, according to the Kosher Today newsletter.

It said that many American Jewish tourists generally are more familiar with the OU than Israeli rabbinic certifications.

The OU operates in Israel in an office near downtown Jerusalem and has several kosher supervisors.

Not all restaurants are willing to accept OU supervision. Kosher Today noted that the La Cuisine restaurant decided to forfeit its OU certification for Passover rather than agree to its requirements for proper cleaning of the facility before the holiday.

Next Year In… Milwaukee?

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

I finally went to the Orthodox Union’s annual Jewish Communities Fair. As a long-time pro-Aliyah activist, I had been curious about this event, and so while on tour in America, I joined the hungry Modern-Orthodox masses at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Pavilion as they searched for new communities and a new life in far flung locales like Jacksonville, Florida, Louisville, Kentucky, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin – but not Israel.

I expected to see a moderately attended event. But to my surprise, the venue was packed with over 1,300 people, exploring the forty-one different communities represented. There was so much noise, I had to stand close in order to hear community leaders make their pitches.

OU Flyer

You may wonder, as I did, why would Modern-Orthodox Jews want to leave the kosher conveniences of the NY area and move to remote places like Southfield, Michigan. It turns out, that first and foremost, the answer is affordability: cheaper housing, cheaper education, and getting more for your money. A high quality of life at an affordable price. And incentives. Some communities promise incentives like a $20,000 gift for a down-payment on your home, and free tuition from kindergarten through grade 12.

Josh Elbert, who flew in to represent Southfield, shared with me how he had come to this fair a few years ago and was skeptical when the Michigan people approached him. They said to him, “Don’t judge until you see it,” and indeed, when he saw it, he was smitten. “I am a success story of this event. Because of the connections we made here, we were able to provide a terrific opportunity for our family,” he told me. Because of the drop in real estate, he mentioned, one can buy a very large home for $115,000 in Southfield. Someone who makes forty-five thousand dollars a year can live next to a millionaire.

But there are other reasons to move to the American periphery – such as the opportunity to join a tight-knit community and make an impact on a growing shul, or aging congregation seeking new blood.

OU Community Fair Chesterfield & Crowd

I spoke with Rabbi Aaron Winter who came to Chesterfield, Missouri twenty two years ago to serve as their rabbi. He explained to me that Chesterfield is part of greater St. Louis, that they have a congregation of 80 Orthodox families, and their own mikvah and Chafetz Chaim Mesivta. He told me that his shul had succeeded in bringing many non-affiliated Jews closer to Torah. As he put it, “we are on the front lines of Orthodox Jewry in St. Louis.” Now, Chesterfield is looking to grow and they are offering up to five families a grant of twenty thousand dollars each towards the purchase of a home. “When you are an out-of-town community, even one family is gold. People appreciate you being here,” Rabbi Winter told me.

So cheaper housing, affordable education, a sense of community, and the promise of a better quality of life, are luring Jews to middle-America.

Understandable, reasonable, and respectable!

But what about the Israel option? Were any of the Modern Orthodox attendees at the OU’s Community Fair considering moving east of New York, to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv? There was no way to really know because there were no tables representing emerging communities in the emerging Jewish state. Had there been a table for, let’s say, Efrat, Modiin, or Maale Adumim, then one could gauge how much action that table saw as compared with Portland. But alas, that option did not exist. The message of the fair was clear enough: If the Orthodox Union is going to help you find a new future – it is going to be in America.

That should come as no surprise. If you go to the OU’s website, you will see lots of pro-Israel links. But if you hover your mouse over the flag of Israel at the top of the site, a text pops up which reads: “Our ‘home away from home’ in Jerusalem, the OU Israel Center, annually welcomes over 100,000 visitors and residents.” The obvious implication is that Israel is a home away from home, but home is America. Another proof of this thinking was laid bare in the ‘Communities Guide’ which was given out at the fair. In it were page after page of US destinations for “Home & Job Relocation” with pictures, contact numbers, and websites. Yet on the back cover the full page glossy called on all to: “Join Us in Celebrating Israel’s 65th Birthday – March with the OU at the Celebrate Israel Parade.” Again, the message is clear: you can celebrate Israel and love Israel with the OU, but if you’re looking to move, consider Cleveland.

Quinoa for Passover: Kashrut Debate or Power Struggle?

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

The two most widely-known kosher certification agencies are battling it out over whether the grain quinoa, a life-save for those on a gluten-free diet, is kosher for Passover.

The Baltimore-based Star K kosher agency has said that Quinoa is not “kitniyot,” one of the grains that Ashkenazi rabbis forbid on Passover, while the venerable Orthodox Union’s OU kosher division says it is.

The prohibition on eating kitniyot, such as peas, corn, and green beans, has been challenged by an increasing number of Jews in recent years. The prohibition is based on the lifestyle of 500 years ago when open sacks of legumes stood next to wheat in stores. If a tiny bit of wheat were to fall in the sack of legumes, it could ferment and cause the entire sack to be considered chametz and forbidden by the Torah to be eaten on Passover.

Lifestyles have changed, but the minhag, or custom, remains, and the rabbis explain that one should almost never cancel a ruling of Torah sages just because conditions have changed.

However, some have expanded the ban to include foods that were not in the original ruling, sparking an argument among rabbis.

Decades ago, many rabbis ruled that peanuts were kitniyot, until it was pointed out to them that they simply did not correctly understand the meaning of a legume.

Similarly, soybeans were not around 500 years ago, and many, if not most, Ashkenazi Jews do not even use soybean oil, even though the late Chief Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook allowed its use.

A recent book In Hebrew, “Without Fear of Kitniyot” and authorized by Hevron-Kiryat Arba Rabbi Dov Lior, discusses the rulings on prohibiting on Passover the use of certain kitniyot derivatives such as soybean oil. The author writes that those who think “it is good to be strict” do not necessarily receive a blessing for their severity.

Now comes quinoa, “the mother of all grains,” which by all definitions is not a legume and certainly not a grain,

So what could be the problem?

Well, it seems that in South America, where it is grown, a wind might blow a grain of barley into cultivated rows of quinoa. Barely, like wheat, is prohibited by the Torah for use on Passover,

That is enough for the OU to rule that quinoa is not kosher for Passover, while Star K totally debunks the reasoning.

“Rav Moshe Feinstein said we weren’t to add on to the rules of kitniyot, so I don’t know why anyone would,” said Rabbi Tzvi Rosen of Star-K, referring to the esteemed posek of Jewish religious law who died in 1986. “And what’s more telling of this ridiculous debate is that quinoa is a seed, not a legume,” he told JTA.

Quinoa is known for its high nutrient quality and as an alternative for those following a gluten-free diet. But quinoa is not a grain at all. It’s a member of the goosefoot family, and closely related to spinach and beets, making a very good substitute on Passover for the Torah-prohibited grains of wheat, oats, rye, spelt and barley.

That could change, however, with the world’s major kosher certifier refusing to give quinoa its Passover seal of approval.

Perhaps adopting the line of “when in doubt, be strict,” Rabbi Genack said, “We can’t certify quinoa because it looks like a grain and people might get confused. It’s a disputed food, so we can’t hold an opinion, and we don’t certify it. Those who rely on the OU for a kashrut just won’t have quinoa on Passover.”

Rabbi Rosen said the Star-K certifies only the quinoa that has no other grains growing nearby. This year, for the first time, the company sent supervisors to South America to supervise the harvesting, sifting and packaging of the product.

“Whenever there’s a new age food, there’s always a fight between kosher factions,” Rabbi Rosen said. “But we should be worrying about other things, like all the cookies, pizzas and noodles that are Passover certified but appear to be chametz. Quinoa is the least of our problems.”

The argument, which could be over “who calls the shots” rather than a pure understanding of kosher status of foods that are not prohibited on Passover by the Torah.

Events in the West

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Events in the West: This Shabbos YICC in the Pico-Robertson area of L.A. hosts Professor Isaiah Gafni, a leading Jewish historian, as its scholar-in-residence… The West Coast OU Torah Convention in L.A. is scheduled for December 20-23.

Kosher News: Nature Valley Dark Chocolate and Nut Trail Mix Chewy Granola bars bear an unauthorized OU… Wegman’s gluten-free double chocolate brownie cake mix has an OU – but it is OU-D… The CRC in Chicago reports that packaged barley has been found to have three types of bugs. They have created a process for you to rid other brands of this. Geffen barley is the only barley that doesn’t require the process.

The Jewish Press in Stores: If you don’t see The Jewish Press where you expect to see it, ask the cashier where your favorite newspaper is. Stores sometimes move the papers in order to set up a display.

Super Storm Benny was created to assist Jewish families in communities on the East Coast facing catastrophic destruction from Hurricane Sandy. You can participate in the rebuilding by donating appliances, kitchen equipment, baby gear, furniture, computers, bed and bath supplies, siddurim, Chumashim, and toys. All products should be new and in their original packaging. The deadline is Sunday, November 18. A 40-foot truck will drive across the country with the donations. You can also donate via credit card by visiting www.TeamBenny.net, or by sending a check to Ladies Bikur Cholim, 444 N. Detroit St., Los Angeles, CA 90036. Super Storm Benny is sponsored as a zechus for a refuah sheleimah for Binyomin Chaim ben Faigie Sarah.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Births: Moshe and Tzirel Regal, a son (Grandparents Rabbi Yossi and Sari Naiman)… Baruch and Ruchi Giberstein, a daughter (Grandparents Shlomo and Gila Giberstein)… Shai and Chana Samet, a son… Eric and Sarah Abitbol of NY, a son (Grandparents Alan and Etti Lowy; Sonia Rosenberg)… Yaakov and Rivki Tangy, a daughter (Grandparents Avraham and Tzafi Vickman)… Rabbi Jason and Lauren Weiner, a son (Grandparents Sidney and Marcia Teichman)… Jeffrey and Rina Barak of Encino, a daughter (Grandparents Dr. Mark and Michelle Barak)… Shlomie and Ruti Hauer of Monsey, NY, a son (Grandparents Shmuli and Goldie Hauer; Great-grandmother Frida Berger)… Shloimie and Aliza Zeffren of Teaneck, NJ, a son (Grandparents David and Mira Zeffren)… Rabbi Moshe and Nava Adler, a son (Grandparents Benny and Audrey Adler; Great-grandmother Lilly Adler… Yisroel and Miriam Wohlgelernter in Israel, a daughter (Grandparents Dr. Daniel and Eileeen Wohlgelernter; David and Judy Hager)… Rabbi Shmuel and Elkie Einhorn, a son.

Mazel Tov – Bar Mitzvahs: Jake Garfinkel, son of Marty and Candice Garfinkel… Justin Hanelin, son of Jonas and Cari Hanelin.

Mazel Tov – Bas Mitzvah: Elisheva Gofman, daughter of Yasha and Nancy Gofman.

Mazel Tov – Engagements: Shoshana Gres, daughter of Jerry and Debbie Gres, to Yosef Caplan, son of Jeff and Gale Caplan of Agoura, CA… Naftali Trainer, son of Rabbi Label and Lori Trainer, to Rochel Pollak of Valley Village, CA.

Mazel Tov – Wedding: Saadua Liberow to Rebecca Kukurudz.

Congratulations: To Abbas Restaurant on its grand opening on La Brea.

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Bar Mitzvah: Eli Zadik, son of Yossi Zadik and Anne Bakar.

VALLEY VILLAGE, CALIFORNIA

Mazel Tov – Birth: Chaim and Samantha Hirsch of Hollywood, FL, a son (Grandparents Yisroel and Corinne Blumenstein).

Mazel Tov – Bar Mitzvah: Alex Silberstein, son of Adam and Taaly Silberstein.

Mazel Tov – Engagements: Rochel Pollak, daughter of Rabbi Yehuda and Devora Pollak, to Naftali Trainer of L.A… Alisha Tal, daughter of Avi and Julie Handelman, to Yochanan Zomer of Yerushalayim.

DENVER, COLORADO

Mazel Tov – Birth: Rabbi Danny and Sara Wolfe of Albany, NY, a son (Grandparents Mike and Cindy Wolfe).

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

Mazel Tov – Births: Mordy and Golda Fast of Yerushalayim, a son (Grandparents Steve and Ruth Fast)… Yona and Ariella Margolese, a daughter (Grandparents Melech and Chani Genauer).

The Time For Lighting Candles

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Shabbat candles must be lit by (and preferably 18 minutes before) sunset. Once it is twilight, the time between sunset and nightfall known as bein hashmashot, it is too late to light. Bein hashmashot begins when the sun sets below the horizon and is no longer visible.

According to Rabbi Yehuda in Tractate Shabbat, bein hashmashot lasts 13 and a half minutes. In Tractate Pesachim, however, the same Rabbi Yehuda maintains that bein hashmashot lasts 72 minutes.

In explaining the discrepancy between the duration of bein hashmashot according to Rabbi Yehuda in Shabbat and Rabbi Yehuda in Pesachim, Rabbeinu Tam explains that there are two separate sunsets: Sunset I, which begins immediately after the sun has sunk below the horizon and lasts 58 and a half minutes, and Sunset II, which starts thereafter when light begins to fade into darkness and lasts an additional 13 and a half minutes until nightfall.

According to Rabbeinu Tam, the period on Friday between Sunset I and Sunset II (58 and a half minutes) is considered weekday, during which time all weekday work may be performed and one may light candles until Sunset II, i.e. 58 and a half minutes after Sunset I.

Many Rishonim, such as the Rambam and the Gaonim, disagree with Rabbeinu Tam. They maintain that for candle lighting there is only one relevant sunset, i.e. Sunset I, when the sun dips below the horizon, and candles must be lit before such time.

Though the Shulchan Aruch agrees with Rabbeinu Tam and maintains that candles can be lit as late as 58 and a half minutes after Sunset I, the Vilna Gaon, following the opinion of the majority of the Rishonim, disagrees with the Schulchan Aruch and maintains that candles must be lit by Sunset I.

There is a third opinion, that of Rabbi Eliezer of Metz, according to which bein hashmashot begins 13 and a half minutes before Sunset I. In his view, candle lighting time would be 13 and a half minutes before Sunset I.

It should be noted that the 13-and-a-half-minute period is derived from the time it takes a person to walk 3/4 of a mile. According to most opinions, it takes a person 18 minutes to walk the distance of one mile (in which case 3/4 of a mile would take 13 and a half minutes) but according to a stricter opinion, it takes a person 24 minutes to walk one mile (in which case 3/4 of a mile would take 18 minutes).

In view of the fact that we are dealing here with the possible violation of a biblical melachah, all modern poskim agree that one must adopt the strictest of all approaches, namely that of Rabbi Eliezer of Metz and that of those who say it takes 24 minutes to walk a mile. Therefore, we light candles 18 minutes before Sunset I. To know when this is, one should consult a local newspaper or a reputable Jewish calendar.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein writes that during the 18-minute period between candle lighting and Sunset I, members of the household that are not responsible for lighting the Shabbat candles may continue with weekday work until Sunset I, but that this should not be encouraged.

On the first night of Yom Tov – except for Shavuot – candles may be lit either at the same time as on Erev Shabbat or after returning from Maariv, provided one lights from an existing light. On the second night of Yom Tov, however, as well as whenever Shabbat precedes Yom Tov and on both days of Shavuot, candles should be lit from an existing light, after nightfall.

Raphael Grunfeld’s book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Moed” (distributed by Mesorah) is available at OU.org and your local Jewish bookstore.  He can be contacted at rafegrunfeld@gmail.com.

Yom Kippur

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Even Moses, who spoke with God one on One, was not allowed to see Him during his lifetime. “You cannot see my face, for no man shall see me and live.”

Ultimately, we shall all see God one on one, and face not only Him but also ourselves and the lives we led. Our desire to see Him will then be consummated and His existence will be proven beyond all doubt, but our ability to repent and prepare ourselves for that Day of Judgment will have passed.

And so one day a year God gives us the opportunity to come as close to Him as humanly possible and still repent. Yom Kippur is a dress rehearsal of sorts. We wear the shrouds in which we will ultimately face Him, and we discard the shoes we will no longer need. We don’t eat, drink or bathe as we stand alone before Him. We crowd the synagogue, just as the throngs of Israelites crowded the Temple, praying, fasting and waiting with bated breath for the High Priest to successfully complete the Yom Kippur Temple Service. For if the High Priest does not survive the day, Israel might not survive the year.

And before the silent and anxious crowd, the High Priest walks the tightrope between life and death from dawn to dusk. One procedural slip in the Temple service and it will be all over, just as it was for Aaron’s sons whose bodies had to be retrieved from the Holy of Holies. The High Priest’s task is not easy and the stakes are high. Single-handedly he has to juggle the performance of the daily Temple service and the special Yom Kippur service, darting as he does so back and forth between the Holy of Holies, the Temple Sanctuary and the Temple Courtyard.

Fifteen sacrifices, (two lambs for the daily sacrifice, one bullock, one ram and seven lambs for the Mussaf sacrifice, one bullock for the priests’ atonement, one ram for the people’s burnt offering, one he-goat for the people’s atonement and, finally, the scapegoat which is sent to die in the wilderness) have to be slaughtered and offered up by the High Priest on Yom Kippur.

The High Priest must, among other things, sprinkle the sacrificial blood on the altars, offer up the incense, burn the limbs of the animals on the altar, prepare the Sanctuary lamps for lighting, offer up the baked cakes of the High Priest, pour the drink offerings, confess his own, his family’s and the priests’ sins, cast lots for the two he-goats, tie a crimson ribbon on the head of the scapegoat, pray for the welfare of the people, confess their sins and read to them from the Torah.

Each of the five times the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies to perform the Yom Kippur service he must change out of his routine gold garments into his Yom Kippur white garments so as not to remind God of the sin of the golden calf. Each time the High Priest enters the Temple Sanctuary or Temple Courtyard to perform the daily Temple service, he must change back into his gold garments. And between each change of garments he must wash his hands and feet and then immerse himself in the cold waters of the Temple ritual bath.

The precision required and the time constraints imposed make the High Priest’s task almost humanly impossible. Indeed, according to the Midrash’s interpretation of Leviticus 16:17, when entering the Holy of Holies the High Priest was temporarily transformed into a ministering angel. We are told that when the High Priest finally emerged from the Holy of Holies, alive and well and having successfully completed his mission, he was swept up by the waiting crowds who celebrated with him deep into the night.

The Midrash relates that during Moses’s 40-day visit to the mountain of God, he overheard and memorized the angels’ secret prayer “Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuto Leolam Vaed” – “blessed is the name of His Glorious Kingdom forever.” When Moses returned to the Jews he taught them the prayer but cautioned them to utter it under their breath so that the angels would not detect the infringement. On Yom Kippur, however, when we most closely resemble angels, we are asked to recite this prayer out loud.

Two Days Rosh Hashanah, Eruvin And Eggs

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Why is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, so different from other Jewish holidays? On the face of it, it does not seem to follow any pattern. It is celebrated for two days, not only in the Diaspora but also in Israel. Yet the Sages refer to the two days of Rosh Hashanah as one long day – yoma arichta.

On Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot we keep Yom Tov for two days because during the time of the Second Temple there was doubt whether the month preceding Yom Tov was a chodesh chaser of 29 days or a chodesh maleh of 30 days. But on Rosh Hashanah the doubt was exacerbated for the following reason: In the case of other festivals, such as Pesach, the emissaries the bet din dispatched to advise outlying districts of a chodesh chaser had 14 days to reach their destination. In the case of Rosh Hashanah, however, the emissaries had no time at all. In fact, as soon as the witnesses had testified on the 30th day of Elul that they had sighted the new moon, that very day was declared Rosh Hashanah. And on Rosh Hashanah the emissaries could not travel more than the techum Shabbat distance of two-thirds of a mile beyond Jerusalem. As a result, even people living inside Israel but outside of Jerusalem remained in doubt.

Even inside Jerusalem, confusion reigned. Nobody knew whether the witnesses who would testify to the sighting of the new moon would arrive on the day of the 30th, in which case Rosh Hashanah would be on the 30th day, or whether they would not arrive, in which case Rosh Hashanah would be on the 31st day. On the night immediately following the 29th day of Elul and on 30th day of Elul itself, people hedged their bets. They ceased work, went to the synagogue, recited the Rosh Hashanah prayers and blew the shofar, all in a tentative state of mind. Perhaps, they fretted, the witnesses will not come today, the 30th, and tomorrow, the 31st, will be Rosh Hashanah by default and a day’s work would have been wasted. But then again, perhaps the witnesses would come. So how could they risk working?

The Levites in the Temple fretted, too. If the witnesses would not arrive by Minchah time on the afternoon of the 30th, the Levites had to proceed to offer up the tamid, the afternoon sacrifice. But they did not know which Psalm to sing when doing so. Should they sing the special Rosh Hashanah Psalm, or the weekday Psalm? One year they chose the weekday Psalm only to see the witnesses arrive after Minchah and prove them wrong.

In this situation, the rabbis decided to dispel the doubt. They decreed that if witnesses would arrive after the afternoon sacrifice on the 30th day of Elul, their testimony would be ignored and the 31st day of Elul would be declared Rosh Hashanah. Furthermore, in order to provide certainty for the Levites and in order to prevent people from working on the 30th of Elul after Minchah time, the rabbis merged the 30th day of Elul with the 31st day, declaring them both one long day.

From this decree on, the two days of Rosh Hashanah, unlike the two days of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot, were no longer celebrated out of doubt, but out of certainty. This distinction between the status of the two days of Rosh Hashanah and the two days of other festivals has practical ramifications. For example, on Rosh Hashanah, one may not extend the techum Shabbat 4,000 amot in two directions, as one may on the two days of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. Because the two days of Rosh Hashanah are merged into one yoma arichta, only one eruv techumim could be placed for both days to walk 4,000 amot in only one chosen direction. Similarly, the argument that an egg laid on the first day of Pesach, Shavuot or Sukkot could be eaten on the second day of these festivals, would not apply. An egg laid on the first day of Rosh Hashanah could not be eaten on the second.

Following the destruction of the Second Temple, the dilemma of the Levites was no longer a concern. Accordingly, Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai decreed that the testimony of witnesses arriving after Minchah on the 30th of Elul would once again be accepted, thereby rendering Rosh Hashanah one day. If witnesses did not arrive by nightfall of the 30th, Rosh Hashanah would be two days. Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai’s decree did not, however, apply to the Diaspora, where it could not be known on the 30th day, whether the witnesses had arrived or not. Accordingly, in the Diaspora Rosh Hashanah remained two days, by decree. The Babylonian rabbis who came to Israel applied the same decree to the land of Israel, even after the time of Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/two-days-rosh-hashanah-eruvin-and-eggs/2012/09/13/

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