Friday, September 29, 2006

They're Back

How anyone can believe that Israel is God's country, Jerusalem is His city, Rosh Hashana is the Holiday to proclaim His kingship, and so on that day one has to be in.....Uman, is beyond me. I even got a DVD dropped in my mailbox before Rosh Hashana called "Uman: You are also invited!" I havent watched it yet. But all the Na-Nachmanites go off, even collecting Tzedaka to get there. Point of all this is, I was sitting in my house last night when the building starting to shake from the volume of the music coming from outside. I went out, and there, sitting in traffic, was the Nachman tank: a van, painted all over in Nachmanite colors and symbols (I don't either know what that means), with huge loudspeakers on top, and at least twenty Nachmanites dancing in front off it. They were playing the Nachman theme song, but after about twenty minutes they changed to something else (there was a lot of traffic). So I guess the Uman trip is over.
I actually have something to thank the Nachmanites for. A few years ago I was travelling with my fiance-at the-time from New York to Israel. Amir Peretz was in charge of the Histadrut, so of course they were on strike. We flew via Budapest, and we were told that they can't promise we would have a connecting flight. It was a few days before Yom Kippur, but we knew the strike would have to break, so we flew anyway. We made it to Budapest, the strike had ended, and our conecing flight was nine hours later. BUT the airline gave us our luggage, becuase they had not checked it all the way to Israel. So we went to the ticket counter, but they wouldnt take it until three hours before the flight. We tried to put it in a safe room, but they wanted around $100 to hold it for the nine hours. We really wanted to get out of the airport and tour a bit, but we didnt knwo what to do. Then Shany saw a Nachmanite circle. Around fifteen men were sitting in a circle with their luggage around them, in a way that reminded of circling the wagons on the Yukon Trail. They had been there already a day, and were waiting for a flight out. They agreed to watch our luggage, refused payment, and we went out to explore. We came back seven hours later, or so, after having seen the old Jewish Quarter in Pest, a massive shul, crossed the Danube river, and looked at castle ruins in Buda. We looked for the Nachmanites, but couldnt find them anywhere. We got a bit nervous, but then we saw our luggage in a corner. We couldnt believe that they had abondoned our luggage, and ran toward it before security took it. As we got there, an old lady yelled at us in Hebrew for leaving our luggage. The Nachmanites flight had been called, so they found another Israeli to watch our bags. She was very angry, til we offered to pay her. Then she got insulted, called us motek, and said we could buy her a coffee in Israel. She wasnt on our flight, so she never got her coffee. So thanks to Uman and Nachmanites, I saved $100 and we got to see BudaPest.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Keyword Analysis

I've gotten a lot of hits recently from people looking for things such as "monsey butcher", "Shevach butcher", "kosher meat scandal", etc. But now i've gotten a few really creepy hits. One search was "monsey butcher killed", and the other "kosher chicken monsey kills himself". Is there more to this story then I know? I looked up these keywords and didn't find any story like it...

Monday, September 18, 2006

Shevach Butcher

The big news in the Jewish world this past week was the Shevach butcher scandal. In short, a Monsey butcher has been buying non kosher chicken, sticking a kosher label on it, and selling it to the Monsey community. This may have been going on for years.
FoxNews has a great clip. Notice that the reporter lady is tzniut.
Many people seem to be shocked about this whole thing. How can a Chassidishe guy trick the whole community in such a grave way?? I think the qestion that SHOULD have been asked a long time ago is, How can Rabbis charge so much for a hechsher when they're only working fifteen minutes a day??
Here in Israel there is kosher and mehadrin (superkosher). But that's not enough. So there's also mehadrin min mehadrin (uberkosher) and bdatz mehadrin min mehadrin (ultimate kosher). Very often on an ultimate kosher poduct, there is also a regular hechsher (kosher certificate). So what's really going on there is that the company is paying the Rabbinut to check and make sure their plant is kosher. And it is kosher, so they get a little kosher label. But then the find out that a large population wont eat it because their Rabbi hasnt checked it. So the ompany pays more money so that another Rabbi can walk through, confirm that its kosher, and give them his label.
I was a waiter at a simcha in Har Nof. The caterer was obviously a mehadrin min hamedrin, as Har Nof is. That means that in terms of truma and maaser (tithing fruit and vegetables), the farmer seperated, the middle man seperated, the Rabbi seperated, and the caterer seperated. So now we're in the kitchen with the many-tithed fruit, and a man walks in and says he cant eat food that he personally didnt tithe. And then he starts taking off pieces of fruit and vegatables. Isnt there a point where it's just called "wasting" and not "tithing"?
My local pizza place doesnt sell Coke, only Pepsi. I asked him why, and he told me that he has an "Edah Charaidi" Hecsher, so he can only sell food that they certify. I was shocked, and asked him if Coke isnt considered Kosher enough. He told me of course Coke is very kosher, but its certiied by a different label, so he cant sell it. IN OTHER WORDS, the Edah Charaidi doesnt care if the food he sells is kosher, they care that they are the ones profiting off the kosher label. This is not in the category of kosher/not kosher anymore, it's in the category of business. They have a solid business plan to keep away the competition.
I asked a shwarma guy once why he doesnt have a mihadrin hechsher, since his food all had mehadrin stickers on them. He told me that he had looked into it, and the price for the mehadrin was more then double the price of the regular hechsher, and he couldnt afford it.
Naive people may actually think that the Rabbi's goals would be to increase the amount of kosher food around. The more kosher food there is, the more people will eat kosher, and the better it is for Israel. The objective would be to encourage people to have kosher eateries. The reality is just the opposite. "Kosher" is a big business. If you want your store to be kosher enough for everyone, its nots enough to only buy the highest kosher products, you also have to be willing to pay top dollar for the Rabbi to check it out.
In this world, where Kosher isn't about "food that's fit to be eaten", and is all about money, is it any surprise that the butcher found a way to screw the system? Is that any more immoral then the price he was paying for his hechsher?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Memorial of a Friend

I went back to Eli last night for the official memorial service for Amichai. There were several thousand people there, including the soldiers that fought under his command and watched him fall. There was a dvar Torah from R' Eli Sadan, the head of the Yeshiva in Eli, friends of his got up and spoke about him, his smile, his sense of humor, his natural ability to lead, and his strong idealogy. There was a twenty minute video with pictures of him growing up, friends of his talking about him from his yeshiva, his bnei akiva group, etc, etc. The two speeches that stuck out the most to me was Effie Eitams, and the commander of Golani 51. I thought at first I didnt understand Eitam, but I read in the news today what I thought he said. Being as it was a memorial service for a soldier who was killed in Lebanon, i didnt think it was appropriate for him to use the time to spell out his political parties agenda for dealing with Israeli-Arabs and Palestinians. The last speech was Yaniv Asor, commander of Golani 51. He showed, using sattelite images, exactly how the fight happened that Amichai was killed in. where each company was sitting, where their targets were, etc. Ro'i Klein was with Amichai and they identified Hezbolla terrorists and opened fire on them. The terrorists returned fire, and Amichai took his team in an effort to surround the enemy. They didn't know it, but there was a big wall blocking their way, and they got stuck in a dead end. They exchanged fire and grenades with the enemy, and then Amichai got on the radio. "Need backup, there are injured soldiers here." Someone got on the radio to answer him, but Amichai didnt answer anymore. He was gone. Ro'i Klein then took his men to rescue Amichai's team, and they also got stuck in the exchange of fire. Then a grenade was thrown at them, and Ro'i jumped on it, saving the lives of the soldiers around him by sacrificing his own, while screaming "Shma Yisrael!" It took a full day of fighting to finally remove all the wounded and killed. Yaniv then spoke about what Golani meant to him, and what it should mean to all of us. How it is a family, it symbolizes strength. He quoted Rav Kook from Midot Reiya (he is not religious, but he knew the crowd he was talking to..), and said Golani is about humility. Then the evening ended and we went home.

Tonight I'm going to a wedding of another friend from the unit. The same guys who were at the memorial will be at the wedding. Me'avalut l'simcha. From mourning to joy.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Not Another Strike!

The latest budget idea to pay for the war is to increase university tuition 50%, following the tried and true method of "when in trouble hit the poor hard". In response, the National Student Council has threatened to strike. Luckily, school doesnt start til ater Sukkot (Oct 22) so we have time to work this out. They will probably leave that as the plan until the day before school starts, then realize we really are going to strike, and then start negotiating. Unless we are lucky and the coalition falls apart due to the budget. But more likely is that Labor and the Old People Party will cave in to Kadima, even though the budget runs one hundred percent against everything they believe in. Because how important is belief when you can lose your chair at the Knesset, or maybe even your Minister position.
Where else can they pull money from if not students? How about fining every public official who is found to be corrupt. We'll call it "Embarrasment to the State of Israel" fine. We can also charge every minister who is in charge of something he knows nothing about, just because he wants to be a minister. We'll call that one, "Minister at any price" fine. The fine to be a Defense Minister will be double.
I really hope we dont end up striking. Then we'll start the school year late, cut into our Pesach vacation, and instead of the year ending in July, it wont end til August.