Thursday, April 30, 2009

Zionist Land Rover

This is a photo of a British Army Snatch Land Rover. There's been a lot written about these vehicles resently in British blogs about the fact that there have been too many deaths of British soldiers traveling in these vehicles. Even though they are the standard jeep used in Iraq and Afganistan, they offer very little protection. On Yom Ha'atzmaut I took my family to the IDF exhibition outside the town. One of the vehicles there was a "David" jeep, used in the shtachim to protect soldiers against anything from rocks to hand-held missiles. This jeep is seriously heavily armoured. I mentioned to the soldier there who was manning this exhibit that the British Army were complaining that their main jeep, the Snatch Land Rover gave them little protection. He laughed and told me to look carefully at the front of the "David" jeep. Did it remind me of anything? Well yes, the light array was identical to the Land Rover! I looked at the tyres.... And if any doubt was left, the steering wheel... The IDF take a standard Land Rover engine and chassis and build on an Israeli designed interior and exterior. Very impressive. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Same story here. This is a standard Ford F550 mini-bus. And this is the IDF's "Zeev" Armoured Personel Carrier. The sign says that the "Zeev" uses the engine and chassis of a Ford F550. (Click on the photo to get a full image). Click on the photo of the tyre to see a close up. The word "Ford" is clearly seen in the middle. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Some more photos. (You would never believe that this started life as a 1960s "made on the Tyne" Mini Couper would you? LOL!!!) My favourite photo of the batch. "Brothers in Arms". The soldiers were very patient and friendly, more than willing to answer all kinds of questions from kids and adults alike. My kids had a great time. My little one (7 year old) decided that he was going to bring with a few of his plastic soldiers. I told him not to bring them as (1) he'd loose them and (2) he can play with real soldiers when he gets there. He insisted and my wife told me that I was making too much of a fuss about it so I shut up. When we got to the "Zeev" APC my son climbed inside and took out his soldiers. He arranged them on the seats and started playing shooting games. Three soldiers outside saw what was going on and to the delight of my son, rushed inside to play soldiers with him. I don't think he'll forget that in a hurry. Click on any of the above photos for a full view.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Yom Hazicharon Shnitzel

I worked until 7:30pm last night. Then I drove to a friend of a friend’s home to help him install his new computer. He had made aliyah from the States along time ago. He’s in his mid-forties, married with three sons in the army. Nice polite kids, all strapping healthy lads, long hair and little knitted kippot dangling from various angles of their head.

Usually they’d be talking about the latest movie they’d downloaded from some P2P leecher/mod program written by some Israeli kid to beat the file sharing credits system but tonight they were all in subdued moods. At 8:00pm the sirens wailed throughout Israel. After the siren they continued to stand, lost in memories of their comrades. I decided to remain still as well, waiting for them to make the first move. Eventually their father led me into the room where we were to set up the new computer.

While I worked, he spoke to me of what Yom HaZicharon means to him and the mixture of anxiety and pride he has in his sons who risk their lives to defend you and me. We got on with the installation. I left at about 11:15pm exhausted and blind with hunger. I hadn't eaten since 12 midday. It would be another 40 mins to get home I estimated so I drove through the industrial part of the area looking for a takeaway to buy something. Of course I soon realised that they were all closed due to Yom HaZicharon.

I was just about to turn off to get onto the main road that led back home when I noticed in the midst of all those dark shop fronts there was one place with bright lights. It was quite surreal to see it. I parked the car and went to see what was going on. It was a burger / al-ha-aish place open and packed with young American Chareidim, girls and boys, chatting away.

Yes, I admit it, I ordered a schnitzel and water to take away. It took five minutes. The banter and laughter from the beautifully and smartly dressed kids was loud. One group of girls was talking about how to deal with someone in their class who gossiped all the time, reminding themselves that what they were doing was not in fact lashon hara as they were trying to help this girl and her victims. They were enjoying themselves very much. Another group of boys was discussing the pros and cons of various PDA phones and best place to buy them. I haven’t even begun to analyse last night’s experience.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

IE8 crashes when visiting

I was up until two o'clock in the morning solving this one.

I've had Internet Explorer 8 Beta installed on my LapTop for about a month now and was very happy with it. Last Friday I decided to do all the Windows Updates that included installing the released version of IE8.

After the reboot everything seemed fine until I went into the site. BANG! IE8 crashes.

I tried resetting the IE8 and restarting but no deal. I tried uninstall / restart. Windows went back to IE7 which worked fine. I resinstalled IE8 and BANG, it crashes.

After a long Google I came across a forum discussing this issue. IE8 crashes on certain sites. I followed the posts and the Microsoft expert there was insisting that the problem was not with IE8 even though everyone told him that IE8 Beta worked just fine.

He was blaming Flash Player. I carried out his suggestions but nothing helped. Others in the forum had the same story nevertheless the expert was convinced that it must be one of the Addons like Flash that was causing the crash.

I closed the LapTop down for Shabbos, frustrated that I had not found a solution yet. On Motzei Shabbos I decided to check the forum again and there was a new post by someone calling him\herself FAST FISSION claiming to have solved the problem. He\She suggested that the problem lay with the fact that some of the anti-spyware programs insert a list of thousands of restricted sites into IE.

You'll find them under Internet Options->Security TAB->Restricted Sites->Sites button.

IE only allows you to delete one site in the list at a time so he suggested downloading a utility called "Zoned-Out" from There is an option in there to delete ALL Restricted Sites. I deleted all the sites from the list and then powered up IE8. doesn't crash anymore.

***** UPDATE ****

I tried to install IE8 on an XP machine that had Online Armor Forewall, WinPatrol and Spybot installed. It failed to even install. disabled the Online Armor, exited from WinPatrol and uninstalled Spybot. I ran Zoned-out but the list refused to be deleted. I ended up going into the registry and deleting the entries manually. After that, IE8 installed correctly. I reenabled OnLine Armor and WinPatrol. I havn't yet tried reinstalling Spybot. I'm frightened it might screw everything up.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A New Car

A winding road up the Golan Heights.
I need a new car. I have this dream of driving a large MPV through the beautiful winding roads of the Golan Heights. My wife and children lounging on wide, armchair like seats, even wider contented smiles on their faces with the occasional “wows” as they wonder at the scenery through the MPV’s massive windows.
When I expressed this dream to my wife she, far more sensible than me remarked that we have Chol HaMoed twice a year for family trips plus the occasional family simcha where all of us would need to be in the one car. The rest of the time, some 95% of the time, I would be the sole occupant, using it to and from work. A few times a week I might have to take one of the children somewhere or perhaps pick them up from somewhere and once a week my wife and I have quality time alone together doing the Shabbos shopping at the supermarket.
That’s all true but what about those rare times when we do need to have the whole family in the car?
What are the disadvantages of purchasing an MPV?
- More expensive to buy than standard family car.
- Uses up more petrol / diesel than a standard car
- In general, MPV parts are more expensive.
- There is more wear and tear on the breaks and tyres because it’s a big vehicle.
(Points 2-4 translate into higher monthly running costs
- Higher Insurance cost.
What we want, continued my wife, is a very reliable standard family car with a large boot for shopping. She’s right of course. We ought to be looking for something like an ex-rental Toyota Corolla, Mazda 6 or Honda Civic.
Of course she is right. Of course she IS right. This is one of those times when heart and head are not talking to each other.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spot the Otzar Beis Din wine

Look at this bottle of grape juice. Obviously it’s kedushas shviis. The banner reading “Otzar Beis Din” on the top of the label is clear to all. Now look at this bottle of wine by the same company. The label is a regular one. Obviously not kedushas shvi’is right? Well, lets look at the back just to make sure… Humm. Something is missing but you wouldn’t perhaps notice straight away. The Badatz hechshir is missing. Now look in the bottom left hand corner under where it says “Kasher LePesach”. Look very carefully. You might need a magnifying glass. Here, I’ve blown the photo up to 3X magnification. You see! It says Otzar Beis Din! This bottle is also kedushas Shvi’is ! Thousands of Kedushas Shvi'is bottles like these are being sold in regular supermarkets in Israel. They are mixed with the regular stuff from previous years with almost identical labels. Just for your information I present a quick summary of what an Otzar Beis Din is supposed to be. (Notes taken from an article entitled “What is an Otzar Beis Din, and is it Good for the Jews?” by Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff)

Kedushas Shvi’is Wine and Grape Juice.

Literally, the words mean "a storehouse operated by Beis Din”. The Torah (VaYikra 25:1-7) teaches that every seventh year is shmittah, and we are prohibited from working the land of Eretz Yisroel. Any produce that grows during the Smittah year on its own is called Shmittah produce and is imbued with special sanctity, called kedushas shvi’is.

The landowner may not treat what grows during shmittah as his own. The produce is hefker (ownerless) and should be made available to anyone who wishes to consume it.

One must be careful not to sell shmittah produce in a way that implies that one is its true owner. (Mishnah Shvi’is 8:3).

It should not be sold in a regular store or at least there should be a clear distinction between regular produce and Kedushas Shvi’is (Yerushalmi Shvi’is 7:1).

One may not export shmittah produce to chutz la’aretz (Mishnah Shvi’is 6:5).

The Otzar Beis Din acts as the consumer’s agent by hiring whoever is necessary to produce the product, pack it, store it and distribute it to where the consumer can obtain it. Obviously, everyone in the production and distribution process must be paid for their work. The Otzar Beis Din divides these costs among the consumers. However, no charge is made whatsoever for the fruit, since they are hefker. Thus, Otzar Beis Din products should in theory always cost less than regular retail prices for the same items.

Rules for a modern Otzar Beis Din are set out in Sefer Minchas Yerushalayim as well as tshuvos of the Chazon Ish of Bnei Berak. Some of these rules are:

The Wine manufacturer acts as the agent of the Otzar Beis Din and is entitled to payment for its work, as are all other employees who harvested, crushed, packaged, and transported the crop, but no one is entitled to any profits on the produce.

The Otzar Beis Din should predetermine the price that the consumer should pay for the wine, guaranteeing that it be significantly lower than its usual market price (Sefer Minchas Yerushalayim pg. 161).

The wine and fruits could be distributed only to people who would observe the shmittah sanctity of the products (Sefer Minchas Yerushalayim, pg. 163; see Tosefta Shvi’is 6:11).

Anyone who has purchased Otzar Beis Din wine and grapejuice should take it out of his home on Erev Pesach and declare it hefker (ownerless).

If the wine is poured into any mixture then that mixture takes on the status of kedushas Shvi’is with the halachos applying to it. For instance if one poured kedusha shvi’is wine into the charoses on Leil HaSeder then the charoses becomes kedushas shvi’is. It has to be totally consumed and cannot be wasted or thrown away. Because none of the wine can be wasted, you cannot spill the wine which means you should avoid using kedushas shvi'is for havdallah or for the second kos on Leil HaSeder (where you dip your finger in the wine). Obviously, you should avoid giving kedushas shvi'is grape juice to young children who are liable to spill it.


I spoke to two Rabbonim in my area and they both told me a similer story regarding these bottles sold in the supermarkets. Apparently there is a psak by Rav Ovadia Yoseph that allows the Otzar Beis Din of the Rabbanut to appoint the supermarket as an extension of the Otzar Beis Din. This being the case, the supermarkets have not technically taken ownership of the wine. Therefore they do not need to mafker the wine on Erev Pesach. However they were both very uncomortable about the fact that the supermarkets were mixing the kedushas shvi'is bottles with the regular bottles on the same shelf and that they were charging the regular retail price for the wines. In other words, they were making a profit on the wines as if they owned the wine.

This seems to be making a joke of the whole concept of Otzar Beis Din which is problably why they print the fact that the wine is under the authority of the Otzar Beis Din in such tiny letters as if to say that we are just using a trick to sell wine made from grapes that have kedushas shvi'is and that its business as usual. The local Rabbonim advised me not to drink the wine. I received a bottle as a present so I asked what I was supoosed to do with it if I couldn't drink it? I didn't get a clear answer. I then spoke to my Rav (who lives in Yerushalayim) and he had an idea. Being that the bottles are allowed in the supermarket based on a psak by Rav Ovadia Yoseph, I should ask the local Rav whether it would be possible to give the bottle to a sefardi Jew. I have not as yet asked but when I do I'll update this blog post.

Today I spoke to a Chareidi Sefardi friend of mine and he brought up what seems to be a good point. He said that he could explain why the prices were not cheaper. Even though in theory, Otzar Beis Din products ought to be cheaper, in practice when he was buying fruit and vegetables from a legitimate Otzar Beis Din supplier, the prices were always more expensive than the Heter Mechira equivalent. Why is this so?

He said because they charged extra for the special labour in the fields and the storage and guarding and special delivery. So he said that they can make the same arguement for the wine. Because it is a special production we are lucky that its not more expensive than previous years. So I asked him how he could justify the different prices for wines made from more expensive grapes such as Pinot Noir or Chardonnay? Why arnt they the same price as the cheaper grapes like Riesling and Merlo or sauvignon blanc bearing in mind that the halachah is that you cannot charge for the actual grapes themselves? He answered that even though the distribution of the bottles is the same, its probably the case that the more expensive grapes need more care, labour and time to produce these wines and it is that which is reflected in the price. He did however concede that it was not good that "kedushas Shvi'is" was written in such tiny letters on the label.

When I have more information about this subject I'll Be"H update this post. Meanwhile I welcome your comments but please play nicely. No name calling / Lashon HaRa etc. Let's have a civil and respectful discussion. Toda Raba.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Three easy Pesach cake and biscuits recipes

For me, Pesach isn't Pesach without the special smell and taste of home-made Coconut Pyramids and Almond Macaroons.

Here are my mother's full proof Pesach cake and biscuit recipes for your delight. They are very simple, using ingredients found in any Israeli supermarket and with delicious results. They are also not too sweet.

Coconut Pyramids

400g Grated Coconut
250g Sugar (or 125g Sugar plus one cap of liquid Sweetener)
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 180C. Mix all ingredients together in bowl. Grease a baking tray. Wet your hands slightly with water and form mixture into small pyramid shapes. Bake until tops of pyramids begin to brown. As a variation to this recipe, you can reduce the sugar by 50g and replace with two surving spoons of chocolate drinking powder.

Almond Macaroons

200g Ground Almonds
400g Sugar 4-5 egg whites
6 tsp Fine Cake Matza Meal
Split Almonds, peeled for decoration

Preheat oven to 180C. Mix up ingredients. Grease cup-cake / biscuit baking tray. Pour a nice dollop of mixture into each compartment placing a split almond on top of each. Bake for approximately 25-35 mins.

Walnut or Almond Cake

250g Ground Almonds or Walnuts (or mixture of both)
300g Sugar
5 eggs 6 heap tsp of Fine Cake Matza Meal

Preheat oven to 180C. Mix ingredients together. Grease a cake pan and pour mixture into pan. Bake for approximately 60 mins. The shallower the cake pan, the quicker the cake will bake. Note: if using ground walnuts, the cake will rise.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Pre Seder Declaration

I read this out to my children last year. I was in tears, my wife and guests were in tears. It is very powerful and I believe sets the right mood for the Seder.

(Based on the introduction in the Haggadah "Touched by the Seder" by Rav Yechiel Spero)

I know my dear children that you are so excited. You have been waiting to get your father's attention. You have been waiting to give your divrei Torah which you have prepared. You are waiting to steal the Afikoman and not get into trouble.

Tonight you can stay up late! Tonight I will try my hardest you keep your attention my precious children, with stories, games, even sweets and nuts!

It is a thrilling night where special things will happen. It is a night that you children will remember for the rest of your lives. It is a night which you will speak about when you will be fathers and grandfathers at your own Seders.

In my heart I thank Hashem for His gift of cherus, for my family around the table and the opportunity to let my children see the incredible beauty of Torah in this world. Tonight children I know that your minds and hearts are open and ready to breath in my words of Torah. May you, with Hashem's help, discover through me, who you are and what the purpose of life is.

I have to tell you that you are Hashem's special chosen children and that He will always love you, no matter what. One day soon, we will open the door for Eliyahu HaNavi and hear the sound of the Shofar and you will see my dear children – "You will see! I told you this day would come, that Hashem keeps His promises".

People will be shouting in the streets, "The Moshiach has arrived!" You will all watch with wide eyed astonishment as those who could not walk will dance, those who could not talk will sing and those who were sick will wear healthy smiles. Children who were estranged from their parents will hug their mothers and fathers who cried bitterly for them. Those who have passed on will live once more. Zeidies and Bubbies who you and I have never known will come and hug and kiss us and we will dance, sing and rejoice together. Hashem will turn our tears into tears of joy. Now, let us begin the Seder.

Cleaning ovens for Pesach Part II

(Modifications after Mark's comments in blue)

This post is in reply to a comment left by Mark about my post on cleaning ovens. First, thanks for the comments.

I'm sorry you were frustrated by my answer but I do have a serious point.

Unless you are makpid to keep your oven clean during the year or have a self-cleaning-oven it is very difficult (if not impossible for some models) to clean and kasher an oven for Pesach. My advice is based on many years of experience kashering ovens. I am not being lazy or trying to avoid hard work.

The most important piece of advice I can give you is to go to your Rav or the local Orthodox Rabbi and describe your oven to him. He will tell you how to kasher or indeed if your oven can be koshered for Pesach. The rules quoted in certain books are suitable for the previous generation of ovens and may not be applicable to yours.

What follows are some general notes:

In order to get the oven clean enough to kasher one must remove all the grease and food remnants from every corner and nook and cranny. In order to do this you will need extra strong oven cleaner and grease remover and scrubbing cloths, in fact a whole army of tools which are not cheap.

The ovens from 10 years ago were difficult to clean. They were similar to industrial ovens found in today's restaurant or catering kitchens, made from solid steel parts which can put up with a lot of abuse. Today's ovens which are made from cheaper materials with rubber and plastic bits everywhere are even more difficult if not impossible to clean. Trying to clean to the level where you can use your oven for Pesach will destroy many modern ovens. For instance, applying oven cleaner to the inside of the door will melt the plastic and rubber parts between the glass and the frame which act as the door insulation. In short, the oven won't work or will become dangerous to use. There are hidden rubber parts inside the door to cushion and insulate the door to keep the temperature in. Oven cleaner will melt these.

The racks also have to be cleaned until there is not a speck of burnt food on them. This takes a lot of time and elbow grease.

This should take you at least an entire day to clean the inside and outside of the oven. Believe me, it's more work than you think.

The oven should be left for 24 hours (after its last use), then begins the koshering process.

The oven should be put on its highest temperature. Wait until the thermostat light goes off. Then keep the oven on that temperature for a further hour.

After this the racks will need "libun" – flame torching. However, One LOR who I spoke to said that if libun is too inconvenient then it is sufficient to place the already cleaned racks in the oven while the oven is being kashered. (This is only if food has not been directly cooked on the racks).

The gas hobs will also need "light" libun. (Beware! Trying to blow torch many modern oven tops will melt them). Many of them come with rubber feet. If you try and clean these they might stretch and will not fit back in the gas hobs tripods again.

In Geula and other Chareidi places you can get inserts for your oven. These are basically metal boxes with racks inside. They are expensive. You slide these into your oven instead of or in addition to koshering it. However these inserts are obviously smaller than the oven itself. The inserts come with a whole at the back for the oven fan to work. They are suitable only if your fan is in the right place. If your fan will be covered up then the fan/oven will burn out. In addition to this, many modern ovens have a sensitive thermostat which measures the temperature of the oven walls. Placing these inserts into the oven will confuse the thermostat. At best, your food will not cook properly. At worst you will burn out your thermostat and perhaps your oven.

In summery, trying to clean a modern oven may very well result in you destroying it and having to pay NIS 3000-5000 on a new one.

Do yourself a favour. Save one day's cleaning and spend NIS 400 on a Pesach oven and gas top. That's a one time purchase. I hope you see now that my previous post was in fact good advice.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Four plus a hidden one in The Haggadah

Each year at the Seder, my family try and find as many "Fours plus a hidden one" as we can within The Haggadah.

Previous lists have included:

Arba Kosos

The Four Cups of wine which represent the four expressions of Geula (Redemption) with which Hakodesh Baruch Hu took us out from Mitzrayim.

Shemos 6:6-7 contains the words:

Vehotsasi, Vehitzalti, Vegolalti, Velokachti.

Therefore say to Bnei Yisrael, 'I am Hashem. I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt, and I will save you from their enslavement. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with acts of great judgements. [Shemot 6:6]
I will take you to Myself as a people, and I will be to you Elokim. You will know that I am Hashem, your God Who is bringing you out from under the burdens of Egypt. [Shemot 6:7]

The fifth hidden expression is VeHavasi, found in the next pasuk.

I will bring you to The Land regarding which I raised My hand [in oath] that I would give to Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'acov and I will give it to you as an inheritance. I am Hashem. [Shemot 6:8]

This fifth expression is represented at The Seder by The Kos Shel Eliyahu Hanavi, the cup of wine which we don't drink which is the simon of the Geula Shlema (The Final Redemption) and Yamos HaMashiach (The era of Mashiach) which is yet to come.

The Five pasukim that the farmer is commanded to say whilst bringing the Bikkurim

Devarim 26:5-9 describe the mitzvah of Bikkurim. From the festival of Shavuas and onwards the farmer has a mitzvah to bring Bikkurim (his first fruits of the season) to the Beis HaMikdash and presenting them to the Cohanim. Whilst laying a hand upon the Mizbeyach he must relate the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim (the exodus from Egypt) to Hashem. As an introduction to this mitzvah in Devarim 26:3, the Torah uses the same word "Higadeti" - "telling the story" (of Yetzias Mitzrayim) as the pasuk in Shemos 13:8 "Vehigadata LeVincha" - "and you shall tell the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim to your son" which is the basis for our mitzvah on Leil HaSeder.

The story is told in five pasukim:

Devarim 26:5 "The Aramean sought to destroy my father. He (Yaakov) went doen to Epypt and dwelt there with few number. There he became a nation great, mighty and numerous"

Devarim 26:6 "And the Egyptians ill-treated us and they opressed us and imposed upon us hard labour"

Devraim 26:7 "We cried out to Hashem, God of our ancesters. And Hashem heard our voice and saw our affliction and our toil and our opression"

Devarim 26:8 "And Hashem brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great visions, signs and wonders"

Devarim 26:9 "He brought us to this place [Eretz Yisrael] and He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey"

Now instead of using pasukim from Sefer Shemos, the Haggadah actually uses these same pasukim in Devarim as the highlight to Magid as part of the fulfillment of the mitzvah of Vehigadata LeVincha.

Just as there are four cups of wine paralel to the four expressions of Geula with the fifth undrunk cup paralel to the fifth expression of Geula which is left out of the Haggadah.(See above) so too are there five pasukim in sefer Devarim but only the first four are quoted in the Haggadah. The fifth is missed out.

Both of these missing pasukim,  in Shemos 6:8 and in Devarim 26:9 complete the story by telling us that Hashem brought us to Eretz Yisrael.

The Four Questions

The four questions are:

Why is this night different from all other nights?
On all other nights we eat Chametz and Matzah; on this night only Matzah?

On all other nights we eat all types of vegetables; on this night Maror?

On all other nights we do not dip even once; on this night twice?

On all other nights we eat sitting up or reclining; on this night we all recline?

The fifth hidden question is the question which was removed from our Haggadah after the churban (The destruction of the Beis HaMikdash – The Holy Temple).

On all other nights we eat either roasted, boiled or cooked meat; on this night, only roasted?
(See Mishna Pesachim 10:4)

This question obviously refers to the korban Pesach – The Pesach offering, the delicious BBQ, eaten with Matzos, lettuce (Maror) and BBQ sauce (the charoses) which we cannot unfortunately eat until the Beis HaMikdash is rebuilt (may it be done speedily in our time).

Arba Banim

Everyone knows about the four sons, each very different from the others:

The Chacham (the wise son)
The Rasha (the evil son)
The Tam (the simple – straight forward son)
SheEino Yodaea Lishol (the son who does not even ask anything).

To each you must tell them about Hashem and how He took us out of Mitzrayim and why. However, each son must be told in a unique way, tailor made for each's level of understanding and spiritual level; There is no "one fits all" answer when we are performing the mitzvah of Vehigadata Levincha (Shemos 18:3).

By his question, you know that the Chacham wants to know everything so you tell him everything right up to the last halacha.

The Rasha is physically at the table but he isn't really asking a question at all. He is making a statement which expresses his wish to be excluded from the mitzvos of the night. He has made up his mind and now it is closed. You give him what he wants. There is no point in talking to him, he isn't listening. Therefore you don't speak directly to him as he has excluded himself. Instead you speak to the others at the table in the hope that he is perhaps listening, if only slightly.

The Tam has a simple straight forward question. Ma Tzos? This could mean that the son knows absolutely nothing and is simply pointing to the Matsos and saying "what's this?". He may not even be asking a question at all. He may actually only be saying "Matzos" as he points to the crackers on the table in order to show that he at least knows their name although he has no idea what they are. On the other hand, The Tam may be a Talmid Chacham – a Torah Genius. He doesn't ask the long complicated and drawn out question of the Chacham (who's question is designed to impress his father with his knowledge). The Tam may even be on a higher level and contained in the simple but all inclusive question "Ma Tzos?" is the desire to be taught everything. It is your job to really get to know the Tam and find out who he really is.

The fourth son, the one who cannot or will not ask any questions, is the most problematic. It is very difficult to know what the right thing to say is, to the son who will not interact with you. Therefore the Ba'al Hagaddah tells you that you must first open him up with love and only then will you get to know who he is and where he is coming from. He could be another Tam? He could be another Rasha? There is simply no way of knowing until you get him to open up.

So where is the fifth son to which you must tailor your knowledge to? At least the Rasha turned up at the Seder, if only to scoff. The fifth son hasn't even bothered to turn up. He is the lost (hidden) son to whom you must reach out and offer your unconditional love, whenever he decides to return.

The Five Rabonim

The Haggadah tells us that there were five Rabonim, Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar Ben Azaryah, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon who were reclining at the Seder. How do we know that they all considered them selves on the same madreigah (the same Torah level)? Because we have a halacha that a student is not allowed to recline in the presence of his Rav. Being that they were all reclining, this tells us that none felt subservient to the other. This is puzzling as we know that Rabbi Akiva was the student of these four other Rabonim. It is also puzzling why these four teachers decided to visit their student for the Seder. It should be the student who visits his Rav on Leil HaSeder! The answer to this puzzle can be found in Gemorah and Midrash. We know that Rabbi Akiva has already raised the spirits of these same four Rabonim once before. When they visited the ruins of the Beis HaMikdash, the four Rabonim cried when they saw a fox walking about the ruins. Rabbi Akiva laughed with joy. He told the others that this fox was the fulfilment of the nevuah (prophesy) of the Navi. Rabbi Akiva then concluded that if this nevuah had come to pass, so will all the rest and some day the Beis HaMikdash will be rebuilt and Hashem's people will return to their land. The Seder took place a mere eight months after the Churban. Death and destruction lay everywhere in the land. The four Rabonim knew that if they were to fulfil the mitzvos of simcha and praise to Hashem, there was only one person who could inspire them to do these things. That's why they went to Bnei Berak. Rabbi Akiva was like a streak of lightning (berak) where all around was darkness. So this is actually a story about the four Rabbonim and the hidden one, the student Rabbi Akiva who they called Rebbeinu, our teacher!

The Five statements of power of Hashem with which He carried out the Makos

Just before the song Daiyenu, we have the conversation of the three Rabonim, namely, Rabbi Yossi HaGlili, Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Aikva. (See my previous post on this section). Rabbi Eliezer finds four statements of power with which HaKodesh Baruch Hu carried out the makos (the plagues) but Rabbi Akiva finds a fifth hidden one.

There are of course many other Fours plus a hidden one within the Haggadah. If you know of anymore, please leave me a comment.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cleaning ovens for Pesach, made easy

Step 1: Open oven door. Get a brush and clean out all the inside of the oven.

Step 2: Close oven door.

Step 3: Cover oven with plastic and seal with brown tape. Sell with your chametz.

Step 4: Go out to Geula, the local super market or the nearest hardware store and buy a large 400 litre Toaster oven (starting from NIS 200) and a four ring gas top (starting from NIS 200). You can get two chickens in there side by side plus a tray of potatoes. You'll spend NIS 400 just once and you'll have your kasher lePesach oven and gas rings for all future Pesachs.

The Four Yorkshiremen and the Three Rabonim

Just before the song Daiyeinu in the Haggadah we have the conversation of the Three Rabonim. The section reads as follows:

Rabbi Yossi HaGlili said: "How do you know that the Egyptians were struck by 10 plagues in Egypt and 50 plagues at the sea? Because regarding the plagues of Egypt it says: 'The magicians said to Pharaoh, this is the finger of Hashem' [Shemot 8:15]. While at the sea it says: 'And the Jewish People saw the great hand which Hashem had used in Egypt, and the people feared Hashem, and they believed in Hashem and in Moshe His servant' [Shemot 14:31]. How many plagues did they receive with the finger? Ten. Therefore if in Egypt they received 10 plagues then at the sea (when smitten by Hashem's hand) they must have had 50 plagues."

Rabbi Eliezer said: "How do we know that each plague which the Holy One, blessed be He, brought upon the Egyptians in Egypt, actually consisted of four plagues? Because it says: 'He sent forth upon them His burning anger: wrath, fury and trouble, a group of avenging angels'' [T'hillim 78:4]. Each plague was composed of 'wrath' – one, 'fury' – two, 'trouble' – three, 'a group of avenging angels' '– four. Therefore, the Egyptians were smitten with 40 plagues in Egypt and with 200 at the sea."

Rabbi Akiva said: "How do we know that each plague which The Holy One, blessed be He, brought upon the Egyptians in Egypt, actually consisted of five plagues? Because it says: 'He sent forth upon them His burning anger, wrath, fury and trouble, a group of avenging angels' ' [T'hillim 78:4). Each plague was composed of 'anger' – one, 'wrath' – two, 'fury' – three, 'trouble' – four, 'a band of messengers of evil' – five. Therefore the Egyptians were smitten with 50 plagues in Egypt and with 250 at the sea.

In order to understand what is going on here let me draw your attention to one of Monty Python's funiest sketches - "The Four Yorkshiremen". Here is a YouTube link:

The script goes as follows:

Four Yorkshiremen Sketch Monty Python

The scene: Four well-dressed men sitting together at a vacation resort.

Michael Palin: Ahh.. Very passable, this, very passable.

Graham Chapman: Nothing like a good glass of Chateau de Chassilier wine, ay Gessiah?

Terry Gilliam: You're right there Obediah.

Eric Idle: Who'd a thought thirty years ago we'd all be sittin' here drinking Chateau de Chassilier wine?

MP: Aye. In them days, we'd a' been glad to have the price of a cup o' tea.

GC: A cup ' COLD tea.

EI: Without milk or sugar.

TG: OR tea!

MP: In a filthy, cracked cup.

EI: We never used to have a cup. We used to have to drink out of a rolled up newspaper.

GC: The best WE could manage was to suck on a piece of damp cloth.

TG: But you know, we were happy in those days, though we were poor.

MP: Aye. BECAUSE we were poor. My old Dad used to say to me, "Money doesn't buy you happiness."

EI: 'E was right. I was happier then and I had NOTHIN'. We used to live in this tiiiny old house, with greaaaaat big holes in the roof.

GC: House? You were lucky to have a HOUSE! We used to live in one room, all hundred and twenty-six of us, no furniture. Half the floor was missing; we were all huddled together in one corner for fear of FALLING!

TG: You were lucky to have a ROOM! *We* used to have to live in a corridor!

MP: Ohhhh we used to DREAM of livin' in a corridor! Woulda' been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We got woken up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us! House!? Hmph.

EI: Well when I say "house" it was only a hole in the ground covered by a piece of tarpolin, but it was a house to US.

GC: We were evicted from *our* hole in the ground; we had to go and live in a lake!

TG: You were lucky to have a LAKE! There were a hundred and sixty of us living in a small shoebox in the middle of the road.

MP: Cardboard box?

TG: Aye.

MP: You were lucky. We lived for three months in a brown paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six o'clock in the morning, clean the bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down mill for fourteen hours a day week in-week out. When we got home, out Dad would thrash us to sleep with his belt!

GC: Luxury. We used to have to get out of the lake at three o'clock in the morning, clean the lake, eat a handful of hot gravel, go to work at the mill every day for tuppence a month, come home, and Dad would beat us around the head and neck with a broken bottle, if we were LUCKY!

TG: Well we had it tough. We used to have to get up out of the shoebox at twelve o'clock at night, and LICK the road clean with our tongues. We had half a handful of freezing cold gravel, worked twenty-four hours a day at the mill for fourpence every six years, and when we got home, our Dad would slice us in two with a bread knife.

EI: Right. I had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night, half an hour before I went to bed, (pause for laughter), eat a lump of cold poison, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our Dad would kill us, and dance about on our graves singing "Hallelujah."

MP: But you try and tell the young people today that... and they won't believe ya'.

ALL: Nope, nope..

These four men are obviously playing a game here entitled “Who can outdo the other by exaggerating about how awful their childhood was". The Three Rabonim are effectively playing the same game but in reverse. Each one tries to outdo the last with praise for Hashem. They are playing this game in fulfillment of the mitzvah mentioned at the beginning of Magid:

וַאֲפִילוּ כֻּלָנוּ חֲכָמִים, כֻּלָנוּ נְבוֹנִים, כֻּלָנוּ זְקֵנִים, כֻּלָנוּ יוֹדְעִים אֶת הַתּוֹרָה, מִצְוָה עָלֵינוּ לְסַפֵּר בִּיצִיאַת מִצְרַיִם. וְכָל הַמַּרְבֶּה לְסַפֵּר בִּיצִיאַת מִצְרַיִם הֲרֵי זֶה מְשֻׁבָּח

And even if all of us were wise, all men of understanding, all elderly, all of us knowing the Torah, there is still a Mitzvah upon us to tell about the Exodus from Egypt. And whoever elaborates on it is praiseworthy.

Tephilos, my Fiat M-a-r-e-a, a Pre Pesach story

I've owned a Fiat M-a-r-e-a W-e-e-kend for 11 years now. It is long overdue for the scrap yard but I havn't had the money to replace it. Now I have no choice. The garage who services the car tells me that there are no spare parts left in Israel. If something major goes wrong then I've had it!

The car has cost me about NIS 8,000 in the last year in repairs. I consider this money down the drain. I'll be getting some money together in September to buy an ex-rental car so Be'ezras Hashem, I can keep the Fiat going until then. So on Tuesday I was driving home from work at about 7:30pm. I was talking to my wife on the phone about Pesach shopping. I had just driven past "Mayain 2000", the Chareidi supermarket in Ramat Eshkol where I often buy things on my way home. All of a sudden I here this terrible noise coming from the car and then I became aware of a terrible smell of burning chemicals.

I told my wife that I would have to get off the phone because there was something wrong with the car. I parked on the side of road and opened the door. There was this really powerful smell of burning chemicals coming from the engine. I looked down and saw bubbling liquid coming from underneath the car. That's it I thought. Game over! The engine has blown up! I looked up to the heavens. My tephilos (prayers) to HaKodesh Baruch Hu that He should look after my car until September had not been answered. I bent down to look under the car and was struck by this overpowering smell of burning chemicals.

I stood up to catch my breath and my balance, my head spinning. I thought I was going to faint from the fumes. It took me a minute to recover. I then walked to the front of the car and looked underneath where the engine was to see if I could see what was causing the noise. I was certain that the engine had fallen out. Well what did I see? I saw a large 5 litre bottle of bleach that had got stuck under the engine block.

The engine block had melted a whole in the side of the plastic bottle and was boiling the bleach which was pouring out all over the road. I went to get my trusty umbrella (after 20 years in Eretz Yisrael I still retain some of my Englishness) and bashed the bottle, (which was glued to the underside of the engine) until it eventually came loose. I put the bottle on the pavement. There was still some bleach in it despite a huge whole burnt into into its side.

Obviously this bottle of bleach had rolled into the road from someone's Pre-Pesach order outside the supermarket! I looked up to the heavens again, this time to apologise. "Baruch Hashem".

I started off again but there was burning fumes coming through the air vents of the car. I opened the windows and drove back home like this, grateful to Hashem that the car was fine. I phoned my wife to tell her not to worry. I wrote to my parents in England to tell them the story. My mother replied in her usual pithy fashion. "Well", she remarked. "With all that bleach, at least you won't have to kasher the engine and air vents for Pesach!" Now there's a new chumra!