Top 5 Passover Products

#5  Kinder Matzot – It’s either made for kids, or made from kids, not sure which….Hat Tip R.R.

 

#4  I’m so frum, even my dog keeps Pesach

 

#3 Kosher for Pesach Cigarettes – It’s kosher to smoke on Pesach, as long as you don’t inhale chometz!

#2 A kosher smile!  Have you kashered your teeth for Pesach yet?

Step 1- Don’t eat 24 hours prior to kashering.

Step 2 – Scrub teeth with a Brillo Pad.

Step 3 – Brush teeth with Kosher L’Pesach toothpaste.

Step 4 – Go over each tooth with a blow torch.

Step 5 – Rinse mouth with boiling water.

Congratulations! Your teeth are now Kosher L’Pesach!

Photo Hat Tip @TheFrimer

smile

#1 And finally – Kosher L’Pesach plungers!  Are your toilet plungers kosher L’Pesach? Here’s the deal, of course we all scrub our toilets before Pesach. However, most if us don’t remember about changing over our plungers. What do we eat all year? Chametz. What do we poop all year? Chametz! Therefore, our plungers are chametz. This has been a public service announcement. Photo hat tip Jaq Benimble

Photo: Are your toilet plungers kosher l'Pesach?  Here's the deal, of<br /> course we all scrub our toilets before Pesach.  However, most if us don't remember about changing over our plungers.  What do we eat all year?  Chametz.  What do we poop all year?  Chametz!  Therefore, our plungers are chametz.  This has been a public service announcement.  Photo hat tip Jaq Benimble

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Dear God

Dear God,

There’s a question that’s been bothering me lately. I’ve tried to work it out on my own, but I haven’t been having much luck. I was hoping that maybe I could run it past you and get some feedback. How can I put this? How do I know which side to believe in abuse allegations as a community bystander reading about the allegations in the news?

As a Jew, as a mother, and as a person who attempts to lead an ethical life, hearing or reading about abuse committed against children or adults in my community hurts. It prompts an immediate visceral reaction of disgust, indignance, and rage. Any good person would feel enraged upon hearing about the molestation of trusting children or the exploitation of adults seeking help from respected community leaders, only to be taken advantage of in the most abhorrent ways imaginable.

In the past, we have silenced victims of abuse. It was seen as a necessary evil to sacrifice justice for the few, in order to protect the image of the whole. To publicize abuse perpetrated by frum people would be a chillul, well, You. People outside of the Jewish community would use these stories, were they to be made public, to fuel existing anti-Semitism. People inside of the community might be so disheartened by stories of abuse that they would go off the derech. It was best to keep such abuse quiet.

If, after review by community rabbis, such allegations were found to have merit, the abuser would be sent away without explanation, free to start a fresh life in another community, and would hopefully have learned their lesson. The victims, free of having to bump into the abuser on the street, could go on with their lives and hopefully put their past behind them. Of course, we know now from hard experience that situations of abuse can’t be resolved in such a tidy manner. Abusers often go on to reoffend, and victims live with the scars of their abuse for a lifetime.

When it comes to publicizing cases of confirmed abuse, loshon horah or chillul You, should not be a factor in warning people. In cases of abuse, refraining from warning people about perpetrators is aiding and abetting the abuser. Keeping silent about an abuser’s crimes is allowing them to continue to harm people. So that brings me back to my original question. When I hear about an alleged case of abuse online or offline, what should my response be?

Do I go into “Activist Warrior Mode,” and start spreading the story as far and wide as I can to warn people about the monster? Do I pause, reflect, and wait until more facts come out about the case before believing the accusations and doing anything to act upon them? Where does dan lachaf zchus fit into abuse allegations?

People make their decision about whom to bestow their dan lachaf zchus upon based on lots of factors. For some, the benefit of the doubt is given to the accused, and the alleged victim is vilified as an unstable liar or bitter person making the accusations out of revenge. For others, the victim is automatically believed. In some cases, this is due to the evidence presented. In other cases, it’s because abuse is a hot topic issue and there are activists anxious to get their name in the press for personal fame and gain as promoters of justice.

The only thing that seems true on both sides of the controversy is that abuse can kill and false accusations of abuse can kill. If one were to do a tally count of bodies on both sides of the equation, I’m sure the number of fatalities on the side of those who were abused would be higher than that of those who have been falsely accused. I have heard many times that there are very few cases of false abuse accusations. Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and all that jazz. This could be true, I have no statistics to prove that theory, but even so, if one life is lost because of faulty vilification, don’t we have the responsibility to be very careful about publicly condemning someone before verifying the facts?

These are weighty matters, with life and death hanging in the balance. Even if a victim or falsely accused abuser doesn’t actually commit suicide, there is such a thing as a living death. Zombies are real. People who have had the life and heart sucked out of them, while the community who was supposed to protect them stood idly by and did nothing.

The term “community” protects each and every one of us as individuals from having to take action. “The community did nothing.” Who is this “community” we speak of? Rabbis? Schools? Organizational board members? Volunteer emergency workers? Our neighbors? Anyone else but us? Where does community responsibility end and personal responsibility begin? We’ve sought emunas chachamim in the past over these issues, and things have gone terribly wrong. So once again, God, how do I know who to believe? I really want to stand up and do what’s right. But, how do I know what that is?

Faithfully yours,

Sharon


It Was a Good System

asifahphoto by AFP/Getty images

Once upon a time there was a community. In this community everyone wore the same uniform. It was easier that way. The men all wore black suits, white shirts, black hats, and black shoes. The women all wore black skirts, black shirts, shoulder length wigs, and black rubber-bottomed flat shoes. The clothing stores in the community were only allowed to sell these kinds of uniforms. The stores were also only allowed to sell certain sizes. People couldn’t get too fat or too skinny, or the stores wouldn’t have their size. This encouraged everyone to maintain a figure that was similar to everyone else’s. Those who couldn’t keep to the size regulations had to wear ill fitting uniforms and felt ashamed. This encouraged them to diet or gain weight as necessary in order to conform. It was a good system.

In this community, the ladies and gentleman kept apart from each other. They shopped in stores during different hours, they sat separated by a tall partition during religious services, they sat separately on public buses, they went to separate schools, they worked in separate establishments, and in some places, they even walked on separate sides of the street. Men and women unrelated to each other were not allowed to speak unless it was necessary. No physical contact, like a handshake, was permitted under any circumstances. Boys and girls past the age of three were not permitted to play together. This fostered close friendships between those of the same gender, and made it so that the two different sexes only intermingled for purposes of procreation. This system eliminated a lot of unnecessary drama and trauma that occured in societies where the two sexes mingled freely. It was a good system.

In this community, access to information from other communities was not allowed. Citizens were not allowed to read books, magazines, or newspapers from other communities. They were not allowed to own television sets or watch movies. The people were not allowed to go to the theater, visit an art museum, attend an opera, or listen to music created outside the community. People were not allowed to own computers unless it was absolutely necessary for work. They certainly could not have access to the internet. In the same vein, citizens were not allowed to own a smart phone that would provide access to the internet. Eschewing contact with the outside world made the citizens feel like they were the epicenter of the universe. They were unaware that there were other people out there with innovative ideas, different visions of the world, or new ways of creating societies. Because they were unaware of different possibilities, the people were happy and content with their community. It was a good system.

One day, the elders of the community gathered together. There was a problem. Some of the people had been communicating with the outside world. They had disregarded the decrees about internet usage, books, television, and movies. They had smuggled televisions into their homes disguised as microwave ovens.  They had been infected with foreign ideas and, like a virus, new ideals and desires were contaminating the community. Curiosity was spreading like a plague and the elders were helpless to eradicate the foul disease. Furthermore, there were some women who were secretly violating the uniform standards.  They were wearing colors, long wigs, fancy glasses, and shoes with heels that made noise.  The elders saw that it was not good.

There was only one solution. They would hold a town meeting and let citizens know that anyone who continued to defy the orders of the elders would be ostracized from their society. Since people weren’t listening to the elders, the elders would turn over rule enforcement to the schools. Anyone who didn’t attend the town meeting would have their children expelled from school. Anyone who didn’t wear the community uniform or continued to communicate with the outside world would have their children expelled from school. Anyone who had their children expelled from school would be effectively banished from the community. The schools would now decide who deserved to stay in the community and who did not, relieving the elders of the burden and the blame. It was a good system.

Missed Connections – Short Story

shidduch

She walked stiffly in her black patent flats with the wave of the crowd, mouth in a tight grimace, loose hairs blowing like party streamers from her pony tail. Her black wool Shabbos jacket was a stylish choice, but it didn’t do much to shield the cold wind from wrapping itself around her torso in an icy hug.

“Hurry up, Rena!” her friend Hildy called. “We need to get a good place to say tehillim.”

Rena smiled down into her collar as she picked up her pace. For Hildy, a good place meant one where she could spot her new choson, Mendy, who would be at men’s intersection on Fulton Street. They were both going to be at the Wall Street Atzeres Tefillah in protest of the Israeli military draft of haredi men.

Mendy and Hildy had agreed to both be as close to the Fulton street intersection as possible, so that they could make eye contact and see each other from a distance. They hadn’t been allowed to meet up since their vort last month, and they were supposed to stay apart until their wedding, which was coming up in a few weeks. However, thanks to WhatsApp, Hildy and her choson had been communicating regularly without their parents’ knowledge or interference.

Hildy and Mendy weren’t the only couple arranging meetings at the Wall Street rally. WhatsApp had been buzzing in the days leading up to the protest with networking plans. It wasn’t often that a gathering of this size was organized. Although the protest was for a serious cause, there was as much excitement and anticipation for the event as there would have been for any large celebration. People furiously texted meeting times and places to their friends, business connections, and even romantic interests. Knowing that the majority of the haredi world in New York would be present at the rally was a heady feeling.

Rena was definitely caught up in the thrill of the moment. Her reason for showing up to the Atzeres was, on the surface, to accompany Hildy in her effort to see Mendy. Secretly, however, she was hoping that Mendy’s chavrusa, Saul, would be there. Rena first met Saul at Hildy’s vort. Well, “met” might be too strong a term. Rena wasn’t formerly introduced to any of the young men at the engagement party, but as one of Mendy’s best friends, Saul gave a dvar Torah to the entire party in honor of his friend’s upcoming marriage. Saul was tall and well built. He had thick black hair, a fair complexion, and deep blue eyes.

His eyes…those eyes reminded her of a poem she had read once at the library. It was called, “Lapis Lazuli,” by a non Jewish man named William Butler Yeats. Art and poetry had little meaning in Rena’s world. It was pure foolishness to waste time reading about goyishe make believe. That’s why Rena would hide in a little library carrel and hunker down to read behind its low walls. Even if the world was crumbling around her, Rena still found meaning in art and beauty, and in Saul’s lapis lazuli blue eyes.

Rena and Hildy made their way to the front of a large crowd of women. While there were a few mothers and children, most of the group rifling through pages of small handheld tehillim, were young fresh-out-of-seminary girls like themselves. They passed a few revelers taking selfie photos in front of the crowd.

“Can you believe her?” Hildy hissed. “What do you think Elka’s mother would say if she saw her taking a picture like that in front of all these people?”

As the girls passed Elka, who by now had put her phone away, they both called out brightly, “Hi!” Elka waved gaily back with a big smile.

A moment later, Rena felt her phone buzz in her coat pocket. With frozen hands, she fished out the device and found a WhatsApp notification. Opening it, she saw a smiling photo of Elka standing in front of tall buildings, her windswept hair blowing out attractively behind her. Rena briefly wondered if she should do her own impromptu photo shoot. Would she send the picture to Saul? The thought was ridiculous.

Saul was otherworldly. His bright eyes saw beyond what was in this world, and into the giddying heights of the world to come. Rena knew this from the way he gave over his dvar Torah at the vort. She had never witnessed a young man who spoke with such sincerity and depth. Most kollel guys sounded like they were giving over their bar mitzvah speech. There didn’t seem to be much maturity or growth since their teen years. Saul was an illui. There was no doubt in Rena’s mind. Saul would go on to do great things, and any woman who married him would be swept along with him toward that greatness.

Rena desperately wanted to be that woman, but she knew that a top bochur like Saul would never notice her. More importantly, no shadchan would ever think that she would be a suitable match for a guy like Saul. Saul needed a rich girl to support him through his years of intense Torah study. Along with money, often came beauty. Anyone can buy beauty for the right price. A poor girl, who is plain, usually must remain so.

Rena was a good girl. She always got decent grades, was well liked by teachers and peers, and she presented a tidy and pleasing image. However, Rena was a plain Jane. She came from a modest family with five siblings, a stay at home mom, and a father who worked for a local catering company. They were a perfectly lovely and respectable family, but not a family who could secure the next gadol hador in marriage for their daughter.

“Rena, Rena!! Look over there!” Hildy pointed excitedly to the sea of men on the other side of the street intersection. Rena struggled to recognize a familiar face in the sea of black hats, black coats, black pants, and black shoes.

“No, not there!” Hildy nudged Rena’s shoulder with her own. “Over there. See, it’s him!” Hildy’s curly blonde head leaned out past Rena toward Mendy. Rena caught a whiff of strawberry shampoo as the wind blew locks of Hildy’s hair toward Rena’s mouth.

Picking Hildy’s hair off of her wind chapped lips, Rena craned her neck to see if Saul was next to Mendy. A tall man was standing next to the shorter Mendy, but she couldn’t see his face. Mendy suddenly spotted the waving Hildy, and a broad smile filled his face. He didn’t wave back, as that would be unseemly in front of his kollel comrades, but his look said how pleased he was to see Hildy.

“We did it! I can’t believe we pulled it off, Rena!” Hildy gushed with a mischievous look in her eyes. “If my mother knew about this, she’d kill me!” Hildy smiled at the thought of what her mother would say about this clandestine meeting.

Suddenly, the tall man next to Mendy turned around. It was Saul! Rena felt short of breath. Saul turned his attention in the direction of Mendy’s gaze. He bent down slightly to say something to Mendy, and then returned his look back to the important rabbis sitting in the front of the crowd. Saul closed his eyes and began shuckling and mouthing words in time with thousands of other voices intoning prayers. Mendy gave one last look at Hildy, and then followed Saul’s lead, an invisible mechitza crashing down between him and his kallah in the middle of downtown New York.

“Ok, let’s go!” Hildy announced. “I’m freezing!”

“That’s it?” Rena asked. “We came all this way so you could stare at each other for 30 seconds?”

“What did you expect? That we would meet up afterward for coffee? Don’t be silly. I got what I came for.” Hildy laughed.

Rena hustled behind Hildy, trying not to let disappointment overtake her. Saul hadn’t even made eye contact with her. She didn’t exist for him, and therefore, she didn’t want to exist at all. It was hopeless. The only way that she would ever get a proper introduction to Saul was through a shadchan, and no shadchan would ever set the two of them up together. Rena felt tears forming in the corners of her eyes, and she angrily wiped them away with a gloved hand.

“What’s wrong?” Hildy asked, as the two bumped into foot traffic near the Porta Potty stations.

“I don’t feel so good. Would you mind stopping here for a second? I need to use the bathroom.” Rena said.

“Can’t you wait twenty minutes? These outdoor bathrooms are so gross!” Hildy made a face.

“Ladies, step this way please. Are you getting in line?” A young man with an orange vest, kippah, and blonde beard was organizing the flow of traffic in two directions. One led to the Porta Potties and the other to the main thoroughfare away from the protest.

Hildy tried to drag Rena in the direction of the exiting crowd, but Rena paused.

“Hey, hey!” the young man called to a few teenagers pushing their way through the herd of people. “Walk like a mentch! There are women and children here!”

The man took a walkie-talkie out of a holster around his waist and pressed the button. “Shimmy? ” the walkie-talkie emitted static. “It’s Peretz..can you send over some more guys? People are starting to leave and the crowd’s getting heavy over here!”

Peretz looked at the girls, “So which way can I direct you, ladies? I’ll lead the way through these people if you need to use the facilities.” Something about the way the girl with the dark ponytail looked made him feel uneasy, as if she were about to faint.

“Rena, what will it be? I’ll wait for you if you really need to go.” Hildy said, trying to be nice even though all she wanted to do was beat the crowd to the bus going back home.

Rena shifted from one foot to the other uneasily. Being addressed by Peretz had surprised her out of her tears. She thought she was recovered enough from her disappointment to hold it together on the bus ride home.

“I’m good, really.” Rena said to Hildy and Peretz. “Let’s just head to the bus.”

Peretz used his broad frame to shield the girls from the oncoming crowd and lead them to an opening on the street that led away from the rally’s epicenter. “Stay safe!” he called, as the girls scurried away.

Turning back to the Porta Potties, he encountered a commotion as people gathered around one of the units. Someone had accidentally gotten locked inside a Porta Potty and an expanding group of protesters were rattling the door trying to free the prisoner.

“Shimmy! I need some help!” Peretz said into his walkie-talkie once more.

Later that night, Rena sat in her room thinking about the day. Hildy had been over the moon about seeing Mendy. They spent the bus ride home talking about Hildy’s wedding plans and the shopping trips to Boro Park to set up her new apartment. Rena felt honored that she had been asked to accompany Hildy to help her make choices in china patterns, silverware, linens, and other household essentials. The only thing that would make the experience sweeter was if she were also getting married and making purchases for her own “bayis neeman b’yisroel.”

“Stop it!” Rena thought. “No use in torturing myself by wishful thinking.”

She thumbed through her phone, looking at photo updates from the rally posted by her friends. If only there was a way that she could reach out to Saul indirectly. Maybe he did see her at the Atzeres, but he couldn’t acknowledge her due to modesty? Maybe Saul and she weren’t so different? She could tell that he was a deep person, with more beneath the surface than was apparent. Could it be that he felt the same way that she did?

She opened up the Craigslist app that she had downloaded with Hildy as a joke. The two of them had laughed and gasped at the crazy personal ads people placed there. Frum Jews, seeking the most inappropriate relationships. Hildy thought the ads were all fake. She said they were posted by anti-Semites who wanted to make Jews look bad. At first, Rena had agreed, but after awhile, she wondered if the people who wrote those ads might be real – sad and misguided – but real.

Rena saw a section for “Missed Connections.” Saul and she were certainly a missed connection.

“I wouldn’t dare.” thought Rena. “Would I?”

Rena sat at her desk and started composing her advertisement –

“I saw you in the crowd near Fulton Street. You looked so into the prayers, tehillim, so sincere. You were different from the others somehow, although to other eyes, you blended seamlessly into the sea of white and black. Brilliant blue eyes, long dark payos, tall – you didn’t notice me, I’m sure. I also don’t stand out in a crowd unless you are really looking. I too blend into the masses – dark wool coat, black flats, sensible skirt, black hair pulled into a ponytail. I’m nothing special on the outside, but on the inside I lead a colorful existence – one which I would love to share with you. If you look closely, you will see that my eyes hold a world of possibilities.”

After she gave her confirmation to publish her ad, Rena sat back and considered what she had done. While she felt slightly ashamed, she also held onto the hope that somehow, her words would reach out to Saul and he would see them. She imagined getting a response from him confirming his mutual feelings. Anticipating what the morning could bring, Rena put her phone on her nightstand, turned out the light, and said Shema.

The next morning, Rena held herself back from checking her email upon awakening. After she was dressed, she permitted herself to check. Nothing. No response. Rena checked the Craigslist website to make sure her ad appeared in Missed Connections. It was there.

Rena walked over to her mirror and looked into her reddening eyes. “Stupid, stupid, girl! Did you actually think a tzaddik like Saul would be trolling the depths of pritzus on a site like that! Do you think he would marry a girl who would post an ad on there? Everyone is right not to match you up with a quality boy like that! You don’t deserve anyone like him!”

Rena grabbed her phone and deleted the ad, vowing to give up all social media. She threw the phone onto her unmade bed in disgust and slammed the door as she left her room.

Meanwhile, a new email appeared in Rena’s account. It read,

“Hello. I’m not the guy that you’re probably looking for…but I was also in the Atzeres. I know your ad wasn’t meant for me because I was not from the crowd, but was working security in the orange jacket.  I figured I would try to respond, as I am also someone that doesn’t stand out, but as you put it “I do have a very colorful inside.”  Maybe you would find it in your heart to give me a chance?”

Signs that you are about to become a Jewish sister wife

Fundamentalist Mormon sister wives

Despite Rabbeinu Gershom’s 11th century ban on polygamy (although the Shulhan Aruch says the ban expired in the year 5000 (1240)), some men defy this societal no-no and continue to marry more than one woman simultaneously.  Most of these men obtain what is known as a heter meah rabbanim, where they have a document signed by 100 rabbis giving the man permission to remarry.  Most of these documents are bogus.  Additionally, in order to be given a heter meah rabbanim, the husband needs to give his first wife an unconditional get (bill of divorce that can only be issued by the husband).  It’s wife’s choice to accept it or not.

What winds up happening is that many men, who remarry with the heter meah rabbanim, do so with a conditional get.  Meaning, they leave a get for their first wife in escrow, which she can accept upon compliance with his terms.  Most of the time those terms involve paying the man exorbitant amounts of money and changing child custody arrangements (already determined by secular courts in the civil divorce proceedings) to his favor.

Predictably, most first wives are not going to accept such terms (many can’t afford to), even if complying with this type of blackmail will earn their freedom from a dead marriage.  This stalemate leaves the woman trapped.  In most cases, the civil divorce has been finalized.  However, for a religious Jewish woman, this means nothing in terms of her ability to remarry.  According to Jewish law, she is still married to her husband until she receives an unconditional get.

There are many unpublished stories of men who extort their wives for a get.  Women (or their families) who have the money are able to free themselves by giving into this type of extortion.  However, many women do not have the funds to give into such blackmail, and thus, are chained to a dead marriage.  The wives are unable to date or remarry without a get, while their husbands happily reenter the singles scene trolling for their next victims.

The question I have is why any woman would agree to marry a bigamist?  What woman in her right mind would marry a man who is refusing to give his first wife a get? After all, if he is withholding a get from his first wife, the next wife can bet that he’ll do it to her too if the marriage sours.  What happened to sisters before misters?

When a man marries and moves on with a new life before wrapping up his old one, he loses the incentive to issue a get.  As long as he is happy and in a new relationship, what does he care if his first wife is stuck living alone for the rest of her life?  However, if he also was prevented from dating and remarriage, it would be a sure fire incentive to give his first wife a religious divorce.

We women must stick together and not marry men who haven’t yet divorced their first wives.  That should be an uncompromising condition of marriage.  Unfortunately, when it comes to love, we women can be all kinds of stupid, and easily blinded by lies.  Who are we going to believe, him or our own eyes?  Often, the answer is him!  Yep, we are suckers for love.

Recently, there was a case in the news where a recalcitrant husband remarried in Vegas with the permission of a heter meah rabbanim.  His new wife is shown in all of her bridal glory, sparkly white gown and gauzy veil, the whole nine yards.  All to become his second wife.  To be fair, she is from Brazil, so perhaps there is a language barrier preventing her from understanding the real situation she has gotten herself into.

Here is a checklist of signs that the man you are marrying is already married –

  1. After he proposes, he asks that you not tell anyone about your engagement right away.
  2. He gives you engagement earrings instead of a ring.
  3. The l’chaim takes place in an undisclosed location, and guests are required to leave cell phones and cameras at the door.
  4. He asks that you keep your Facebook relationship status as “Single,” or at the very least, “It’s complicated.”
  5. There is an angry mob on his front lawn demanding he give his first wife a divorce (he tells you they are merely a crowd protesting the Israeli draft of kollel students).
  6. Your fiancée’s photo is in the news and he is being called a get refuser.
  7. The first mesader kiddushin you approach to marry you says no.  The second mesader kiddushin you approach to marry you says no.  By the third rejection, he proposes you chuck it all and get hitched in Vegas.
  8. There is an angry mob calling your fiancée a bigamist outside the Vegas wedding hall (he tells you it is the counter-protest of those supporting the Israeli draft law).
  9. People don’t seem to be happy about your wedding.
  10. His first wife and you wear matching wedding bands.

If any of the above scenarios have happened in your relationship, you just might be a Jewish sister wife.