Jerusalem, Katamon: “Find me a Sephardi boy… that’s all I hear this time of year. Nobody asks if a boy is a serious learner, has good middos or if he has job prospects. All these girls want is for me to find them a Sephardi boyfriend before Pesach.” explained Malka A, known as the best shadchanit in Katamon. We had come to Malka’s with our friend Shevy, who was newly single.
“Nu? What happened with this last boy…the Moroccan?” Malka inquired. “I didn’t have feelings for him.” Shevy explained. “But it was so hard to break up with him before Pesach….I kept hearing about this delicious rice pudding his mom serves at the Seder….and the amazing Mimouna his sister always hosts. Do you realize how I spent every Motzeh Pesach growing up??? Standing in line at the pizzeria for undercooked slices!”
Malka comforted Shevy on the breakup, brought out her book of shidduch résumés and assured her that she would soon find a boy with everything she was looking for… and who would bring her favorite flavor of Doritos on Pesach Tiyulim. “What about this guy? He’s cute! What is he, Tunisian?” Shevy asked as she flipped through the book.
“Him? No, he’s not for you.” Malka replied. “You’re a brunette and he said he only wants to date blondes.”
“Disgusting!” Shevy yelled as she slammed the book shut and stormed out. “How can men be so shallow?“
Jerusalem: According to Israel’s Chief Rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef, Jews should not leave their homes in order to kasher cooking utensils or burn hametz (foods deemed unkosher for Passover), which religiously observant Jews do every year the morning before the holiday. As part of the national effort to fight the spread of COVID-19, Israel’s Chief Rabbis ruled that Jews must instead gather all such products in their kitchen and eat them down to the last crumb.
“In lieu of our usual traditions, eating every last bit of hametz is the only way to guarantee both a safe and kosher Passover.” said Yosef at a meeting with leaders from the Sephardic and Mizrahi communities. “Drastic times call for drastic measures.”
According to Jewish law, no bread or leavened products may be eaten or kept at home during Passover. But some communities are finding this new ruling particularly difficult. Ashkenazi Jews, whose recent ancestors resided in Germany and eastern Europe, are forbidden from eating kitniyot, a term that refers to many grains and legumes. This made Rabbi Lau’s ruling particularly shocking.
“Drinking all my beer and eating all my bread is one thing.” lamented Yechezkel Abelman of Jerusalem. “But there’s 4 days left before the holiday. How are my wife and I supposed to eat five kilograms of rice and wash them down with twelve cans of lentil soup?”
“Instead of burning hametz, we must prepare ourselves to burn calories.” explained Yaakov Litzman, Israel’s Minister of Health and follower of the Ger Hasidic Dynasty. “Those who find it difficult should soften their bread by dipping it in water.”
Of course, not every religious leader is going along with the new ruling. Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky of Bnei Brak is considered a high authority in the Haredi world, and has vowed to defy the ruling.
Some believe Rabbi Kanievsky’s headstrong approach is due to core disagreements over religious interpretation. Others believe it’s because he is yet to discard five jars of extra crunchy Skippy peanut butter he has stashed in his home. No matter the reason, some of his followers were more enthusiastic about his “live-and-let’s-get-sick” approach.
In mid-March, after ordering his hundreds of thousands of followers to defy the Health Ministry’s Anti-Corona directives, he changed his mind two weeks later. “If he’s going to change his mind again, I’d rather he do it in the next day or two, so I have time to digest.” said Yoel Friedberg of Bnei Brak. “Corona or not, if I show up full to the Seder, my mother might kill me anyway.”
Meanwhile, religious leaders across Israel and the Diaspora are already preparing other holidays for the impact of COVID-19. If the pandemic stretches into the fall, building a Sukkah may involve dismantling your living room furniture for the wood.
Tel Aviv: So I found a Shul really close to my new place in the Kerem. I know, FINALLY! It’s walking distance, and best of all, I can stop by the Shuk on the way home! Isn’t that great? And even better? They keep this really bright green light on when it’s dark out. No more getting lost! Too easy!
But I have to admit, I am like TOTALLY lost during the services. Last night at Arvit? It was like they were speaking a totally different language or something. I mean, I get used to people here making fun of the way I pronounce my “T” as an “S”. You know, “tushb’chasa v’nechemasa”. But these guys? I mean, they were polite enough, but they kept staring at me when I turned around and faced the door for the end of Lecha Dodi (at least that’s where I thought we were). Finally I caught up with them during the Aleinu when they all started bowing down. But get this, they stayed bowed down for, LIKE, a really really long time. I don’t know, maybe it’s a Moroccan Shul?
But everything was pretty chill. I mean, until I tried to do Kiddush at the Oneg afterwards.
Live from Tel Aviv. This is like Satire and Stuff.