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CHELM-ON-THE-MED©, APRIL 2014 COLUMN 2
MIRACLE OF THE FISH
Just before Passover, a local Bnei Brak rabbi issued a unique religious ruling that called on Ashkenazi Jews in his religiously-observant hometown on the outskirts of Tel-Aviv to forgo the gefilte fish after the price of carp predictably but exasperatingly spiralled several weeks before the seder.
Rabbi Samuel Elezer Stern called on religious families to simply boycott carp – the main ingredient without which gefilte fish wouldn’t be gefilte fish. Rabbi Stern claimed there was a precedent to such an extraordinary step: Hundreds of years ago, the 3rd Lubavich rabbi known as the Tzemach Tzedek rabbi (Menachem Mendel Schneersohn*, 1789-1866) took a similar step among his flock to force down the price of fish and ‘save gefilte fish.’ The sanction lasted two months but was, apparentlym miraculously effective – perhaps one of the first consumer boycotts in recorded history.
* not to be confused with the 7th and last Habad-Lubavicher rebbe from Crown Heights, who bore the same name.
A NATION OF TRAVELERS
Half of all Americans have never been abroad, and only 35 percent hold valid passports. Not so in Israel, where two-thirds (!) of all Israelis over age 18 (65 percent) went abroad at least once in 2013 alone.
The deputy Minister of Religion Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan (Jewish Home party) has a unique image problem: a high squeaky voice that overnight became the newly-minted parliamentarian’s ‘signature’. His voice not only undermined Ben-Dahan’s efforts to be an effective speaker in the house or conduct media interviews, he said. Often, on the telephone, he was mistaken for a woman. After a specialist clarified that the problem wasn’t physiological, in a last ditch effort to re-brand himself, Ben-Dahan hired* a speech therapist.
* Ben-Dahan underscored he was paying for therapy out-of-pocket, not from his budget for “communication with the public.”
A bill before the Knesset seeks to make the streets safer for the elderly… How?
Collaring all hoods who prey on the elderly, throw them behind bars, and throw away the key?
By adding a new warning sign for drivers.
If the bill passes, in addition to warning motorists of camels crossing the road, Israel will sport a sign with an elderly couple with a cane which would be posted in neighbourhoods with a concentration of senior citizens. Since elderly pedestrians are three times more likely to be hit by a car than the rest of the population, the law’s sponsor has also called for authorities to consider increasing the time given pedestrians to cross intersections* with a stoplight, in the vicinity of senior day care and assisted living complexes. (Israel HaYom)
* This brought to mind the time my elderly but nimble mother z”l was crossing a busy intersection with me in Washington DC - aided by a walker after a bout of pneumonia. When the light changed on us, seeing the red flashing ‘DON’T WALK,’ she immediately picked up the walker and dashed across to the opposite curb at a dead run…
Fragrent “Philadelphia soft pretzels” dipped in mustard sold fresh on street corners have come a long way since my university days in Center City in the mid-1960s, and the pending arrival of Auntie Anne’s fresh baked-while-you-wait pretzels will be warmly embraced by this anglo-saxon.
But will they sell to the average sabra?
The ‘competition’ is not the cold ‘soft’ pretzel (called begeleh) impaled on a stick, sold at sidewalk kiosks in Israel. The winner would be a no-brainer. It’s the new substitute for the lafa (a thin Bedouin pita, designed to be filled with shawarma and condiments or other tasty combos) and rolled up like an open-ended sandwich wrap. But, the ‘down side’ of the lafa tends to loose its juices…literally, leaking tachina spread out the bottom into your lap.
It took seven (!) years for chef Shimi Seren to perfect his waterproof seamless lafa substitute – the ‘Feeli’ (that’s what it says on his apron*), the ultimate street cuisine sandwich filler which look like a limp ‘stretch limousine’-style edible Dixie cup*.
Like condoms and shower caps, the Feeli is “elastic and leak-proof,” boasts Seren. Like Auntie Annie’s prezels, a Feeli can be baked on the-the-spot in 45 seconds flat.
* could he have meant Fillie???
** It can even hold water
SEPARATED BUT EQUAL – TAKE II
Remember the December 2012 story about the predicament of a gay couple who tied the knot in a civil ceremony in Canada but after eight years together decided to part ways…after they had successfully fought to have their status recognized by the Israel Ministry of Interior (which duly registered them as married in the Population Register)?
Canadian authorities needed confirmation they were legally divorced in Israel so one of the two could remarry in Canada – a document which, because both men were Jewish, was supposed to be provided by a rabbinical court which never recognized their union in the first place!
Now a year later, there’s a breakthrough, thanks to another gay couple whose New York marriage at City Hall went on the rocks: An Israeli Family Court took the bull by the horns and issued a declaratory order “dissolving the marriage as registered” on the mutual consent of the parties, while delicately skirting the issue whether their marriage was legally-binding under Israel law in the first place.
Jewish ingenuity not withstanding, only after 2,000 years in Exile has someone finally come up with a solution how bald Jews* can keep their kipot* from flying off their head in the wind, or dropping off from merely shaking their heads a bit too vigorously. Rumor has it that up until now bald men have used all sorts of devices from scotch tape to denture adhesives. Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home party) admits he has resorted more than once to using chewing gum and revealed that his aids carry an emergency supply of masking tape with them at all times.
Now there are specially-manufactured double-sided stickers that come in a 10-sticker packet like Wrigley’s chewing gum. They sell for 10 NIS ($2.85) a packet. The real bonus: the stickers can be unstuck painlessly and reapplied several times, each sticker lasting three to four days. A relieved and grateful Bennett has willingly become the innovator’s unpaid ‘presenter’.
* head coverings or yarmulke