The Seder/Shabbat Confluence

April 3, 2015

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, April 3, 2015.

The Israel Shabbat Blog:

The Seder/Shabbat Confluence

It’s been YEARS since I’ve been in Israel on Pesach. It’s always crazy in ways that we can’t imagine in Milwaukee... and this year it’s even crazier because the first Seder is on Erev Shabbat. Especially here in Jerusalem the craziness of the season is intense. The streets were packed last night with people trying to find open restaurants. Some restaurants were closed, because they’re cleaning the places for Shabbat, making the kitchens Kosher for Passover, and getting ready to open on Saturday night when they’ll be serving Passover food for a week.  Other restaurants are open because they’ll close Friday for the whole week of Passover. And some are waiting to make the places Kosher for Passover working all night on Thursday night. Of course, some restaurants aren’t really kosher, so they’re open in any case.

The grocery stores are full of Kosher for Passover products, and on Friday morning, they’ll be covering up all the products in the stores that are not Passover certified. There are public vats of boiling water, so people can have help making their pots and pans kosher for Passover. And everywhere, people are seen carrying home huge shopping bags of Passover food. The big tension is whether the kosher for Passover foods are acceptable for all Jews, or have legumes in them, which is fine for Sephardic Jews, but not Askenazic Jews!


An explanation. Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jews from the early middle ages on developed different customs than their European cousins. Of course for all traditional Jews, grains are forbidden. The Ashkenazic Rabbis, however, were so worried about people making mistakes about what they could and couldn’t eat on Passover, that they ruled that certain items that look like grains but weren’t really grains SHOULDN’T be consumed on Shabbat because it might be confusing. Sephardic Jews, on the other hand, eat legumes (called Kitniot in Hebrew). Legumes such as peas or peanuts, and other grainlike food such as rice might be confused with grains. Therefore, Ashkenazic Jews don’t eat them. The Sephardic Jews, on the other hand, DO eat them. So everything in the markets are labeled often saying things like “Kosher for Passover with no suspicion of Kitniyot,” or “Kosher for Passover for those who eat Kitniyot.” And the markets are filled with frantic people wondering which mayonnaise, or candy bars, for example, have kitniyot (peanut oil, or peanuts in the candy) and which don’t.  The Passover mayonnaise with kitniyot is right there next to the mayonnaise without. Add that to the huge crowds of people buying stuff, and you have chaos everywhere. We’re definitely not in the Midwest any more!

 Shabbat Shalom, and Chag Sameach