Sunday, March 25, 2007

What's Today's Date? Look in the Supermarket

In America, supermarkets are colored black and orange before Halloween. Happy turkeys are led to the slaughter before Thanksgiving. And red and green banners mingle with snow and santas around, say, nine months before Christmas.

In Israel, we do it according to the Jewish holidays. Around one month before:
  • Passover: boxes of matza, matza meal, wines, kosher l'pesach this and that, such as cereals and cakes, and lots of dishes and silverware.
  • Lag Ba'omer: barbecues, coals, and tongs, and meats.
  • Shavuot: dairy products and cheesecakes.
  • Rosh Hashana: honey, honey cakes, wines, and apples, along with honey serving trays and nuts.
  • Sukkot: sukkah decorations.
  • Hanukkah: oil, potatoes, gold-foil covered coins, candles, and menorahs.
  • Tu B'shvat, nuts and dried fruit, loose an in gift baskets.
  • Purim: hametashen, noisemakers, candies and little bottles of wine for shaloch manot.
You can plan your diet around the Jewish holiday cycle:

Go shopping before Passover.
Drink wine and eat matza and vegetables on Passover.
Eat meat on Lag Ba'Omer.
Wait three weeks.
Drink milk on Shavuot.
Don't eat for a few months.
Eat honey and cakes on Rosh Hashana.
Beg some food from your neighbors on Sukkot.
Eat oils, donuts, and salty snacks on Hanukkah.
Eat fruits on Tu B'shvat.
Eat whatever is left on Purim. Drink the rest of the wine.
Wash the dishes(*) and sweep up the crumbs.


The funny thing about Passover foodstuffs in the supermarket is the mingling of old and new products. For many years, we were astonished that we could buy store-bought cookies at all. They were terrible, but they were cookies! For Passover!

These same cookies lasted for about fifty years. In the last twenty years or so, we began making progress with Passover baking, until today when we have a ridiculously large selection of incredibly good cakes and cookies for Passover.

But the old one, the ones our mothers and grandmothers bought, are still available, and still terrible. They continue to sell because of brand recognition.

Sounds like another industry I know.


In Israel we have a vast mixture of "kitniyot" and "non-kitniyot" products, which means stuff Ashkenazim don't eat, and stuff that everyone eats.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that there are vast levels of differences in levels of kitniyot, everything that anyone even suspects of being kitniyot to some group is simply labeled kitniyot. The assumption is that people are too dumb to understand the complexities, so better safe than sorry.

Unfortunately, they're right, and the vast majority of Ashkenazim swallow this (or don't swallow this) by refraining from buying anything labeled kitniyot, even if the ingredient only "became kitniyot" last year due to a phonetic misunderstanding.

For instance, until three years ago, the only cheap oil that Ashkenazim ate was cotton-seed oil or "shemen cotenet". In the last year or two, someone decided that "cotenet" sounds too much like "kitniyot", so it should be labeled kitniyot to avoid confusion. Now cotton seed oil is pretty disgusting, and no one uses it except Ashkenazim on Passover. As a result, you won't find any cotton-seed oil on shelves this year.

The same is true for derivatives of kitniyot, newly "discovered" kitniyot, and so forth. I researched the issue and decided to do hataras nedarim on the later kitniyot abuses, and so now only keep the original and major kitniyot laws. And the latter only for tradition and family's sake, since, as an Israeli, I could probably just declare myself bound by the custom of the state, which is not to observe kitniyot at all.

But consult your Rabbi or posek, please.


To add insult to injury, if keeping time by the supermarket wasn't bad enough, the radio station advertisements are here to help us out. For the month leading up to any holiday, especially Passover, the jingles are all bastardizations of popular melodies relating to that holiday.

"Who knows one? I know one! One is the best body wax service in the heaven and the Earth! Accepted by all major health clinics!"


Passover Game: A traditional Passover game is to hide ten pieces of bread around the house so that when you go searching your house to remove all hametz, you make sure to find these pieces of bread.

This is a dumb game, because if you fail, you end up having pieces of bread in your house over Passover. I suggest instead to simply hide ten pieces of paper that say "hametz" on them.


The State of Israel has its own blog and Myspace page. The Myspace page reads:
58 years old

(*) Ah, just throw 'em out and buy new ones.

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