PESACH PRICE FIXING
I think you’ve been asked this before. Why are Pesach prices so much more expensive than kosher food throughout the rest of the year? What exactly makes the price go up so much?
Let’s see: there is the cost of the supervisor who goes into the plant to make sure it’s all OK. No, wait! He does that anyway all through the year to make sure it’s kosher; maybe a few extra hours before Pesach but not much difference. Well, the added labels and ink that say “kosher for Passover,” costs extra – but if you consider that the word kosher is already on there, that should allow for a discount of some percent. So that theory doesn’t work either. Well, I did some research online and found the answer in Wikipedia – the online Encyclopedia. “Highway Robbery: A mugging that takes place outside and in a public place such as a sidewalk, street, or parking lot.” I’ve written to them to make an edit adding in, ‘or kosher for Pesach prices.’
I remember when a good few years ago a whole group of Rabbis signed a price gouging ban in New York. To quote: “Now before Passover…we are reminding people of the Jewish law concerning monopolies.”
The rabbis further cautioned store owners to have mercy on the consumer all year round, but particularly at Passover when there is so much need. “And it is forbidden to take advantage of market prices before the holiday and to raise prices without a justifiable reason,” they warned. Maybe it’s time we get Rabbis here to sign something similar. You think? Fat chance!
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?
This may sound silly but my wife and I disagree about how much is the right amount to help someone for Pesach? Your advice will be our guide.
It is told that Rabbi Solovechik was once asked by a man whether it was permissible to drink milk instead of wine for the Four Cups at the Seder. The Rabbi inquired whether it was for health reasons and when the man replied that he simply could not afford the wine, the Rabbi gave him a large sum of money. When his disciples inquired as to why he offered more than four times the amount required to purchase wine, he replied: “If he was going to use milk instead of wine then obviously he wasn’t going to have meat or chicken either which cannot be eaten with milk. I had to assume it was more than the wine he could not afford and so gave him enough to purchase all his Pesach needs. Bottom line: Use your own common sense and be the judge!
WHAT’S IN A LETTER?
I’ve been studying up on Passover and came across two different versions in just the opening word of the prayer book. One says, “This is the bread of affliction,” and another version reads, “This is like the bread of affliction.” I would think the second version makes more sense. What do you think?
Let’s consider the passage in context. As we recite this prayer book, otherwise known as the Hagadah we begin with, “this is like the bread of affliction that our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt.” Sure it makes sense to refer to the matzah on our table as being like the bread they ate then. If we were to say, “this is the bread of affliction that our forefathers ate,” then you’d be able to make a killing selling it in Sotheby’s for a small fortune with which you could be spending Passover in Miami. Hence the rationale for the version that you prefer.
However, there is a fundamental principle that on Passover eve we are not supposed to just be sitting there recollecting some historical event of the past. “In every generation man should see himself as though he personally went out from Egypt.” You have to relive the events in a very real and tangible way. And if you appreciate the experience on such a level then “this is the bread of affliction…”
I think there is another interesting spin that could be put on this in our present situation. For many, going through Jewish ritual is a tedious traditional burden from which we might feel detached. We go through the motions because that’s what Gramps used to do. Our life is too good to get bogged down with too much ‘Jewish stuff.’ “Yeah this is like the bread of affliction, now pass the bitter herbs, clear my sinuses and let’s get down to the chicken soup and kneidlech.” Today much of society has been dealt a dose of reality. Unfortunately, life is not as much on an even keel. People are feeling the pinch and this bread of affliction is alas all too real. “This is the bread of affliction.” Somewhere along the road to our riches, we became so self-obsessed with material pursuits and our next conquest. Now we are forced into a position whereby we become that much more focussed and regain some perspective.
Amazingly that one Hebrew letter which makes all the difference between “this is like” and “this is,” conveys a powerful message in how we should approach life. We should always appreciate our humble beginnings and by extension the constant blessings in our lives. It’s OK to come knocking on Heaven’s door when things are tough. Just be sure to thank Him when the going is good as well.
By Rabbi YY Schochet MA CIArb