It’s a good thing . . .

. . . that I’m not drinking Dr. Pepper now, because most of the few stores in Israel that sold it have removed it from their shelves. It seems there is a kosher issue, of sorts.

Don’t be alarmed, the formula of the sweet delight hasn’t been changed. It’s still the pleasure that you remember,  even if you prefer Dublin Dr. Pepper over Dr. Pepper.  (If you don’t know what Dublin Dr. Pepper means, skip over it for now.)

You can read some blog reports about what happened to Israel’s limited supply of Dr. Pepper, but I’ll thumbnail it for you here: The Dr. Pepper company in Britain, which apparently is a major importer to Israel, has a hechsher (kosher stamp) from an organization that “certifies” OR “approves” items as kosher. There’s a difference, and this is where it can get tricky.

“Approves” means that based on an interview with the company the supervisor determines the product is kosher. “Certifies” means the kosher supervisor actually visits the company and inspects the product to determine it is kosher. In a case where the supervisor certifies an item as kosher, that certification is valid only in Britain. Thus when the certified cans of Dr. Pepper were shipped to Israel, the certification became invalid. The end result of this discovery (the illegitimate kosher stamp) was that the London-sourced cans were removed from the shelf, leaving mostly French or Polish made Dr. Pepper. And, who wants one of those?

For those with no experience with kosher rules and/or practices, this may sound really strange or overbearing or unnecessary. But in the Orthodox Jewish world, following the dietary rules isn’t something left up to chance or personal choice.

If you have little or no idea what kosher is, you can read more in this article by the Kosher London Beis Din, “. . .  one of the world leading kosher certification agencies operating in 50 countries across 6 continents.. . . “

Here’s a Test of Significant Proportions

According to Israel National News, a group of Jews have petitioned the Jerusalem District Police (again) to allow them to make the biblically proscribed Passover lamb sacrifice ON the Temple Mount.

In some sense this petition will once again be a test of Israel’s sovereignty over the Temple Mount, but to what degree is unclear because of the issue of political expediency. I don’t believe for a minute that the government of Israel is willing to face the wrath of the Islamic world in order to allow a minority Jewish group to practice a religious ceremony on the Temple Mount. They haven’t in the past, and I don’t expect that to change in  the near future.

Recent history (only the last few months is necessary) gives us a small example of what would happen if such a ceremony were to take place: Jews arrested for praying on Temple Mount, or declaration of Israeli heritage sites in Bethlehem and Hebron sparks clashes.

And it should be noted that if the ceremony is allowed to happen, the opposition will not be from the Islamic world alone.

The Four Species

Leviticus 23:40 (NKJV) – “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the [1] fruit of beautiful trees, [2] branches of palm trees, the [3] boughs of leafy trees, and [4] willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.”

The four items noted above are called the Four Species and can be seen being used (in the photo below) in a celebration/prayer ritual at the Western Wall during the Feast of Tabernacles.

Day of Atonement: Kaparot

Kaparot is a controversial practice among some orthodox Jews whereby they sacrifice a chicken prior to the Day of Atonement. It is controversial in many quarters: among the animal rights activists, among the religiously non-observant, and among biblicists.

The animal rights activists are against this practice for a variety of reasons: the most obvious reason being that the chickens’ throats are being cut with a razor blade. However, they also protest this practice as being cruel because the chickens are reportedly kept in small boxes standing in the sun without food or water sometimes for up to a few days. Some also suggest that the way the chickens are secured by their wings being held back, can only cause pain and distress for the chickens.

The religiously non-observant see this practice as ghoulish and cruel, suggesting that placing sins on someone else is unfair or silly. Some simply protest it as nothing more than superstitious cruelty.

The biblicist finds this practice controversial because it sort of resembles the Day of Atonement ritual in that it captures the element of substitutionary atonement, but misses most of the details: The biblical practice of which this is a derivative is described in Leviticus 16 and includes a priest, sacred clothing, incense, a holy place, a bull, a ram and two goats; none of which are either available for or used in the kaparot ceremony.

WARNING: The video is VERY graphic!

Why Do They . . . ?

I can’t begin to guess how many visitors have asked me, “Why do they grow those side-curl things?” For those who haven’t been around this type of religious Jew before, the sight of “peyos” can be quite fascinating. And I have to admit, even though I have been quite exposed to “peyos,” I find the variety of peyos fascinating.

Apparently, there are many ways to observe the commandment,”You shall not shave around the sides of your head, nor shall you disfigure the edges of your beard (Leviticus 19:27, NKJV),” because in Jerusalem, one can see all types of peyos: short, medium and long peyos; straight, curled and unkept peyos; clearly visible and peyos that are hidden around the ear or under the skullcap.

The longest peyos I’ve ever seen dropped to the young man’s belt. I wonder if he ever struggled with pride in having the longest peyos in Jerusalem.

Clearly, peyos are an effort to fulfill a commandment, but they also seem to serve as a comforter because I often see men nervously playing with their peyos, which usually involves repeatedly wrapping and re-wrapping them around the index finger. Sometimes I see men chewing or sucking on their peyos, which is probably some type of comforter, but seems weird to me. Of course, I’ve never had hair long enough to suck on it; perhaps it’s more compelling than I imagine.

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