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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Things that are weird in Israel #17: Bread, bread, everywhere.

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This picture is sadly pretty typical for our neighbourhood.   There is bread on the ground, on sewer covers, almost literally everywhere.

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Luckily, I knew about this before I came to Israel.  According to halacha, you’re not supposed to throw away useable bread – which is defined as anything bigger than a kezayis (olive-sized piece) worth.  (This may apply to other food as well.)

What this means, in practice, is that all over Israel, instead of throwing away bread, people leave it out (as seen here), or leave it in plastic bags, hanging from recycle bins, dumpsters, and other public spots while the contents get moldy, slimy, and disgusting.

Ostensibly, if it’s laid out like this, then people are feeding animals (presumably birds?) with it, rather than wasting it.  But the birds here are kind of picky, and judging from the mold on these rolls, not all that interested in everybody’s cast-off crusts.

I believe it’s a very good thing to think of bread as something special, as something holy, even.  We should put in time and effort to make it.  We should make it as healthy and delicious as possible, and savour it while we’re eating it.  Bread is absolutely one of the holy things.  Mahatma Gandhi said “There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”

But you know what’s holier than bread?  Israel.

Duh.

How many times does the Torah mention saving your bread in a plastic baggie?  (Hint: zero – bal tashchis, not throwing away useable stuff, is hinted at in the context of a battle scene.)

How many times does the Torah tell us to live in Israel, walk in Israel, protect Israel, cherish Israel?  (Hint: quite a lot.)

And maybe this is why this bread-leaving custom bothers me so much.  This land is dirty, messy, cluttered, and people don’t seem to mind or care.  But then they make a huge deal over one relatively minor halacha (compared to the Land of Israel!). 

In last week’s parsha, Ki Sisa, we read about a clash of mitzvos – the mitzvah of keeping Shabbos, which came right in the middle of building the mishkan.  And Hashem says, “Ach…”

Sure, the Mishkan is holy, BUT, you should keep Shabbos, and that should be your priority.

Someone needs to come along, look around at all this bread, and say, “Ach…”

Sure, bread is holy, BUT,  you should keep Eretz Yisrael, make it beautiful, even.  That should be your priority.

Because right now – yuck – it sure isn’t.

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The “crust of bread” quote comes from a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar.  Enjoy!

A crust of bread and a corner to sleep in,
A minute to smile and an hour to weep in,
A pint of joy to a peck of trouble,
And never a laugh but the moans come double;
And that is life!

A crust and a corner that love makes precious,
With a smile to warm and the tears to refresh us;
And joy seems sweeter when cares come after,
And a moan is the finest of foils for laughter;
And that is life!

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


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