Lonely Man of Cake

March 29, 2007

Israel-German Relations in the Wake of the Holocaust

Filed under: Automotive,History,Israel,Judaism,Transportation — lonelymanofcake @ 5:12 pm

I was looking to get the contact information for Volkswagen Israel (to file a complaint about the abhorrent service at their Jerusalem garage), and I came across a short article from TIME Magazine, dated April 11, 1969 regarding relations between Israel and (West) Germany almost 25 years after the Holocaust.  Here is a poignant excerpt:

Two numbers tell much about the life and times of Chaim Serna, 43, a power-company foreman in Jerusalem. One of them, 108342, is tattooed on his left forearm, a souvenir of Auschwitz. The other is 612214 on the license of his blue Volkswagen.

The article indicates that it was stipulated that much of $900,000,000 in reparations paid by West Germany to Israel between 1953 and 1965 had to be spent on German goods.   Thus the rumor which I had debunked regarding why many Israeli taxis are of German manufacture may be founded on the memories of older generations.

(Does anyone else find it insensitive that the author refers to the survivor’s tattoo a “souvenir of Auschwitz”?)


Israeli Gas Prices, April 2007

Filed under: Automotive,Conservation,Israel,Transportation — lonelymanofcake @ 4:49 pm

The new Israeli gas prices, which are calculated in the final days of a given month and updated on the 1st of the month,  as of April 1, 2007:

$5.20 per-gallon of 95 Octane (which in Israel is considered “regular unleaded”).
This is calculated at 5.73 NIS per-liter, with the shekel closing at 4.17 NIS to the US Dollar.

March 28, 2007

Pesach Petrol

Filed under: Biofuel,Diaspora,Faith,Judaism,Orthodoxy,Passover,Religion,Transportation — lonelymanofcake @ 3:59 pm

In thirty years, when rabbis will have issued a real prohibition against fueling with Ethanol on Pesach, people will find it hard to believe that this was a parody. (UPDATE: The New York Times caught the story [Times Select req’d].)

Of course, there is no (current) prohibition against deriving benefit from kitniyot, of which Ethanol is a derivative. I put “current” in parentheses because earlier last century kitniyot derivatives, like corn syrup, were permitted for use on Pesach as they fall under neither of the main “rationales” for kitniyot. This is no longer the case, with the Kosher for Pesach Coca Cola craze being a prime example. It wouldn’t surprise me if those who follow the mistaken custom of not consuming kitniyot on Pesach continue to expand the scope of the ban, much as they already have, until the innovated stringencies are so expansive that the people forget that kitniyot are not chametz. It is precisely in that type of atmosphere in which the ground would be fertile for a declaration that would prohibit even benefiting from kitniyot, Ethanol fueled vehicles included.

Many folks have extra sets of dishes for Pesach. Some people even have a totally separate kitchen for Pesach. Are we going to see special Pesach cars?

March 27, 2007

Cannabis Kitniyos

Filed under: Israel,Judaism,Orthodoxy,Passover,Politics,Religion — lonelymanofcake @ 4:51 pm

Israel’s (very secular) pro-marijuana party עלה ירוק (Green Leaf) has apparently entered the halakhic sphere and issued a notice which states that marijuana is considered kitniyot (definition), as it is related to hemp (or not), which is apparently kitniyot.

Some musings:

  1. It would be funny if marijuana was actually considered chametz. Would selling your chametz then be considered a criminal act? (Note: Kitniyot need not be sold.)
  2. Does inhalation amount to the halakhic standards for consumption? (The Gemara in Tractate Avodah Zarah speaks about this with regard to inhaling smells emanating from an idol worship ceremony. If I’m not mistaken, the Tosafists say that inhalation is to be considered a category of drinking… I’ll dig up the source.)
  3. What of hashish, which is a marijuana derivative?

I’m not sure how to read into the fact that this “psak” has so far appeared only in English language publications.

(Hat tip: yeho)

On Hebrish

Filed under: Academia,America,Hebrew,Hebrish,Israel — lonelymanofcake @ 4:06 pm

I was looking for literature on the penetration of Hebrew into the daily lexicons of English speakers in Israel (e.g., I need to get an ishur [permit] from the Iriyya [municipality] for the shiputzim [renovations] we’re doing on the mirpeset [deck/porch]), as I was mitlabet-ing (contemplating) a post on the subject.

I used “Hebrish” as my search term and came across a wonderful article from the JPost (from the year 2000, when said paper was producing better quality material) which discusses the converse of what I was looking for: the penetration of English terms into the Hebrew lexicon.

Call it the effects of globalization, the proliferation of the Internet in Israeli homes, or even a side-effect of post-Zionism, English has become a driving force in the modernization of the Hebrew lexicon, even to the extent that some English idioms have crept into Hebrew.  I hope to come back to this topic later in greater depth.

That Wallpaper

Filed under: General,Internet,Technology — lonelymanofcake @ 3:47 pm

As much as I dislike using Windows, the geeks over at Microsoft attempt to make the experience a bit more pleasant by including some stunning wallpaper images which you can use as a background for your desktop.  Like this one (in which the color is a bit off):

It’s called “Autumn” and a writer for Vanity Fair became obsessed with the photo and locating where it was taken.  It took him over a year to find it.  Read the story here.

Matzah Bus

Filed under: America,Culinary,Diaspora,Judaism,Orthodoxy,Passover,Religion — lonelymanofcake @ 3:28 pm

Read about the matzah bus, or watch the video.  And is it just me, or do local news shows take themselves way too seriously?

March 25, 2007

America’s Top 50 Rabbis

Filed under: America,Diaspora,Faith,Judaism,Religion — lonelymanofcake @ 10:31 pm

Newsweek’s list of America’s 50 most influential rabbis.

Aw, no family members this year… Maybe next time around.

Awesome Stop-Motion Videos

Filed under: General,Internet — lonelymanofcake @ 5:46 pm


Filed under: Academia,Culinary,General,Israel,Religion — lonelymanofcake @ 5:02 pm

Balashon has a nice piece regarding the etymology of the word חזרת (hazeret), which is said by the Mishna (Pesahim 2:6) to constitute one of the viable alternatives for Maror, the bitter herb which was once consumed together with the Pesah sacrifice and is nowadays eaten symbolically at the Seder.

He notes that none of the great lexicographers offered an etymology for the word, which he suspects might be related to the root חזר (to return).

Immediately upon reading his post, I felt a sneaking suspicion that the word derives from the name for a Greek vegetable. After poking around a bit, I came up with a suitable candidate – the horta (pictured), which is said to be a little bitter.

At this point, I hypothesized that חזרת is a corrupt Hebrew transliteration of the Greek horta (χορτα). If transliterated correctly into Hebrew, the word should resemble this:חורת. There is already a resemblance between the word in question, חזרת, and the Greek vegetable, חורת.

You’ll then ask why our pronunciation of חזרת (hazeret) sounds nothing like hort(a). I consulted with one of the better manuscripts of the Mishna, MS Kaufmann (excerpt below, courtesy of the Jewish National and University Library Online Treasury of Talmudic Manuscripts). You’ll see that the difference between the vav and zayin, is quite subtle, much like it is in modern Hebrew print; the difference of one small jutting piece.

As for the pronunciation of the word, we know that MS Kaufmann was vocalized secondarily, i.e., not by the scribe responsible for the manuscript, but by a later hand. Thus, he may have pointed this word not according to a received tradition, but according to his own judgment.

Though pure conjecture, and though I have not looked in any books, which would be the responsible thing to do before making such a sweeping assertion, I think that this theory might actually hold some water. I’ll annotate as soon as I get to the library.

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