How to Outfrum your Opponent? No Congregational Coffee for Passover!
The Zallies have figured out a way to give — or should I say NOT give– the people what they want and at the same time bolster their ranks and popularity: no coffee in shul for Passover.
“Frum” means religious; frumkeit is the noun — the quality of being frum, and the more the merrier. The Haredi community in America has for decades now progressively inched heir way into a more and more restrictive interpretation and adherence of the law. Any transgression of the strictest interpretation of the law being portrayed as a cowardly submission to the allure of the “Golden America”, the contest has been raging for many years now. Who can be the “frummest”, par excellence? Who is the greatest kashrut observer?
“You eat OU? get outa here — my family buys only hasan sofer or better”, one kid in school would boast, to which the other would respond, “I can beat that, my family is so frum they only eat either edah hahredith or hithahduth.”
But the year round braggadocio pales campared to the boasting opportunities presented during the Passover holiday season. In addition to the bragging rights of having the latest-finishing seder in the class –it would have to be in the vicinity of 4-5 a.m. to even be a contender for that title– kids can also compare chametz-avoidance strictures, such as to what lengths a family goes to prevent any liquid coming into contact with the matzah (there’s a possibility that some flour remains on the cracker and it would then surreptitiously conspire with water to rise into the wicked and forbidden leaven) and how far daddy would go in applying the rule that “men misht zich nisht” – we don’t mix: even families within the same congregation, who would otherwise trust each other on keeping a kosher home, wouldn’t do so on Passover, the only time of the year when even the minutest scrap of chametz renders an entire food mixture unfit for consumption –it is not declared cancelled in sixty parts as would be if it were pig, for example. And worst of all, the punishment for consumption of such a smattering of chametz: “Kareth”–permanent symbolic banishment from the community and/or presence of God. So, the best advice, goes the conventional wisdom, is to be super super careful. How careful? Try to add something to the list of strictures that your parents and friends could have never imagined, such as not eating any processed products including dairy or peeling every vegetable twice instead of once.
In the case of the Zallies (Satmar faction under leadership of Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum), there is an additional motive. They need to distinguish themselves from the enemy camp, that hated Aaronim. Why are they –the Zallies– better? Why should someone on the fence choose them in this increasingly democratized Satmar of the new Millennium? What is the “value-added” component they offer to their constituents? It’s a new interpretation of the no mixing rule! Not only can you not eat food prepared by another congregant but you cannot even trust the congregation itself! Who knows what the shamas (sexton) mixes into the coffee or sugar when nobody is looking?
Yet, in Satmar you can have your cake and it too… yes, even on Passover. And so, there are reports that the Bene Joel (who are allied with the Zallies) in Kiryas Joel pay a “coffee visit” to the grand Satmar synagogue under the direction of their archenemy Rabbi Aaron, since their own synagogues don’t supply the daily pre-morning prayer coffee fix.
And Aaron is left pondering: is it compliment that the Bene Joel DO need him after all; they must resort to his services one way another. Or, are they “exploiting” him under the reasoning that they are too devout to have coffee in THEIR shul. But since Aaron is offering it anyway and has already succumbed to the temptation of NOT being sufficiently stringent, then it’s okay for them to then utilize that as an opportunity to satisfy their coffee needs.
teiku, let is stand!