Yom HaZikaron starts Tomorrow night and Lessons the Plagues of Egypt Can Teach Us in The Era of Coronavirus and what is the shortest air route between continents in the Northern Hemisphere? and Israel’s Largest Trade Deal – The Annual Sale Of Its Chametz!By Saul Jay Singer
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
Yom HaZikaron (Hebrew: יוֹם הַזִּכָּרוֹן, lit. 'Memorial Day'), in full Yom HaZikaron LeHalalei Ma'arakhot Yisrael ul'Nifge'ei Pe'ulot HaEivah (Hebrew: יוֹם הזִּכָּרוֹן לַחֲלָלֵי מַעֲרָכוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל וּלְנִפְגְעֵי פְּעוּלוֹת הָאֵיבָה, lit. 'Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of the Wars of Israel and Victims of Actions of Terrorism', is Israel's official remembrance day, enacted into law in 1963. While Yom HaZikaron has been traditionally dedicated to fallen soldiers, commemoration has also been extended to civilian victims of terrorism.
In 1949 and 1950, the first two years after the declaration of the State, memorial services for soldiers who fell in the 1947–1949 Palestine war were held on Independence Day. Services at military cemeteries were coordinated between the IDF and the Ministry of Defense. A concern arose, expressed by families of fallen soldiers, to establish a separate memorial day observance distinct from the festive celebrations of national independence. In response, and in light of public debate on the issue, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion – also serving as Minister of Defense – established in January 1951 the "Public Council for Soldiers' Commemoration". This council recommended establishing the 4th of Iyyar, the day preceding Independence Day, as the "General Memorial Day for the Heroes of the War of Independence". This proposal won government approval that same year
Yom HaZikaron is the national remembrance day observed in Israel for all Israeli military personnel who lost their lives in the struggle that led to the establishment of the State of Israel and for those who have been killed subsequently while on active duty in Israel's armed forces. As of Yom HaZikaron 2019, that number was 23,741.
The day opens with a siren the preceding evening at 20:00 (8:00 pm), given that in the Hebrew calendar system, a day begins at sunset. The siren is heard all over the country and lasts for one minute, during which Israelis stop everything, including driving on highways, and stand in silence, commemorating the fallen and showing respect.
By law, all places of entertainment are closed on the eve of Yom HaZikaron, and broadcasting and educational bodies note the solemnity of the day. Regular television programs cease for the day, and the names and ranks of every soldier who died for Israel are displayed in a 24-hour television broadcast.
Since the founding of the state, Israel has chosen the Dam Hamaccabim flower (Hebrew: דם המכבים, "Blood of the Maccabees") as the national memorial flower. The flower is depicted in many memorial sites, and can be seen worn as stickers on shirts and jackets throughout Yom HaZikaron. Since 2019, the non-profit organization Dam HaMaccabim has been distributing pins with the real Red Everlasting flower throughout Israel and the United States.
Main memorial day
A two-minute siren is sounded at 11:00 the following morning, which marks the opening of the official memorial ceremonies and private remembrance gatherings at each cemetery where soldiers are buried.
Many Israelis visit the resting places of loved ones throughout the day.
National memorial services are held in the presence of Israel's top leadership and military personnel.
Memorial candles are lit in homes, army camps, schools, synagogues, and public places, and flags are lowered to half staff. Throughout the day, serving and retired military personnel serve as honor guards at war memorials throughout the country, and the families of the fallen participate in memorial ceremonies at military cemeteries.
Many traditional and religious Jews say prayers for the souls of the fallen soldiers on Yom HaZikaron. Special prayers prescribed by the Israeli rabbinate are recited. These include the recital of Psalm 9: "For the leader, on the death of the son," and Psalm 144: "Blessed be the Lord, My Rock, who traineth my hands for war and my fingers for battle" in addition to memorial prayers for the dead. The official ceremony to mark the opening of the day takes place at the Western Wall.[
Israeli TV channels screen the names of all civilians killed in pogroms since 1851, and all fallen from 1860 (considered the date of the beginning of the Yishuv by the Israeli Ministry of Defense), in chronological order (rank, name, Hebrew date deceased and secular date) over the course of the day.This has been mentioned in the West Wing episode "Memorial Day". Originally, this was done by the Israeli Broadcasting Authority's Channel 33; once the IBA was dissolved and replaced by the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, the screening itself was moved to KAN 11 in lieu of Makan 33. The day officially draws to a close at sundown (between 19:00 and 20:00; 7–8 p.m.) in a ceremony at the national military cemetery on Mount Herzl, marking the start of Israel Independence Day, when the flag of Israel is returned to full staff.
Scheduling Yom HaZikaron right before Independence Day is intended to remind people of the price paid for independence and of what was achieved with the soldiers' sacrifice. This transition shows the importance of this day among Israelis, most of whom have served in the armed forces, or have a connection with people who were killed during their military service.
To avoid the possibility of Sabbath desecration should either Yom HaZikaron or Independence Day take place on Saturday night, both are observed one or two days earlier (the 3rd and 4th, or the 2nd and 3rd, of Iyar) when the 5th of Iyar falls on a Friday or Saturday (Shabbat). Likewise, when Yom HaZikaron falls on Saturday night/Sunday day, both observances are rescheduled to one day later. This means that Yom HaZikaron is only actually observed on the 4th of Iyar if that date is a Tuesday. One time this occurred was in 2020.
When flying to Japan from the United States, why do most pilots never go directly through the Pacific Ocean? Most tend to go around it instead of through it. Wouldn't it be a faster flight if pilots went directly through the ocean?
Here is the direct line between San Francisco and Tokyo:
This was made using Google Earth, a 3D globe model of Earth. If you are unsure what you're looking at (after all, it doesn't look quite like an ordinary map of the world), America is to the right, and Russia and Japan are to the left. Aleutian islands of Alaska are right in the middle (where Russia and Alaska almost touch).
On a traditional, flat map of the earth, this line looks very much curved, going far north and then descending down south.
Flat maps of Earth are great for use on flat surfaces (books, computer screens, walls, etc), but because Earth is not flat, these maps simply cannot properly represent shapes and distances, so any straight line that goes further north (and close to the pole) will get distorted and curved when shown on a common flat map (the Mercator projection).
The straight line from Boston to Tokyo goes almost across the North Pole, while on your flat map, it would end up as a very long curve.
A flight between Boston, USA, and Astana, Kazakhstan, looks even more extreme. A straight line between these two goes directly across the North Pole:
Same route on a regular map:
Blue is a most direct, straight-looking line (on the globe); red is actually far longer, but on the traditional flat map, you could never believe it.
Many comments correctly say that the shortest route between two points on Earth follows the great circle, and how it can easily be seen by taking a string and stretching it on a school globe. I'm not sure how many people still get to ever see a physical globe, or how many have ever heard of the Great Circle. Google Earth provides a great virtual globe, which allows everyone (with a mobile phone, or computer) to try the same thing on their device, without having to search for an actual physical globe (a rarity these days). That's where the images above came from
Lessons the Plagues of Egypt Can Teach Us in The Era of Coronavirus
It is almost Passover in the State of Israel and still, the world is plagued with a deadly pandemic. Despite the vaccine rollout across the world, people are still dying across the world from coronavirus.
Yet, it is precisely at a time like this that we should look back at our history and try to learn from what happened in the past. For as the Turkish saying goes, "Those who don't know their history cannot predict their future."
It is true that the 10 plagues of Ancient Egypt were very different in nature from the coronavirus pandemic. For starters, the 10 plagues only targeted one nation, the ancient Egyptians, who enslaved and massacred the Jewish people of antiquity. As the Nile River turned into blood and the Egyptian people were infested with frogs, lice, flies, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness, the Jewish areas did not suffer anything.
Furthermore, as the Angel of Death smote the firstborn of every Egyptian, regardless of whether he was a pharaoh or a mere slave, the Jewish people stayed safely quarantined in their homes with lamb's blood marked clearly on their door, thus allowing that plague to pass them over.
In contrast, with this coronavirus pandemic, the entire world has been struck. The pandemic does not appear to differentiate between good and bad people, nor between nations within the free world and authoritarian regimes, where tyranny reigns.
It does not differentiate between Haredi Israelis in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, who proclaim to follow every letter of the Torah, and secular Israelis in Tel Aviv, who prefer to visit the beaches than the synagogues. Yet nevertheless, there are many parallels between the plague of darkness and the social distancing that this pandemic is forcing us all to do.
In the eyes of Pharaoh, the plague of darkness was one of the worst plagues. While the other plagues lasted for one week and were followed by three weeks of warnings, Pharaoh so could not bear the plague of darkness that after three days into that plague, he was willing to let every Israelite leave Egypt, so long as they left their herds and flocks behind.
This makes one ponder, what was so horrible about the plague of darkness? The answer to this question can be found in Exodus 10:23, which relates that the darkness was so thick that people could not get up and see one another. In other words, they could not socialize with each other.
As Rabbanit Devora Ushpizai explained, "Man, as we know, is a social creature and cannot live without society. Not only for receiving physical assistance when sick, or weak, or poor, and not only in order to share our joys or sorrows, but even simply to converse, study, exchange views, and in short to exist.
The principle 'it is not good for man to be alone' (Gen. 2:18) holds not only with regard to couples but also for every human being as a social creature. In the normal way of things, a person cannot live alone on an isolated island.
One of the more severe punishments today is putting a person in solitary confinement, in isolation." In fact, in the Torah, ostracism is one of the worst punishments that you can give a person. Indeed, being socially isolated in a thick darkness was a worse punishment in the eyes of pharaoh than frogs, lice, locusts, boils, hail, and having wild beasts roam the land.
Similarly, today, it is the social distancing and living in isolation under lockdown that is destroying people's mental health more than anything else associated with the coronavirus pandemic. People can stomach economic losses. People can recover from the loss of loved ones, even if it breaks the heart.
This is especially so if the lost loved person is elderly. However, living in isolation for a prolonged period can potentially cause irreversible psychological damage. According to a review of the psychological effects of quarantines, published in Lancet, a British medical journal, some studies suggest that the impact of quarantines can be so severe as to result in a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.
As the Economist reported, "If lockdowns stretch on for months, old people will suffer particularly acutely. Even before they were confined to their homes, they were more likely to feel lonely. Elderly women in Europe are more than twice as likely as men to live on their own. They rely on seeing family and friends to keep up their morale, or simply for a routine. Alfredo Rossi, an 80-year-old in Casalpusterlengo, one of the first areas of Italy to be put under lockdown in February, says that what upsets him most about the restrictions is being unable to see his grandchildren who live just 16km (ten miles) away in Piacenza across the River Po."
However, the report noted that lockdowns don't only encourage loneliness but also increased violence within the family: "Domestic violence, already endemic everywhere, rises sharply when people are placed under the strains that come from confined living conditions and worries about their security, health, and money, says Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the head of UN Women. Based on early estimates, she thinks that in some countries under lockdown, domestic violence could be up by about a third."
Living in lockdown under social isolation goes against our natural human instincts and our entire way of life, thus prompting many people to mentally collapse. In fact, the closure of synagogues is so painful to some Haredim in Israel that they are willing to break the law, just so long as they can continue to pray and gather as a community. This is how much they cannot tolerate social distancing and living under lockdown. For them, being cut off from their communal prayers is worse than enduring any monitory fine.
Yet as much as it is psychological torture for us to do so, the Passover story teaches us also what we must do in order to spare ourselves from this pandemic. Just as the ancient Israelis were able to escape the plague of the First Born by staying at home, also today we are told that we can outwit this pandemic by remaining within our homes. In fact, Jewish law mandates, "When there is an epidemic in the town, stay inside your home."
Jewish law also mandates handwashing, quick burial of the dead, and ritual purity practices, which improve general hygiene and thus helped the Jewish people whenever there was an epidemic in the past. As we celebrate Passover, it is prudent for us to do what our ancestors did in order to preserve our lives, so that we can persevere and thrive once this pandemic is behind us.
Israel's Largest Trade Deal – The Annual Sale Of Its Chametz!
The Torah declares, "For seven days no leavened matter shall be found in your houses" (Shemot 12:19) and "No leavened matter shall be seen by you, nor shall any leaven [itself] be seen by you, in all your borders, for seven days" (Shemot 12:19).
Although the Mishnah (Pesachim 21a) mentions selling chametz to a non-Jew before Passover, chametz sales were not de rigueur during pre-refrigeration historical times. Rather, Jews simply planned their chametz purchases and consumption so that, by the deadline on the 14th day of Nisan, only a small amount of chametz would remain that would require disposal.
However, the situation became thorny during the Middle Ages when Eastern and Central European Jews leased distilleries from landowning barons in exchange for a fixed price or a percentage of sales. (The Bach, a renowned halachic authority in 1630s Poland, writes that most Jewish commerce at the time was in liquor.) Since liquor is made from fermented grain and therefore constitutes pure chametz, the advent of Passover presented an epic problem for Jewish lessees, owners, manufacturers, and distributors of liquor, who could not simply sell or consume their entire stock before Pesach.
Similarly, food merchants, who would maintain large inventories of chametz, faced the loss of business not only during Passover but also during the subsequent weeks it would take to restock their inventory were they to discard it before Pesach. Equally important, Jewish customers would be unable to purchase chametz for many weeks after Passover. A further problem was that merchants often maintained large stocks such that even if they were somehow able to sell it all, the buyer would be unable to transfer it from the seller's property before the start of Pesach.
To resolve these problems, rabbinic authorities instituted a procedure whereby the chametz would be sold to a non-Jew for the duration of Passover. (The origins of this process is a discussion in Tosefta, Pesachim 2:6.) With a shtar mechirah – a contract for the sale of chametz – all chametz is legally sold to a non-Jew for the duration of Passover, but the contract allows the Jewish seller to repurchase his chametz after the holiday so that he can stay in business.
Many of the leading rabbanim at the time – including interestingly the author of the Tavu'ot Shor, who himself was a whiskey manufacturer – argued that the shtarmechirah was a sham because, among other reasons, everyone knew at the outset that the chametz would be returned to the seller after Pesach and because, unlike usual food sales, the buyer does not take actual possession of the chametz, nor does he pay full price for it.
Some Rabbinic leaders ruled that the shtar mechirah could be used only when the seller faced grave financial loss, but virtually all contemporary halachic authorities permit the shtar mechirah and characterize it as valid in every respect.
The question of the duty of a Jew owning shares in a company that owns chametz is complex – as we say in the vernacular, "consult your local rav" – but the duty of a wholly Jewish-owned company to dispose of its chametz before Passover is clear. Which leads to a fascinating question: How should a Jewish government dispose of its chametz? Answer: Through a shtar mechirah, like anyone else. But to whom does Israel sell its chametz? Therein lies a fascinating tale.
The purchaser of Israel's chametz for more than two decades has been Jabar Ismail Hussein (b. 1965), an Israeli Muslim from Abu Ghosh who serves as food and beverage manager at the Hilton Hotel in Jerusalem. Jabar has been the designated purchaser of all the chametz owned by every Israeli government ministry, including the chametz of the Israeli military and Israeli police, since 1998. He also purchases all the chametz from state-owned companies and food distributors, as well as the chametz sold through the Chief Rabbinate by privately-owned Israeli restaurants.
Ironically, Jabar became the designee for purchase after it was discovered that his predecessor, also a resident of Abu Ghosh, had a maternal grandmother who was Jewish – which meant that his mother was Jewish and that he was Jewish and thus ineligible to serve as a chametz purchaser under a shtar mechirah. Asked by an interviewer if he was familiar with the fact that his predecessor had a Jewish mother, he delightfully responded that he was a Moslem and "a goymehadrin."
Jabar was assigned the important responsibility when, in the course of his work at the Hilton, he met and became friendly with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who explained the details and significance of mechirat chametz and solicited him to purchase all of Israel's chametz. He also serves as Israel's "go-to non-Jew" for the purchase of land from the Chief Rabbinate during shemitta years.
A remarkable man, Jabar comes across like a fervent Zionist. He says that he finds inspiration from Menachem Begin, who was an honest man and faithful to his principles and to Israel, and that he is emotionally moved whenever he hears the public singing of HaTikvah. He is also a great admirer of President Trump, whom he commends for his courage in moving Israel's embassy to Jerusalem.
The process for the sale begins each year when Israel's finance minister, through the grant of a legal power of attorney, authorizes the Chief Rabbis to affect the sale of all the government's chametz. The non-Jewish purchaser then executes a contract with the Chief Rabbinate during a ceremony held at the offices of the Chief Rabbinate at Hechal Shlomo attended also by the Finance Minister.
For years, the buyer made a down payment of NIS 100,000 (about $32,000 today), payable to the Chief Rabbinate, for the purchase of some $150 billion of chametz assets; Jabar loves to joke that, for one week, he is the richest man in Israel, if not in the entire world. "It is a beautiful thing," he says.
He tells of receiving many inquiries during Passover week each year from hungry people in the territories and in east Jerusalem who ask him to give them some of "his bread" to eat; he explains to them that he does not actually have the food in his possession. (He says that his fellow neighborhood Arabs express no enmity regarding his helping the State of Israel with its "chametz problem.")
Nonetheless, the chametz is legally his in every sense of the word. Pursuant to the contract of sale, he receives a list of all chametz items and the keys to all relevant premises where the chametz is held, and he retains the right to enter any government site to inspect his chametz.
An important condition of the contract is that the non-Jewish purchaser must tender the balance of the purchase price (billions of shekalim) by the end of Passover. Under the terms of the shtar mechirah, if he breaches the contract by failing to make the payment – which, of course, he always does – it is legally void and all the chametz that was the subject of the sale reverts to its owner, with the return of the deposit to the purchaser.
In this sense, the State of Israel contract of sale is no different than any contract whereby an individual Jew sells his chametz, usually through the designation of his rav to serve as the agent for the sale.
Exhibited here is an incredible original document from my collection, an actual shtarmechirah executed by Rav Shlomo Goren, then head of the Military Rabbinate of Tzahal (the IDF) and later Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi, whereby he sells all of Tzahal's chametz to Laviv Naser al-Din, a Druze from Daliyat al-Carmel, who affirms that he is not a Jew and signs the contract in both Arabic and Hebrew. Al-Din has gone on to purchase Tzahal's chametz for some 40 years.
There appears to be a slight anomaly with respect to the date, as Rav Goren has filled it in as "Nisan 14 1969 at 8:45 a.m.," while at the same time crossing out the printed year "1969" and writing in "1970." However, this was almost certainly a 1970 shtar mechirah because R. Goren has also crossed out the word "second" in the phrase "the second year since the liberation of the unified Jerusalem" (which would be 1969) and handwritten in "the third year…" Lest there be any doubt, he has also written an unambiguous " = 1970."
The contract requires a deposit of 50 lira for chametz and items that contain chametz, 25 lira for animals, 25 lira for places that have chametz and animals, and 25 lira for utensils and sacks. Rav Goren executes the contract on behalf of:
the Ministry of Defense, the Soldiers' Welfare Committee, institutions in the Prime Minister's office, individual military soldiers and officers, and all on behalf of whom he has permission who are "stitched and glued to" [i.e., relying upon] this contract of sale, and all who have authorized me to sell all their chametz and chametz mixtures under their control, in their homes, boundaries, and other places and that may come into their possession before the end of Passover…
The materials sold pursuant to the shtar mechirah are very broad indeed:
wheat, barley buckwheat/kasha, stalks of grain, rye, flour from all these, challahs and bread from all these, bran from all these, all kinds of filled dumplings/kreplach, wantons, pastry, yeast and all kinds of groats, pearl barley grits of all kinds and liquor and all kinds of spirits, and all kinds of intoxicants and all kinds of whiskey and wines improved by leavening, all kinds of leavening made from sour liquid, all kinds of chocolate and sugar concoctions and all kinds of sugar mixtures, all kinds of wheat milk and Corrine (?) starch and all kinds of medications and cosmetics and (body) paint, and all kinds of leavening and leavening mixtures not otherwise specified herein, all of which is within this sale, and also horses and cattle, and all kinds of animals and birds.
The contract is guaranteed by one Ze'ev ben Zvi Dafni and signed and witnessed by two kosher Jews, Yehuda ben Simcha Shmuel and Shmuel Zalman Yod.
Rav Goren was a seminal figure in modern Jewish history, and the story of his role in bringing matzot to the soldiers of the Palmach and Haganah during the fight for a Jewish state in 1948 is well worth telling. As the rav describes the situation in his autobiography, there were only about 2,000 pounds of matzah for consumption by 100,000 Jews in Jerusalem over the seven days of Pesach; outside provisions were blocked by Arab blockades, and there were insufficient supplies for all the people of the city to hold even a nominal seder.
The military governor of Jerusalem decided to allocate the scant matzah supplies to the city's civilians, but Rav Goren could not stand the very idea that the first Jewish soldiers to fight for Jerusalem in two millennia would be forced to eat chametz on Pesach. Unable to convince the governor to reallocate the matzot, he unilaterally undertook a one-man campaign, broke into the warehouse, and distributed the remaining matzot to the Jewish fighters.
Then, knowing that the soldiers would have to remain at their posts and could ill-afford the luxury of attending an hours-long seder, he organized shortened Passover sedarim so that the soldiers could at least satisfy their minimum halachic obligations. He enlisted the services of yeshiva student volunteers who left their classrooms and families to join their fellow Jews in their outposts and foxholes and, under sniper fire and mortar bombardment, they held abbreviated sedarim.
Some of the soldiers had a very special guest that seder night: not only Elijah the prophet, but also David Ben-Gurion, who arrived in besieged Jerusalem that evening in a Piper Cub plane from Tel Aviv. Exhibited here is a rare, historic, and deeply emotional original photograph of Ben-Gurion attending a seder on April 23, 1948 at a Haganah base in Jerusalem.
In encouraging the soldiers to continue their fight for the Holy City, Ben-Gurion, though himself not religiously observant, inspired them through reminders that this was the first time in 2,000 years of exile that Jews could celebrate Passover, the "Festival of Freedom," as free men in their own land.
He reminded them that while every seder for thousands of years had ended with an exclamation of "Next Year in Jerusalem," this night they were actually in Jerusalem fighting for the liberation of the city they had never forgotten through the long and dark exile.
May this be our last Pesach in galut, and l'shana habaa B'Yerushalayim! Wishing a chag kasher v'sameach to all.
See you tomorrow bli neder which will be
Yom HaZikaron in the evening.
Yom Ha'atzmaut, lit. "Day of Independence") follow the next day Wednesday Evening and Thursday