Mar 13, 2012

Rabbi Creditor: Words Like "Chocolate"

a note from Rabbi Creditor
Words Like "Chocolate"
19 Adar, 5772
March 13, 2012
Dear Chevreh,


First, a joke I remember reading as a child in The Joys of Yiddish, by Leo Rosten:


There once was a Russian man who received a telegram from his wife which read: "DOCTOR SAYS OPERATE OPERATE." The husband then cabled back immediately this telegram: "DOCTOR SAYS OPERATE OPERATE." This exchange aroused the suspicions of the authorities, who immediately investigated to see if this was some secret code. But the husband protested that the authorities were simply misreading the telegram. Clearly what the wife said was: ¨Doctor says operate. Operate?¨ And the reply: ¨Doctor says operate?! Operate!!¨


What sounds like one thing can mean quite another. It all depends on context.

Pesach is coming up soon, and with it culinary tradition and memory. Matza balls that float (or don't), chopped liver (here's a great recipe for a Pesadik  vegetarian version), and, for me, the greatest foodstuff that came along with Pesach was chocolate. On this holiday of freedom, I and my sisters were free to indulge in lots and lots of chocolate: macaroons, jellies, nuts, creams - even orange peels. (I never really understood that one, but didn't let it stop me.)

But what sounds like one thing can mean quite another. I never thought to ask where all that chocolate came from. Perhaps I imagined Kosher Willy Wonka and redeemed Oompa Loompas creating Jewish holiday treats. But this Pesach there will be no chocolate at my Seder Table. Why? Because, as Danish journalist Miki Mistrati exposed in his heartbreaking
 documentary "The Dark Side of Chocolate", filmed during his visit to Cote d'Ivoire, not only are children working in the world's cocoa fields, many are trafficked there, working involuntarily,and in hazardous conditions. There is no Kosher for Pesach Fair Trade Chocolate to date.


So what does "Chocolate" mean? It all depends on context. 


Similarly, I just finished my learning with the Shorashim Hebrew School and Amitim students. I shared with them Rosten's joke, and then asked them if they had friends who did not know what the word "Netivot" meant. Most raised their hands. Then I asked the children to tell me what I meant when I used the word "Netivot." Most pointed to our shul itself. But I didn't mean our shul. I was referring to the city of Netivot in Israel where, just hours ago, a Grad rocket fired from Gaza exploded in a parking lot, injuring more than 20 people. Imagine reading the headline: "Rocket hits Netivot parking lot." You can. Just click here.


Context matters. It takes an understanding of context to truly hear, to see beyond words into reality. And we can do something about that. 
Fair Trade Judaica is working toward a world inwhich Jewish consumers recognize fair trade as an expression of core Jewish values, seek out fair trade Judaica products, and use their purchasing power to support thriving


The Arava Institute of Kibbutz Keturah (which counts Rom Rosenblum and Debby Graudenz among its visionary founders) prepares future Arab and Jewish leaders to cooperatively solve the region's environmental challenges. With a student body comprised of Jordanians, Palestinians, Israelis, and students from around the world, the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies offers students a unique opportunity to study and live together for an extended period of time; building networks and developing understanding that will enable future cooperative work and activism in the Middle East and beyond. Support the Arava Institute's vision of Israelis and Palestinians collaboratively envisioning a sustainable world by clicking here.


As we will say at our Seders this year about Matzah, the bread of our freedom:
All who are hungry, let them enter and eat.
All who are in need, let them come celebrate Pesach.
Now we are here. Next year in the land of Israel.
Now we are enslaved. Next year we will be free!
Let's do our part in bringing this Jewish vision of universal liberation just one step closer. 

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