Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Pyromaniacs in Jerusalem
(This picture, which I think is great, is from the site SaveTheAssistants.com. If you're an assistant, you'll love it).
Saturday night was the beginning of Passover (פסח), the holiday celebrating the Jewish departure from Egypt under the direction of Moses. In terms of the solidification of the Jewish people, this event and the following 40 years spent in the desert was the real beginning of the Nation of Israel. We were the Jewish people before we left Egypt and that period of slavery, but with our exit we showed G-d our true faith, we accepted the Torah at Mt. Sinai, and eventually we entered the Land of Israel in order to claim our homeland. The Passover holiday is a celebration of the birth of our nation and religion.
So how do we celebrate it in Israel? We set fire to parks in order to burn our chametz, or any leavened bread product. The custom is to clean your apartment like it is infected with mold, every inch of it in order to rid it of any chametz, and then finally you perform what is called bedikat chametz - literally checking of chametz. After you get a symbolic amount of this forbidden food together, a ritual you perform at night, the next morning you have to burn it completely. Everyone does this at the same time.
Hence the fires. This picture isn't even half representative of how large this flame got. As we were burning the goods, about five different guys came by with their chametz and asked, angrily, "Why did you make this fire right here? It's too big."
You know who started the fire? The city cleaning worker that left it unattended as he made his way around our street. Honestly, I think you'd get sued if you did that in America. Here, he was just being a good, although slightly irresponsible, Jewish citizen - providing a useful service for the masses. This guy here is performing bitul chametz, saying the prayer after burning the chametz.