Thursday, April 21, 2011

Selling a Bill of Goods

Catholics aren't the only ones who can use iPhone apps to manage their spiritual lives, it seems. With Pesach (Passover) coming up, observant Jews are exhorted to rid their homes of leavened grain products (chametz; I've also seen it spelled hametz or hametz)...only a lot of them don't actually discard grain-based foods; that could get expensive if you just stocked up on cereal or beer! What some do instead is "sell" their chametz to a non-Jew then "buy it back" after Passover. Apparently no products actually need to change hands; the "seller" is supposed to lock up all the forbidden foods in a designated area in his/her home, such as a cupboard or a room, and not enter that area until Passover ends. (I can't tell from the bit of research I did whether money actually has to be exchanged or not.) The buying/selling part is managed by a rabbi, and because it's considered a legally binding transaction, there are forms to fill out...unless you've got the app for that. With the i$ellChametz iPhone app (there's also an Android version), you can "let Rabbi Herzfeld of Ohev Sholom - The National Synagogue sell your chametz for Pesach!" (I found a different but similar app called "No Chametz" from RustyBrick on iTunes.)

I've got no problem with believers who use technology to help them honor their commitments; I use electronic calendars and to-do lists to help me remember and fulfill my own commitments, after all. I don't take issue with believers who choose to give up particular foods for religious purposes, whether it's chametz for Jews during Passover, favorite foods for Catholics during Lent, all food during daylight hours for Muslims during Ramadan, or whatever. Business owners can decide for themselves whether they want believers' trade enough to comply with religious rules like putting cows on a chametz-free diet so the milk will be kosher for Passover.

What does irritate me is believers asking members of other religions (or no religion) to keep them from violating their own rules. A rabbi in the Isaeli city of Akko has asked a Muslim imam to instruct Arab business owners (especially bakery owners) not to sell chametz to Jews during Passover. WTF? If someone doesn't believe that there's a good purpose for the restrictions that a religion imposes on its believers, then why bother following that religion? I'm with the bakery owner who responded, "I'm not going to ask every person if he's Jewish or Arab...It's their religion, not mine, and I will sell pita bread."

H/T to Ed Brayton at Dispatches From the Culture Wars


  1. Religion, being a personal matter, should rightly be kept out of the public expectation. I should not be asked to observe the rites of another's faith (and I would flatly refuse, quite frankly). My job is not to police whether another person is following the rules of their own religion. That's their job.

    Meanwhile, I'll be coloring eggs rather than worrying about a visit from the 2000+ year old Zombie. ;)

  2. Yeah, pagan fertility rites beat zombies any day of the year! :-)