Sunday, March 12, 2006

A brush with Shabbos

Young elementary-school student of an Orthodox Jewish day school to his grandmother, a member of our synagogue, at the shiva (condolence visit) after the death of his grandfather several years ago:

“You’re not allowed to use fresh lemon juice on Shabbat (Sabbath) unless you squeeze the lemons in advance, because you’re not allowed to squeeze a lemon on Shabbat.”

Those of you not interested in the details of Sabbath observance might prefer to skip the next few paragraphs—there’s some other good stuff toward the end of this post. Follow this asterisk.*

Let’s face it, folks, it’s a lot easier for someone with a limited Jewish education to locate the 39 kinds of work that are forbidden on Shabbat here than in the Shulchan Aruch (a book explaining Jewish law in brief).

I don’t see “squeezing” on that list, but I’ve heard of this prohibition since, so I’m sure that the kid wasn’t making it up. Question: Is using something absorbent also forbidden (which would make even splashing some cold water on oneself on the Sabbath problematic, as one couldn’t use a towel afterward), or is it only squeezing, wringing, or pressing liquid out of something that’s forbidden?

Since I had to go to Westside Judaica (2412 Broadway, on the East side of Broadway between 88th and 89th Streets, 212-362-7846) to get that missing ner havdalah (hmm, better buy two nerot havdalah, one for us and one for the synagogue—the shul’s havdalah candle is on its last wicks), I thought I’d try some of those “Sabbath brushes” that I’d seen. We are now the proud owners of three “Kosher Scrubbies,” one red one with the word MEAT printed on top, one blue one with the word DAIRY printed on top, and one green one with the word PARVE printed on top. The packaging describes a “Kosher Scrubby" as a “color-coded pan & dish nylon brush with a built-in liquid soap dispenser," and states that "Shabbos use is permitted according to halacha.” (Advice to those going kosher: Try to choose a color code that’s in common use. I chose the “patriotic-American” color code of red for meat, white for dairy, and blue for parve. As you can imagine, I’m very glad that the blue Kosher Scrubby has the word DAIRY printed in nice large capital letters on the top, or I’d certainly forget and use it on our parve cutting board by accident. Stick to red, blue, and green.) Verdict: The brushes work best on flat surfaces, such as plates. They’re a bit clumsy with silverware, being considerably broader, and difficulty to impossible to fit inside of drinking glasses.

*The balance of this post is for those of you not interested in the details of Sabbath observance, and for everyone else, as well.

Here’s some other neat stuff that I got at Westside Judaica:

Jewish reggae singer Matisyahu’s “Live at Stubbs” CD. Review, standing on one foot: Matisyahu's talented, and much of the music is quite enjoyable, but when I say music, I mean music—as for the words, I wish I had a lyrics sheet.

The Best of Moshav Band: Higher and Higher CD. Review, standing on one foot: I haven’t heard the whole CD yet, but I’ve enjoyed almost all the songs I’ve heard thus far. Some of their songs just blow me away. I think I’m really going to enjoy this group’s music, and I hope to buy more of their CDs in the future.


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