Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pesach surprises

Not necessarily made to be a maid?
My sister was kind enough to send her cleaning woman my way after I broke both wrists last mid-December and ran out of home-attendant coverage. I was hoping that she would spare me almost all of the pre-Passover cleaning, but I ran into a couple of unforeseen problems. For openers, my cleaning lady couldn't figure out how to flip open the top of the stove to clean under the burners, and I had to pick up the stove-top myself. To make matters worse, she not only couldn't figure out how to strip my refrigerator down to the bare walls, so that the walls, shelves, and frames could be thoroughly cleaned--I had to remove half the shelves and shelf support frames myself--but she also couldn't figure out how to put the frames and shelves back in after the cleaning, either, and, again, I had to do half the job myself. Nu, wasn't I paying her so that I wouldn't have to put too much stress on my half-healed wrists? Sigh. As I told my husband, it's a good thing that Pesach came now, because I wouldn't have been able to help my klutzy cleaning lady two months ago.

Soap opera
My husband and I have been fighting over bath soap for Pesach for years. First, I tried using old-fashioned kosher dish soap of the solid-bar variety, the kind marked with a red star for meat or a blue star for milk. (I don't know whether it's even still being manufactured anymore, given the widespread availability of kosher liquid dish detergent. Oops, I should have done a search first and written later.) The hubster didn't like it. So I tried Ivory liquid hand soap. He didn't care for that, either. So I gave up and went back to using a newly-opened bar of Dove soap.

This year, I made a halachic decision, of sorts: Any product used on our hands (which touch the food, dishes, utensils, and pots) that was made exclusively with water and what an old girlfriend of mine calls "unpronounceables" (miscellaneous chemicals, often with long names) was hereby kosher for Passover, whereas any product containing an ingredient that was identifiably chametz would be put away in a taped-shut kitchen cabinet. Ivory liquid hand soap and Lubriderm body lotion passed the test. But imagine my unpleasant surprise when I spotted "maltol" among the ingredients of Dove soap. Maltol?! Yep. Into the taped cabinet went all our bars of Dove soap. Ivory liquid hand soap is now the only hand or bath soap being used in our home on Pesach.

The tale of the retired Torah sroll

Let's put it this way: My husband's hagbah didn't go exactly as planned. When he lifted the scroll, it went down, rather than up. He swears that only the eitzim (wooden rollers to which the parchment is fastened), but not the klaf (parchment) itself, touched the floor, and the rabbi confirms this. Still, we just made a donation to Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, by way of t'shuvah (repentence). As for the sefer Torah in question, it's the largest one that our synagogue owns, and the chazzan (cantor), who's also our baal koreh (Torah reader), is now under orders never to use it for a Torah reading again, since there's hardly any man left in the congregation who's capable of lifting it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It took me awhile to figure out how to remove the shelves of my own fridge, so I'm not surprised that the cleaning lady was perplexed. She may not be klutzy, just unfamiliar with this model of fridge & stove.

I'm curious: what was the halachic reasoning behind your "halachic decision of sorts" regarding the soap? (Meaning, which sources were you basing it on?)

How much does that sefer Torah weigh?

Sun Apr 12, 01:01:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Okay, so maybe I should give her a break. In any case, she's a hard worker, a decent cleaner, and a good organizer, so we expect to be making good use of her services in the future.

Am ha-aretz (Jewishly-illiterate person) that I am, I was operating without sources, which I wouldn't know where to find. I was thinking in terms of what I've heard called davar chadash, a new thing. If the chemical had such a fancy name that I couldn't determine its derivation just by looking at its name, I considered it "davar chadash" (in this case, a neutral chemical). If, on the other hand, the chemical was clearly of chametz origin, I wasn't going to pretend that it wasn't chametz, if I were going to use it on my hands and thus, indirectly, mix it with my food. (Shoe polish doesn't count, in our book.) Interestingly enough. the Rabbinical Assembly Pesach Guide that I was given during Pesach stated that just about any non-food product other than lipstick and something containing perfume was kasher l'Pesach no matter what the ingredients. I may not be holier than thou, but I'm holier than the R.A. :) Actually, their guide said that I should have kashered the oven by turning it up to max for a hour and a half, though my family's minhag (custom) has always been one hour, and they also said that we were supposed to have left our kitchen sink (metal) unused for 24 hours before pouring boiling water in it, so I've got some "frumming up" to do for next Pesach.

My husband took a wild guess--He thinks that that 10-ton sefer Torah actually weighs around 15 pounds. Hab rachmones (have mercy) on my poor husband--please keep in mind that he and almost all of the guys in our shul who do the literal heavy lifting are over 60.

Sun Apr 12, 04:23:00 PM 2009  
Anonymous Too Old to Jewschool Steve said...

I'm the 3rd generation of my family to regularly do hagba, and I'm now over 50. Like my father & grandfather before me, I'm a big guy -- 6'+ and not skinny -- and routinely get hagba at my shul and my parents' shul (which, with the exception of the rabbi and his family, is also an "older" congregation).

The key to a successful hagba has absolutely nothing to do with the weight of torah being lifted and everything to do with leverage. I've learned this lesson the hard way. Among my friends who regularly lift the torah, some of whom are considerably more muscular than me, there is universal agreement: no matter how light the torah appears to be, avoid the temptation to lift it by the etzim. Always pull the scroll at least halfway off the reading table, push down on the scroll while bending the knees, and then push up on the etzim. Voila, hagba!

Weight can effect how wide you manage to open the scroll, but the lifting is always a matter of leverage. There are several videos posted on youtube showing how to do it, I strongly recommend them.

Chag kasher v'sameach!

Sun Apr 12, 10:57:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I checked with my husband, and, as I thought, he always pulls the scroll toward him, so that the edge of the reading desk serves as a fulcrum for leverage, and pushes down on the part of the scroll that's hanging over the edge before lifting it by the eitzim. But the guy's 5 feet 8 inches tall and 67 years old, which makes him several inches shorter than you and probably more than a decade older. The leverage method just doesn't seem to have worked, this time.

Mon Apr 13, 08:58:00 PM 2009  
Anonymous Too Old to Jewschool Steve said...

Hmmm. Fifteen pounds really isn't a heavy torah.

Try holding the etzim closer, next time, then spread the scroll open once lifted.

But you're right -- significantly more than a decade older. On the other hand, significantly taller than one of my fellow regular lifters.

Mon Apr 13, 11:12:00 PM 2009  

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