Item One) For the first time in 13 years, some members of the Melbourne (Australia) Jewish community were not able to carry certain items or walk beyond the allowed distance a couple weeks ago on Shabbat.
The perimeter of the religious boundary is inspected each week and until now, when any damage has been found, repairs have been immediately arranged.
However, last Friday, it was discovered that roadworks had compromised the halachic status of the eruv and the matter could not be resolved prior to Shabbat.
As the problem was in Highett, it was feasible to resuscitate the old boundary along Jasper, Grange and South roads, which meant that the majority of the community in Caulfield and St Kilda East were served by the eruv.
However, congregants at Moorabbin and Carnegie shuls and Bentleigh Chabad were unable to carry outside over Shabbat because of the damage caused by the roadworks. Advice to the community was circulated via shul offices and communal email networks. According to eruv administrators Melbourne Eruv, last Shabbat’s rare incident showed the community that the all-important boundary cannot be taken for granted.
An eruv is a boundary made of a connection of wires and posts in public places and allows Orthodox Jews to carry children and belongings outside their homes during Shabbat – an action usually prohibited on the holy day. Melbourne’s eruv takes in most of the areas of Caulfield, St Kilda, Elwood, Brighton, Moorabbin, Carnegie and Bentleigh.
Item Two) While he has been a mashgiach, or kosher supervisor, for a number of years, Rabbi Meir Rabi has begun to take on the big guns of Melbourne’s Kosher Australia and Sydney’s Kashrut Authority.
According to Rabbi Rabi, his aim is to expand the kosher market to encourage more people to take up Jewish dietary laws.
“It is part of Jewish identity,” he said. “This philosophy has driven me to try to expand as much as possible.”
It was with this philosophy in mind that he approached cereal giant Sanitarium and bid for the rights to certify its products.
While many Sanitarium products were previously considered kosher, they are now under the supervision of Rabbi Rabi, who runs his own brands Kosher V’Yosher and It’s Kosher.
But this expansion has caused whispers of concern among the established kosher organisations in Australia.
One questioned the stringency of the Melbourne-based rabbi’s kosher brands. A second feared there would problems with yet another hechsher, or kosher stamp, being introduced within the community because it could cause confusion among consumers who aren’t aware of the finer points of kashrut.
The only organisation to openly discuss Rabbi Rabi’s expansion was the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV). It rehashed a statement from 2007, emphasising the need for kashrut authorities to be accountable to the community. “The RCV is concerned with maintaining the integrity of kashrut in the community and as such will not endorse a kashrut authority in which the rav hamachshir (rabbinic administrator) receives fees directly from client restaurants or food product companies,” the statement read. “The ability to make impartial decisions about the approval or otherwise of products and food outlets is of paramount importance in the role of the deciding rabbi(s).”
The RCV has previously expressed concerns about Rabbi Rabi’s production of soft or “laffa” matzah sold before Pesach.
Last month it issued a stern warning that the matzah may be consider chametz.
Rabbi Rabi shook off the criticisms though, assuring the community he was learned and saying that other rabbis could not handle his innovative approach.
“They have a view that they don’t like the innovation,” Rabbi Rabi said. “I respect that, but halachically we have interesting and challenging discussions.”
As well as Sanitarium products, he added he had recently certified a range of Floridia brand cheeses and would be adding more food stuffs soon.
Item Three) Kosher food is now on the menu at Monash University’s Clayton Campus for the first time in 20 years, following the efforts of Chabad Campus’ Rabbi Daniel Rabin.
Following a pledge of assistance from local businesspeople, Rabbi Rabin began investigating options, coming to an agreement with a convenience store owner to stock a range of kosher snacks and sandwiches for kosher students.
“I have been receiving emails from students saying thanks they forgot their lunch today but were still able to buy something. People are happy to have snacks,” Rabbi Rabin told The AJN. “The beautiful thing is that the store owner is Muslim. I think it’s really nice,”
While still in the early stages, Rabbi Rabin is also investigating the option of hot food, such as pies and soups, being sold during the winter months.
He said he has spoken to a number of rabbis and while they have confirmed that his plans are halachically permissible, he is taking extra precautions to ensure every detail is taken into account.
“It’s going to take time but it’s very exciting,” he said.
Meanwhile, at Deakin University, local students wrote letters to Israeli soldiers of the same age for Yom Hazikaron.
The initiative brought together the Australians who are studying hard – and partying hard – at university, at the same time that their peers in Israel don khaki uniforms to defend the Jewish State.
After a short ceremony, the students penned personal notes, which will be sent to an Israeli defence base.
The event was organised by the Australasian Union of Jewish Students Deakin president Danielle Shmerling and Rabbi Rabin, the campus chaplain.
Campus Chabad will next month join with Hagshama for a Lag b’Omer evening at an indoor archery centre. The May 1 event will be complete with music and a barbecue.
Item Four) Now this week the Australian Jewish News reports that the government and the Kosher Authority are talking about a centralized single agency to approve kashrut nationwide.
All this makes me think, what is kosher? And who has the authority to declare things as such? And when we talk about Y’shua, we often use the phrase, “Jesus made me kosher!” (For more on that read online at http://www.jewsforjesus.org.au/jesus.html )
And if kosher really means ‘fit for use’ and Y’shua wants to do that to me, I want it! And you should also. Fit for use by God in private devotion, and fit for use by the Almighty in relation to others.
Look, we can work all day to repair another eruv, but at the end of the day, did God say no carrying or can you carry? Why build a ‘home’ that isn’t really our home as if we can confuse Him or legalize Him into submission to our whim. If we are not supposed to walk beyond a certain distance without eating and drinking, then let’s comply. Don’t set up a wider ‘home’ to fool Him or to pretend that what we have is really not what we have. Either your home is your home, or it isn’t.
I remember wondering about my Shabbos goy (the Gentile who assisted me with illegal activities in my uni days ..like turning on / off the lights in my room), but the Bible clearly says that not only am I disallowed from work, but so too are my family and the servants whom I might employ and the stranger who is within my gates. So if it’s wrong for me, then all the invention I employ is not going to change what God said, you know?
Some thoughts for you this Shabbat. Hope it’s a good, and kosher one for you and yours. Shabbat shalom.