On cell phone boxes and orange peels

'Every mission for which man comes down to the world is in order for him to take himself out of Egypt.'

Sivan Rahav Meir ,

Sivan Rahav meir
Sivan Rahav meir
צילום: עצמי

1.

Rabbi Yehuda Polishuk recently came back from a visit to the States with an unusual gadget. Pursuant to what was written here last week about being enslaved to cell phones, he wants to share with Israelis a brilliant yet simple development that’s becoming popular abroad.

“I saw this product in Rabbi Rafi Butler’s office,” he says. Butler is the president of the Olami movement which runs programs on hundreds of campuses all over the world to prevent the assimilation of Jewish students. The students learn about Judaism and also come for a three-week visit to Israel.

But sometimes you don’t have to go as far as the Dead Sea, Masada, and Jerusalem – it’s sufficient to supply them with a simple, clear box on their campus at home to remind them who we are. Rabbi Butler developed the Shabbox – the Shabbat box, a plastic box for the collection of cell phones before Shabbat. It’s a very unsophisticated gadget that’s being snatched up by students because it gives them time for peace and quiet, and a break from the dangerous addiction to the frenzied technological pace that cell phones dictate to us all week.

The slogan for the product launch is: “Six is the new seven.” I think that the slogan should be: “Disconnect so that you can connect.” Especially in our generation, we can appreciate that the concept of Shabbat is ingenious and essential. I remember that once they used to laugh at religious people and asked: ‘Nu, what’s the big deal about turning on a light on Shabbat?” Today everyone understands that those presses, clicks, likes and pushes are the very things that are the worst kind of enslavement. There in the States, way before the youth even get to the stage of Shabbat candles or a kiddush cup, they connect to this box.

Religious Jews don’t have a box like this because we naturally put our cell phones aside before Shabbat, but for some young people it’s part of their personal equipment. Rabbi Butler told me that once, a young man came to be his Shabbat guest on Friday and told him that he had to go back to his dorm because he had forgotten to bring his Shabbox. The Rabbi explained to him that it’s OK to just shut off his phone.

2.

The month of Shevat is already here. Next week is Tu B’Shevat. So a moment before all the jokes about the dried fruit imported from Turkey, complaints about kids coming home with caked-on mud after planting trees in kindergarten and lamenting the state of our agriculture – here’s a brief piece that puts things in perspective.

Accountant Haim Yoavi-Rabinovitch was born in 1944 in Siberia in a Soviet forced-labor camp where his parents were exiled. He was named Haim because the chances of a baby surviving the freezing cold there were slim. In 1946 his family returned to Poland and in 1951 they came on Aliyah to Israel.

This is what he writes about his childhood memories of Tu B’Shevat:

“I was a six-year-old boy in the city of Lodz in the exile of Poland. The atmosphere among the Polish Jews, who were the remnants of a community that had once numbered three million Jews, was grim. It looked as if the communist government had once and for all closed the gates of Aliya to the Land of Israel. In school, Jews started learning Polish, something that hadn’t been done since the Holocaust, and a clear sign that the Jews that had remained in Poland would indeed remain there, it seemed like 'till the coming of the Messiah.

On the day before Tu B’Shevat the Jewish community got a crate of oranges from Eretz Yisrael and they were sold at a price which wasn’t cheap at all, one orange per family.

One snowy evening, Father z’l came home from work and decided to take me, a six-year-old boy, to purchase together with him the coveted orange from Eretz Yisrael. Mother z’l objected to her six-year-old son going out on such a wintry snowy night but father insisted. He took his tallit bag and together we set out on our way. We trekked through the snow and Father gave me the responsibility of carrying the bag containing the single orange we had purchased.

When we came home, we put the orange in a large bowl which was placed in the middle of the table. Our Jewish neighbors came to look at the orange from Eretz Yisrael and my joy knew no bounds. I also invited my friends home to see ‘the orange from Eretz Yisrael.’

On the evening of Tu B’Shevat we were sitting at home around the table for a festive family meal. Father made the blessing ‘boreh pri ha’etz’ and ‘she’hecheyanu’ and then did the unspeakable – he took a knife and cut the orange form Eretz Yisrael. And I, a small Jewish boy, burst out crying. How could someone cut the only orange from Eretz Yisrael that I had been so proud of? My father also added the prayer that was customary to say outside of Eretz Yisrael on the eve of Tu B’Shevat: ‘May it be the will before You, our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers, that you bring us up happily to our land, to eat its fruit and to be satiated from its goodness.’ I remember that my mother burst into bitter tears. So great was the longing to leave the exile and go on Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael.

I took comfort in the orange peels which I saved in a special cardboard box. The peels started rotting but I guarded them very carefully.

A few months later, with the help of bribery, we received the long-awaited permit to leave Poland where our family had lived for approximately 800 years. I wanted to take the orange peels from Tu B’Shevat along with me but Mother explained to me that in Eretz Yisrael we will have many oranges and so the peels remained on the impure soil of Poland.

If today I have a strong love for the land of my forefathers and its landscapes, and if I endangered my life more than once for its sake, the source of it all can apparently be traced to that orange from Eretz Yisrael.”

The Jewish Status: “Every mission for which man comes down to the world is in order for him to take himself out of Egypt.” (Rabbi Shalom Noach Berezovski on the weekly parsha, Parshat Bo)

* The column is from "Yediot Aharonot" and was translated by Shoshana Silver. Sivan Rahav Meir is a broadcaster on Israel's Channel 2 news.




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