Last Saturday, while walking in some known Israeli town, I couldn’t help noticing the renowned pattern of an El Al plane passing above in the sky. An El Al airplane? On Saturday? For a moment I thought the Messiah was already here, and then I remembered the old airline trick of “On Tuesday my name is El Al and on Saturday my name is Sun D’Or.”
If there is an Orthodox Jewish God in the same sky, he must be blind and deaf, or alternatively he must have a great sense of humor. Otherwise it’s difficult to explain how he copes with all the tricks religion plays on him.
Consider for example the next Jewish year, which is supposed to be a “fallow year”. According to biblical law, the land is to lie fallow every seventh year, but the same law appears to tell us secret methods of bypassing this harsh verdict – importing “foreign” soil into Israeli farms is one of these methods.
This national sport of “fooling God” is much more common than you think. Need to get rid of all the country’s bread before Passover? Aha, let’s pretend we sell all of it to some “gentile” and hope we’re in the clear. Allowed to carry things outside on Saturday only within towns surrounded by walls? Well, let’s encircle the town with a wire. It’s much cheaper, and the Almighty will turn a blind eye. Must fast during Yom Kippur to gain his forgiveness? Well, he must be watching the calories starting at the exact minute, so let’s gorge ourselves as long as he doesn’t count the food.
During the first Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm), Iraqi Scud missiles fell on populated areas in Israel. People got advanced warnings and directions through television and radio. But how do you get good advice from the media on the Sabbath without turning something on? So the chief rabbis found a creative solution: They issued a ruling that Orthodox Jews should leave a radio turned on over the Sabbath, tuned to the “silent channel” that the government had set aside to broadcast announcements in an emergency. Furthermore, Saturday radio operators were instructed to push the appropriate button not directly, but by using a small stick. Those seem to be more acceptable by the Heavens (note a suggestion for a new start-up?)
“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” – during weekdays we’re supposed to work hard. For many of us that means driving long time in air-conditioned cars, and climbing high buildings inside modern elevators. Saturday, however, is “resting”. Therefore on Saturday God wants us to walk long distances and climb the stairs. Kosher Israeli hotels even disable the electric lobby doors, forcing the guests to push them manually. As if the divine supervision wrote “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou rest on Saturday”, but the Divinity – we already know – supervises the details, not the essence.
Now I’m sure those of you with some religious Jewish background will be able to find many more examples. Ever received something in the Sabbath but paid for it the day after? As if it wasn’t really “sold” on Saturday? Ever celebrated the holiday of ‘Sukkoth’ in a hut built on someone’s balcony? Surely that’s what God meant… And what’s more important to God than throwing away 10% of Israeli produce, since there aren’t any priests around to give it to them?
Along the same lines it’s worthwhile to mention Rafi Kishon’s interesting suggestion of instantly “Koshering” all foods by virtually selling all Jewish digestive systems to a gentile for a period of 999 years. See you in the near seafood restaurant.