Sunday, September 1, 2013

Seltzer Patrol

Last week, Motzo’ei Shabbos (Saturday night, after the end of Shabbos), my husband forced me out on a Seltzer Patrol. There had been a rumor in shul that morning that the generic Shoprite seltzer no longer carried the OU kosher symbol. (No, no – take it easy! The rumor was false; the symbol is there.) We had started worrying. No hechsher symbol? Why not? Is it politico-financial, or only political? Anti-Semitism, of course. Is it one of the many, tiny, almost imperceptible signs that the “Jewish honeymoon” in this country is approaching its end? We were perturbed. The matter must be investigated.

The moment havdoloh was over, I was ordered into the car.
“We must check it out!”
Yes, but what are we going to do?
“We are going to keep watch, in case a Jew tries to buy seltzer.”
Nice. For how long?
“For as long as it takes.”                              
Surely we can’t stay all night? (Trembling voice.)
“We’ll find another Jew to take over the watch for an hour – then he can pass the torch to the next Jew. Like a relay! Signs must be posted.”

My husband sees it as his duty to supervise most of the kashrus issues in this world. He will happily accost people in airports and inform them that the candy they just bought with their last pennies might not be kosher after all. In the beginning of our marriage I, with my European nerves, used to cringe at this molesting of perfect strangers, but gradually I came to realize that maybe the strangers weren’t so perfect, and that my husband was the one with the mida of tzidkus – the trait of righteousness. Embarrassment should not stand in one's way, if one is called upon to safeguard the precepts of the Torah. (Greed, temptation – possibly, but not embarrassment.)

Having worked in the kosher business for several decades, he likes to frighten housewives with horror stories from weddings and other fine, fleishig events that he has come across in the line of duty; near-disasters that he caught in time:    
  •         The cheerful kitchen workers who proudly spruced up the desserts with some swirls of chocolate syrup, and confidently announced “that’s the one we always use”. Really? What a shame it’s milchig!
  •         The caterer who, displeased with the paltry display of the hors d’oeuvres as they passed him by, grabbed a few handfuls of shredded cheese that he quickly sprinkled over the trays, and then stood back to admire his handiwork: “There – that looks much better!”
  •           Or - from the annals of a colleague - the wedding where they ran out of ice cream, sent out a non-Jewish kitchen worker to buy some more, and he came back with a dairy brand. It wasn’t detected until a woman with the radar of a severe milk allergy broke through the mechitza, screaming frantically to her husband: “Chaim, Chaim, spit it out – it’s milchig!” One can only imagine the havoc that ensued. 
We pulled up in front of Shoprite, where the post-Shabbos shopping frenzy was only in its early stages. We practically ran to the seltzer department. My husband - who likes nothing as much as a bit of drama - cavorted about, grabbing bottles left and right, declaring it to be a difficult case. I on the other hand, again with the European nerves, was able to calmly and competently establish that the OU symbol was in place. Maybe not quite as big as it could have been, and maybe not placed in the most conspicuous location on the label, but definitely there. Definitely. Somebody in shul needed new glasses. And we knew who. He must be enlightened – immediately.

“We are the Seltzer Patrol”, we yelled, as we barged into his parlor, where the Rabbi in question was enjoying a quiet interlude with his Rebbetzin. It took them a moment to recover, but naturally they were delighted with the findings of the Patrol. They couldn't be more pleased. The flavored seltzer as well? Fancy that! They congratulated us warmly on our vigilance, and wished us much success in our future endeavors. (But now that I think about it, they never asked us to sit down…)

Some days later, I had cause to call their household in another matter. The Rabbi picked up the phone and we exchanged a few brief pleasantries before his wife took over. “Keep up the Seltzer Patrol!”, he roared as the phone was snatched from his hand.

Shalom Uv'racha!
Shulamit - who wishes all her readers a Kesivah V'chasimah Tovah!
See you next year!

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