The blogosphere is snorting about a hoax "news story".
Yaniv Ben-Zaken, a local gas station owner, will be selling Kosher for Passover gasoline during the holiday this year. The move, Ben-Zaken says, has become necessary due to the increased ethanol content in gasoline required by the government. The ethanol is typically derived from corn, which is a forbidden food for Jews on Passover. And, according to Ben-Zaken, underJewish law, it is also forbidden to derive any benefit from corn. [More]
Like most good hoaxes, there is just enough truth to make it stand up for a while. And more than a few cerebral blogs swallowed it whole.
The “article” does get the two points of Jewish law correct. First, we are forbidden on Passover from having any hametz in our possession or ownership and it is forbidden to obtain a benefit from hametz during the eight days of the holiday. Hametz is any of the five forbidden grains (wheat, barley, oats, spelt, rye) that has been in the presence of moisture for more than eighteen minutes."Kosher ethanol" - ya gotta love it!
In Northern European communities around the 15th Century, the prohibition on eating hametz was extended to a category of grains called kitniyot: rice, millet, corn, and legumes. Because ground up rice flour or corn meal closely resembles wheat flour, Ashkenazi Jews exclude kitniyot from their Pesach diet as well. However, as “Rabbi Shalom Silver” is quoted as saying in the article, one may possess kitniyot and obtain a benefit from it, use it in any form or fashion, so long as one does not eat it. Baby powder that contains cornstarch, for example, is perfectly acceptable on Pesach, so long as one is not tempted to make a snack of it. [More of the debunking]
Coincidentally, as I have mentioned before, I have been listening to lectures on "The Story of the Bible". We're in the middle of the Middle Ages, so to speak, and one question that has long puzzled me was just answered. Why aren't there many Jewish farmers?
The answer seemed simple: Jews were forbidden to own land for most of the Christian era, and hence never developed a modern agrarian heritage.
Turns out there was more to it than that. Those prohibitions occurred later in the Middle Ages as the Christian Church gained almost absolute power in some areas. The full story was more about education.
So—which Jews stuck with Judaism? Presumably those with a particularly strong attachment to their religion and/or a particularly strong attachment to education for education's sake. (The burden of acquiring an education is, after all, less of a burden for those who enjoy being educated.) The result: Over time, you're left with a population of people who enjoy education, are required by their religion to be educated, and are particularly attached to their religion. Naturally, these people tend to become educated. And once they're educated, they leave the farms. [More of a really interesting article]Bottom line: the bright ones chose more lucrative careers, the farmers likely dropped out of Judaism.
I wonder if the trend for farming to fail to appeal to our brightest - if not the best - will continue? Or will the technological intensity present a more attractive (and competitive) career?