Facebook Holidays Jewish Passover Social Media Spirituality

Is Facebook Chametz?

Cross-posted to Jewish Techs

Is Facebook kosher? If so, is it kosher for Passover? I’m not posing the question of whether it is acceptable to log on to Facebook on the first and last days of Passover, when observant Jews refrain from using computers or the Web.  Rather, is Facebook activity allowed at all during the Jewish Spring festival?

In the early years of the Web, the recurring joke leading up to Passover each year was that Jews should remove their browser’s cookies before the holiday. Now, two rabbis have created a Facebook group named “Facebook is Chametz referring to the Hebrew word for leavened products which are forbidden during Passover.

Shir Yaakov Feinstein-Feit

It is true that Jewish people get a little more observant on Passover, so maybe it’s not a far stretch to assume that some of the less than virtuous aspects of Facebook may be put aside for the length of the holiday.The Facebook group created by Rabbi Shir Yaakov Feinstein-Feit, and later joined by Rabbi Ezra Weinberg, now has over 200 members. Its tagline is “I’m fasting from Facebook for Passover. You too, huh?” Shir Yaakov Feinstein-Feit (pictured) is a non-denominational rabbi, teacher, and musician. Ezra Weinberg is Marshall T. Meyer Rabbinic Fellow at B’nai Jeshurun in New York City.

Referring to the more spiritual aspects of Passover, Feinstein-Feit explains on the group’s Facebook page: “The Chassidic masters teach that the leavening we avoid represents our over-inflated sense of self. Get your Face out of the Book and cross into the liberation of Exodus, movement of Jah people… (at least for a little while).”

This is certainly an original way to look at the culture of this social media application, which has grown exponentially in the past few years. It’s also a refreshing way to look at the Passover festival. Too often, the focus of the holiday is strictly on food concerns rather than the “chametz” that resides in our speech and interpersonal connections.

I posed some questions about the “chametz” that resides on Facebook to Rabbis Feinstein-Feit and Weinberg:

Why did you create this Facebook group?

SYFF: The Chassidic tradition clearly links chametz with an inflated sense of self, egotism, and narcissism. Dietary shifts alone do not necessarily touch the roots of our inflated self-interest. I’m a fan of Facebook in general, but have noticed that using the network not only can distract me from other more introspective or meditative pursuits, but it can also induce comparing mind — “so-and-so’s life is more interesting, meaningful, fun, etc.” I wanted to create awareness around how Facebook can actually serve to alienate us, and to find support in abstaining from something that is so common-place.

EW: As someone with a strong Facebook presence among my friends, I personally found the idea of abstaining from Facebook a meaningful way to digitally disconnect from some of the powerful habit that pervades our lives. I also know a lot of Jews who don’t keep kosher for Passover or don’t feel connected to that aspect of the tradition. The “Facebook is Chametz” would be a way to bring chametz out of the realm of food and into the realm of our laptops and handheld smartphones.

How are you using Facebook/social media to teach your “Torah?”

SYFF: I try to “walk” my Torah, so to the extent that I publicize my life through Facebook is the extent I teach anything. (I help other’s teach their torah by developing websites and pushing their content through social media streams.)

EW: I would say I have not taken full advantage of Facebook professionally. But having over 2100 friends, it is not something I take lightly.

Will you really abstain from Facebook for all 8 days? What about Twitter or other Social Media sites?

EW: I will probably abstain from Facebook and Twitter all 8 days, because my Twitter account is linked to my Facebook.

SYFF: I have abstained from Facebook [on Passover] entirely for the past two years, and will again. Isn’t it amazing Twitter wasn’t such a big thing only a year ago? I personally think Twitter is quite a different social tool and may still post Tweets, but I don’t think I’ll follow anyone during Passover.

Should Jews (or all humans) abstain from Facebook year round and not just on Passover?

EW: Refraining from chametz, in my estimation, is less about haughtiness and more about breaking routine and remembering the deeper connections we have to God, our fellow humans, and the planet. What I loved most about the movie Avatar were the spiritual elements of the Navi people. They didn’t need devices and machine technology to connect to each other and the other life forms on their planet. Sometimes you can connect more by disconnecting. That is the essence of spiritual technology. Refraining from chametz, just like refraining from work on Shabbat, connects us to something deeper by disconnecting us.

So, the bottom line according to these two rabbis is that while Passover is a certainly a time for putting aside the bread and the cereal, it might be a good idea to unplug from the chametz of Facebook as well.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Detroit Food Holidays Humor Jewish Kosher Michigan Passover

Kosher for Passover Zingerman’s Challah?

A couple of years ago, I wrote about the signs at Balducci’s, a New York grocery store, that advertised their ham as “Delicious for Chanukah.”

Today’s issue of the Detroit Jewish News features a full-page ad for the local Plum Market chains of grocery stores. In large print, the ad proclaims Plum Market as “Your Passover Destination” and features a challah (Jewish egg bread) from Zingerman’s Bakehouse above the words “We stock a full line of Passover products from Zingerman’s Bakehouse.” (Thanks to Rabbi Rachel Shere, of Adat Shalom Synagogue, for bringing the ad to my attention.)

First, Zingerman’s, based in Ann Arbor, is not a kosher establishment. Second, their products are not kosher for Passover.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Food Holidays Kosher Michigan Passover Shabbat

Costco Kosher Special Event

Last month, I wrote about Costco’s efforts to attract the kosher consumer by increasing their selection of kosher products, including kosher chicken and kosher meat. They certainly had the best of intentions even if the samples of cooked kosher chicken they were handing out wouldn’t pass even the most lenient of kosher standards.
Now, one of the local Costco warehouses in Michigan is reaching out to synagogue leaders to have Costco’s kosher products publicized to synagogue members before Passover. Unfortunately, once again, it looks like Costco didn’t consult anyone in the Jewish community who would have likely informed Costco’s public relations department not to have their special event take place on Shabbat. Oops!
There are other times for kosher consumers to attend this special three-day event, but most Jewish people will have already completed their Passover shopping at this point. Well, at least the thought is there.
(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Baseball Holidays Jewish Passover

Baseball and Holiday Conflicts

The Detroit Tigers’ 2009 home opener is this Friday afternoon at 1:05 p.m. I would get tickets and attend if it weren’t the second day of Passover. According to T.S. O’Connell, sports historian and the editor of the Sports Collectors Digest, Jews shouldn’t be the only religious group upset with the date of the Tigers’ home opener this year. On his blog, The Infield Dirt, O’Connell writes:

I saw a news item recently that said the Detroit Tigers were taking a bit of heat because of the scheduling of their home opener on April 10, more precisely noting that some Catholics were upset that the 1:05 p.m. start time came during the noon to 3 p.m. period when traditional Christian belief holds that Jesus was hung on the cross.

O’Connell then writes how this news item caused him to wonder how this particular conflict (opening day an Good Friday) hadn’t come up before. He waxes nostalgic about the 1965 decision by Sandy Koufax to forgo pitching in the World Series opener against the Minnesota Twins because it fell on Yom Kippur. He writes:

I was just a 15-year-old kid, frantically following the approaching World Series in the New York Daily News, and I was just awestruck that somebody (actually my favorite pitcher) could take a pass on what I regarded as a secular assignment with near-religious overtones. Mostly it just impressed me with the seriousness of the Jewish faith; the decision only enhanced my view of Koufax, aided neatly by the later developments that saw the Dodgers win in seven games. By my way of thinking, it was no harm, no foul. I also found it fascinating to learn years later as I became something of an amateur baseball historian that there was never really any major decision involved for Sandy. He had long since made it clear to the Dodgers’ brass that he would not play on Yom Kippur, so when the prohibition coincided with one of the holiest days in the baseball world, it was what we would later call a “no brainer.” That same thirst for reading about baseball history would lead me to Hank Greenberg’s decision to skip a game during the 1934 pennant race for the same reason.

What a statement it would make if Mike Ilitch, owner of the Detroit Tigers, told the commissioner of baseball that the Tigers would have to reschedule their opening day game at Comerica Park because of Good Friday and Passover. Of course, with my luck, they’d reschedule the game to Shabbat and I still wouldn’t be able to go!

On the same subject, I laughed when I read an email circulating about the Boston Red Sox home opener this year. Here it is:

The Red Sox home opener this year will be postponed for Passover.

Red Sox general manager, Theo Epstein announced that the Boston Red Sox home opener will be postponed to April 14 to avoid the eight days of the Passover holiday. He noted, because three of his starters (Kevin Youkilis, Gabe Kapler and Adam Stern) are Jewish as are his box seat holders, he was forced to make this change in scheduling. There have been several complaints from fans, who are enraged at Epstein’s decision. In fact, protests are being tendered to the commissioner of baseball’s office. However, Bud Selig, commissioner of baseball, will not be able to address these protests; mainly due to a scheduling problem. This has been caused by the family seders he and Mrs. Selig will be attending.

Also, unable to attend the opener: Al Gore and Tipper will be unavailable as they will attend a seder at their son in law’s home. Bill and Hilary Clinton will be attending the seder at the home of their daughter Chelsea’s boyfriend. In addition, former mayor of NYC, Rudy Guiliani, whose wife will be busy preparing their seder. And finally the Obamas will be out of town enjoying a seder at Michele’s cousin’s house, Rabbi Capers Funnye.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Humor Passover

Google Chametz Search

A tip of the hat to the guys at for this new Chometz Search engine.Google Chometz Search

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Kosher Passover

How to Make Your Office Cubicle Kosher for Passover

Kosher for Passover Office - Rabbi Jason Miller

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |