Thursday, October 24, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Chayei Sarah
23 MarCheshvan 5774/October 25, 2013

I’ll bet you never heard of ‘Shmatta Pizza’!
It was the summer of 1988. My Aunt Miriam was traveling to Eretz Yisroel for the unveiling of my Zaydei’s kever (burial plot) in Yerushalayim, and she offered my mother to take one of her children along. Being that my older brother was away in camp, I was privileged to go.
It was a long and restless trip for an eight year old, but somehow I managed. I still remember that when my Bubby, who was already there along with my uncle and cousin, met us in the airport she was so excited that she lifted me off the ground.
By the time we arrived in Yerushalayim I was cranky and hungry. The closest eatery was a real Italian restaurant, so that’s where we went. I looked at the menu and my head began to swim. I just wanted some macaroni and cheese. I had no idea what the fancy Italian dishes were and being the flexible, happy-go-lucky kid that I was, I adamantly refused to sample anything I couldn’t pronounce.
Finally, Aunt Miriam convinced me to order something which the waiter assured us was pizza. When the food finally arrived I took one bite and nearly spit it out. “Uchh it tastes like the shmattes in Bubby’s house!” All efforts to get me to eat it fell on deaf ears. By now Aunt Miriam was ready to put me in an envelope and drop me in a mailbox marked “Air Mail: Return to sender.” To prove to me that I was being foolish my cousin Yehuda sampled the pizza. Then he burst out laughing and announced that I was right; the fancy Italian cheese really did taste like shmattes. Aunt Miriam sampled the pizza and was amusingly forced to agree.
I don’t remember what I ended up eating, but I do remember that when we got up to leave the pizza was gone, save for a few crumbs. All eyes turned to Bubby who was swallowing the last bite. She looked at us and shrugged, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s delicious!”
In our home we try to be particular that our children don’t say about any food that “it’s disgusting!” If someone doesn’t like something the proper response is “It’s not my taste”. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and just because one person doesn’t enjoy something, that doesn’t give him/her the right to decide that it’s good or not.
The funeral of Rav Ovadiah Yosef zt’l three weeks ago was attended by unprecedented multitudes. The eulogies recounted his incredible accomplishments, sagacity, devotion, love, and faith. Among his greatest accomplishments was that he “restored the crown” to Sephardic Jewry.
During the early years of Israel’s statehood the halachic laws of the land were almost exclusively decided by Ashkenazic authorities. Rav Ovadiah valiantly asserted his influence to create awareness and pride of Sephardic opinion. He held that Bais Yosef (author of Shulchan Aruch) was the final ruling of halacha in Eretz Yisroel and his halachic rulings reflect that.
Rav Ovadiah was not afraid to speak his mind, and his quest for truth is awe-inspiring. He wrote thousands of pages of halachic responsa, and is quoted alongside the greatest halachic authorities of the previous generation.
Rav Ovadiah’s legacy includes that there is not only one opinion. Ashkenazim must adhere to the rulings of their leaders, but they must also know that there are other opinions as well. One person must do one thing, while his neighbor is obligated to do something else.
Halacha is not one size fits all, and a differing opinion is not necessarily a ‘shamtta opinion’!

 Good Shabbos & Shabbat Shalom,
      R’ Dani and Chani Staum
720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425