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High price of freedom

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It turns out there hadn’t been fraud committed on the credit card. It hadn’t been stolen, and we hadn’t been hacked. In spite of my misgivings, it transpired that there was no need to contact Investec which would have, no doubt, received several panicked calls ahead of mine fearful of the same thing. It was simply that my wife had gone shopping for a few food items for Pesach. And by a “few” I mean two half-filled bags that were in no danger of bursting open.

Sad little bags really, if one considers the contents. Bags that held not a single diet-related cold drink.

I find it hard to believe that Egypt, back in the day, could have been this expensive, even if we were to adjust for inflation.

Although it, too, had no access to Coke or Sprite Zero.

It isn’t only a South African thing. If my social media feeds are any indication, Pesach seems to have become aggressive (price wise) no matter where one lives. I have seen Americans complaining that it’s impossible to manage the cost, and that there’s fear that the pressure placed on families will drive people towards non-observance.

Whereas I have no real understanding how someone who adheres to Jewish law would reach that conclusion based on price, the underlying sentiment is worth noting. The cost of keeping Pesach is placing tremendous strain on many in the community.

There has in recent years been several initiatives designed to assist in this regard. The Union of Orthodox Synagogues’ “green list” is case in point. It provides a list of items that could be purchased for use over Passover even without specific Pesach authorisation. Although fairly limited, it does at least provide options.

In a recent discussion with head of community liaison at Pick n Pay Norwood (a less enviable position than Andre De Ruyter at Eskom), he applauded the green list. He mentioned, further, that they had taken the decision to not import some kosher-for-Pesach products because of the cost and knowing that their customers would be unable or unwilling to pay for those items. Rather, they focused on importing a selection of goods that together with the green list would enable people to cater as best as they could for the festival.

Last year, we had the privilege of spending Pesach in Israel. We spent the first few days at a “kitniyot-free” hotel, which needless to say, was superb. But on leaving the hotel for the last few days, we found that it was a real challenge to find items without kitniyot. A number of people we chatted to had given up trying to adhere to this custom simply because it was too difficult. Which, for the first time, I understood, given how difficult it was.

It was at those times that I didn’t long for the flesh pots of Egypt, but rather the convenience of the many kosher stores in Johannesburg that cater to those requirements.

Pesach is expensive. It’s not for sissies. But it’s only eight days. And there are options to make it easier. Further, with or without Coke Zero, it beats the hell out of being a slave.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Wendy Kaplan Lewis

    Mar 31, 2023 at 7:42 am

    True story
    Absolutely love this article

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