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Purim in the Land of the Rising Sun

Purim in the Land of the Rising Sun

Chabad Tokyo p1




24 hours of non stop activities.
Purim eve, after hearing the reading of the Megillah, Chabad House hosted a fantastic Purim feast. Many people participated and expressed their joy. As one person exclaimed: ” only such happiness can break through the spiritual coldness of Tokyo”. That is exactly Chabad House’s goal to illuminate and warm this spiritual ”freezer” with good deeds and happiness.
The next morning there was a megillah reading and breakfast for early risers. Then Rabbi Edery went on the Shalach Monos- ”gifts of food” marathon. Escorted by ”soldiers in G-d’s army”- Moshiach and Zalman, he made his way to all parts of Tokyo, to meet Jewish people who did not hear the megillah yet. This took logistics and organization, to make time frames throughout the day, all over the city. So there were Megillah groups in Ueno, Okachimachi, Shibuya, Minami Azabu (at King Falafel), Roppongi and Shinjuku. A huge box of Purim foods were prepared and distributed among all the people.

The finale was at 5:30, right before sunset, many people came to the Chabad House to hear the last Megillah reading and take part of another Purim feast, which ended late into the night. The children especially had a fantastic time, dressing up, eating hamantashen and celebrating Purim to its utmost.
We hope and pray that this Passover we will celebrate in the 3rd Temple in Jerusalem, and eat from the Passover sacrifices.

We would like to take this opportunity and thank Yelena Vachutinsky for her great help making hundreds of hamantashen.

From Hamedan and Teheran to Tokyo Japan

From Hamedan and Teheran to Tokyo Japan


We met Mr. Daniel and his wife, when they came to visit their daughter Kiana in Tokyo. Kiana received scholarship from the Japanese government and was studying electrical engineering.

It was very interesting to hear from the Daniels, about their life as Jews in Teheran, Iran. Not many Jews remained there. Mr. Daniels worked as a civil engineer, building bridges, roads, and city projects. He recounted an interesting and amusing story about his work.

”A group of builders asked if I had bricks and boulders that I didn’t need. I told them to come with me and showed them a place where I had a lot of extra bricks. We finished a big building project, and the city did not need the leftover bricks. They asked how much they had to pay, but I assured them that it was all not needed and they do not need to pay anything. For about 6 months they would come with a truck to load the bricks and bring them to a city in the North of Iran. One day, they came to me and thanked me profusely for the bricks. They asked me to come with them, as they wanted to show me what they built. I traveled with them, and we came to beautiful area in the mountains. They stopped in front of a big mosque, and showed me that on the entrance there was a large sign engraved in the stone saying ” MOSQUE DANIEL” in Farsi. They said : ”We named it on your name, in appreciation for your generosity and kindness to us.” Mr. Daniels laughed and said, who would believe that in Iran, a Mosque would be named after a Jew! And a proud one!
So if you ever visit Iran, and you see a mosque named Daniel- you know why!!

Mr. Daniel and his wife, still live in Iran. Their children emigrated to the U.S.

Hopefully very soon, all the nations will recognize and believe in one G-d and follow the 7 laws of Noach, thereby making the world a better place for all of mankind, and bringing Moshiach now.
The picture above is of Mordechai and Esther’s tomb in Hamedan Iran.
The insert, on the right is of Mr. Daniel.

You are what you eat!

You are what you eat!

Chabad Tokyo Challah Bakery

Chabad Tokyo Challah Bakery2

When living in a big Jewish community anywhere in the world, we take it for granted all the kosher food that we can readily get. If you need a loaf of bread, you just hop into the local bakery and you have at least 5 choices of different kosher breads.
Here in Japan, we are the kosher bakery. So every week, tens of kilos of bread are made, for anyone who wants. Be it visitors to Chabad House, or local families and singles or businessmen or tourists from abroad who need kosher bread.
Let’s have a peek into what goes into making this basic necessity. This week we made 30 kilos of rolls and challah, it took about 8 hours from start to finish. The huge mixer does the mixing; the measuring, rolling out and shaping is done by hand. The results speak for themselves, delicious kosher bread- Made in Japan # 1 in quality and taste.
When Rabbi Edery came to Japan in 1999, he looked for a bakery that would fit the kosher standards. On the appointed day Mr. Mutoh and the Rabbi, came to an all organic, all natural, vegetarian bakery. The baker was happy to have the Rabbi come and turn on the ovens. Everything looked just fine, the flour, yeast was ok. Then the Rabbi checked the ovens and saw that on each tray there was a white piece of food. He asked the baker what this was, and he answered it was from THAT animal, the one that rhymes with dig, and wallows in its dirt. Then he added: it doesn’t go into the bread itself, but it gives a fantastic aroma to all the breads”. That was the end of that.

When one is careful to eat kosher food it cause clarity and focus in one’s life. Kosher food causes one’s thoughts speech and action to be channeled to G-d’s will.
To properly keep kosher one needs to be very careful not only of the ingredients but also of where it was made and how.

Hopefully, very soon we will merit the Third temple and eat from the special bread that was made there, which miraculously stayed fresh and warm for one whole week.

We would like to take this opportunity and thank Mr. Bernie McCliesh for contributing his time and great help in making the bread, and always with a smile.

How to Eat Kosher in Japan

How to Eat Kosher in Japan

by Rabbi Daniel P. Aldrich

This article will focus on the svora (logic) used by the rabbi that brought him to his conclusions — which we believe to be erroneous – and our response to his arguments. To ensure that we were on the derech yashara (proper path), we consulted with more than five rabbanim and several mashgichim based both in Japan and the United States. Further, we conducted empirical research here in Japan through visits and calls to several such restaurants (we used a Japanese friend to ensure that answers were not biased by our presence). As someone joked to me, this column might be called “how to avoid eating not kosher in Japan.” I should also add that we do not write this column to embarrass anyone, G-d forbid. Hence we have not named the rabbi who issued this psak nor have we singled out his institution for criticism. Further, we would not have gone to these lengths to respond in a case where, b’chadrei hadarim — behind closed doors — this rabbi made a personal decision to eat food “out” in Japan. Rather, only because this rabbi publicized his psak din through both shiurim and written articles, and because he also took 30 or so young students with him, do we feel the need to explain the errors in his reasoning. We cannot stand by and say nothing, because, as the principle says, shtika k’hoda — remaining silent in the face of an error is equivalent to acquiescence.

We begin with this rabbi’s description of his decision and justification for eating out. In his shiurim and written articles (from which we take all of the words in quotes), this rabbi said that he “faced an interesting dilemma” during his trip, stating that “As there was no Chabad house [his destination city of Kyoto, Japan], if we wanted to eat anything besides the food that we personally brought from Tokyo (or from the U.S.),we would have to go to a “‘100% vegetarian’ Buddhist restaurant.” The alternative that he names to eating out is consuming “the food that we personally brought with [us] from Tokyo (or from the U.S.).” The rabbi believed that at such a “Vegetarian, Buddhist” restaurant “no fish of any type was served.” He argues that “according to the Buddhist doctrine, one may not eat any admixture of animal product” and this fact allowed him to “rel[y] upon the principle of uman lo mara hezqatei.” He defines the concept of uman lo mara hezkasei as “a practitioner will not willfully destroy his reputation by being dishonest.” This rabbi also recognized the inherent problem of bishul akum (cooking by a non Jew) present in eating out even at a “vegetarian, Buddhist” restaurant and “request[ed] to the proprietors of the restaurant that I turn on the oven in which our hoped for rice dish would be prepared.” In the end, the rabbi, and the talmidim traveling with him, ate out at the restaurant; he informs readers and listeners that the dishes were “quite tasty.”

We see several major problems with eating out at a “vegetarian, Buddhist” restaurant. Despite the rabbi’s personal beliefs, the Buddhist definition of ta’am (taste) is not as exacting as the halachic definition. There is no such concept of ta’am, bitul b’rov (nullification by majority), bitul b’shishim (nullification by 60), or any of the core halachic concepts which drive rabbinic Judaism’s understanding of mixtures.

The rabbi imagines that, should a Buddhist, vegetarian restaurant serve meat, chicken, or even fish, that would damage their professional reputation. This is not the case. The fact is that the vast majority of Japanese citizens — even those few who define themselves primarily as “practicing Buddhists” — simply do not care. We asked both Japanese people and the restaurants themselves about this issue; should a “mistake” happen, they would apologize, if word got out. One of our informants told us that in fact they had begun serving meat at one strictly vegetarian Buddhist restaurant because many of their customers asked for it!! Hence the consequences of a restaurant violating “Buddhist doctrine” in regards to vegetarianism are non existent and we can not use the concept of a professional reputation as a crutch for relying upon the claims of the owners.

Next, even if a Buddhist, vegetarian restaurant did not serve meat, chicken, or even “fish,” the rabbi is very much mistaken in believing that these products are the only problematic ones for Jews. At three different Buddhist, vegetarian restaurants that we have contacted, the owners cooked and served foods that are completely forbidden to us. Specifically, these Buddhist,vegetarian restaurants cooked in their keilim (vessels) and served to their customers seahorses and sea cucumbers. For readers who are not familiar with sea cucumbers, they are large, slug like creatures which dwell on ocean bottoms and scavenge food. It goes without saying that all of the keilim in which these assur creatures were cooked would absorb ta’am and go on to assur the food and keilim if there were not 60 against them.

Furthermore, the rabbi misuses the principle of uman lo mara cheskasei. If it is true that food providers and restaurant owners truly fear for their reputation, why do we require supervision even in kosher dairy and fish restaurants, where the halachic issue of basar shemisalem min ha’ayin (meat that is out of sight) is not a problem? According to his logic, we could simply reply on the public or the market to scare them into compliance with kosher laws. Clearly, this is not the case. Only in a case where there is strong government oversight and enforcement can we use this as a basis for ruling on a food item, as is the case with the heter for chalav stam (milk not supervised by Jews) in the United States (where the USDA is very strict in oversight of dairy production) and in non artisanal bread in France (where the government regulates the production of bread). There is no equivalent oversight organization for Buddhist, vegetarian restaurants in Japan.

The oils and the sauces used in the food are another enormous set of halachic problems. Buddhist restaurants in Japan operate under no “Buddhist halacha,” l’havdil, that forbids them from using any sauce or oil, whether or not it contains animal byproducts. One of the rabbanim based here in Tokyo who supervises the production of kosher soy soyce for export told me of most production lines at soy sauce factories also produce oyster and shrimp based sauces. Hence every foodstuff in this restaurant that was seasoned by soy sauce had a very high probability of coming from a mamash treif production line.

Another error that this rabbi made was assuming that “Buddhist principles” conform to “halachic ones.” They do not. Ask a mashgiach at a vegetarian restaurant what he spends his time doing, and he or she will tell you: checking for bugs. There is no principle in Buddhist law of b’dikas sheratzim; vegetarian Buddhist restaurants do not check for bug infestation – and given that all they supposedly serve is “vegetables,” that is a lot of potential bugs! And, as any Torah observant Jew can tell you, eating a whole sheretz brings with it between four and six lavim, and the commentators on the Shulchan Aruch argue that even a crushed or smashed bug which is no longer a bria can assur food — even if it is only the size of an adasha (lentil bean) (see Darche Moshe in Siman 104:1).

Backing away from the problems with the food itself, the underlying justification for weakening his halachic standards while traveling abroad — certainly, we should be dan l’chaf zchus that this rabbi would NEVER go into a Manhattan restaurant that calls itself “Buddhist and vegetarian,” — is because he was traveling abroad. But, as one rabbi told me, “To go into a non-supervised restaurant is accepting lower standards for the person and those that follow them.” The core principle that “allowed” the rabbi to take himself and his students to eat out was that of a sha’as ad hac (a supposedly tight situation). That is, the rabbi implies that the group had to eat out because of a lack of alternatives. But he admits that he and the tour group ate by the Chabad house in Tokyo over the Shabbos. There is another kosher food source in Kobe, Japan, less than an hour from Kyoto, where they ate out. Did these travelers really go to a foreign country with no food? And if they were that unprepared, why not buy additional, vadai kosher food from Chabad or the synagogue in Kobe? Or eat apples?

In discussions with rabbanim in the United States, several pointed out another critical problem with eating at a “vegetarian, Buddhist” restaurant: the connections between the restaurant and the Buddhist temple to which it is connected. Do profits from the restaurant provide the Buddhist temple with money? And what of the problem of takruvos avoda zorah, where in many restaurants connected to Asian religious organizations the food is prepared and placed in front of a statue of their deity before being served? Regardless of the argument that this rabbi makes later on in his shiur that Buddhism is not avodah zara, I and the rabbis to whom I spoke – who live here in Japan and are familiar with the tenets of Buddhism — cannot disagree more strongly.

This rabbi quoted from one of his teachers the following phrase: “When you reach the boundary line, you must submit to the will of the Almighty.” We completely agree. When traveling abroad, we must never lower our standards or compromise our halachic integrity. The multiple errors we have described in this article – ranging from sea cucumbers and sea horses to the lack of bug checking, from the Buddhist alcove in the back of the room in which they ate to the soy sauces – show this psak was in error. We hope that through this discussion future travelers to Japan will not make similar errors, G-d forbid, which can cause timtum ha lev.

Daniel P. Aldrich is an Assistant Professor at Purdue University and a Visiting Scholar at the University of Tokyo. He is a graduate of Yeshiva Darche Noam in Jerusalem, Israel and received semicha from HaRav Don Channen of Pirchei Shoshanim

Miracles in Tokyo Japan

Miracles in Tokyo Japan

Chabad Tokyo

The month of Adar is the month of many miracles and good luck for the Jewish people.
I am happy to share with you one of the great miracles we experienced in the Chabad House of Tokyo.
In December of 2002, my brother in law was getting married in Paris, and I suggested to my husband to join his family for the wedding as it was a great opportunity to see his family. He told me: ” I can’t leave in middle of Chanukah, there are Jews whose only connection to Judaism is Chanukah”. I offered to do the best I can, but he insisted that it was important to be in Tokyo, and to broaden the activities. He added: ” I am sure my brother will be blessed much more, if I do good deeds in his honor”. That Chanukah, among the many guests, Daniel Moskovich came to visit from Kyoto. He was doing his Phd at the University of Kyoto and planned to climbMt.Fuji, during his winter break. On the day of Chanuka, he woke up at 4 am; my husband asked him if he is sure that it is alright to go climbing at this time of the year, and by himself. Daniel answered: ”I have excellent climbing gear, I am sure it will be fine”. Daniel got some Halva and bottle of water, his Teffillin, some other last minute necessary items, and packed it in his backpack. As Daniel was leaving the Rabbi insisted: ”try to find someone to climb with. Don’t go yourself. Also, when should I start worrying?” To which Daniel answered:” I will definitely look for someone. If you don’t hear from me, in 24 hours, that means there’s a problem”.
That day, at 3:00 pm, my husband said to me, Efrat, call Daniel, check that he is alright. It will be sunset soon, I just want to make sure”. I immediately called but there was no answer. I figured that there was no reception, up so high on the mountain. It takes about 12 hours to get to the top. At 3:30 pm, the phone rings, it is Daniel. His voice is shaky and weak, he says:” Efrat, I am dying. I fell off Fuji. Please call the police and tell them. I am literally freezing.” Daniel then told me approximately where he was. ” We will make sure that you will be rescued as soon as possible.” I reassured Daniel.
Rabbi Binyomin immediately contacted the Israeli and British embassies and Mr. Muto to contact the police of the Fuji mountain area. The police contacted the mountain rangers, who said that they were aware that someone fell because a Japanese mountain climber who climbed with Daniel, Mr. Honda, told them. We pressured them to go up and rescue Daniel as soon as possible. They told us that it took them time to get a group together to go up. We continued to insist that it was a matter of life and death and it had to be done quickly (Daniel fell at around 11:00 am). They made their way up, by car to the 5th level. There was a lot of snow so it was very difficult. All the while we were saying Tehillim that they should find him very soon and alive. We were very worried to say the least. At 5 pm they spotted Daniel. They called us to say that they found him alive not in good condition, and that they are taking him to the closest hospital. The head of the rescue team, said to my husband: ”you are very lucky, because if you would have called us one hour later, when it was dark, we wouldn’t have gone up, it would be too dangerous for the rescuers.” It took the crew about 2 hours to take Daniel down with the stretcher, by foot to the 5th level. On the 5th level there is a parking place, where an ambulance waited to take Daniel to the hospital. Finally at 9:00 pm he arrived at the hospital. Immediately Binyomin drove to the hospital to be near Daniel. The doctors told him that he fell about 100 meters and was in critical condition and that it would take a long time to recover. During the time Daniel was in the hospital, Binyomin drove many friends and Jewish people who wanted to visit and wish Daniel good wishes. This made him very happy and greatly brought up his morale. Baruch Hashem after 2 and half months Daniel was released from the hospital.
My husband later told me: ‘Baruch Hashem I did not fly for the wedding, and we were here to receive the phone call from Daniel and be of help. It was a big miracle”.
One year later, Daniel met and married Yona Chava who came for a visit from Jerusalem. It was a very happy wedding, celebrating many miracles at once. We had the honor to have the wedding at the Chabad House, and Rabbi Binyomin the officiating Rabbi. Daniel lives with his wife and one year old son Shmuel Shammai in Kyoto, Japan, doing research in KyotoUniversity.