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Thought for the Day: Alligators, Birds, Bees, and Citrus Fruits on Pesach

I was born in Central California (third generation on my mother's side, btw... one of the very few non-Native Americans who can make that claim), then lived in Southern California till early teens, and Northern California till early 20s.  That experience has shaped how I view Florida in (at least) three ways.  First, I have little to no desire to visit Disney World.  I grew up on the original and still -- according to many -- best theme park ever: Disneyland.  Disney World is certainly bigger, but since I never found that Disneyland was missing anything, bigger does nothing for me.  Moreover, the lack up a Matterhorn bobsled ride is simply unconscionable.  On the other hand, I am very annoyed at California's shameful treatment of orange groves.  My first school and second house were surrounded by beautiful, lush forests of orange trees.  Their decimation is horrifying and also unconscionable.  Finally, growing up in California (which is west of the old west, btw), engenders a feeling of always wanting to find unique experiences.

That being the case, there are two things I look forward to seeing in Florida with my grandchildren: alligators (which are unique to Florida) and oranges (because I am annoyed at California's treatment of citrus fruits).  I also look forward to not seeing Disney World because I am annoyed it isn't Disneyland; but that's not technically looking forward to seeing something.

The alligator park (Gator Land) came with two interesting halachic issues for Pesach.  First, they were selling hotdogs for feeding the alligators.  Hotdogs certainly contain chameitz, and a Jew is forbidden to benefit from or even own chameitz (for any reason), during Pesach.  Seems cut and dried, no?  Then I had a thought: I'm not really buying the hotdogs, I am really buying the right to feed the alligators (which belong to goyim) with the food provided to me by said owner!  I excitedly called my rabbi, who was less than impressed with my beautiful logic.  Moreover, he noted that the hotdogs also generally contain a cooked mixture of meat (well... animal parts, anyway) and milk.  A Jew is also forbidden to ever benefit from mixtures of meat cooked with milk.

The alligator park also had birds a medium sized aviary filled with parakeets.  Not so exotic and certainly not unique to Florida, but the grandchildren loved walking among them.  To really enjoy the experience, though, they were selling popsicle sticks with seeds on them; the birds flocked to anyone holding one.  That I did buy for my grandchildren.  Seeds, after all, are are worst kitniyos and the Rema paskens, O.Ch. 453:1, that even us Ashkenazi Jews are permitted to own kitniyos on Pesach.  The Mishna Brura there explains that the custom we accepted was to refrain from eating kitniyos, but not to give them all the stringencies of chameitz.

The next day we went orange picking.  They had a really, really tasty orange slush -- 100% pure orange juice made from their own oranges.  It was very hot that day, and those slushes looked really tempting; but -- oh well -- it's Pesach.  Then I saw fresh, raw honey collected from the bees in the orchard (you want fruit trees to produce, you need bees).  I asked about it and they showed me the barrels in which they collected the honey and poured straight from there into the bottles.  I figured, I had nothing to lose, so I again called the rabbi.  His response this time was, "What's the question?"  "Uh...", I stammered eloquently, "It's Pesach?  Do I have to worry that maybe the goyim were eating a sandwich when they poured the honey?"  "Go look to see how they do it; it depends on the situation."

So I investigated a bit and --- ah.... that frozen orange juice was amazing and we have fresh honey on the shelf for Rosh HaShana.


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