Tag Archives: shabbos

Shabbat Travel Kit

Shabbat Travel KitShabbos on the road in a Jewish community or at least a Chabad House can be a lovely experience. You’ll get invited out and won’t need to take care of all the pesky details of Shabbos. But when you travel to the Jewish backwaters, even in North America or Western Europe,  you’ll need preparation.

Lets say you got wine or grape-juice, a few rolls or Challah and enough food. What else?

Lets see. Shabbos candles? I can use two tea-lights.

A Kiddush cup? I’m sure the hotel will have a clean glass cup in the room. At worst, I’ll get a disposable cup.

A cover for the Challah when I make Kiddush? I’ll use a disposable napkin.

Shabbat Travel KitHow about the Havdala candle? Use another two tea-lights? It’s not easy sticking the lit wicks together to make it a valid candle for Havdala. OK, I’ll put two matches together.

Bsamim (spices) for Havdala? I’m sure I’ll find a lavender bush somewhere in the street  or something like it.

Done. All’s good.

Not exactly….

Ze Eli V’Anvehu

In Exodus 15:2 are the following words “Ze Eli V’Anvehu” – This is my God and I will glorify (or beautify) Him. The sages interpet these words to mean that a Mitsvah must be performed in a way which beautifies the act. So one should invest in making the object of the Mitsvah as nice as possible.

When you buy the Arba’at HaMinim, invest some money and get a nice set. Don’t just pick up the cheapest one (even if it happens to be Kosher). When you buy a set of Tefillin for your son (or yourself), get a quality set, as much as you can afford. After all we beautify our homes and get nice furniture. We buy pretty clothes and not only off-the-rack jeans and T-shirts, and so forth. We should treat our Mitsvos with the same investment into quality and beauty, not less than what we invest into our person needs.

Shabbat Travel KitA disposable cup for Kiddish, a napkin for the Challa and two matches for the Havdala candle are Halachically valid but aren’t exactly beautifying the Shabbos experience. Unless we’re unexpectedly stuck in the Sahara Desert and that’s the only thing available.

Shabbat Travel Kit

I discovered a very cute Shabbat Travel Kit called The Shabbat Collection. It’s a handy compact bag with all the equipment you need for Shabbos on the road.

  • Candlesticks
  • Matchbox
  • Folding Kiddush Cup
  • Wine flask
  • Mini salt shaker
  • Challah cover
  • Birkon (Bentcher)
  • Candle for Havdala
  • Spices for Havdala
  • Kipa

I’ve never seen it personally but it looks nice and for $59.95 seems reasonable too, if you’re on the road a lot.  BTW the Kiddush cup is 4.8oz (141 ml), which is sufficiently large for the lenient Rabbinical opinion ( 86ml Rabbi Chaim Na’eh), though a bit smaller than the more stringent (150ml Chazon Ish)

Shabbat Shalom / Gut Shabbos !

The Spiritual Dimension to Traveling

A friend sent me the following inspirational video clip:


A former neurologist called Dr. John Kitchen, gave up a lucrative medical career to spend the rest of his days roller skating along the Pacific Beach boardwalk. He now goes by the name of “Slomo” and skates day and night. His life philosophy is “Do as you want to“.

It made me think. When you travel, not to get from place A to B or to accomplish a specific task at place B, but just for the enjoyment of traveling, is there a meaning to it? Is there more to travel then just “Do as you want to“?

Can one integrate into a journey, a deeper significance (as a Jew) and make long-term travel into something spiritual?

This reminds me of a story:

The Chafetz Chaim and the Bus Driver

The Chafetz Chaim got on a bus and upon discovering the driver was a Jew, told him how much he envied the driver’s share in the World to Come.

“You do so many acts of Chessed (kindness) all day by taking people to their destinations”, the Rabbi exclaimed. “But this is my job. I get paid to drive people around. I’m not taking them purely for altruistic reasons”, protested the driver.

“Even though you’re getting paid, your focus should be on the fact that you’re helping your fellow Jew get from place to place”, answered the sage, “Your salary is to enable you to do acts of kindness. Without earning a living, you couldn’t invest your time in driving people to their destinations”.

I understand from the Rabbi’s words that one can and should imbue even simple and mundane actions with a deeper spiritual dimension. It’s all a matter of focus.

Spiritual Dimension to Traveling
Traveling for Business or Pleasure?

Spiritual Dimension to Traveling

Here are a few ideas which lend a spiritual dimension to traveling:

  •  Kiddush Hashem: Any action by a Jew that brings honor, respect, and glory to God and His Torah is considered to be sanctification of His Name, whereas any behavior or action that disgraces, harms or shames God’s name and his Torah is regarded as a Chillul Hashem (desecration of the Name). This means that even on vacation when you want to loosen the reins a bit, you still need to behave pleasantly and respectfully to the locals. Saying “please” and “thank you” are the very minimum, along with relating to people with honesty and integrity. When you behave yourself properly on vacation, people will feel that its good dealing with Jews and that’s a Kiddush Hashem.

Help people respect Jews.

There used to be a time (I hope this has changed by now) when Israeli tourists weren’t very welcome abroad.

The Israeli tourists would push ahead of others who were standing in line. They’d speak aggressively and look down at the locals. When staying at hotels they’d walk off with towels and room equipment. It got to the point that the Israeli government did a whole Public Relations drive to change tourist behavior abroad.

I think today the situation is much better. It hadn’t been that much of a Kiddush Hashem back then…

  •  Kindness: Like in the story of the Chafetz Chaim and the bus driver, wherever you travel you’ll meet people who need help. They don’t have to be starving orphans in Cambodia who need a slice of bread to survive. Even helping a handicapped fellow traveler with their luggage is an act of Chessed. So is giving a less knowledgeable traveler directions to their next stop.

Do simple acts of kindness every day of your trip.

  • Observing the Mitsvos in challenging situations: Keeping Shabbos and Kashrus and attending prayers in a synagogue are part of being an observant Jew. Doing them while in transit is a greater challenge. (What do you do if you’re stuck in a hotel room on Shabbos, and you can’t open the door without engaging an electronic sensor?) In fact it is written in the Rabbinical writings “Lefum Tsa’ara Agra“, the reward is proportionate to the difficulty.

Do your best to observe the Mitsvos under all conditions.

  • Teaching Torah: Whether you meet other Jews or Non-Jews, people are curious about Judaism. Don’t be shy, teach others what you know. You’ll be expanding their awareness of Torah, and you’ll understand more yourself.

Teach someone a bit of Judaism every day.

  • Spreading Sparks of Holiness: I remember the year of saying Kaddish for one of my parents. I did a lot of traveling at the time and for some reason kept a record of every different place that I said Kaddish. At the end of the year the list was long and fascinating. There is a spiritual significance not only to the act of doing a Mitsvah but also to the fact one did that Mitsvah in a specific location. I read that the Baal Shem Tov went from place to place to spread sparks of Holiness everywhere he went and make spiritually repairs everywhere he stayed over.

Leave your spiritual mark at every stop.

  • Appreciation for God’s creation: When one observes the wonders of the world like vast oceans or majestic mountains, then one can recite the blessing “Oseh Maaseh Breishis” to express our appreciation for the beauty God created in the world. One can’t make this blessing by looking up Niagara Falls on Google Images. You’ve got to be there and see them to feel thankful to God that they exist. Travel brings many Oseh Maaseh Breishis moments.

Thank God for all His beauty wherever  you go.

Whatever reason you have for going on the next trip, you can make it more meaningful, more spiritual and more significant if you invest a bit of thought and focus.

Of course you can “Do as you want to“. But put in a bit of spirituality at the same time.

Kosher Bora Bora – Fantasy or Possibility?

Some people fantasize about Belgian chocolates and the latest Porsche 911 Turbo. Some crave a cottage with an Olympic-sized pool overlooking Lake Tahoe or maybe a month-long world cruise through the Caymen Islands.

Bora Bora Island

I’d like all the above, but I’d prefer….a month of quiet vacation on the beaches of Bora Bora. Blue skies, white sands, endless clear water, majestic palm trees…peace and quiet. Without my cell phone. No emails, no appointments, no prior commitments; just the gentle lapping of waves at my feet with the awesome view of the blue lagoon.

The thought of it puts me into a trance-like state of bliss.

Bora Bora By Samuel Etienne (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Bora Bora
Then logic kicks in and I remember….

  • I can’t afford the plane tickets.
  • I can’t afford the hotel fees.
  • I’ll have nothing Kosher to eat.
  • Most of the alcohol they drink while sitting in a beach chair with a platter of exotic fruit, isn’t Kosher either.
  • I won’t have a Minyan to pray at the local synagogue.
  • There isn’t a local synagogue on the island anyways.
  • I won’t be able to make Kiddush on Shabbos because the wine isn’t Kosher. Nor the Challah…
  • I can’t carry outside my hotel room on Shabbos because there isn’t an Eiruv around the town.
  • And besides, why in the world should a nice Jewish boy go to a place like Bora Bora? Don’t I know that most of the women don’t wear Sheitels and long sleeves on the island and the men don’t walk around with Tsitsis and probably aren’t Talmudic scholars either ??

So why Bora Bora?

Kosher Bora Bora
Four Seasons Hotel in Bora Bora

It’s in my soul. The island and surrounding are like Paradise. A very expensive bit of paradise. Anyone who isn’t well-heeled at the bank will end off with hell to pay on their credit card if they aren’t careful. So it’s a short-lived paradise at the very least, but nice indeed…

Although Bora Bora is out of my personal range, I’m still curious if one can manage there as an observant Jew (assuming of course that one keeps their gaze totally and absolutely on their own spouse and nobody else).

Kosher Solutions

I contacted a few of the hotels on Bora Bora to hear what they can offer in terms of Kosher food. One hotel said simply that due to their isolated location, they cannot give Kosher food as they don’t have someone to supervise the preparation nor do they have the utensils. OK, that’s not surprising.

Then I got a totally different response from the Head Chef of another hotel. The chef gave me 3 possible options.

  1. The hotel could provide brand new dishes and silverware along with new pots and pans. They have a Jewish employee who can light the fire and ovens to avoid Bishul Akum. Everything will be double wrapped in foil before putting in the oven. They’ll use only Kosher fish, vegetables and ingredients. All the cooking utensils will be hand washed and stored in a separate location.
  2. They can order frozen Kosher chickens from New York.
  3. With enough notice, they can order Glatt Kosher prepackaged meals.

To be honest I was very impressed. The chef even mentioned that as they don’t have a Mikvah on the island they won’t be able to immerse the new utensils (in fact as long as the utensils remain in the ownership of the hotel, they don’t need immersion in a Mikvah). One can see that he had a good basic understanding of the hotel Kashrut.

Just to be clear, I’m not giving the hotel a Kashrut certification on basis of what the chef wrote. There are many complex Kashrut issues involved that would need to be addressed and unless the guest in quite knowledgeable in hotel Kashrut, one can still trip up BIG.

So is Kosher Bora Bora just a fantasy or a possibility?

In my humble opinion, with an attitude like this chef, one has with whom to work with. There’s room for discussion and flexibility (on the side of the hotel of course), so I can imagine (in theory) that it would be possible to eat Kosher in Bora Bora.

I didn’t really go into it with the chef, but assume that whichever option one takes, it’ll cost something. But once you’re paying $1000 a night per guest, what’s another few bucks to eat Kosher? And you’ll probably get a bottle of Kosher wine for Kiddush thrown in for good measure…