Kosher for Passover Gasoline
By Danielle Wolfbergand and Henry Lorman
Bergen County Jewish Times
Teaneck, New Jersey
Yaniv Ban-Zaken, a local gas station owner, will be selling Kosher for
Passover gasoline during the holiday this year. The move, Ben-Zaken says, has
become necessary due to the increased ethanol content in gasoline required by
the government. The ethanol is typically derived from corn, which is a forbidden
food for Jews on Passover. And, according to Ben-Zaken, underJewish law, it is
also forbidden to derive any benefit from corn.
"We will be providing a number of services to anyone interested in making
their motor vehicle Kosher for Passover," Ben-Zaken says. Services will include
sip honing off the non-Kosher gasoline and replacing it with the Kosher gasoline.
The entire process will be supervi sed by Rabbi Yitzchok Mendelbaum. A special
exemption to the EPA rule regarding the plant ethanol content of gasoline had to
be obtained from the government to allow for the use of this gasoline.
The move has created some controversy among local community leaders. Rabbi
Shalom Silver, of Congregation Ohel Emeth in Teaneck, has recommended to his
congregants that they not buy the gasoline. "Although Jews of Ashkenazi descent
are not permitted to eat corn on Pesach, they are permitted to derive benefit
from corn byproducts, such as gasoline with ethanol additives," he said.
However, Rabbi Mordechai Silver (no relation to Shalom Silver), of Yeshivas
Torah Ohr in nearby Englewood, disagrees, and maintains that while it might
technically be acceptable to use mass-produced gasoli ne, those who can afford to
purchase the new alternative should. "In Jewish law, we have a principle of
lifnim mshura s hadin–going above and beyond thebasic requirements of the law,"
he explained in an email. "Thank G-d, many people in the area can afford to do
so in this case."
Some local Jewish leaders have also complained about the high price of the
ethanol-free gas, which Ben-Zaken estimates will be $9.69 per gallon, but
Ben-Zaken insists that it is necessary. "The Kosher gas is made in small
quantities and not mass produced, so the costs are high." In fact, Ben-Zaken, an
immigrant from Israel who is not himself religious, claims that he will not be
making any profit on the sale of the Kosher gas. "I'm doing this more as a
community service. My hope is that people will be more likely to patronize my
station the rest of the year."
Julio Sanchez, one of Ben-Zakens employees, also expressed s ome concern over
the high price, explaining that it might drive away customers and reduce his
income from t ips. Co-worker Naveen Samhari disagreed, because, as he says,
"Orthodox Jews are among the best tippers in the area."
Ben-Zaken also says he will be contracting with a local car rental agency to
provide customers with a Kosher for Passover car if they would prefer not to use
their own. This will also save the time of having to clean chametz from the car
before Pesach–time that many local two-income families do not have. "Jews use
different dishes for Passover. They ought to be able to use a different car, as
well." Ben-Zaken says.