Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Nisan 5766 - April 4, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Biyur Chometz of One Jew in Jaffa

by Y. Kover

This is the story of one Jew, who, with Yiddishe warmth and a heart full of kedushoh managed to save thousands of Jews from eating chometz. It is the story of a remarkable man who put out a fortune from his own pocket, but who pulled off the unbelievable and closed down the gates of a chometz bakery. It is an amazing story which shows us the power of a human being.


The sight was just too unbearable. At a time when most of the Jewish people were celebrating the festival of Pesach, hundreds of Jews were standing in a long and horrific line. They were waiting to buy chometz, absolutely fresh, reeking of the smell of the issur of koreis.

In the next lines we will tell the tale of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Shtauber zt"l, a Chassidic Jew whose heart turned sour at this dreadful sight, and who decided he had to take action, an action that cost him a enormous fortune but whose repercussions are felt up to this day. It was an action that generated a remarkable Kiddush Hashem to the Arab bakery owners and their customers.

The Israeli atheistic education, unfortunately, had caused its damage to the deepest layers of Israeli society, so that even though the majority of the people, even those not observant, did refrain from eating chometz there were some who could not withstand the temptation.

The atmosphere in the country in that period of about 40 years ago was different from today. Bakery owners, even those who were as far from mitzvah-observance as East from West, made sure to lock their bakery doors for the whole of the Pesach holiday. The certificate of mechiras chometz was shown over most Jewish businesses, so that it was unlikely that you would find chometz in public.

And "Abulafia," both the name and the concept, had become a by-word in the secular Israeli media. Their pita bakery in Jaffa, which had become the headquarters for the distribution of chometz on Pesach, had become the emblem of the rebellion against the laws of the Holy Torah.

Said Abulafia, an Arab from Jaffa, was the owner of a fairly small bakery in Jaffa—"the Abulafia bakery" which was growing steadily larger. The secular Israelis who were not willing to forgo their chometz consumption "discovered" Abulafia, who quickly became the central supplier for fresh chometz products during the chag.

Hundreds of Jews, Rachmono litzlan, would arrive in Jaffa on the days of Chol Hamoed Pesach, eagerly waiting in line to purchase that product which mandates koreis at that time. The concept of "Abulafia" became a household word, a symbol of defiance, of the struggle against religion and the laws of the Torah.

Chometz was eaten openly, and Said Abulafia saw the money come streaming in. An enormous amount of money lined his pockets on the days of Pesach, when Jews from all over the Dan area arrived at his store to stand in line.

It seemed as if nothing could prevent the episode from mushrooming. The bakery expanded and the Jaffa workers put in many strenuous hours during Pesach. Many who would have been willing to forgo eating chometz, joined the shoppers and customers of Abulafia, who had become a brand name among the secular Jews — and one of the most infamous names for every Jew who kept Torah and mitzvos.

The chometz sale could have gone on for years, perhaps even to this day, and led masses of Jews astray.

What could be done about it? How could it be stopped? Many gave it thought; many felt pain. But it was Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Shtauber, a Chassidic Jew whose heart was aflame to sanctify the Name of Heaven, who decided to do something about it — and succeeded.


The Jews of Jerusalem discovered what it meant to be the embodiment of a heart that burned over everything connected with kedushoh on the first Shabbos after Rebbe Yitzchok Shtauber emigrated to Israel, two years after his son, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman's, move.

"Shabbos I'm in Yerushalayim," he announced to his children. When Rav Yitzchok arrived in Yerushalayim ircho, he fell down in a faint, from the sheer emotion of being in the palace of the King . . .

And so he arrived at the Vishnitz shtiebel in Jerusalem, and was given the honor of the amud for Mincha of kabbolas Shabbos.

R' Yitzchok was a Jew who was on fire over everything connected with kedushoh.

His son, Shlomo Zalman, the hero of our story, had wanted to live in Eretz Yisroel ever since he was a boy. "Go right after your marriage," his Rebbe had instructed him and indeed, two weeks after his wedding, in the year 5695 (1935), Rabbi Shlomo Zalman packed up his possessions and began the long and exhausting journey to Eretz Yisroel.

In their new country of residence, the young Shtauber couple's home became a meeting place of talmidei chachomim. The matriarch of the family opened a kind of local "restaurant," strictly kosher. Many of the great talmidei chachomim of the city were guests at their home and became part of the lives of the young couple.

"HaRav Abba Grossbard taught Ima the halachos pertaining to Eretz Yisroel," one of the sons explained, recalling the memories his parents had shared with him of the gedolei Yisroel who had been in their house, and the roshei yeshivos and rebbeim. Even the Admor Rebbe Chaim Meir of Vishnitz had stayed with them during his visit to Eretz Yisroel a few years before the Holocaust.

When a few years went by and the couple were still not blessed with children, they followed the advice of the Chazon Ish, who ruled "meshaneh mokom meshaneh mazal,", and moved to Tel Aviv.

Rabbi Shlomo Zalman rapidly became a central figure in the Jewish life of Tel Aviv. He was concerned with every matter pertaining to kedushoh, and he also became an Agudas Yisroel person with all his might. But still he was not content with that.

There were many Jews who suffered from abject poverty who lived in Tel Aviv and Jaffa during that period. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman, who felt their pain, decided to found a "kimcha dePischa." The story of this distribution is also linked, in an amazing way, to the story of the Abulafia Bakery, but let us begin with first things first.

Kimcha DePischa for the Jews of Tel Aviv

Rabbi Shlomo Zalman prepared and ordered crates of wine and matzos, which he kept in storerooms that he rented. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman would collect funds for the Kimcha dePischa from his customers, while a sizable portion of the money came out of his own pockets.

As he was distributing the wine and matzos, he took advantage of the opportunity, and added a note to each package detailing that the sender was . . . "Agudas Yisroel, Tel Aviv." That way, he hoped, the beneficiaries would remember to vote for a religious party at the time of the elections.

That idea, incidentally, proved itself in the high percentage of voters for Agudas Yisroel in the Jaffa region, where most of the Jews who lived there were not among those normally seen as potential voters for Agudas Yisroel.

As stated, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman knew Jaffa very well. He had a business for the production and importing of materials for the shoe industry, which was located on number 4 Yaffet Street, next to and visible from the Abulafia Bakery.

The first contact was made through the Arab bakers. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman made sure to arrive there early every morning and, while chatting amiably with his Abulafia neighbors, he would throw a wood chip into the oven which was then being heated up for the day. That way he wished to save those who ate the bread from pas akum. The chip was thrown in for many years, day after day, until the arrival of Pesach . . .

The Problem

The sight of the huge lines waiting at the door of the bakery on chag Pesach was, for Rabbi Shlomo Zalman, like a knife stabbing at his heart. Could it be—huge lines of Jews who wanted to sin by eating chometz?

It was clear to him that if the option were not available, many of them would refrain from eating chometz. Also, the public aspect of the affair pained him greatly. Like many observant Jews, he was aware that the name and symbol of Abulafia stood for the breaching of the fence and the profanation of the sanctity of Pesach and the mitzvos of the chag.

He grieved deeply for the spiritual damage taking place in front of his eyes — until finally he decided to make a move and try to stop what was going on.

The Solution

Thus it was that one day Rabbi Shlomo Zalman went up to Said Abulafia. He greeted him as was his way and, in the midst of their neighborly conversation, he began crying to him, speaking of his pain and of how deeply the matter hurt him, both his faith and his personal sensitivities.

He attempted to explain to Said, who was a religious Moslem, what was distressing him so greatly and what the concept of areivim zeh lozzeh meant — how he felt upset by the actions of his fellow Jews. He hoped that the veteran baker would be upset by the matter. He was also about to come up with an amazing proposition, which he would be hard put to turn down.

"Said," he said suddenly. "You are a loyal friend. You see how much this matter pains me. Let us make a deal. You make a calculation of your net profits on the days of Pesach, and I will cover all the losses you incur."

Said was dumbfounded. He could not believe what he was hearing. But Rabbi Shlomo Zalman did not pause and hurried to strike while the iron was hot. "You know, you never take any vacation the whole year, don't you and your children deserve it?" he said, adding, "Why don't you take a week's vacation. All the losses you incur by closing the bakery will be on me!"

Rabbi Shlomo Zalman still had no idea of what figures were involved, but his mind was made up: the Abulafia bakery had to close down on Pesach!

Said was moved by the Jew in front of him, seeing his determination and his genuine pain.

In a short time his reply came in the affirmative. Said understood his pain on the one hand while, on the other hand, there was the temptation of the "free vacation." He made his calculation. He arrived the next day at Rabbi Shlomo Zalman's store, where the first agreement was drawn up — the first of six.

"The contract was drawn up between Mr. Shlomo Zalman Shtauber, and Mr. Said Abulafia, owner of the pita bakery on 7 Yaffet Street."

As per this contract, Mr. Said Abulafia, owner of the abovementioned bakery, undertakes not to open the bakery nor to bake or sell nor bring from another site and sell on this site throughout all the days of the festival of Pesach 5730, starting from Monday, April 2, 1970 in the morning at 9:00 until April 27, 1970 at 7:30 p.m. Neither he nor any representative of his is allowed to open the bakery or bring in children to sell on the site from any side whatsoever.

"And Mr. Shlomo Zalman Shtauber undertakes to hand him the amount established by him in a check written for April 29, 1970, at the Jaffa Bank for Loans and Savings."

The check was to be dated later, obviously. That was the whip that was held over the other party's head to ensure the agreement would be fulfilled, as the end of the contract specified:

"And the check will be honored only in the case of the agreement being fulfilled as it is written in the aforesaid."

The figures were staggering. Only after the death of their father, did the Shtauber family sit down and figure out his costs during those years. It turned out that Rabbi Shlomo Zalman could have bought a four room apartment in a prestigious neighborhood in Tel Aviv with that money — money that was used to sanctify the Name of Heaven!

A Kosher Pesach from the Abulafia Family

The agreement worked amazingly well. In the beginning Jews arrived at the site and found its gates locked up. Abulafia was not selling chometz any more! Visitors were greeted with a large sign: "Abulafia's bakery wishes the Israeli people a Pesach kosher vesomei'ach . . . "

By the second year, it had already become clear that the agreement would be kept. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman still had no idea how he would come up with such a staggering amount, but he knew he had to do it.

Thus, year after year for a period of six years, the idea became a fait accompli. The financial effort was enormous, but Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Shtauber was not a man to give up on it. Every year Said would come to Rabbi Shlomo Zalman's store opposite the bakery, and sit and sign on the agreement as he had done at the beginning, including a detailed listing of the hours — beginning from the end of the time when chometz was allowed to be eaten until the end of the chag — that the bakery doors would be locked up. The deed was established at the site.

Said, who was a clever man, discovered two amazing things: the unexpected vacation turned out to be a wonderful treat, but that was not the only thing. His income the whole year suddenly rose miraculously.

In those six years he became genuinely wealthy, and his investments were highly successful. He sensed there was some inexplicable blessing over his endeavors.

And so it was, by the seventh year with the approach of Pesach, Said went up to Rabbi Shlomo Zalman of his own accord and told him: "I wouldn't open the store even if they paid me to do it. I got used to that marvelous vacation, not to mention the blessing that G-d has sent me with parnossoh. You don't have to pay me any more. I will never open my bakery on Pesach!"

It was amazing to see proof of how, when a person makes the effort, he is given siyata deShmaya, say friends of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman who, in the course of time, had the zchus to move to Bnei Brak.

There, he founded a shul that was named after the Rebbe of Bursa, a synagogue on Maharshal Street in town. The beis hamedrash, with three kollelim learning there, blossomed into a thriving Torah center for most of the day. One of the kollelim, which was recognized as one of the most prominent kollelim in the city, was that of HaRav Chaim Meir Shteinberg, author of the sefer Shenos Chaim.

An annual siyum is held on the yahrtzeit of the Bursa Rebbe, even to this day. A shiur is given by the rosh kollel, and there is a Chassidic seudas siyum. Talmidei chachomim, graduates of the kollel, as well as Admorim and Chassidim participate at the seudah with, in the past, a joyous Rabbi Shlomo Zalman standing beside them, who continued, with his warm heart, to do his utmost to sanctify the Name of Heaven.

The Abulafia Bakery still closes for Pesach to this day. Last year a meeting took place between a few of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman's sons and Ahmad Abulafia, the son of Said, who has long since gone to his eternal rest.

At the meeting, Ahmad shed tears. He well remembered that period and he knew, and his father had told him, where all their wealth and blessing had come from. He loved that wonderful Jew, who for him symbolized everything a Jew is supposed to stand for: Faith, self-sacrifice to keep the laws of the Torah, guarding oneself from sin—and others too, even if they are far from the Torah.

A Jew who inspires us and is a dramatic proof of the power of one man to act for the Sanctification of Hashem's Name, and prevent other Jews from Torah prohibitions.

Even on his death, his reward was great. He died on erev Shabbos Kodesh, a time that the gedolei Yisroel always yearned most to depart from this world. He was buried just before Shabbos on Har Hazeisim, Yerushalayim.

This week, on erev Pesach, we expect that the famous sign was hung once again on the Abulafia Bakery door, announcing that the gates will be shut during Pesach, beginning from the last deadline for eating chometz until the end of the chag. Surely they will not forget to add that sentence: "The Abulafia Bakery wishes the people of Israel a happy and kosher Pesach . . . "


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.