Why (not) to fast on Tisha beAw


, , ,

Tisha beAw (literally "the ninth of the month Aw") is the second-most important fast day in the Jewish calendar (after Yom Kippur). This is the day that both the first and the second temple were distroyed – a tragedy for the Jewish people at the time.

But as a non-so-orthodox Jew, what does the temple mean to me? I am not really looking forward to it being rebuilt. Aside from the little problem with the building standing at its location at the moment, why would I want a 2000-year-old rite with sacrifices to be reinstated? Even if we could ignore the sacrificing-animals-part (you could argue that not all sacrifices are animals, most of the sacrifices are eaten and slaughtering animals just for food is also cruel), how am I supposed to find meaning in the concept of sacrifices in a temple by priests? In my humble opinion Judaism was lucky that it had to develop alternative ways of worship and was thus able to survive when sacrificial cults went out of fashion.

But then, what do I do with a day of mourning for the temple?

One possibility is, to look for other sad occasions in Jewish history that are connected to this date. The expulsion of Jews from Spain for example. Or, alternatively, view the historical context where the destruction of the temple did not only destry a building, but marked the end of an era of Jewish life in the region with lots of people killed. Which happened several times in Jewish history. And which may happen again.

Alternatively, use the day for fasting and introspection and spiritual renewal without a connection to tragedy. I am not sure how well that can work, but I might try it.




, ,

Regardless of the intention or reasoning, hiding part of one’s self – makes you less proud of being that part. Even if you don’t agree with the reasons of why you’re doing it, the very act of hiding yourself inherently makes you believe that there’s something wrong with you — if part of you needs hiding.
Jewish in Jordan

I don’t remember how I came across that blog and why I wrote down this quote. But it resonates with me again yesterday. I was just filling out a form and came across the question "religion". And I was debating with myself whether to write Jewish or not. This time it does not impact only myself, but also my family. And who knows if at some point it may become dangerous to be Jewish again, so why write it, when I can just leave the field empty. But on the other hand, I don’t want to hide. I am not ashamed. There is nothing wrong with us. But still, there is this nagging voice "don’t do it!".

Nine and the gematria of every word in the Torah


, , , ,

In a forum thread about Torah proofs, the following claim popped up (edited for clarity):

every lashon Hakodesh noun word in Torah, if you add it [the Gematria values of all letters] up minus the misper kuton [the digit sum] will equal 9 which is gematria of emes to show that the Torah is emes.

So the claim is: Add the letters, subtract the digit sum and the result is evenly divisible by nine.

A few Hebrew examples:
שָּׁמַ֖יִם (heaven) = 300 + 40 + 10 + 40 = 390 , digit sum 12 -> 390 – 12 = 378, 378 by 3 is 126
אָֽרֶץ (earth) = 1 + 200 + 90 = 291, digit sum 12 -> 291 – 12 = 279, 279 by 3 is 93
ר֣וּחַ (wind, breath) = = 200 + 6 + 8 = 214, digit sum 7 -> 214 – 7 = 207, 207 by 3 is 69

Amazing? Not so much.

Let’s take a three-digit number and let the digits of it be represented by the variables ABC. A is the first digit, B the second, C the third. If A is 1, B is 2, and B is 5, we have the number 125. A in the number represents the hundreds, B the tens and C the ones. Mathematically speaking, a number is represented as:
A*100 + B*10 + C

The digit sum of a number is simply the sum of the components, for our three-digit number, that would be A+B+C. In the example 125, we have 1 + 2 + 5 = 8. So let’s subtract the digit sum from the original number:
A*100 + B*10 + C – (A + B + C)

Using some stuff you learned at school for grouping the variables, we can simplify this to give:
A*100 + B*10 + C – (A + B + C)
= 100*A + 10*B + C – A – B – C
= 100*A – 1*A + 10*B – 1*B + C – C
= (100 – 1) * A + (10 – 1) * B + C – C
= 99*A + 9*B
= 9 * (11*A + 1*B)

This result is a number that can be represented as 9*something. And if something can be represented as 9*something, it is divisible by 9 (in Math-talk: 9 is a divisor of the number).

So EVERY number minus its digits sum is divisible by nine. The numerical values of words from the Torah are not special in any way, the values for ALL words in the worlds, no matter which language are divisible by nine.

Religion in the workplace


, , ,

This is based on notes from a workshop by Amanda Benzikri at Limoud Paris 2018.

Every religious person who is involved in the general secular society has probably experienced this: A conflict between expectations in the workplace and religious demands. The question for this workshop was how to deal with it on both sides, as an employer or an employee.

The main idea of the workshop was, that there is nothing unique about religious conflicts and that they should be addressed the same way as any other conflict. For example: A religious Jew would need to take Shabat and Jewish holidays off from work. This may mean leaving early or not being able to take shifts on a given day. So why is this not a uniquely religious problem? Because basically, it is a scheduling conflict. The exact same question is raised with an employee who has children that need to be picked up every day at 4 PM. Or the employee who needs to take days off to take care of a parent. The solution is to have guidelines of what is the expectation when people are needed to work and under which circumstances people can take their vacation days. The clearer the rules, the better for everybody, secular or religious.

Another example and potential point of conflict is religious dress. May a Muslim woman wear a hijab at work or a Jewish man a kippa? But again, the same issue is raised if someone wants to wear a hipster beard or for some reason only wears orange. The company needs to decide if there should be a dress code and how far this regulates dress. In some parts it may be the normal case to have a very restrictive dress code, e.g. for a bank or a receptionist in a fancy hotel. The dress code may include "no headcovering", but that is not a religious thing, it will also include fashion choices. In other places, dress is absolutely irrelevant for the job, so there would be absolutely no reason to enforce a dress code.

And so on for other potential conflicts. When we take out the emotional component that religion (or at least some religions) carries and look at the problem objectively, it simplifies the task of formulating clear rules about expectations in the workplace.

Pesach cleaning vs. spring cleaning


, , ,

I have written lots of posts about Pesach, but it seems that I have never linked this article by Ruchi Koval on her blog "Out Of The Ortho Box": How to Clean for Pesach (Passover) in One Day.

I encourage you to read the whole article, but the basic points not to do that I take out for myself are:

  • Don’t do sorting, re-ordering or re-arranging of any items at the same time.
  • Don’t clean rooms, where you are sure that chametz is never taken, e.g., basement, bathroom, children’s room. As a child I was never allowed to have food in my room. Only specific places in the house are for eating, others are not. And only specific times (meals) are for eating. Be consistent. This also helps to avoid weird smells and forgotten half-eaten chocolate bars in random places all over the year.
  • Even in rooms where chametz is taken, don’t clean places where chametz is never going to get, e.g., where you keep clean clothes, clean dishes, bookshelfs, behind furniture.
  • Don’t clean windows, curtains, walls, outside of furniture, etc. Traces of chametz are bitul anyway.

What still needs to be done:

  • Empty out pockets of used (!) backpacks, bags, suitcases, jackets, trousers, etc. I always do that over the year anyway, when I put away things, e.g., a suitcase after a trip or winter jackets when spring comes. So there should not be so many things in use at any one time.
  • Look for non-food chametz items in bathroom and "art projects".
  • Vacuum all rooms for crumbs, maybe a bit more thorough than usually, but don’t go crazy.
  • Clean thoroughly: Kitchen, dining room, couch, any place food is kept.

Remember: Pesach cleaning is not spring cleaning. Dust is not chametz!!

Jew or citizen? Jew, apparently.


, ,

I am depressed, so this week’s citation of the week from Jüdische Allgemeine fits perfectly:

Opfer, das waren auch deutsche Bürger, also nicht nur die jüdischen.
Victims [of the Shoah], there were also German citizens, so not only the Jewish [citizens].

(Georg Welker, Pfarrer und Bürgermeister des pfälzischen Herxheim)

Yeah, I’m not a real citizen, because I’m Jewish. Understood. Thank you. So what’s new?

Bendigamos al Altisimo


, , ,

I will never forget my first Shabat dinner at the synagogue of Madrid. They have a dinner for young people who have nowhere else to go and it is really a great place to meet people (was, at that time, anyway). The food was bad, but plenty, the rabbi spoke about relatively relevant stuff, and although probably none of us young people was actually orthodox, we all agreed to enjoy talking without taking out our phones. At the end of the dinner, the Birkat haMazon was done. With a different melody and slightly differnt words, but well, that’s expected of Sefardim. And then they started to sing a church song… or at least it seemed that way to me and the other Ashkanazi guests. Judge for yourself:

After seeing our puzzled faces, we quickly got the explanation that this is a traditional Sefardi song. There is the possibility that it sounds like a church song on purpose, to enable hidden Jews to say something like a Birkat haMazon at a time where anything Jewish was forbidden in Spain. Here is the text with translation from Wikipedia:

Bendigamos al Altísimo,
Al Señor que nos crió,
Démosle agradecimiento
Por los bienes que nos dió.
Let us bless the Most High
The Lord who raised us,
Let us give him thanks
For the good things which he gave us.
Alabado sea su Santo Nombre,
Porque siempre nos apiadó.
Load al Señor que es bueno,
Que para siempre su merced.
Praised be his Holy Name,
Because he always took pity on us.
Praise the Lord, for he is good,
For his mercy is everlasting.
Bendigamos al Altísimo,
Por su Ley primeramente,
Que liga a nuestra raza
Con el cielo continuamente,
Let us bless the Most High
First for his Law,
Which binds our prayer
With heaven continually,
Alabado sea su Santo Nombre,
Porque siempre nos apiadó.
Load al Senor que es bueno,
Que para siempre su merced.
Praised be his Holy Name,
Because he always took pity on us.
Praise the Lord, for he is good,
For his mercy is everlasting.
Bendigamos al Altísimo,
Por el pan segundamente,
Y también por los manjares
Que comimos juntamente.
Let us bless the Most High,
Secondly for the bread
And also for the food
Which we eat together.
Pues comimos y bebimos alegremente
Su merced nunca nos faltó.
Load al Señor que es bueno,
Que para siempre su merced.
For we have eaten and drunk happily
His mercy has never failed us.
Praise the Lord, for he is good,
For his mercy is everlasting.
Bendita sea la casa esta,
El hogar de su presencia,
Donde guardamos su fiesta,
Con alegría y permanencia.
Blessed be this house,
The home of his presence,
Where we keep his feast,
With happiness and permanence.
Alabado sea su Santo Nombre,
Porque siempre nos apiadó.
Load al Señor que es bueno,
Que para siempre su merced.

Praised be his Holy Name,
Because he always took pity on us.
Praise the Lord, for he is good,
For his mercy is everlasting.

Once you get used to the church-y feel, it a really nice song!

The holy hand or the overflowing hand?


, ,

Some time ago, I had the prayer book of the US Conservative movement in my hands for praying Birkat haMazon, the prayer after a meal. I followed the text in Hebrew and was not expecting any surprises, but there it was [transliterations/translations are further down, keep on reading]:

כִּי אִם לְיָדְךָ הַמְּלֵאָה. הַפְּתוּחָה. הַגדוֹשָׁה וְהָרְחָבָה.

No, nothing to do with the “expected liberal/Conservative stuff” like mentioning women alongside the men or cutting out pieces that have to do with the temple. Look again at the usual text that my siddur has and all others that I had seen until then and see if you can spot the difference:

כִּי אִם לְיָדְךָ הַמְּלֵאָה. הַפְּתוּחָה. הַקְּדוֹשָׁה וְהָרְחָבָה.

The usual version has “your full (מלאה), open (פתחה), holy (קדושה) and wide (רחבה) hand”. The other version has “your full (מלא), open (פתחה), overflowing (גדושה) and wide (רחבה) hand”. So we have holy, kedushah (קדושה) versus overflowing, gedushah (גדושה). At first I thought it was a typo, but when I showed it to one of the rabbis at the table he said this that may actually be the original text and over time the unfamiliar word gedushah became replaced by the very similar sounding and more familiar word kedushah.

So I started to do some digging. A search for texts, transliterations or translations of Birkat haMazon didn’t yield a single version with the word gedushah (please tell me if you find one!), but many with kedusha (for example here or here). My attempt at a Hebrew search found only a forum entry where someone said “interesting, we say gedushah” (and that was the full extend about that topic). But then in my English search I found that someone has asked that same question to Chabad:

QUESTION: It should have said, “yadecha hakedoshah” — “Your holy hand” — before describing His benevolence? It does not seem to fit between the descriptions of “open” and “generous”?
ANSWER: In the Ba’al Shem Tov’s hand-written Siddur, which was acquired by the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, and is currently in the library of Agudat Chassidei Chabad, instead of “hakedoshah” — “holy” — it says “hegedushah” — “overflowing” — (as in “maleih vegadush” — “full and overflowing”). […] The letters gimmel, yud, chaf, and kuf (גיכ”ק) emanate from the “chaich” — “palate” — and due to their similarity they are at times interchangeable. […] Hence, it is possible here, too, that in “hakedoshah” the “kuf” is interchanged with the “gimmel” and it actually means “overflowing.”
(Questions and Answers on Blessing After a Meal by By Moshe Bogomilsky)

The answer contains two citations, ברוך שאמר, ועי, which I haven’t time to find yet, and this one:

ואומרים: “כי אם לידך המלאה הפתוחה, הקדושה והרחבה, שלא נבוש ולא נכלם לעולם ועד”. ויש אומרים גם “ולא נכשל”. ויש סידורים שבמקום “הקדושה” כתוב “הגדושה”, כלומר: לשון גודש, שנותן כביכול יד מלאה עם גודש.
[And they say “because of your full, open, holy and wide hand, we will never be humiliated or put to shame”. And some people say also “we will no falter”. And there are prayer books where instead of “holy” it is written “overflowing”, as it is said: Expression(?) of abundance, a full hand that seemingly gives with abundance(?).
(Arush haShulchan 188:6)

And while translating that quote (me! I am translating! From Hebrew!) I found an interesting article about the topic, in the Hebrew edition of HaAretz (of all places): כי אם לידך המלאה, הפתוחה והגדושה (or, as Google Translate says: “But to your full, open and large hand”) by Ben-Zion Fishler. It has more quotes and old siddurim. So there you have it, Conservative movement siddur that I forgot the name of, you have me convinced. From now on I will pray about the “overflowing” hand that gives in abundance.

Btw: Google Translate gives me “Congestion, which supposedly gives a hand full of congestion.” for “לשון גודש, שנותן כביכול יד מלאה עם גודש.” – very poetic!



, ,

I am sorry that I have been absent for so long. I have plenty of ideas on what I want to write about, but I have no energy to actually do it. Maybe next year will be better!

My life is busy and overall enjoyable at the moment. I am not doing much in the area of religious observance other than cover my hair and read Jewish blogs. Which is sort of interesting from a psychology standpoint I guess. But I cannot tell you what it means, as I am not qualified in that area 😉

Relating to hair covering, by now I have been with a hair-covering to talk with customers, at formal events and at a conference. Mostly, there hasn’t been any specific reaction. Sometimes I have had positive comments, mostly that the colors are nice. And I got some more questions about why I cover. Sometimes with a longer talk afterwards, sometimes not. All of them out of real interest an non-threatening.

But three incidents have left me a bit confused and sad (not directly related to hair-covering, more general perceived foreignness). One was a colleague who asked if I was allowed to vote in the next national elections. He knows that I have grown up here and I think he has even seen my CV which states my nationality. But just because I wear a head-covering or just because I am Jewish I am not a citizen in his head? I didn’t want to pursue the issue further, so I didn’t ask why he thought that. Next time was a different colleague and we talked about vacations in the Middle East. And suddenly he turns to me and asks whether I have a European or an Israeli passport. Again, we have worked together for a while, he constantly makes fun of my dialect, so he should know that I have been born here. Here I asked why he would think that I was an Israeli national instead of a citizen of the country I live in and he just said "just because you have been there often". The two things happened in the space of two weeks or so, but I was more confused than anything else. The third incident was when we were walking along a road and there was a sign saying "synagogue" that pointed into one direction. In that direction was a T-shaped crossing and on the other side of the street, so directly where the sign appeared to be pointing to, was some big bank. Somebody said "well, that’s not the synagogue" and somebody replied "but it would fit!". This is text book anti-semitism! But I was way too perplexed to say or do anything.

What is the point of these stories? I don’t know, I just wanted to get them off my chest. I don’t think there is an increase in anti-semitism. If anything, I am more recognizable. I don’t think these people are bad. I think they may need to reflect on their preconceived notions a bit. But more and more I can relate to the sentiment that it is good Israel exists, because that way we have a place to go to if anything happens. Which I hope I will not need in my lifetime.

The exodus – just a story?


, , , , ,

No time for a long post, just a quick "bookmark" to The Pesach Story (or how did the Exodus narrative come about):

If our a ancestors didn’t leave Egypt in a great mass, then what did happen? Is there any truth to the story at all?

There probably is some historical truth in it. […]

With this in mind, we can reconstruct a probable historical Exodus. A group of slaves escaped from Egypt and spent some time at a desert oasis. From there, they joined the bands of Habiru in the Canaanite highlands. They brought with them their religion, a henotheistic faith with a jealous God Who commanded His followers to “Have no other gods before me,” but didn’t deny the existence of those other deities. They may have been influenced by the same currents in Egyptian society that led the pharaoh Akhenaton around the same time to briefly adopt the monotheistic worship of the sun-disc, Aten. In time the newcomers’ religion was adopted by the rest of the Habiru, and the escaped slaves became the religious leaders. As latecomers, this new priestly class, who came to be known as Leviim, had no hereditary territory.[7]

The story of the slaves’ escape from Egypt was adopted as a founding myth of the Habiru, even though most of them were not descended from that group. In the same way that the story of the Mayflower is one of the United States’ founding myths, even though most Americans are not descended from the group that came over on the Mayflower. The highlands remained the Habiru’s seat of power, even when their religion spread to the rest of Canaan. This was the center of the kingdom of Judah, from which the Jewish people got our name.

This is a story of real people. It is an epic that can speak to us across time, and in it can be seen the seeds of modern Enlightenment values. People who started as slaves, at the lowest rung of society, rose to regard themselves as the Chosen Nation and to spread their ideas around the world. Many of their laws were progressive for their time, stressing equality before the law (for free men, anyway). On Pesach we retell the myth of our origin as slaves and our redemption from bondage. We remind ourselves that we are descended from slaves, that society once considered our ancestors contemptible, and that those slaves, when given the opportunity, created a rich culture and mythos that has been one of the most influential in history.

Categories of melachah on Shabat


, , ,

There are 39 forbidden melachot (types of work) on Shabat. I have posted on this blog about the traditional categories on this blog (the orders of bread, garments, leather and construction). This is a different categorization based on Maslow’s hierarchy of need which I have heard in a shiur by Rabbi David Levin-Kruss and found interesting.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs categorizes different needs of people and arranges them in a hierarchy. As long as the lower-level needs of a person are not met, that person is unhappy and not ready to care about the higher-level needs*. The lowest level is food and clothing, next comes safety, next belonging, next esteem (feeling valued) and finally self-actualization. In the shiur, it was proposed that the forbidden melachot on shabat are the things we need to do to take care of the lower levels. This is what we should do in the work week. With the lower levels taken care of and forbidden to dwell on on shabat, this leaves shabat free for us to reach the high levels, ideally the level of self-actualization.

I did not take too many notes, but let’s see if I can align the melachot and the hierarchy levels. Any mistakes are my own, not the Rabbi’s. The orders of bread, garments and leather quite clearly address the lowest level of Maslow’s hierarchy. In the order of construction we have building, demolishing and striking the last blow which may refer to the level of safety. Maybe fire goes into there as well, or even to the lowest level of physical comfort (warmth in winter). Belonging is connected to communication, so that would make writing and erasing melachot of the third level. Also carrying, which is necessary when people get together in groups. Alternatively carrying could also go to the lowest level, as we need to carry our food and clothes home. So with the lower three levels forbidden to worry about on Shabat, we need to prepare everything beforehand. Which creates the secure feeling that all our basic needs are met. And so we have the day to reach for the other levels.

It’s not a perfect fit, but I found the idea insteresting and worth thinking about.

* I’m not a social scientist or psychologist, sorry if I’m grossly misrepresenting the theory.

Where were the women at Sinai?


, , , , ,

I have attended a shiur about Shavuot and the giving of the Torah. We read the text where the people of Israel gets ready to receive the Torah (Exodus 19 and 20). In there, it has a sentence about how the people should "refrain from coming near women". Now one (pretty straightforward) interpretation is that the "people" here refers to men only. So women were not there to receive the Torah??? The most important point in Jewish history, and women were not a part of it? What does Judaism has to say about that?

One answer is, that this is just a general reference to making the people holy, it is just one specific part of preparation, but not the only one and of course women were included in giving the Torah. Some may see that as apologetics or re-interpreting the Torah in ways that "feel good" for us today.

A different answer is given by Rashi. Seminal emission makes women tameh (ritually unclean) for up to three days and if the women were to be tameh, they would not have been able to attend. So the men were forbidden to go near them for the benefit of the women. (I haven’t really researched this, but I think seminal emission also makes men tameh?) This is also some sort of re-interpretation, but maybe a bit more technical one.

Another answer is to set the Torah into historic context. In ancient Greece, only free men were "people" and the Torah is a product of a similar time. So maybe they really didn’t think of women as "people" and women really were not there at the time – but now of course we include women. This sort of assumes that Judaism changes with times and that the Torah is not perfect, so some people may be unhappy with this answer.

I don’t really want to get hang up on the different answers and I am sure there are many more interpretations. What inspired me to write this post is the closing sentence of the rabbi:

The question is not what is written in the Torah. The question is how do I need to read the Torah today, in my specific situation, to enable me to stay Jewish.

It may sound heretical for some of you, but in the end, this is what matters. How can I deal with the difficult passages in the Torah (and there are some for everybody, even if this specific one does not bother you personally) and still stay Jewish. How can I be authentic and Jewish.

Being critical of Israel… or antisemitic?


, ,

Is it antisemitic to be critical of Israel’s politics?

No. Just as it is not anti-whatever to be critical of the politics of… France, Azerbaijan, Chile, Canada, Jordan or Thailand. The problem is – that’s not a thing. There is no movement against Canada’s politics. People who criticize Chile’s government don’t hasten to add "but I am not Latino-phobic". And nobody feels the need to share his/her opinion about Azerbaijan without ever having been there or knowing a person there. Thailand is not in the news every day. France’s president is not compared to Hitler. And nobody doubts Jordan’s right to exist. But all of this is common when the county in question is Israel. Which makes you think…

But no. Not every criticism of Israel is antisemitic.

So let’s look at some statements: "Israel is waging a war of extermination against the Palestinians" – "What Israel does to the Palestinians is just like what the Nazis did to the Jews" – "Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the country they live in" – "Israel’s politics is negatively influencing my view of Jews" [link to source]

That is not "criticism of Israel". That is antisemitic.

Quick Test, replace "Israel" with another country or ethnic group: "Saudi Arabia is waging a war of extermination against Yemen" – "What Sudan does to the Nuer is just like what the Nazis did to the Jews" – "Catholics are more loyal to the Vatican than to the country they live in" – "India’s politics is negatively influencing my view of Hindus". Doesn’t fly!

In my opinion, criticizing Israel is antisemitic if …

  • … antisemitic stereotypes are used, e.g., rich Jews control the world.
  • … comparisons with the holocaust, apartheid, colonialization, etc. are used routinely.
  • … Israel’s right to exist questioned.
  • … there is no distinctions made between Israelis and Jews.
  • … the person in question has no special knowledge about the region.

What do you think?

What I consider kitniot


, ,

Last year, I wrote about guidelines for deciding what is kitniot and said that in my opinion everybody should think about the issue of kitniot and make her/his own list of things that she/he considers kitniot. So the obvious follow-up question is: What do you decide?

Well. First, I do decide that I want to honor the minhag somewhat, so there are things that I do not eat on pessach because I consider them kitniot. Second, I decide that (a) I think there should not be additions to the original list, but (b) there should be some botanical consistency to the list.

So effectively my list includes the "original" kitniot (i.e., beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, rice, millet, buckwheat) and additionally things that are botanically cereal grains (maize/corn, rice, millet). Yes, I would definitely eat quinoa (that is, if I ever ate quinoa, which I really don’t).

Gluten-free oat cereals


, , , ,

I’ve written a lot about kitniot on this blog previously. To recap: Kitniot are not chametz, but they are avoided on Pesach by Ashkenazim as well because they may be confused with chametz or contain traces of chametz. Every year the discussion of whether these are valid reasons starts again.

Last year, one opportunity to re-start the debate was General consumer’s announcement that Cheerios are now gluten-free (which apparently was published already in February 2015):

Cheerios have always been made of oats, which are naturally gluten-free. Many farmers who grow oats rotate their crops. That means they also grow grains that have gluten (like wheat, barley, and rye). These grains get mixed in with the oats during harvesting and transport. To make Cheerios gluten‑free, we have to separate them from the oats.

This can of course be used to support the claim that the may-contain-traces-of-chametz concern may be relevant even today, this is a snippet from Cheerios Vindicate Ashkenazim! by Yitzchok Adlerstein, published on CrossCurrents:

Even today, apparently, grains get mixed with other grains, both in their growing (in the case of legumes, not through rotation, but as crops grown between the rows of grain) and in their transportation.

And of course the exact opposite argument made based on the same community announcement (comment by Menachem Lipkin on April 28, 2016):

Generally there’s little argument over why there was a need for the restriction when it started. They claim it’s no longer needed. The fact that a company the size of General Mills is able to make one of the most popular cereals in the world Gluten-free shows that it can be done on such a scale and certainly on the smaller scale of Kashrut supervision as is quite commonly done in Israel.

Elu ve-elu divrei elokim hayyim (Both [answers] are the words of the living God) !?