Come clean on meat kashrus, melbourne

Last night, I enjoyed a Simcha. It’s common for me to attend a Simcha, except that I usually eat with my band, and prefer to for professional and menchlich reasons, even when I am often also a guest. Last night, though, I was a regular guest sans any musical involvement. I was just a Moshe Kapoyer.

As we sat down to the main course, I noticed two fine members of Adass who appeared to be vegetarians. The catererer was a fine Adass caterer, however, there was a sign advising that the meat was from (Chabad supervised) Solomon’s Butchers. Clearly Chabad prefer their meat at their functions. Some Chabadniks will eat Adass meat, others will not.

There is nothing new about the fact that there are different approaches to Shechita. There is Beis Yosef, Chassidish, Litvish, and variations. These can vary because of whether there is freezing of the meat with the blood intact before latter processing, the expectation of the morality of the Shochetim (do they have an iPhone for example) and their supervisors, the Bodkim, and more.

Now, everyone is free to have a preference for their own home. You can have two people who are Mehader in meat preparation, and one prefers shop A, and the other shop B. In my mother and father’s house, meat always came from Chedva Butchers, and later from the (Tzaddik) Yankel Unfanger’s Melbourne Kosher Butchers. That was their preference. Later, they included Solomon’s as well.

But, and this is a big but, there is a far cry between choosing what you use in your own home and what you may find yourself presented with at a Simcha. I can relate many stories involving Rabonim bigger than anything we have in Melbourne, including R’ Moshe and R’ Shlomo Zalman, who wouldn’t dream of not participating in a Simcha if there was a reliable hechsher, even though their wives might buy meat or other produce elsewhere in their own homes.

[There is a famous case of a line of Rabonim sitting together all deciding to eat Fish instead of meat. Rav Moshe Tendler was in that line of seats, and went up to each Rav, and asked them how many potential Issurei D'Orayso were involved with Fish versus Meat. There are more with fish!, so he suggested they were actually being Meikel with their Fish and should have chosen the meat. There is no accounting for truth, of course though in our Olam HaSheker].

Returning to our story, I simply didn’t get it. Was a Chabad Shechted Chicken not Kosher enough to the extent that the fine men from Adass became instant vegetarians? Is it correct to implicitly cast aspersions on the Kashrus of others at the same table from an empirical level? What of the B’alei Simcha? Maybe they should have purchased latkes at a take away for them instead?

Now, it works both ways. We never bought from Continental Butchers. I understand it has come a long way in leaps and bounds from the days of yore, and is probably more closely supervised than the disgrace in Monsey (below) where people were eating Mamash Treyf as supplied by “Heilige Butchers” who learned Daf HaYomi each day.

What do I do, though, if I am invited out, and I notice, for example, I am served Wurst from Continental, or something similar? Can I honestly conclude that it is mamash Assur with Timtum Halev and all the shvartze klollos that go with it, or do I conclude, that it’s not my first choice at home, but I’d never embarrass a baaleh booste et al by even remotely making them think that their home was “not kosher enough”.

I was advised that Rabbi Beck had issued instructions that Chabad Meat was never to be eaten. Why? Is it Meshichism? Was he worried that Meshichisten=elohisten? Frozen? Split Chicken? What are the reason(s)? Can Rabbi Beck discuss any issues he or his son-in-law may have with Rabbi’s Telsner and Groner? Is it impossible to fix anything that may appear “wrong”. In the beginning, Misnagdim wouldn’t touch a Chassidic Chalaf Knife. Now, they are all happy with them because they are better. What changed?

While we are at it, Melbourne Kosher describes mehadrin and non mehadrin products. What is the status of Continental? Are they mehadrin? Are the fertile rumours circulating that things aren’t quite as strict as they might be under Melbourne Kosher’s control as far as Meat production is concerned true or scuttlebutt? If so, what are these issues. Can they be fixed? Why the silence.

[Let me state: I am not interested in the slightest in the maverick views of those like Meir Rabi and his ilk].

I’m writing about the respected big three butcher shops. What’s the story? Can we either spill the beans or fix up operations?

PS. I have seen enough in 30 years as far as Kashrus is concerned; I’d not want to write it down though. Ironically, some of the best practices are from Yidden who aren’t the biggest Frumaks, but I trust them any day of the week, at any time, based on what I see.

PPS. Please Adassniks who want to respond, stop the silly games where you continue to fake your identity and expect me to post your comments. Be man enough to put your name to your opinion. Rabbi’s Gutnick, Sprung et al, can you tell us if you LECHATCHILA buy from Contintental in your own homes and if not why not. What is all the scuttle butt about certain chumros and practices. Are they untrue. Is it Mehadrin? If they are untrue put out a bulletin and knock it on the head!

Gelatine? I’m hardly surprised

The issue of gelatine and the view of R’ Chaim Ozer is  well-known and as old as the hills. Sure, the Oilom Goilom think that someone has suddenly leaped to R’ Chaim Ozer’s defence and set him back up on the pedestal of decisor for all. Well, R’ Chaim Ozer was and remains so! On the issue of Gelatine from Cows (not Pigs) however R’ Chaim Ozer’s Psak was not accepted.

So what next? You can expect Meir Rabi to scour every nash in order to ascertain that they definitely don’t use pig gelatine and then make a splash that the delicacy is now suddenly kosher after all.

Well, the facts are that all major world-respected Kashrus authorities didn’t and don’t accept R’ Chaim Ozer’s Psak. Those of you who want to follow Meir Rabi and his company (they curiously claim a”community service”, heck, it’s a private profit making business making money out of declaring things kosher) go right ahead.

For the rest of us, I suggest you read Rabbi Eli Gersten, here.

What? Palestinian Coke isn’t acceptable?

See the article below from Yediot.

Surely, but surely, there is a wonderfully opportunistic business opportunity for a Rabbi to do a quick fly over and declare that it’s kosher, importing and then selling to those who want to save money and “need” that stamp of approval?

Just think, they could then serve it at Limud Oz as a sign of solidarity with the downtrodden and give it out for free when that imported BDS lecturer vituperates.

Tikun Olam at its best.

Rabbinate: Palestinian Coke not kosher

The Chief Rabbinate released an urgent statement this week, warning the Israeli public against Coca-Cola manufactured in the West Bank town of Beitunia, near Ramallah, which is marketed alongside the strictly kosher beverage that has been manufactured in the Israeli city of Bnei Brak for the past decades.

According to the statement, written by Rabbi Yaakov Sabag, director of the Chief Rabbinates Kashrut Department, and Rabbi Rafi Yochai, head of the Kashrut Fraud Division, “We have recently discovered the marketing of a four-pack Coca-Cola, in which each bottle carries a caption in Arabic with no kashrut mark.

 

“This product is being sold for a reduced price and has created confusion among the population, as the brand is known to be kosher in Israel. An inquiry has revealed that the product is manufactured in the village of Beitunia, near Jerusalem, without any kosher supervision.”

Businesses supervised by the Rabbinate were asked in the letter to avoid selling the Coke bottles from Beitunia, even if there is allegedly no fear that the beverage is not kosher. Moreover, many kashrut observers around the world buy the brand in local stores even without a kosher mark, and it is perceived as kosher.

Nonetheless, the Rabbinate wrote in its warning, businesses must avoid selling the Palestinian drink “due to the educational aspect, so as not to get the public used to purchasing products without a kosher mark.”
Rabbinate’s statement on Palestinian Coke

Chief Rabbinate Spokesman Ziv Maor says that Coca-Cola is made in Israel and abroad according to the company’s secret and accurate formula, yet there is no way of knowing whether a factory which is not supervised by the Rabbinate uses the machine that produces the Coke to pack other drinks which are not kosher, such as camel milk.

The warning, he adds, is aimed at making it clear to be public that it must only consume beverages manufactured in a factory supervised by the Rabbinate.

Is Milk Kosher in Melbourne?

A number of years ago, while listening to one of R’ Schachter’s Shiurim, I came away with the distinct impression that he had a serious issue in regards the Kashrus of any Milk in the USA because of the prevalence of Halachically damaged milk cows aka Treyf cows.

I discussed the issue with Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick of Kosher Australia and he advised me that the veterinary procedures extant in the USA were not germane here in the same way on account of the different feeding practices which obviated the potentially Treyf inducing condition common in the USA.

I also asked Rabbi Tzvi Telsner Dayan of of the Chabad Yeshivah Shule in Melbourne whether in light of Rav Schachter’s views, there was a problem with Chalav Yisrael in the USA. Rabbi Telsner claimed that the conditions in Chalav Yisrael production in the USA were much better than the general USA dairy industry and did not have this problem.

To understand this issue, please see the following article
[hat tip Moshe]

Improving the management of Kashrus in Melbourne

The Mizrachi Organisation is to be congratulated and commended for the incredible amount of time and money that they have put into Kashrus in Australia. Starting from מורי ורבי,   Rav Abaranok ז’ל the move over time to align standards with the world respected and renowned OU is something we should all celebrate and not criticise. Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick, and his team, of late, together with the lay committee are responsible for the thick booklet we now have.

It is true that life would be a lot easier if all Australian products had a Universal Symbol for Kashrus, and if the Sydney Kashrus Authority also adopted the OU standards across the board. My feeling is, and I haven’t discussed this with Rabbi Moshe Gutnick and could be completely wrong, that Sydney tend to adopt the standards of the London Beth Din. These are legitimate, of course, but, to me, the OU is the best hechsher in the world. To appreciate the quality of OU, one only needs to listen to the OU Kashrus Q and A videos from both Poskim, Rav Hershel Schachter and Rav Yisroel Belsky and listen to the array of shiurim from the Kashrus experts across a wide array of issues.

I have spoken to both Poskim in the past, and I am in awe of their ידיעת התורה (knowledge of Torah). In the case of Rav Schachter (only because I have had a little more interaction and listen to his shiurim regularly) his גדלות in מדות טובות (moral fibre) is also inspiring. Rav Schachter is eminently approachable. It is one of my disappointments that nobody sponsors a Kollel Week of nightly Shiurim in Melbourne with someone like a Rav Schachter. Chabad, understandably invite their own, and I don’t even know if Beis HaTalmud does these sorts of things much since Rabbi Nojowitz departed and the new regime took over. Any  גבירים  (financially comfortable people) out there want to sponsor something like this? Melbourne would be bedazzled by the Halachic clarity that Rav Schachter transmits. He isn’t the only one, of course. I’d be equally happy to hear Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg or Rav Usher Weiss. The latter travels to South Africa and the States quite often for lectures. I have also spoken with Rav Usher Weiss, and he too is an עניו (humble) and a גדול בתורה (great knowledge of Torah) who is most unassuming. I’d say he is less likely though to stand out on some issues, even though his analysis often makes you think he thinks something is indeed מותר (permitted) when he finally paskens it’s אסור (forbidden).  Rav Schachter, however, seems to have a more Brisker approach to Psak and concludes according to his understanding:  for example, he  has said that showering on Yom Tov is permitted (albeit not using very hot water), something I have personally felt was מותר for over 30 years, but I am digressing (as usual).

A personal testimony.

I was a fill in representative for Elwood Shule many moons ago at the Council of Orthodox Synagogues of Victoria. The topic of the then Mizrachi Kashrus arose. Indeed, it was brought to the table by Mizrachi. There was also a prior proposal around the same time, I believe it may have even been authored by (now) Adjunct Professor Harry Reicher, then of Melbourne, where the lay body was to take over the financial and administrative oversight of  kashrus, beis din and involve all groups (even Adass). Without going into the details of the plan, I clearly recall the Mizrachi delegate, Mr John Kraus, speak to details depicting the financial loss incurred by the Mizrachi Organisation in continuing to run Kashrus. He was very keen for the COSV to take over. The COSV debated the issue, did its sums, and came back with a positive response. I remember feeling that this was going to be a momentous outcome for the community. Why, indeed, should Mizrachi have to bear the burden? Inexplicably, just as the “deal was to be done”, Mr Kraus returned to the COSV and suddenly and surprisingly announced that Mizrachi had withdrawn the offer and would continue to oversee the operation. I am not privy to Mizrachi’s thinking at that point.

I don’t see Adass as a practical partner in any future Kashrus organisation or Beth Din or anything of that sort. They are separatist, and have a right to stay that way. They don’t change. They are effectively a hamlet and organisation to themselves. Each to their own.

All non Adass shules, including Shteiblach and the like, should join the COSV and pay dues. There is an important role for a COSV and it’s not satisfactory that some congregations contribute, while others do not.

My brother-in-law, Romy Leibler, did a great job reforming the lay (financial) arm of the Beth Din together with Meir Shlomo Kluwgant. I think it’s way past the time for the COSV to do the same through quiet diplomacy with Mizrachi. Melbourne will grow when this happens. In my opinion, such a move is more important than dealing with alternative, and so deemed “enlightened” kashrus supervision that we have seen sprouting lately and which is diverting us from the main game of communal accountability and reform.

What say you?

PS. Some of you may know that there is an esteemed Kashrus Organisation called the cRc (Chicago Rabbinic Council), which is headed by the respected Av Beis Din of the Beth Din of America,  Rav Gedalya Dov Schwartz. They were in the press recently with their analysis of the Kashrus of Starbucks. On Pesach, you may have notice another organisation, who name themselves CRC (Central Rabbinic Congress which I think is more than cheeky), who approve various products, including the “Glicks” line of products from overseas. CRC is not cRc. CRC is affiliated with Satmar and the Eida Charedis. They feature, infamously, on this page under Jews against Zionism. Pick your products in my view. If I have a choice, I will always use OU and avoid the anti zionist Eida Charedis and their ilk.

Are we being misled by Kashrus Authorities-Quinoa revisited

Quinoa (pronounced Kin-wa). It’s not a grain; it is related to spinach. Its ברכה is האדמה. Its seeds may or may not be ground in the same way as Potatoes maybe ground and everyone eats potatoes (despite the חיי אדם trying to make them אסור on פסח because of Kitniyos). There are, of course, others, who assert that the גזרה of Kitniyos on Pesach doesn’t apply in Israel, but we won’t go there in this article. Let’s just look at Kosher Australia.

Quinoa

Recently, a letter was circulated by Kosher Australia, explaining the reasons for food items becoming non kosher “suddenly” together with an explanation denying a sudden lurch to “the right.” It was a well written letter and I am a supporter of Kosher Australia aligning their standards with the OU. The OU, in my opinion, is the premier and most trusted Kashrus Authority in the world. Okay, I’m  biased because I ask (major) questions to Rav Schachter, who happens to be one of the two Poskim for the OU.

On the matter of Quinoa on Pesach, Kosher Australia advised us that it was following the practice of the OU and that as a result Kitniyos were not to be used. Coincidentally, I had printed out the 2011 OU Pesach Guide and was reading it. I found that the assertion by Kosher Australia vis a vis Quinoa and Kitniyos was false! In earlier years, the OU had been negative, but this year they decided (quite correctly in my opinion) that the issue of whether to use Quinoa was a matter for individual kehilos.

Let’s face some facts. Determining whether something is or isn’t Kitniyos is not the same as telling us whether treyf is used as an ingredient in foodstuff. Kitniyos is in many ways a more complex question and one that requires a Psak from one’s own Rabbi who I believe will consult with his own Posek Muvhak given the nature of the question. I think the OU got it right. If you want to use Quinoa you should ask your Rav unless you happen to also have a family Minhag of חדש אסור מן התורה. This was also the basis for Rav Moshe’s permissive ruling on peanuts, but of course it didn’t matter if it was Rav Moshe, the Machmirim on the right eventually squeezed out a universal issur on peanuts (and peanut oil). I can remember in the old days we had oils that eventually “became” kitniyos. And no, we never had those nuts in Poland!

Kosher Australia has no business determining what is and what is not Kitniyos.

In fact, they have done a good thing by listing a table of items which some consider Kitniyos. This is the way it should be with Quinoa as well. This episode is a very subtle way that Rabonim are attempting to create a Minhag in Australia by default, by “trying to be all things to all people”. Yes, we are Machmir on Pesach. But even Rabonim said not to be Machmir on Potatoes. I know, Potatoes are a European staple and this avant-garde  Quinoa stuff is something Charedim can’t spell or say, let alone know how to integrate into an oily cholent.

Yes, it is true that the London Beth Din don’t allow Quinoa, equally, the  Star K and Chicago cRc do allow it. Kosher Australia should have adopted the stance of the OU and kept out of this. Rabbi Sprung in Melbourne paskened for Mizrachi that it was fine as long as it was supervised.

By the way, the list of “maybe Kitniyos” listed in Kosher Australia’s booklet is also wrong. It claims that carrots are not Kitniyos according to all. That’s not true. I understand that Belzer don’t eat carrots.

PS. My wife over-ruled me and she won’t let me use Quinoa unless it has a hechsher. I tried to tell her that Eden were certified as one of the brands that had no grain whatsoever in the fields or processing plants and, therefore, it was okay. She wouldn’t hear of it. “Where is the Kosher stamp?”.

Ah, for Shalom Bayis ….

We are what we eat?

There are clear effects on a Jewish soul. The effects, both positive and negative, stem from actions and environment. We normally understand actions as constituting the performance of Mitzvos and good deeds (מעשים טובים). Mitzvos include the principal Mitzvah of Talmud Torah that underpins all Mitzvos and leads one to action (ideally).

Kabbalistically inclined Jews amplify claims that there are effects on the spiritual Neshama (טמטום הלב) stemming from the physical food we put into our mouths.  Jews who are inclined towards rational interpretations of Judaism, are less likely to be concerned about meta side-effects to a soul from a physical item. Let’s take a concrete example. These days we mostly eat Glatt meat. Glatt means that the internal membranes of the animal are “cleaner” and, therefore, don’t attract attendant questions about whether a particular type of faulty membrane renders the animal Treyf. So called pious Jews prefer not to confront the question in the first place. If the animal is Glatt, then it is squeaky clean,  there is no question about its kashrus, and one can be 100% sure that it’s Kosher לכל הדעות. Continuing this theme,  the pious Jew may also contend that even if there is a questionable membrane that is considered kosher by 99% of Poskim, since 1% of Poskim consider the animal Treyf, then there is a 1% likelihood that it’s not kosher and one ought not take the 1% risk of damaging one’s soul by ingesting Treyf.

Rationalists or Halachic purists will dismiss such pious concerns. They may argue that the Torah presented a divine mandate for a Posek to decide Halacha. If a Posek then determines that the animal is kosher, then it is 100% kosher. This is a binary system; it’s either kosher or it’s not. There is no statistical likelihood of a soul being damaged by opinions which the Posek has determined do not influence his Halachic decision.

To put it a different way: the more kabbalistically inclined Jew considers that there is an empirical truth about the kashrus of each item we put in our mouths. Rabbis determining Halacha are mortal and do their best to decide whether that food item is kosher or otherwise. They “get it right” some times and they may “get it wrong” other times perhaps because they dismissed a minority opinion which may well represent the empirical kashrus status of the item. The more rationally inclined Jew will contend that this line of reasoning is baloney (sic). Food with a questionable status isn’t empirically kosher or otherwise. It is rendered Kosher by the decision of the Posek. The Halacha is famously not in  heaven: לא בשמים היא and once food has the halachic kashrus imprimatur of a Posek, eat it gezindt aheit.

Machmirim milk products (yes, it's real) with 4 Hechsherim.

In keeping with Brisker Lomdus, there is another way to view this conundrum. The kabbalistically inclined may consider that Kosher is only ever about the food item itself (the חפצא). Even if a Posek (a גברא) declares that the food is Kosher, as long as  a solitary opinion of note contends it is not Kosher, the חפצא cannot be transformed into Kosher by the Halachic determination of a גברא, and remains on the outer. On the other hand, those who adopt a solely rational approach to Halacha may argue that the חפצא has no independent status. The גברא imparts a status to the חפצא through determining Halacha according to the tradition, learning and shimush (apprenticeship) of the Posek. Once the גברא decides, the חפצא takes on an identity. It cannot have a dual identity vis-a-vis the single Posek.

The Ramo writes in יו”ד סי` פ”א ס”ז that when a baby ingests unquestionably non-kosher food, the food has a negative effect on the spiritual development and character traits of the child (See the Shach ס”ק כו). This is also mentioned in Shulchan Aruch but only in the context of a baby drinking milk of a nursing woman who has consumed non-kosher food. The Vilna Gaon (ibid) teaches that we learn this from baby Moshe who refused to nurse from a non-Jewish source (שמות רבה א, כה). The Yerushalmi at the beginning of the second perek of  חגיגה relates that Elisha ben Abuye (Acher) went off the derech because Elisha’s mother had once succumbed to a sweet smell from Avoda Zara and this had permeated Elisha’s body and tainted his character traits. I just found a nice summary of  the issue of the after effects from eating Treyf, on page 3 and onwards here.

A question arises on the Pasuk in Parshas Ekev, “על כל מוצא פי ה’ יחיה האדם” where the implication is that through the spiritual emission of Hashem, man lives. How does man live from spirit? Man lives from food. The Ari ז’ל explains that all things physical also have a spiritual component. Therefore, when a human ingests Treyf, the spiritual aspect of that food is also ingested by the Neshama of the person. As the Pasuk in Parshas Ekev goes on to say “כי לא על הלחם לבדו יחיה האדם” Man does not live just from bread alone. That is, man is not only sustained by the physical aspect of bread. After ingestion, Treyf will also nurture the soul.

What motivated me to blog on this topic, was a story I read last night about R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ז’ל (as an aside the disgraceful revisionist artscrollesque wikipedia article about R’ Shlomo Zalman carefully avoids mentioning Rav Kook even though R’ Shlomo Zalman said, “When I say Maran or Der Rav, you should know that I only use this term to describe R’ Kook”. It is useful to compare the Hebrew wikipedia article which prominently mentions R’ Kook!)

Someone approached R’ Shlomo Zalman with a question on behalf of Seminary girls who are commonly invited to various houses for meals, especially over Shabbos and Yom Tov. Should the girls seek out houses which they know only rely on chosen Hechsherim? It is known that some houses will use Hechsherim which some will not touch with a barge pole.  R’ Shlomo Zalman replied that God forbid we should suspect that Yidden are eating Treyf. As long as these are Frum people who use a Hechsher from a Rav who is a Yirei Shomayim, the girls should eat there. The questioner went on to ask, “but some people will not eat from some of the out-of-town Rabanut Hechsherim”?. R’ Shlomo Zalman replied in the same way: as long as the Rav Hamachshir is a Yirei Shomayim, the girls should eat from such Hechsherim. The questioner persisted and with more than a touch of Chutzpah asked, would you eat from such Hechsherim? At this point, R’ Shlomo Zalman became agitated and said

“definitely yes. If I go to a Bris or other Simcha and there is a Rav Hamachshir who is a Yorei Shomayim, even though I don’t personally use that Hechsher in my own home, I will even eat chicken from this Rav Hamachshir at the Simcha. חס ושלום to publicly cast aspersions on the kashrus of food being eaten at a Simcha let alone insult the בעלי שמחה. I know that even R’ Yosef Chaim Sonenfeld  ז’ל ate meat from Sefardim at a Bris even though this was not his Ashkenazic tradition.”

This was R’ Shlomo Zalman. This was why he was one of few universally acclaimed personalities of the previous generation, despite the fact that he issued some controversial and innovative Piskei Din.

I asked myself after reading the story, wasn’t R’ Shlomo Zalman worried about the effect on his Neshama (טמטום הלב) after eating under the authority of a Hechsher that he didn’t normally use? The Kabbalistically inclined would perhaps have to agree with the more rationally inclined and answer that the food was Kosher מעיקר הדין so there could not be any damage to the Neshomo?

Perhaps the only danger would be to human beings who might be hurt by the implication that they were damaging their Neshomos after they see a Rav refusing to eat at their Simcha?