Bnei Brak rabbi calls for gefilte fish boycott

The following article is from Yediot. I’m assuming it’s correct as it quotes Hamodia, the Haredi newspaper.

What’s holy about gefilte fish as opposed to Shmura Matza? The latter costs a fortune, and so many impoverished families struggle to find the money to buy them even with Maos Chittin contributions. In regards to Shmura Matza, even the [just as kosher, if not better] machine variety costs at least $11 a box in Melbourne. Why? I saw that in Johannesburg, Rakusen’s Machine Shmura Matza was going for some $3.50. Is it also under the BaDatz? Why the variance? Yes, it is meritorious to have meat (is chicken enough?) and wine on Yom Tov, but apart from the “Basar Vedagim Vchol Mataamim” is someone not Yotze Yom Tov (Pesach) without Gefilte fish?

In Melbourne, the cheapest way is to do it yourself, and buy whole fish from the market, but these days, everyone buys those logs (which you probably have to wash for, except on Pesach when they don’t add flour, which is perhaps why they are either more expensive or smaller). All this to avoid Hilchos Borer and bones in fish? Eat some veggies instead if it’s too expensive. or simple egg and onion (hopefully you aren’t paying a fortune for egg shells that don’t have ink on them)

Although I don’t have a problem with Rabonim getting involved in saving Jews money: Indeed, I think a number of Chassidic Rabbis have declared that one should not buy real fur Shtreimlach or Spodiks, I don’t buy all of this brouhaha until such time as the money side of Hashgochas are all managed by lay bodies of unimpeachable honest professionals. No Rav, especially today when Emunas Chachomim is at a low ebb, should be involved with money, except as part of a set wage and the books should be open to all. By all means, build in KPIs and reward, but never because you give a hechsher, as this is prone to corruption.

Where would the relatively tiny BaDatz be if they opened their books. What a ridiculous situation we have when you buy something and it has three hechsherim on it. Why? It’s all business, and not Kashrus. It’s the same with private hashgochas (as we regretably have in Melbourne, and which are not trusted by the majority of orthodox Jewry).

If people would worry at least as much about what comes out of their mouths, as what goes in them, we’d have a much happier world.

Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Stern issues unusual halachic ruling in bid to prevent stores from charging exaggerated prices for carp fish ahead of Passover.
Akiva Novick
Published: 03.23.14, 01:41 / Israel Jewish Scene
An unusual halachic ruling published Wednesday calls for a consumer boycott on carp fish and the traditional gefilte fish dish, in a bid to prevent fish merchants from charging exaggerated prices ahead of the Passover Seder.

In about three weeks, the Jewish people will gather around the table for the Seder meals. Many homes, particularly Ashkenazi ones, will enjoy a dish of ground carp with a piece of carrot on top – also known as gefilte fish. Yet quite a few stores have the habit of raising the price of that particular fish right before the holiday.
A halachic ruling issued by Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Stern of Bnei Brak seeks to prevent that from happening. The rabbi is calling for a gefilte fish boycott, stating that “all halachic rulers believe that the unfair exaggerated raising of prices must be stopped.”

The ruling, which was published in ultra-Orthodox newspaper Hamodia, explains that after receiving information on fish prices, the rabbi suggested “a regulation of the generation’s great sages to forbid the purchase of fish for a limited period of time, until all those involved understand that they must back down on the unjustified price hike and reduce the prices to a reasonable and appropriate level.”

The rabbi further describes how one of the rebbes of the Chabad Hasidic movement announced a fish boycott hundreds of years ago, which lasted about two months.

According to Yehuda Ashlag, who owns a Bnei Brak delicatessen called “Leibale,” gefilte fish sales soar every year ahead of Passover. “It’s really part of the holiday tradition,” he says. “Some people cannot do without gefilte on Passover, and the sellers use it to their advantage. I personally don’t raise the price,” he says.

Aviad Nurieli, a fishpond worker in northern Israel, says that “it’s all a matter of supply and demand, and these are the market rules.”

Author: pitputim

I've enjoyed being a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia, as well as band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel and later in life at Machon L'Hora'ah, Yeshivas Halichos Olam.

8 thoughts on “Bnei Brak rabbi calls for gefilte fish boycott”

  1. since arriving in Brooklyn some 7 years ago, I have noted that due to fierce competition prices are kept in check here, Israeli made products are cheaper in New York than in Israel and on average half the price of Sydney, chicken is a third of the price of Sydney.
    Retailer are unable to hike the prices for Kosher LePesach products
    The wage differential does not go anywhere near to balancing out the “differential”
    Chalav Yisrael in Crown Heights is the same as Chalav HaCompanies in Australia.
    A beefburger costing $15.00 Downunder can be purchased for $7.50c in Flatbush


  2. Of course gefilte fish is not a chiyuv. That’s precisely why it can be banned in order to force the prices down. Matzoh and wine you can’t ban. The price of shmurah is because of the labour. Even machine shmurah involves buying shmurah flour, which costs a fortune because of the labour, and also the production of machine shmurah is with more hiddurim, which means more labour than normal machine matzos, and much smaller runs over which to allocate the fixed costs. If you saw it in Jo’burg for $3.50 it must have been on sale from last year.

    The source for banning fish if the prices go too high is not from some Chabad rebbe; whoever wrote that got his Tzemach Tzedeks mixed up! It’s from the original ShuS Tzemach Tzedek (of Nikolsburg), ch 28, and is brought as halacha by the Mogen Avrohom 242:1. The precedent is from the mishneh Krisus 1:7.

    Rabbi Groner used to threaten every year to ban murray perch if the prices went too high. He said you can make gefilte from other fish as well, nowhere in the torah is the murray perch mentioned. The thing with fish, especially in Melbourne, is that Pesach usually coincides with the chogeh, and the Greeks and Italians are very into eating fish for that, so the demand soars, and thus so does the price.


  3. see:

    שו”ע אדמוה”ז סימן רמב סעיף ז

    ואם הנכרים מייקרים השער של הדגים ומחמת זה יש כמה בני אדם שאין יכולים ליקח דגים לשבת (ד) נכון לתקן שלא יקנה שום ישראל מהם דגים איזה שבתות כדי שאח”כ יוזילו השער ויוכלו הכל לקיים מצות עונג שבת:

    the alter rebbe wasn’t the announced it. Either you or your source made a mistake. The source of this announced is the Tzemach Tzedek (Harishon), who was theTalmid of the Bach


  4. Prices here in EY for all matzah types – including machine and hand shmurah and 18 minute machine are quite reasonable. Beyond the few commercial brands of hand shmurah (which themselves are quite reasonably priced and available at supermarkets, via neighborhood distributors, and on online group discount sites) are the plethora of “backyard” neighborhood or community-based matzah bakeries that make an appearance at this time of year. I order from one such neighbourhood bakery which is quite cheap, has an excellent hechsher (Edah Charedis), and is baked soon before Pesach so is quite fresh (much better than the Chabad shmurah we used to get in Sydney).

    However, gefilte fish logs here are quite dear, even during the year. It’s understandable that one rav is making a stand to reduce the burden on the public for Pesach.


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