How many mashgichim?

I run a popular band. [ Yes, we still play and are recognised by those with discerning taste. End plug. ]

As part of my decades of experience at Simchas I’ve seen the sublime to the ridiculous. I will leave my stories either untold or for a book I may write one day. One thing though concerns me now, as it has for many years. For some reason, irrespective of whether it is Kosher Australia or whether it is the Adass, Rabonim seem non reactive.

Some venues are incredibly complicated and the ability for an error to sneak in is amplified. Some venues are simpler but the sheer number of people who are at a Simcha means that the operation in the kitchen and out of the kitchen is a major logistic undertaking. Others have both concerns.

In my uneducated view there should be a ratio of mashgichim which is correlated with both the number of guests, the type of kitchen, and even the complexity of given menus, and the method of preparation.

I know many mashgichim are considered ‘good’ because they also help out in the kitchen. I’d suggest their job though is to have eyes in the back of their heads and not be involved in the manual operations of the preparation and to be actively vigilant.

I would ask the two agencies to consider a standard ratio system in the least. Perhaps 75 people equals one Mashgiach and increase these according the number of guests and perhaps some of the more complex kitchens, especially at hotels where 3 functions may be held simultaneously. I’ve witnessed nightmarish scenarios.

I’ve incredulously watched one Mashgiach oversee a complex venue with 600 guests in a very complex set up.

Whilst waiter numbers are increased, a sole Mashgiach has to see everything. Frankly I don’t know how it can be done, and I’ve seen many ways where things could go awry without anyone noticing.

I’ve also been to many kiddushim where there isn’t a Mashgiach to be seen? Why not? It’s Shabbos and more. Simply depositing boxes of taped food packages means that the moment those tapes are removed and the prep setting takes place, any meat, for example, may become forbidden!

At one Shule, the so called Yotze VeNichnas, the person who arrives unannounced a number of times, is also the Gabbay of the Shule. This is a nonsense and I don’t understand how it is permitted.

I’ve also been to Charedi functions where there is no Mashgiach to be found. This has improved but needs to be treated more uniformly and seriously.

I’ve seen a Mashgiach crack eggs for hours (technically uneccesary in my non Rabbinic opinion) and spend the rest of the night worryingly about his own meals. In one case I saw a Mashgiach dancing! I kid you not. This was not one of respected Hashgochos so you can breathe easier. 

I’ve had to call the Mashgiach to properly set up the Kashrus of band meals. The best place to place a band is inside the hall in a dead spot. If I wasn’t frum and it was just another band, almost anything goes when the band is remote in some hole in the bowels of a hall.

Whilst the investigation of products has improved significantly I feel  Hashocho at venues needs improvement and more care.

Ironically, I’ve seen some of the ‘less frum’ caterers do things exactly by the book as opposed to those who are fully shomer Torah and Mitzvos.

As a related aside, it is ironic that drink bars sometimes have signs saying they are not covered by the hashgocho. It’s a cute disclaimer but I don’t see how such a practice can work with

לפני עיוור לא תיתן מכשול

and less discerning guests. They also have a נפש אלוקית … Not just when they pay.

It rests most uneasily with me. I have my theories as to why, but if I state them I will be accused of Charedi bashing.

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia although my views have nought to do with my employer. I skylark as the band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel.

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