On the Kashrus of Bénédictine Liqueur

It is well-known that the Lubavitcher Rebbe, זכותו יגן עלינו, liked this drink and had it on his table for the tish. It is also well-known that it (once) had some Xtian cross emblazoned and supposedly someone mentioned that there might be a wine (סתם יינם) issue with the drink. I am told the drink suddenly disappeared from the Tish where the Lubavitcher Rebbe used to farbreng. The reason it disappeared was explained later by the Rebbe himself “due to those מרה שחורה’ניקעס (party poopers) who have cast aspersions on it”. I am not going to pretend that I understand why that bothered the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and I won’t second guess him.

Now, like Coca-Cola, the actual recipe of Bénédictine is a secret. The most reputable Kashrus Agencies in the world, however, advised consumers that it was not to be quaffed. In Melbourne, the Rabbi who is the Chief Posek for Kosher Australia is Mordechai Gutnick and he is a Lubavitcher. However, he pronounced that it was not recommended. I spoke to the head chemist of Kosher Australia, Kasriel Oliver, also a Lubavitcher, he told me in no uncertain terms that it was not to be consumed irrespective of what the Lubavitcher Rebbe had done in days gone by.

The Chicago Rabbinic Council do lots of investigating of spirits and liqueurs as does the London Beth Din. If Chicago pronounces that something is not recommended, other respectable agencies follow their finding. (I don’t include the private little (not to be trusted) Kashrus agencies where the person giving the hechsher is also paying himself a tidy wage). Proper authorities, like Kosher Australia, cRc, OU and a host of other respectable agencies still do not recommend Bénédictine.

On the right is what the cRc Kosher app said today on my iPhone.

Now, I read an essay from the cRc about Bénédictine here and apart from Rabbi Moshe Gutnick’s view (which was not based on visiting the premises) it seemed they were having it a “bit both ways”. Moshe is one of Mordechai’s younger brothers and oversees a large Kashrus organisation in Sydney for many years.

I am not a lover of liqueurs in particular, but I thought that something just wasn’t right. Were the Dominican Monks not allowing any agency in? That seems incorrect. If so, why hadn’t any of the European agencies gone in and investigated it properly. Why hadn’t the Lubavitchers investigated? Were they afraid it might be forbidden? I sent an email to the cRc and copied it to Rabbi Gutnick where I wrote

Hi
I read the article on this
and do not understand why R Msika doesn’t drink non B&B.
Is this because of the cRc comments or is it because he only drinks Mehadrin with a Mashgiach at least Yotze VeNichnas, is it political, or a personal Chumra.
Does the Beth Din of America accept it?
In Melbourne it is not recommended
I have never had it
I am not a Lubavitcher
My Posek is Rav Schachter
They didn’t answer my email or it is still flying in the ether or ended up in their spam. I decided to be “clever” and emailed the head of kashrus of the cRc in Europe. Let’s just say that his last email to me was a tad bizarre and didn’t shed any light on the issue even though the responsibility fell on his shoulders.
In the meanwhile, I couldn’t understand Lubavitchers who drank it with wanton abandon. I wondered how they could be confident the recipe hadn’t changed even if it was Kosher once. I had also been in touch with the Israel Rabbinate’s expert on spirits and he emailed me that some was kosher according to Rav Lande of Bnei Brak and others were not.
I’d had enough of the mirky issue, so on a whim, I emailed one of the heads of Rav Lande of Bnei Brak’s Kashrus division. I knew him from Melbourne where he resided once and went to the same school as me. He is Rabbi Motty HaSofer. Motty was nice enough to respond immediately. He had investigated it personally several times and explained that the product was 100% Kosher. 
Which product?
Well, in the picture below you will see
from right to left, their cask liqueur. It is Kosher. The one in the middle which has B&B on it is 100% NOT Kosher. They add Brandy hence the B&B. Then there is the common one on the far left with the word DOM which is their regular liqueur. It is 100% Kosher. So you are wondering what about the bottling and the Brandy (wine) from the “B&B” version as it is all made in one factory? Rabbi Hasofer informed me that
All are bottled in the same bottling machine, but there is a full
cleaning cycle between each product bottled.
He also told me that Rav Lande himself served the product at his own Simchos! Now, every one trusts Rav Lande’s Hechsher as far as I know, in the same way that they trusted his father’s hechsher.
In summary, the major Kashrus agencies have it WRONG. You can drink two of three Benedictines, as above; not because the Lubavitcher Rebbe drank it decades ago, but because it is known now to be checked like anything else and is Kosher. End of Story.
I suggest that Kosher Australia inform the cRc to change their determination. I will send the email I received. What I can’t understand is why could I do it, and they couldn’t/didn’t?

Modern Cholov Yisroel: A blunder of nomenclature

The Halacha of needing supervised kosher milk (Chalav Yisrael) is clear. It applies today, as it applied yesteryear. Every single Jew is enjoined to only drink Milk that was supervised by a Jew. (there are different approaches to supervision). There are different reasons between the Bavli and Yerushalmi as quoted by Tosfos in Avoda Zara, but what is inescapable is that:

There is no permission whatsoever not to drink Chalav Yisrael.

This is a famous law, and we (Orthodox Jews, ranging from Charedi to Centrist/Modern Orthodox) have no permission to drink anything other than Chalav Yisrael. The prime reason given is that we are concerned that non Kosher Milk was also mixed in. Without going into the details of whether non Kosher Milk looks different (greenish) and whether Camel’s milk today is in fact white now, and whether there are no non Kosher animals in the flock, the reality is that there is no Orthodox Posek in the world that ever abrogated the need for Cholov Yisroel. They cannot! They are powerless to annul this (nor would they want to annul it in the many lawless parts of the world).

The Pri Chadash and others suggested that the decree only existed where there was a possibility that there was non kosher milk mixed in. Where no such possibility existed, then the milk is considered at the level of Cholov Yisroel. Some reject the Pri Chadash and want to say that the entire country has to have no non-Kosher milk-bearing animals, but here is not the place to delve into the topic in respect to those details. The Acharonim in Yoreh Deah and after that, are troubled by the Pri Chadash’s observation.

We then have the two great permissive analyses of the Chazon Ish and Reb Moshe Feinstein. Neither of these argue that every single Jew need not drink Cholov Yisrael. For those who believe the Chazon Ish was not lenient, I have a wonderful analyses which I can make available once I ask permission.

The difference is what is considered SUPERVISION. According to R’ Moshe (and we rely on such considerations right throughout the Kashrus Industry) Dairies generally have cow’s milk only, and they fear being shut down and/or sued for presenting non Cow’s milk as cow’s milk, and this constitutes the necessary level of Mirtas (fear) by the non-Jew, to the extent that he will not destroy his business. Accordingly, what R’ Moshe and the Chazon Ish (and others) are telling us is that this particular style of fear is equal to the fear or if you prefer ‘halachic efficacy’ of being supervised by a Jew, (who may have washed out any buckets for exactitude at the beginning) and then being in a place near the flock to be able to stand up at any time and see what is happening. Accordingly, they were lenient, and note: this is not a leniency when people travel through China, India, Russia, and many countries where no such “fear of being sued” or “fear of being caught doling out adulterated products exists (I’m not even going to mention places like Africa and Asia). There is a case mentioned in the Aruch Hashulchan (a Giant Navardoker Misnagdish Posek ) where he relates that the Milk in some famous café was in fact Treyf as it was mixed with non Kosher fats to give it an “edge”).

What’s been the wash up of all of this? We now have a generation of people who say

No, we don’t keep Chalav Yisrael

This is plainly wrong. Everyone must keep Cholov Yisroel at all times. What they are really saying, is that they are keeping the Chalav Yisrael as defined by the promulgation of companies producing cow’s milk and the concomitant fear that their businesses will be ruined if they do not adhere to the standards set by Government. [ Imagine the court case, God forbid, of a child who is allergic to milk other than Cow’s milk who is found to have been given tainted milk, that had camel’s milk mixed suffering anaphylactic shock. The outcry would reverberate. This is why many companies say “may contain traces of nuts and dairy” when in fact this is so remote as to be halachically insignificant and basically a clause inserted by legal insurance to protect themselves.]

It’s not just milk. Generally speaking in most areas of Kashrus, one can find an ‘accepted norm’ and then those who (mainly for Kabbalistic reasons, especially with milk — and yes, both the Ramoh and the Mishnah Brura and the Aruch Hashulchan were affected by these considerations) expect more.

If I was an American Rabbi at that time, I would have visited R’ Moshe and asked that he announce that all observant Jews drink Chalav Yisroel. Some (the Ba’al Nefesh, as R’ Moshe was himself but not for his family or his guests) will assume the traditional mode of supervision, with the eye of Mashgiach.

In summary, I would have liked to have seen CHALAV YISRAEL divided up into two categories, just like much Kosher food (and here I do not include the outlier, unaccepted rogue authorities in many cities around the world)

  1. Chalav Yisrael Mehadrin
  2. Chalav Yisrael Stam (where this is known to be considered supervised through another Halachic method)

You might say I’m picky. I don’t believe I am. I’ve spoken inter-alia on this topic with many people over the years, and I have always been floored by the fact that they think that they are drinking NON CHALAV YISRAEL. Chas V’Shalom to think that a Jew doesn’t have this obligation TODAY, and that they are lax and not fulfilling it. No, they are fulfilling it, because it must be fulfilled. Nobody had nullified the degree. Reb Moshe didn’t “do away” with Chalav Yisrael!!!

By sadly calling them either

  1. Chalav Stam (a new extra halachic phrase that never existed) or Chalav HaCompanies (which was not used by R’ Moshe to defined a new type of milk,  but rather an innovative mode of supervision that renders the milk Chalov Yisrael.
  2. Chalav Yisrael

they have created generations of people who actually think that Cholov Yisroel is a Chumra and isn’t Halacha Lechatchilla. I believe this has done damage and created falsehood.

I would urge, certainly Kosher Australia, to use Mehadrin for Cholov Yisroel which is eyeballed by a Mashgiach, as there is a market for this type of supervision, Halachically and Kabbalistically. True, most local milk produced in Melbourne is under the Hungarian Adass Charedim, and they won’t drink non-eyeballed supervision. Kosher Australia uses Mehadrin for many things. The Charedim in Melbourne follow Kosher Australia’s Mehadrin as does the Badatz in Yerusholayim.

A simple paragraph by Koshe Australia explaining when they use Mehadrin for Cholov Yisroel achieves everything and does not passively cause people to err (and dare I say sin God forbid) and think that they don’t have to have Chalav Yisroel and that Chalav Yisrael is something just for people with bushy beards or long peyos. Sorry, Shulchan Aruch was written for all. People do err and they must understand that at all times and at all places Chalov Yisrael is a must! (I’m not going to discuss cheese or butter here)

[ Yes, with bread, which is a staple, the Gezeira of Pas Yisroel wasn’t accepted and there are leniencies, but without going into the different situations when and if these leniencies can be applied, this isn’t paralleled with Chalav Yisrael. ]

I should hasten, unlike the times of the Shulchan Aruch, we also need to be sure the bottled product is actually Kosher (ditto, the bread in a place where Jewish bread, is not available and there is a bakery (Pas Palter). Food production has changed markedly.

Sharing a coffee for social reasons in a non supervised non-Jewish coffee shop when a Kosher one is available, is something I would suggest people ask their Halachic decisor. I’m not comfortable with it.

[ For work, when I think it is necessary: I have black coffee in a glass, and have my own sweetener in a sachet, if theirs is not kosher, or I just drink water].

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.

Chalav Yisrael by Video Surveillance

Contrary to what many may have assumed, this issue, and allied issues of non direct eye-ball supervision, have pervaded in various guises in Halacha.

Some examples include:

  1. Testimony of the appearance of the new moon through a reflection (Rosh Hashono 24a. the Rambam 2:5 Kiddush Hachodesh and Acharonim)
  2. Sound waves for promulgation of Brachos or Megila reading (Igros Moshe (vol 2 and 4, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Minchas Shlomo 1:9), Minchas Elozor and more.
  3. Amen to a Brocho (Rav Kook in Orach Mishpot 48)
  4. Gett via webcam (Beis Yitzchok Even HoEzer 2:13)
  5. Photographs and Aguna (Rav Yitzchok Elchonon Spector, Ein Yitzchok Even Hoezer Vol 1:31)
  6. “Digital witnesses” for Kiddushin (See Ketzos (241:1)
  7. Webcam based Chalitza to release a lady from marrying the brother of a dead husband (Shevus Ya’akov (Breish, 126)
  8. Brachos over Royalty via a TV (Chida 22 regarding through a glass view)
  9. Protection against Yichud

Consider though why one would do this in the context of Chalav Yisrael. Let’s assume, which it is according to some authorities (cf Chasam Sofer Yoreh Deah 107), a valid substitute for a human being watching the milking. Even Reb Moshe who is one of the two prime permissive positive rulings in respect of Milk from Companies, explicitly says that a Baal Nefesh, (someone who is extra punctilious) should be Machmir.

In Melbourne at least, and I assume throughout the world, it is mainly Chassidim who are careful and do consider themselves as Baalei Nefesh  not relying on the permissive rulings of the Chazon Ish and Reb Moshe Feinstein regarding government supervised milk. Those people, will follow their Poskim. Their poskim have shown in allied issues that they are often not prepared to rely on video surveillance as a halachic mechanism. Note: just as there is Chemical Halacha, Kashrus Chemistry, Shabbos Chemistry, there are also Kashrus stringencies. These are adopted by communal organisations so that there is a unified acceptable standard. On several occasions Rav Schachter of the OU disagreed with Rav Belsky ז’ל of the OU on matters of Psak, however, when it came to Paskening for the OU, something which a mega-community could rely on, they adopted the less inventive stance. This is sensible unless one wishes to branch off. Branching off may mean less supported Kashrus ends up not being accepted and then it creates situations where people are forced not to eat at houses where the non standard form of supervision or maverick schemes are adopted. A pirud, a limitation of joining one’s friends at the table ensues. This only benefits those non standardised more maverick supervisory bodies, many of which are also run as personal financial fiefdoms.

The only application I can think of is export. But those Hashgachos don’t export. Note, for example, if you go to Costco, you will find the plain Lay’s chips with an OU, but the barbecue do not have an OU. Instead the triangle K is the Hashgocho (this is also true of other products with Triangle K; be careful) . In general, the frum world does not trust the standards of the triangle K (and we don’t bring it in the house). It has a place. Where there is a need to find leniency so that people have access to food! This is similar to the law of Pas Palter, if you will.

Let us not forget that Chassidim ascribe a supernatural concern with ingestion of questionable milk and will be unlikely to consider compromise. The others simply rely on the Chazon Ish or Reb Moshe anyway!

I remain baffled by the motives behind the venture, its clientele, and the motive of those who seek such innovations when the prospective clientele are already the Baal Nefesh and won’t accept the Psak. Is this just grandstanding?

Peeled Eggs, Onion or Garlic overnight: Part 2

I had written a blog post on this in 2011. You can see it here.

Recently, the OU in their emails sent the following:

May I dice onions and place them in sealed packaging to avoid the sakana (danger) of eating peeled onions that were left overnight?
(A subscriber’s question)

The Gemara (Nida 17a) writes that there is a sakana to eat peeled onions that were left overnight, even if they were placed in sealed packaging. The only exception that the Gemara mentions is if part of the roots or the peel is left on the onion. Tosfos (Shabbos 141a s.v. Hani) writes that the sakana applies to diced onions as well. However, if there are other ingredients mixed in to the onions, Rishonim already discuss that one can be lenient. Igros Moshe (Y.D. III: 20) writes that industrial produced products are not subject to this sakana. So one may purchase frozen packages of diced onions.

as well, the OU wrote:

Q. Does the halacha of not eating onions which were peeled and left overnight apply to the following: red onions, white onions, scallions, shallots and leeks? (A subscriber’s question)
A. Rav Belsky, zt”l said the halacha applies to both red and white onions and shallots, but not to leeks and scallions.

I sent my article to the OU for their feedback. It was sent onto the Safra D’Dayna Rabbi Eli Gersten, who responded that:

You are correct that the topic of ru’ach ra’ah is certainly unclear.

I don’t have an explanation as to why earlier poskim (Shulchan Aruch, Maharshal, Rema…) where seemingly unconcerned about this type of ruach ra’ah and yet later generations again began to be choshesh.

Rabbi Yosef Grossman of the OU offered to send me an article from the Daf Hakashrus of 2005 on the topic, which I copy below. I am chuffed that my thoughts were somewhat aligned with Mori V’Rabbi R’ Hershel Schachter שליט׳א (though I didn’t know of him in 2005).

Garlic1

Garlic2

It’s raining women

No. they can’t tell you about mundane issues like “chicken” and Kashrus and Issurei D’Orayso.

Here is the new breed [Hat tip NB]

To me, these are the new “Chiropractors of Medicine”. They call themselves Dr as well and they are as well qualified but not as well paid as unskilled labourers in Melbourne.

What is it with titles, self-esteem, and the feeling that anything whatsoever will change that is outside millennium old Mesora.

Nothing will change. Like Reform and Conservative, either Geulah will be upon us, or they will be relegated to the politically charged Women of the Wall and the Bernie Sanders New Israel Fund types.

On Tuesday night, according to a report by Ynet, eight women received certificates of Orthodox Jewish ordination in Jerusalem and selected for themselves various equivalents to the commonly used “Rav” or “Rabbi” by males: some picked “Rav,” instantly making the title unisex; others went with “Rabba,” which would be the female conjugation of the male title, although the term is not in everyday use; some went with “Rabbi,” which in the genderless English grammar has been a common title for Reform and Conservative women clergy for decades.

One preferred to go with “Doctor,” possibly recalling the shamanist attributes for which some Jewish scholars were once renowned.

No one went with the prevalent “Rebbetzin,” presumably because to become Rebbetzin one doesn’t need to study, just marry well.

The ordination was given personally by Rabbi Daniel Landis, a YU graduate who is the head of the Pardes Institute, an open, co-ed and non-denominational Jewish learning community, based in Jerusalem and operating programs worldwide. Landis is also a senior member of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC).

In his message to the freshly ordained Orthodox female rabbis, Landis explored the fact that his graduates are different from ordinary ordained Orthodox rabbis not merely because of their sex, but in their emphasis on Jewish studies, and on any studying at all for that matter:

“I very quickly abandoned the ambition to achieve only rabbinic expertise, and moved on to the more important initiative of promoting you as creative scholars, with integrity, sensitivity and courage, who have access to the members of their generation,” Landis said.

“Yes, but can they paskin on a chicken?” you might ask. It appears that ruling on the mundane needs of rank and file Orthodox Jews was not the top priority of this ordination, which is not a comment on the quality of scholarship of the graduates. They simply appear to put a different emphasis on their future roles in the Jewish community:

Rav Avital Campbell-Hochstein, one of the graduates, said at the ordination ceremony: “Receiving the ordination is not merely a score for knowledge. Ordination, or permission, like halkha itself, is focusing on human beings, on the image of God. Human beings must be seen and heard. The halakha and the Torah are sensitive to the slimmest signs of humanness.” And so, she continued, “in order for halakha, which is an emanation of the will of God, to be relevant and applicable, we must first and foremost be attentive. Human dignity is our driving force. Halakha can be a divider and it can be a meeting ground. It can be a wall and it can be a bridge. Choosing between those component depends on the human beings who use it, and who represent it.”

So, basically, no paskining on chickens for now. Instead, there was a lot of talk about advancing the status of women in halakha and in Orthodox society. You may have to rely on someone else for your kashrut decisions, but in areas of marriage, conversion, and burial, these ordained female rabbis will make sure, as Rav Naama Levitz-Applbaum put it, “that women will be counted, in the full meaning of the word, and to feel as full partners along the path.”

Perhaps as the number of ordained Orthodox female rabbis grows and as each ordination ceases to be viewed as a revolution and starts to be more commonplace (as has been the case in every profession women have entered over the past two centuries) we’ll start hearing about women Orthodox rabbis who are not so heavily invested in the feminist politics of their role but in caring for their congregations. At which point we should be able to assess this fledgling but growing movement not based on our political views but instead on the concrete scholarship and the halakhic contribution of these female rabbis. Because, let’s face it, Orthodox Jews need rabbis to interpret halakha for them. They have plenty of social workers doing everything else

Hard Cheese, Shavuos and the wait

The Shach and others discuss the criteria for waiting between cheese and a meat meal. Many have a Minhag on Shavuos to start with milchiks and then (some even bench after washing) and then have a Fleishig meal. Some only eat Milchigs (and yes, we don’t have Bsar Shlomim so wine fulfills Simchas Yom Tov. In addition it’s also a question of personal proclivity: you wouldn’t pasken that someone who dislikes meat should eat it on Yom Tov any more than you would ask someone who is lactose intolerant to suffer stomache aches with milchiks … Some Acharonim take the ‘meat’ ads general but not compulsory component to Simchas Yom Tov)

Without getting into the issue of gevinas akum (about which Rav Soloveitchik has a Chiddush) this year in Melbourne the new fancy Italian Cheeses have hit the stores. 

Generally, ‘Hard Cheese’ like Parmesan is considered strict and 6 hours is the norm. Cheese with holes via worms also present problems.

If one has milchig then Fleishig it is important to change table cloths, use different bread etc

But what of the cheeses that have arrived on our shores from Italy. I admit to a glutton-like penchant for quality cheese (the smellier the better) washed down with nice Red wine. Oh such Gashmiyus Golus.

Parmigiano Reggiano
The OU through its expert Rav Gordimer has a short summary for how long cheeses take to make. six months (although some are lenient if the cheese is melted and used sparingly) are

Bleu: 2-4.5 months

Brie: 3-6 weeks

Camembert (French-made): 3-5 weeks

Cheddar: 2 months to 2 years or longer 

Colby: 1-3 months

Edam: 3 months

Emental (Swiss Cheese-Switzerland): 6-14 months

Feta (from cow milk): brined 2-3 months

Feta (from goat or sheep milk): brined 3-6 months

Gouda: 3 months

Gruyere: 7 weeks-3 months

Monterey: 2 months

Mozzarella: 30 Days 

Muenster: 5-7 weeks

Parmesan: 10-24 months or more

Provolone: 3-12 months

Romano: 5-12 months

Swiss Cheese/American-Made: 3-4 months

See also HERE

Can I humbly suggest that before Shavuos check any Quality cheese you may have purchased with a knowledgeable Posek lest during the short winter you find yourself having benefit from meat and milk!

If you use Chalav Yisroel don’t be afraid to ask Tempo.

Cutting corners for “honoured” guests. Who are they?

I came across a rather astonishing Pischei Tshuva from the 1800’s by Rav Avraham Eisenstadt of Bialystok in Yoreh Deah Chapter 69:13 in the Pischei Teshuva. The issue at hand is preparing meat for guests at the last-minute some compromises in the preparation of the kashrus process of the meat may be required to make sure that the guests are looked after and not hungry and waiting. The Pischei Tshuva quotes Rav Yaakov Reisher  in his Soles LeMincha, circa late 1600’s who in turn quotes the Toras Ho-oshom from (I believe) the Tosfos Yom Tov of the same era who define the type of people one is meant to honour as guests (and take short cuts in the context of that chapter in Yoreh Deah for the purposes of Kashrus preparation). I quote:

In places where it mentions “for the honour of guests” these are people of Torah knowledge, and people of repute who are known for their good deeds, or a poor person from the “good ones”, or rich people who are fit to afford them honour because they don’t indulge in evil, but not the “lower types”, or the misers and devourers, who go from place to seek food. And they are not called guests unless they are guests of one’s house, as opposed to friends who are invited [for a meal].

I don’t know about you, but I found this rather astounding and I wonder how far the limits extend. Is it just the definition of those who one is permitted to cut corners בדיעבד for or does this extend to other areas of הלכה?

Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo: lurching to the left

Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo is a man of fine intellect, however, I believe that like many from the left in Judaism, he does not start from clean Halacha, but rather from his understanding of what a Halacha may mean and then form conclusions. From there he issues moral statements which can be seen as the domain of “open orthodoxy” or “conservadox Jews” and then attempts to refashion a Halacha that he envisions.

Let’s look at his latest blog post where he writes about Shechita.

This is also true on a very practical level. There is little doubt that one of the functions of the kashrut laws is to protect the animal from pain even during the slaughtering.

Where does Rabbi Cardozo obtain his view expressing “little doubt”. There is not a hint that the purpose of Shechita relates to a quick humane death. It is easy to disprove Rabbi Cardozo’s thesis. The Simla Chadasha, “the bible” for Hilchos Shechita, makes it clear that a Shochet who has rather dull knife, as long as he isn’t applying “push pressure” or
“ripping style pressure” but uses the (dull) Shechita only in knife back and forth fashion, provided the knife is without notches, the Shechita is Kosher! In theory a Shechita could take  2 hours. Does that sound humane? In reality, of course, that doesn’t happen. Shochtim pride themselves on the ultra sharpness and lack of imperfection in their knives. What it does tell us though, in theory, is that Halacha isn’t guided by Rabbi Cardozo’s reason for Shechita.

To be fair, Rabbi Cardozo has repeated an oft used reason that Shechita should be sanctioned by Governments. As Jews though. we do not know the reason for Shechita let alone “one of the functions” of Shechita. One can certainly interpret Shechita in this way, but the issue of “reasons” for Halacha is a matter dealt with and beautifully expounded by the Maharal, who he brings his own view and contrasts it with the diametric views of the Rambam and Ramban. If my memory serves me correctly this centres around the Mishna in Brachos regarding someone who says may God have mercy on this nest.

My opinion on reasons for Mitzvos, is that they are the “sprinkles on the ice cream”. I heard this phraseology from Rabbi Nachman Wilhelm. One can focus and enjoy the sprinkles. The sprinkles, be they chocolate, vanilla or other source, may enhance one’s experience with the ice cream. Despite this, the sprinkles are not the reason the ice cream exists, or is there. They are adornments. One person’s sprinkles are not those of another. The appreciation of the reasoning behind a Mitzvah is subjective. Objectively, though. Halacha has only one reason: רצון עליון … it is the will of Hashem. One may, and should seek meaning and understanding for Mitzvos, but these are not the start, let alone “one of the functions” of a Mitzvah unless explicitly stated (for example, Kibud Am Va’eim tells us one outcome of doing the Mitzvah, and even then we don’t know if that’s the entire story). Reasons are an addendum, they will also inspire many. They will suit some but not others. שבעים פנים בתורה informs us that one may look at a religious concept from a variety of stances. Those stances, however, are not a single truth. They are one of a multitude of ways to understand.

This is accomplished by the many strict laws of shechita in accordance with Halacha. Attacks on this method, by several European countries or political parties, are nothing but expressions of anti-Semitism camouflaged by so-called animal rights arguments. In fact, we see constant and severe violations of these rights in their own abattoirs, where animals are horribly mistreated and sometimes mercilessly killed. In short, this is flagrant hypocrisy.

Rabbi Cardozo is correct here. Anyone who has witnessed Governments that insist on stunning animals at the abattoir knows that there is nothing humane about stunning. Indeed, even the practice of shooting an animal 3-6 seconds after Shechita is rather inane. The animal is dead. It is simply bleeding out the דם הנפש and דם התמצית, after death.

Still, we cannot deny that in our own slaughterhouses, where proper shechita is done, there have been serious violations of another law –- tza’ar baalei chayim (the Torah’s prohibition against inflicting unnecessary pain on animals).

Which “our” is Rabbi Cardozo talking about. I’m not aware of Tzaar Baalei Chayim in Melbourne, Australia. If Rabbi Cardozo wants to point the figure at some Batei Shechita, then Rabbi Cardozo ought to go there and report what he sees to the Rav Hamachshir. I do not know a reputable Rav Hamachshir who would suddenl permit Tzaar Baalei Chayim if they were made aware of it.

How are these animals handled just before the shechita takes place? Are they treated with mercy when they are put on their backs so as to make the shechita easier?

What does “treated with mercy” mean? We are asked not to cause unnecessary pain and cruelty, but I don’t know how one can be merciful when one is about to shecht an animal. The word mercy seems so misplaced. Does Rabbi Cardozo want them to be given a valium shot before they are shechted, in the same way that humans are given various similar drugs prior to surgery? I’m serious here. They will be very calm if they are given such an injection. Does that make the trip to the shechita spot merciful?

(This can easily be accomplished with the known Weinberg Pen, or by other methods.)

Excuse me Rabbi Cardozo, but even Temple Grandin (Grandin is a prominent and widely cited proponent for the humane treatment of livestock for slaughter) states that the Weinberg Pen induces more cortisol in an animal prior to slaughter. On which literature, therefore,  is Rabbi Cardozo basing his comment on?

Grandin states

Stress levels for inverted slaughter with devices known as the Weinberg pen (which are less stressful than shackling and hoisting) have yielded the highest average stress ratings ever published (almost 300% higher than cattle killed in upright pens).

It seems to me that the positioning of the animal and the method of containment prior to Shechita are not the focus of Halacha unless they could induce anything but a quick and clean shechita which does not cause broken bones and the like (e.g. a particular method will likely make the Cow Trayf). It isn’t in the interest of Shechita establishments to have such occurrences. They want to maximise the Kashrus. By all means, if Rabbi Cardozo has a better suggestion than Grandin, he should advise. Here in Melbourne, my understanding is that the cow enters a confined area, its head is raised, shechted, slumps to the ground and then the humanitarian rules of Government state they must be shot in the head (even though they are dead!). This is done by a gentile from a higher vantage point as the Shochet moves to the next animal.

Shechita is slaughter. Those who don’t like it should consider being vegans or vegetarians (except on Shabbos). Rav Kook is rumoured to only have eaten chicken on Shabbos but refrained from meat during the week . Slaughter will never be pristine or pretty. Cortisol levels of any animal that is confined in any way will rise. You can’t give them a Gin and Tonic and expect them to walk into a pen for slaughter with a smile on their face when they would rather be wandering in a paddock.

What if chickens or other fowl are kept under the most unacceptable conditions, such as in overcrowded containers? Are these animals and chickens still kosher, even if the shechita was 100% accurate?

This is a rather dubious halachic statement. One could ask whether the people who manufacture such are transgressing Tzaar B’alei Chaim, but unless Rabbi Cardoso has moved to the conservative camp, everyone knows, that this has no bearing on the kashrus of an animal.

I asked  Mori V’Rabbi Rav Schachter in respect of battery versus free range eggs. He replied that it was permitted to use battery eggs and that this did not qualify halachically as Tzaar. I note though in the same breath that Rav Schachter doesn’t eat the meat of young animals (veal) and I believe Rav Moshe also had issues with such. It doesn’t make them non kosher though!

Since when is the actual shechita more important than the laws of tza’ar baalei chayim?

Since when is Rabbi Cardozo able to decide which halacha is more important? Open up Shulchan Aruch and one will find that the laws of Shechita and the consumption of blood occupy many complex chapters. Does Rabbi Cardozo decide relative importance? It’s not a trade-off. Tzaar B’aalei Chaim is forbidden as is Trayf. It is ingenuous to pitch the two against each other in any way. They are in fact Halachically independent. Neither need be connected in any way to the other.

It seems self-righteous and duplicitous on the part of very religious Jews to insist on glatt kosher shechita, with all its stringencies, when the animals are badly treated prior to shechita, in defiance of Halacha’s requirements.

Glatt is a stringency about the level of perfection of the animal. It is not a necessity. It has absolutely no connection to bad treatment unless that bad treatment would cause it to be non Glatt (unlikely). This is a straw man argument if I’ve ever seen one. Is Rabbi Cardozo going to suggest that those who are happy with non Glatt ultra frum in respect of Tzaar Baalei Chaim?

Are they not as treif (non-kosher) as any other animal that is not slaughtered according to Halacha?

Rabbi Cardozo needs to bring sources not sentiment. The word Treyf is technically defined. The parameters of Tzaar B’aalei Chaim are also listed. They are independent. If Rabbi Cardozo is wanting to link the two, then I suggest he perhaps extrapolates and insists that all Bar Mitzvas where people will drive to Shule on Shabbos be abolished and now be held on Mondays and Thursdays. I hope he isn’t riding on the more populist issues of vegetarianism or veganism. I have a few past students who call me a murderer because I eat meat. They mean it, with vehemence.

Can we hide behind the laws of shechita and then look the other way when the laws of tza’ar baalei chayim are violated? Is that any less hypocritical?

What evidence is there of hiding behind the laws of Shechita! If anything, Rabbi Cardozo is bemoaning the apparent need of people to have meat each day which induces pressures on businesses to have production lines that work quicker. Shechita is a set of confined laws. Tzara Ba’alei Chaim its also a set of confined laws which do not necessarily have anything to do with Shechita. The reality is that there is nothing nice about visiting an abattoir and watching cows shechted for human consumption. It’s not any nicer when they are killed by shooting in the head. Underlying all of Rabbi Cardozo’s writing, is, I believe, this revulsion.

Since the massive growth of the meat industry, in which thousands and thousands of animals are slaughtered daily, it has become more and more difficult, if not impossible, to treat animals humanely, as Jewish law requires.

If this is the case, Rabbi Cardozo, please publish a responsa where you list those abattoirs that you believe use questionable methods. I’m not suggesting you become the Rebbe of PETA, but do to it למען קידוש שמו. Or, set up your own Shechita which is efficient and doesn’t contravene your understanding of Tzaar Baalei Chaim (something you have curiously not elaborated on, from an halachic angle)

The laws of shechita and tzaar ba’alei chayim were meant for Jewish communities who would eat meat occasionally, not for the huge industry we have today where these laws can no longer be properly applied. That being the case, wouldn’t it be appropriate and advisable for religious Jews to become vegetarians?

Where do we see that Shechita was for communities who ate meat occasionally. Did the Torah not foresee advances in animal husbandry and paleo diets? Finally we come to the underlying thesis. Nobody is forced to eat meat! By all means, become vegetarian. Unless you have evidence of Tzaar Ba’alei Chaim according to Halacha, then I’d suggest that casting aspersions on meat eaters is not becoming and furthermore puts them all in the class of sinners. This is a most egregious allegation.

In all honesty, how many of our “glatt kosher” kitchens, including my own, are still truthfully kosher? A haunting question, from which we cannot hide!

Rabbi Cardozo:  don’t hide. Glatt has nothing to do with the issue, and you know it. If you want to start a movement for vegetarianism or veganism because you believe that the scale of slaughter and egg production is unsustainable in a halachically acceptable way, please go ahead. If you want to reduce meat consumption, again, go ahead. There is no problem with that Halachically. Even on Yom Tov, the meat should be fit for Korbanos, so wine is probably what you are left with for Simchas Yom Tov. In the meanwhile, I’d prefer if you didn’t have the quill to suggest that the Rabbi’s I rely on for my meat are transgressing the rules of Tzaar Ba’alei Chaim, when the law of the land is being followed meticulously!

Visit a non Kosher abattoir and see if you feel much better there. It’s not about Glatt. I doubt you’d feel comfortable seeing animals killed, period, for human consumption. That’s fine with me. But … please don’t dress this up in Halachic garb. If you do, without anymore than “feelings” then your blog post will be accused of being a conservative or reform view of Judaism, something which is shallow from an Orthodox intellectual perspective.

Supervised Milk vs Government Regulated Milk

Firstly a disclaimer: In our house you will only find Milk that was formally supervised, that is, in Melbourne the Milk from Tempo supervised by the Hungarian Charedi community. This is commonly known as Chalav Yisrael. The same is true of cheese we buy and eat.

It is common among the “frum world” to call standard milk that one buys from a supermarket (assuming it’s kosher of course, because sometimes they now have strange health additives) as “Chalav Akum“. Now, there is nobody who permits Chalav Akum. It is forbidden according to Shulchan Aruch without any question.

But, it grates on me, that people call the milk one buys in, say, Australia or the USA as Chalav Akum. It is NOT Chalav Akum. This milk falls into its own category. R’ Moshe Feinstein called it “Chalav HaCompanies” and permitted it expressly in many of his Responsa. He never changed his mind, however, he said that in Yeshivas that could afford  Jewish supervision of milk, or for someone who considers themselves  a “Baal Nefesh” (which is difficult to translate, but let’s just say it’s someone who is wary of any/most lenient opinions across the gamut of Judaism—perhaps this is the level of “Tzadik” described in the Sefer HaTanya?) they should take on the stringency of Jewish supervision.

Rabbi Dr Tendler, R’ Moshe’s son-in-law, testifies there was standard milk in R’ Moshe’s house. If R’ Moshe was strict, he extended it only to himself. The Rav agreed with R’ Moshe.

The term Baal Nefesh wasn’t defined by Reb Moshe, of course. It appears earlier in many Seforim. Sometimes they use Medakdekim, but I don’t know if that’s exactly the same thing. Perhaps it is.  I haven’t merited seeing a definition. There are people who I consider to be a Baal Nefesh, but I think the real Baal Nefesh would never call themselves that 🙂

HaRav Tzvi Pesach Frank זצ’’ל, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and Dayan of the Eda Charedis

Now, what grates on me is the issue of powdered milk. Why so? There are some (e.g. the Har Tzvi, Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank) who contend that the decree to need milk to be supervised never applied to milk powder. If one looks carefully on Hashgacha in Israel one often sees that they make mention that the milk (usually from overseas) is from milk powder, because they know that some agree with Rav Frank.

What some Charedim do, however, is mislead. They mention that powdered milk is the same as milk, and quote the Chazon Ish. Yes, the Chazon Ish was the première Posek of Bnei Brak and his word is most important in the Torah world. As such, Charedim will not accept the powdered milk permission of Rav Frank, (even though he was no lightweight in anyone’s eyes and a staunch opponent of Hungarian Charedim). I don’t have a problem with anyone following the Chazon Ish, of course. Why should I? He was the Posek of B’nei Brak and his influence extended beyond.

So what is this blog post about? Well it’s about what they do not tell you about the Chazon Ish.

Everyone assumes that the permission to use Government regulation for Milk was initiated as a “lenient” opinion by R’ Moshe Feinstein זצ’’ל. (R’ Moshe was disgustingly ridiculed by Satmar, as is well-known, and one of their ilk wrote a repulsive book called Ma׳aneh L’igros, which might have been taken seriously if the author had even a modicum of Derech Eretz. The book was thrown in the gutter because of its disgraceful lack of respect to R’ Moshe and withdrawn from print.

The FACT however is that no less a figure than the Chazon Ish himself, before R’ Moshe, allowed Government regulation of Milk and he, yes, the same Chazon Ish expressly permitted it to satisfy the rules of Chalav Yisrael!

Some biased ones will tell to sell you all sorts of tall tales about this. The facts are that the Chazon Ish mentioned his decision/psak to Rav Wosner ז’ל on two occasions, and published it openly in his Seforim, and his Psak was also affirmed by the Steipler Gaon (the Chazon Ish’s brother-in-law). Some will do everything to make one think that the Chazon Ish didn’t mean it; that it was not L’Maaseh (for practical effect); it was just a Sevorah (theory) etc. However, those that say this are just plain revisionists for their own populist purposes. I thank RDS for an excellent article on this topic. If “the Baalei Nefesh” want to forbid it, fine. To claim that this was also the view of the Chazon Ish, though, is just pure fiction.

So, in future, if you are one of those who drinks Government regulated milk, you really should mention that it was permitted by the Chazon Ish. Saying it was permitted by R’ Moshe Feinstein can make it sound like a “lenient opinion” but if you say it was the Chazon Ish, then you are telling the truth and standing on the shoulders of a Charedi giant. Of course, R’ Moshe was a giant, but not for Charedim in Israel who considered his opinions too permissive.

I recently discussed this with the OU, and they affirmed that they agreed 100% with my sentiments.

One more disclaimer: the milk really needs to be from a civilised government where corruption and alternative milk substitution is not rife. If you are travelling, you need to be very careful because in some countries, there really is no issue of respect/fear of Government regulation if it exists at all. If it doesn’t exist, there is no permission to use the Milk according to anyone, unless they don’t have Treyf animals in that country! As a tangential example, we all know many Hindus are strict vegetarians or even vegans. Yet, for years, McDonalds in India sold their advertised pure veggie food, using animal oil from cows which many Hindus consider a sacred animal! The outcry in India was enormous. I was there at the time. (Personally, I only ate what was in my suitcase)

More on Badatz

I received this from MD. This would imply that they may be machmir on some ingredients especially if they are a fundamental (דבר המעמיד without other מעמידים of היתר). I don’t know. I do know for sure that they play games with prices and they do dictate ingredients and that in the case I know it was simply the amount of water in juice!

t is not about dilution, it is about nutrition values.
Channel 2 of the Israel TV did some comparisons.
In ELITE’s bubble chocolate, the ordinary Hechsher had fewer calories, more protein and fewer carbohydrates than the Badatz one.
The ready-made ordinary kashrus Pizza has less calories, protein, sodium and carbohydrates than the Badatz one.
Osem produces Chicken Soup powder. The production under the ordinary Hechsher has no Monosodium Gluconate and natural ingredients (חומרים טבעיים) only, as against the one produced under the Badatz has MS and does not contain any natural ingredients.
The same was found in milk products.
Here are just a few answers of the manufacturers:
תגובת זוגלובק: “במקרה של הפיצה ההבדלים נובעים מדרישות ההשגחה של סוגי הכשרויות השונים, דבר המשליך על הערכים התזונתיים של המוצר הסופי”.
תגובת אסם: “[…] באבקת מרק העוף בלבד לא ניתן היה לפתח מוצר מרכיבים טבעיים בלבד בכשרות בד”צ ולכן המוצר בכשרות רגילה”.
תגובת תנובה: “הפער בין הרכיבים במוצר יופלה לבן טבעי נובע משימוש ברכיבים המאושרים על ידי בד”צ ולכן המחיר גם זול יותר”.
And one mother thought that the only difference was Cholov Yisroel. Now she is aware that her child is getting a product with a lesser nutrition value.

As we can see, it is not the manufacturers that change the ingredients; it is the Hasgacha of Badatz. There is no Hechsher Badatz, as they have no authority to issue Hechsherim. The manufacturers are supplying to their customers the improved KOSHER nutrition products – מי שלא רוצה שיאכל קש.

Aspects of the Badatz Hechsher

Don’t water down your milk and juices and other important ingredients just to make a buck

On Israel TV, investigative reporters clearly revealed yesterday that levels of ingredients were reduced (not abolished) when they were produced for Badatz and other “Heymishe Hashgachos”. The nutritional value, especially for children was compromised. It is of absolutely no business for a Kashrus agency (in this case also Belz) to dictate changes in amounts of ingredients unless it is a matter of bitul, which can’t be done by Jews anyway.

The producer creates a product. It is either Kosher according to the published standards or it is not. I am aware for a several years of this practice occurring and it is nothing short of a Chillul Hashem, which has zero to do with Kashrus.

I trust the OU over them any day.

 

It looks as though RMG Rabi’s “Kosher” Business may be Kaput

A reader passed on the following information:

Finally all the images on the It’s Kosher Facebook page are frozen

Among some of the more allegedly dishonest messages were:

  1. A series of logos some belonging to the American Conservative Movement, some just a Kosher symbol belonging to nobody in particular and even a logo from Masterchef including, “these are all Jewish, these are all Kosher.”
  2. Another image had marketing for Limors Restaurant on Kooyong Road with a large photo of the establishment and even a menu! The story about Limors is this non Kosher restaurant that was allegedly serving pure treyf 7 days a week was advertising at one stage (about 2 years ago) that 6 days a week their breakfast was “Kosher under the supervision of Meir Gershon Rabi”. RMG Rabi hosted a sheva brochos for his own daughter, catered by Limors.
  3. We are aware of many people who were allegedly confused and ate in this restaurant, meals that were cooked with 100% non Kosher meat believing that this restaurant was fully under RMG Rabi.
  4. As most of the religious public do not accept RMG Rabi and do not eat a milchig “kosher” breakfast in a non Kosher restaurant serving 7 days a week, the arrangement between Rabi and the owner from Limors was allegedly suspended and according to Limor there was allegedly no Kosher food available for well over 12 months.
  5. In typical style “it’s Kosher”, in the marketing on its Facebook page, Limors was still there until 5 days ago! This is even though it was bought to RMG Rabi’s attention.
  6. Other images were RMG Rabi’s selfies of himself with staff of establishments he went to visit, and were removed. Some have complained that images were not even in accordance with Tzniyus standards.
  7. On the webpage of Kosher Veyosher/Its Kosher there are a number of pages of self promotion of RMG Rabi. These have now been passworded and are no longer accessible to the public.
  8. A reason that RMG Rabi’s promotions  have suddenly been passworded as well as all images on his Facebook page, is likely due to a legal letter received by RMG Rabi warning him to immediately remove all pictures, comments, logos and names of their organisation and Rabbi as they are falsely being used by RMG Rabi to promote his business with Kalman Gradman.
  9. Dayan Abraham from the London Beth Din and many others face the same dilemma

And now RMG Rabi extends his services to conversion

I received this by email, however, I have known about it for some time, having heard it from Dayonim in Melbourne and Sydney. In fact, the story gets worse than what is related here. I will leave it to other investigative types to find out what happened after this episode. Again, it confirms my (non Rabbinic) view that absolutely nobody should rely on RMG Rabi’s pseudo-halachic determinations and cosmic inventions. I’ve edited the quote below lightly and added a source.

[Hat tip BA]

Some years ago a young non-Jewish girl by the name of ### approached
the Melbourne Beth Din to convert to Judaism. She was told the standard procedure
and was given a list of teachers who were approved by the Melbourne Beth Din.
Shortly quite a number of concerns starting coming to the attention of the Beth Din.

These issues we are aware of, have had them confirmed, but do not feel we should make
them public. Five prominent senior Rabbanim from the Melbourne Rabbinate were
consulted and the unanimous decision was not to go ahead with her Geirus.
Numerous Rabbonim were allegedly hassled and pestered over a lengthy period, but the
Rabbonim would not budge and would not convert her as per Halachic advice from overseas experts.

Ms ### then moved to Sydney where she applied to the Sydney Beth Din to convert
to Judaism. After more than a year of her arguing, pressuring, threatening the Sydney
Beth Din and other prominent Rabbonim, she was told that she would not be converted
by the Sydney Beth Din either.

Ms ### was engaged to an American Israeli named ###. This ### was told in
Israel by a “do gooder” that the only person who could help to convert ### is a Rabbi called Meir Rabi.
### was told that Rabi has a history of allegedly antagonising the local Rabbonim and is described as a
rebel who will probably help especially if the other Rabbis say not to. ### also threatened
many Sydney Rabbonim.

Within a couple of weeks of Meir Rabi meeting ### the conversion was, predictably, carried out.
Meir Rabi manufactured a letterhead printed pretending to be an official beth din, calling himself
Harav HaGaon Meir Rabi, Rosh Beth Din.  The other two “Dayonim” of the Beth Din
were his business partner Kalman Gradman (who was bestowed the title Rabbi), and a third
gentleman by the name of Yitzchak Micha’el. Both of these gentlemen, Gradman and
Micha’el, may not halachically be part of a Beth Din for conversion. Kalman Gradman
TEXT REMOVED…
whose past conviction arguably disqualifies him from being part of a conversion Beis Din. Yitzchak
Micha’el is himself a convert which disqualifies him from converting others (see Bet Din Shel Yerushalayim (in Dinei Mamonot Ubirurei Yuchsin 7:416) where it is invalid even B’Dieved, after the fact).

Meir Rabi knew that no Mikveh would allow him to come with his two business associates to convert
the woman, so the 3 of them took ### to the Brighton City Baths to use as a mikvah,
where she performed a dunking and they “baptised” her.

48 hours later in a hush-hush ceremony the couple were married.

Suffice it to say, no Rabbinic authorities accept Rabi’s conversion.

Are מומר לתיאבון types (hungry people) going to hang their coats on his hook and trust? Surely by now your eyes are wide open. Isn’t it time that the established and accepted and respected Kashrut authority in Melbourne was respected?

PS. I note that a famous Arab West Bank Techina factory had its kashrus certification revoked by the Israeli Rabbanut, because of the dangers of Mashgichim coming unannounced to check on operations, and the Arab owner’s argument that they had comprehensive video cameras installed within the factory was rejected! 

Responses of Gedolai Horoah to RMG Rabi’s Business forays

Firstly, here is a letter from מורי ורבי הרב הרשל שכטר, Posek for the OU and Rosh Kollel at Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan.

RavShechterBenPekuah

 

A rough translation follows: My parts are in square brackets]

4 Shevat 5776 (January 14, 2016)

In respect of a ben pakuah [a calf that is born alive after its mother has already been slaughtered]  (which has been “born” [prematurely] at eight months, before it has completed its normal formation, [ from its slaughtered mother ]  one may eat its gid hanasheh (Sciatic nerve) and cheilev (forbidden fats) (YD 64:2) [ which are normally forbidden] and [since it is 8 months old] it is not reasonable for this premature calf to put its feet on the earth [as it it is a mature calf] because it is a “nefel”. If they took this calf and put it into an incubator [to allow it to mature] until it became fully fledged healthy, as if it was born as a nine month old calf, [on this matter] the Chazon Ish’s view is that halachically the calf is considered fully formed  and its gid hanashe and cheilev are forbidden. [the prohibitions of gid hanasheh and cheilev only apply when the ben pakua preforms the halachic act of ‘hifris al gabei karaka’ (lit. places its hoof on the ground)].  It is not possible for a premature calf to execute this halachic action.

It is. therefore, impossible to raise premature bnei pakua for slaughter as the only way to do so is by placing them in an incubator until they become viable. As previously stated this would cause them to have the status of full-termbnei pakuos whose gid hanasheh and cheilev would be forbidden Biblically or Rabbinically as soon as they are ‘hifris algabei karka’.

Tzvi Shachter

There is also a picture that someone sent me of RMG Rabi (who looks to be in a long Rabbinic coat, unless I’m mistaken) sitting with (the Belzer) Rabbi Pinchas Padwa. The picture conjures an endorsement of RMG Rabi’s venture with Kalman Gradman, Stephen Bloch and perhaps others. Rabbi Padwa sent the following letter to Rav Beck of Adass.

RavPadwa-Beck

My translation follows. My emendations and additions are in square brackets [ ]

To the honoured famous Torah scholar and Gaon and Tzadik Rabbi A Z Beck shlita, the Head of the Beth Din [ of Adass] in Melbourne, Australia.

After [genuine and serious] genuflection, I am writing  to clarify my opinion on this matter [of commercial production of Beni Pekuah meat].  Although I wrote a response to Rav [Ze’ev] Vitman [formerly the Chairman of the Shemittah Committee of the Chief Rabbinate] [it must be understood that] the letter was solely for academic purposes [as opposed to a letter with a definitive Psak Din Lehalocho U’Lemaaseh] and was [motivated in order] to clarify Torah concepts, which is my normal practice [with such letters].

I did not enter the fray of deciding on commercial Ben Pekuah from a practical halachic conclusion, especially as this is a type of matter which will bring a stumbling block and a breach and separation from the walls of our religion, Chas V’Shalom, and will serve to undermine the Torah which is under the bastion of Kashrus and Kashrus for which the Rav [Beck] gives his all to sustain.

God forbid, that someone should do anything large or small which will breach the fences of the world and weaken the standing of Rabbinic Gaonim, who stand on guard [to protect Torah and Kashrus].

I  join [Rav Beck] and the great Rabbis of the Holy Land, the princes of Torah, that one should not grow commercial B’nei Pekuah [farms] as such a venture will result in a Churban [devastation of Kashrus].

I bless the honored Torah scholar that he should merit to stand strong against any breach in the wall of our sacred religion against any breach in our religion, for many more good years]

Rabbi Pinchas Leibish Padwa

It would seem, but who can know that Rabbi Padwa was called to task for giving the appearance that he was a supporter of RMG Rabi vis-a-vis his letter to Rav Vitman. He then clarified his view. RMG Rabi claims an anonymous Rabbi has eaten his meat. One wonders if that was Rabbi Padwa or Rabbi Vitman. Someone should ask them.

Now, the interested reader might wish to consider that the wonderful Kosher Australia organisation has even bigger issues they face. RMG Rabi attends the Shabbos early minyan at Mizrachi, however, he is not given any Aliya due to what some consider his subversive actions. In particular, there have been letters allegedly from his pen to gentile manufacturers stating that Kosher Australia is not reliable. This is something that simply cannot be tolerated, from a maverick or anyone else. It is for these reasons that I have posted the above. RMG Rabi and his business partners really should find a different honest income and stop attempting to disrupt the hard work of many years, by a myriad of volunteers.

The Mashgiach of the DNA can be heard here

Where is Beis HaTalmud (Lakewood Kollel in Melbourne) on RMG Rabi issues?

I don’t frequent this Kollel, so there may have been a learned treatise published from its Rabbis which address RMG Rabi’s broad-shouldered pronouncements on grave Kashrus issues. I do know that the Rosh Kollel there takes his Halachic advice from Rabbi Heinemann.

I’d like to think that an institution that pays its members to sit and learns all day and is supported by various, actually has an opinion and is ready to publish this somewhere; all other groups have disavowed themselves of RMG Rabi’s Kashrus Business, including the Haredi Adass through Rav A.Z. Beck, Rav Schachter from the OU, Chabad, and leading Haredi Poskim in Israel. There can be no doubt that some of the few who do eat based on Rabi’s supervision attend a Shiur at Beis HaTalmud.

If a place of learning is silent and doesn’t publish halacha, then one has to wonder what the value of pilpul that never ends with a definitive full stop is worth? Many Gedolim, such as R’ Chaim Brisker thought that pilpul was a waste of time, as is well-known.

I will give the benefit of the doubt and assume this isn’t some mysterious case of misplaced diplomacy gone wrong. שתיקה כהודאה?

If anyone has an analysis coming out of that Kollel, I’d be pleased to read it.

Thanks.

The time has come: I do not recommend anyone rely on R’ Gershon Meir Rabi for kashrus

Ben Pekuah is now done and dusted. RMG Rabi, has once more shown his עקשנות but more to the point, his lack of consideration for the advice given by the גדולי הוראה in the world. It’s just a shame that the dismemberment of RMG Rabi’s business has to come from outsiders. In this case, it is Rabbi Yair Hoffman of the five towns. I will reproduce yet another interchange between RMG Rabi and Rabbi Yair. It concludes with a video (we have to resort to videos so that words aren’t twisted and tortuously reinterpreted where R’ Chaim Kanievsky, who whilst not my Posek, is from the Gedolay Horoah, say the words בהחלט … absolutely (not) … in his assessment of RMG Rabi’s investment project and supervision venture with Stephen Bloch and others (who I thought should have realised that they were not backing a winner). The money invested would better have been spent on Charity.

The following video of Mori V’Rabbi Rav Hershel Schachter (who does not support RMG Rabi and directly interchanged with him on a person to person basis). It is important to internalise what Rav Schachter says. It makes it very clear about the types of Musmachim and Gedolay Horoah one should seek on grave questions. Listen very carefully.

The latest interchange from five towns follows. I would urge those with true יראת שמים to distance themselves from each and every one of RMG Rabi’s business forays into Kashrus. There is nothing altruistic in what I interpret. It is opportunism of an unacceptable variety, ועתיד ליתן דין וחשבון, on his activities which hurt the community and those struggling to keep Kosher Businesses acceptable to all, בלי פקפוק from keeping their noses above water.

I’d suggest that RMG Rabi perhaps take a degree in the Law. He will likely meet realities despite his tortured logic that rejects his arguments and dismisses them summarily.

Ben P’Kuah – The Battle Rages On
By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
The following represents a letter that the consulting Rabbi of the Ben Pekuah Meat concern in Australia, Rabbi Meir Rabi, wrote in response to the Five Towns Jewish Times article last week on the topic of Ben Pekuah. Rabbi Yair Hoffman has written a point by point response. In addition, a letter was written by Rav Hershel Schachter Shlita, agreeing with Rabbi Hoffman’s point. Below is Rabbi Rabi’s letter.

Dear Sirs,
We appreciate the opportunity to add some information to clarify last week’s article about BP.
A] Our primary objective is to welcome those who are sympathetic but not currently committed to eating kosher meat, either because of its cost, or because the choicer cuts aren’t available.

RYH Response: While that may be what you say, the fact that the promotional material includes letters and photos with Chareidi Rabbis, many of which were done without their permission, is indicative of a campaign to also get the Chareidi target market.

B] All our BP are derived from those that originated as non-fully-gestated babies.

RYH Response: The distinction between fully gestated and the 8 month calf which forms the underpinnings of this entire venture is a debate in the Poskim, with many Poskim holding it is prohibited. The Rambam holds that there is no such distinction and so do the Baalei HaTosfos in tractate Shabbos 135a (“Ben”). The uestion is whether it is fair to market such a product even to Jews who are less observant. Furthermore, the Ramah writes elsewhere that we do not distinguish between ben ches and ben tes anymore.
I believe that you making a halachic error in thinking that the offspring of a ben ches BP is treated like a BP ben ches and not a ben tes once it has walked on the ground. This, it seems, is what you are basing your entire edifice upon.
Lastly, the very thought of specifically harvesting a fetus prematurely in order to raise and breed its offspring is halachically untenable as well as perhaps morally questionable..

C] BP is markedly less expensive than and superior to ordinary kosher because
• every ounce of meat of every animal that is Shechted is Glatt Kosher LeMehadrin

RYH Response: The term Glatt when used colloquially means a higher quality of kashrus and does not exclusively refer to the smoothness of lungs anymore. The fact that this meat is only kosher according to a combination of a minority opinion combined with two obscure readings of texts makes this statement somewhat misleading.
In addition, as mentioned in our first article, the London Beis Din has requested that Rabbi Rabi take down the letter from the London Beis Din on his website that gives the impression of support. They claim that the letter was only meant to help you get a job in hashgacha and you had used this letter to support his own hechsher and to have it reflect on Ben Pekuah. They have said its use is dishonest.
When I brought up the issue in conversation with Mr. Bloch he said that this has nothing to do with the company as they are not displaying the London Beis Din letter of approbation. In fact, the company brochure, which the 5TJT has now gotten hold of displays the London Beis Din letter prominently. This is a questionable practice.

• checking the lungs for ritual blemishes is not required – a great time, money and personnel saving

RYH Response: Most smaller shechitas have only one processing line with one experienced bodek. This is probably the case in the abattoirs used in your area as well. Thus, the line would not be slowed at all and the personnel savings would be of one employee.

• in ordinary Kosher such blemishes regularly disqualify up to 66%

RYH Response: Actually, my research is that it is more like 25 to 35 percent. This is especially true in Australia where the cows are much healthier than elsewhere.

• no need to remove Cheilev and Gid [the forbidden fats and sciatic nerve] – a tremendous saving

RYH Response: The issue of Chailev is also not so clear cut. All seem to hold that the chailev must be removed, rather there is a debate as to whether this obligation is biblical or on account of maris ayin.
The reason why you may have thought that there is no need to remove the chailev is that in SA 64:2 it appears to only mention hifris al gabei karka, walking on ground, in relation to Ben tes. You assume that it doesn’t apply to children of a Ben ches or your Ben ches that gets saved. But perhaps the real reason that it only mentions it in relation to Ben tes is because that is the only one that survives.
A Ben ches that is removed and survives can very well be considered a Ben tes! Furthermore, once a cow is walking around, whycan;t we assume the maris ayin would be there regardless of the origin of the cow. And how can you categorically state that the opinion that holds Ben tes Chailev is Doriso will not hold the same for progeny of a Ben ches or the Ben ches itself that somehow was saved and grew to birth age? The issue is about possibly feeding chailev to others.

• there is no risk these painstaking tasks are performed hurriedly and incompletely

RYH Response: According to the simple readings it would be uite risky.

• BP animals are processed as efficiently as non-Kosher animals
• BP requires far fewer Kosher staff
• ordinary Kosher production runs slower, is less efficient, and requires more staff
• tereifos from ordinary Kosher sold to the non-Kosher market only fetch non-Kosher prices. Their extra production costs cannot be recovered.

RYH Response: In this list you list 9 reasons why your meat is substantially cheaper than the standard kosher meat. But most Kosher shechita is done at the gentile slaughter facility and a kosher production team is brought in. The team will number between 3 and 5 people. The cost per day of this team is about $2200 per day. But if this number is spread out over the total edible poundage of the slaughter that day (say the product of 100 cows at 850 pounds divided by 2 for bone and fat loss and halved again), the additional cost is less than ten cents more– yes, less than 10 cents more on the wholesale level. So what then is the extra cost in kosher production? It is the distribution system, the markups of all the middle people and the standard aspects of economics that would apply to all businesses. The nine points that are made here are a drop in the bucket and perhaps are not the real reason that kosher meat is higher.

D] In previous generations kashering and removing prohibited cheilev fats and gid was performed at home so BP offered no real benefit whereas modern meat processing presents tremendous challenges and costs to Kosher. Today BP offers tremendous benefits.

RYH Response: An honest system of reliably tracking and reliably keeping tabs on BP herds would also involve expenses. Outsourcing this system to a gentile firm and outsourcing crucial aspects of overseeing the kashrus involved to a gentile firm is fraught with missteps. Assurances of reliability here notwithstanding, the fact is that we were not yet able to obtain assurances of your organization’s kashrus integrity from any of the three major kashrus organizations in Australia nor from the London Beis Din despite their letter being on your own website. Indeed, on the contrary, we have received and viewed letters demanding that you take down these letters from your website and you have not complied with them.

E] Chazal did not ban or even discourage cultivating herds of BP notwithstanding the potential problem that animals with partial BP Yichus cannot be Shechted.
The Gaonim Rav Sherira and Rav Hai certainly took precautions to prevent such risks when they cultivated their BP herds for feeding the community [R Chaim Kanievsky explained they did this simply to promote awareness of BP] but clearly these were unremarkable since no mention or fuss is made about them.

RYH Response: With due respect, no mention is made anywhere of herds that Rav Shrirah Gaon and Rav Hai Gaon cultivated. They had a few Ben Pakuahs. There is no evidence that they cultivated herds of Ben Pakuahs.

We have very strict safety and security systems, including DNA to verify and guarantee the purity of all our BP which is documented and confirmed by an independent auditor as are all our protocols.

RYH Response: There are two issues here. Firstly, when dealing with DNA there needs to be a trust of the person in charge. Thus far, we have been unable to find Rabbis in your community that stand behind your supervision – even on ice cream – and certainly for meat. The second issue deals with the DNA parameters. Rabbi Yaakov Roza is one of the top experts in the field of DNA testing and halacha. He states that the halachic criterion is to match 200 of the 500 DNA parameters in order to create a DNA umdana. Your process matches 12 of 25 DNA parameters.

F] Halacha accepts the legitimacy of non-Jewish experts due to their need to maintain their integrity and reputation.

RYH Response: This is not true on issues of meat. A kfailah has ne’emanus on taste, but not for matters having to do with supervising meat.

The material collected from the Shechted animals for DNA analysis is overseen by Rabbi Rabi.

G] DNA is vastly superior to double seals required for meat which is in the control of a Goy [ShA-YD-118] Furthermore, considering Rabbi Hoffman’s confirmation that authentic Kosher seals are fairly readily available, one must seriously question their reliability [the OK reports; “Our Mashgiach sent the meat back and was shocked to observe the (non-Jewish) driver applying other Kosher seals he had on the truck to those same boxes of meat”]

DNA provides the most powerful tool on earth to prevent substitutions and guarantee the integrity of Kosher meat. The Israeli media reports “Only 15,600 tons of 35,000 tons of non-Kosher meat imported during 2007 to 2009 for the Palestinian Authority, reached its stated destinations. 56% just “disappeared.” State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss wrote, “There is a concern that it was smuggled into Israel and lucratively sold as Kosher meat”

H] The Pesukim in the Torah, and the argument Ubbar Yerech Imo – a foetus is deemed to be akin to a limb of the mother, fail to explain or provide foundation for the ruling that all future generations of purebred BP are also BP. The Gemara and Rishonim see no need to explain it, as though it is self-evident.
Indeed, R Chaim Kanievsky explained – obviously species replicate themselves and since BP is a species unto itself it requires no Passuk or Derasha to know that it replicates itself.

RYH Response: You are quoting Rav Chaim Kanievsky, but he and Rav Shteinman and Rav Karelitz and two other gedolim signed a letter saying that commercial BP production is forbidden. The Five Towns Jewish Times published this letter last week. Why is this being ignored?

Furthermore, we now have a video of Rav Chaim wondering what happened to you [in other words, that you have gone completely off the deep end]. His grandson then asked the question, “Is what he is doing wrong?” Rav Chaim responds, “Certainly!”

We also have a letter here from Rav Hershel Schachter of the OU saying that the approach of the requirement of shechita being not a full fledged requirement is incorrect, and thus any allowing of stunning before the shechita would make the meat treif.

I] Just as deer meat may be cooked with dairy since Basar-BeChalav is restricted to the species of BeHeimah which excludes Chayos, like deer, so too BP is not a BeHeimah and may be cooked with dairy.

RYH Response: In order to respond to this, we must take off the kid gloves. Not one Rishon or acharon mentions that BP meat is pareve in 1600 years. You have an inference that you make in one sefer (which you admit has alternative readings) that you have extrapolated to say this very explosive idea. In addition, there is not a posek in America, Australia, or Eretz Yisroel that has ruled in this manner – it is simply untenable.

R Moshe Sternbuch, quoting the Meshech-Chochmah, unequivocally declares that BP meat may be cooked with dairy – השחיטה מתיר בבן פקועה ושרי בחלב – the Shechitah [of the mother] permits the BP and it may be cooked with milk. [MoAdimUzManim Vol-4 Chapter-319]

RYH Response: No, these sources are referring to the milk because it is considered chalav shechuta milk of a slaughtered animal.

J] Rabbi Hoffman had access to all R Chaim’s correspondence prior to publication of his article as well as the details of a renowned Posek who endorses and has eaten our BP meat.

RYH Response: Following the principles of due diligence, each item and name that you have presented must be confirmed. Thus far, I have been unable to confirm one citation or quote. Those that have responded to my inquiries have had slightly different stories than that which was presented. The renowned posek you cite also must have instructed you to remove his name from your website, which you did take down but a few days ago.

The Rav Chaim correspondences, are working with a different reading than yours as can be seen from the letter that he signed along with the other four Gedolim, and from the video that we have. YH
Rabbi Meir G Rabi, Consulting Rabbi, AK Ben Pekuah Pty Ltd

The author of the responses can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

Watch the video below:

Ben Pekuah again–Sigh

This latest post, which can be seen here, is verbatim.

The New Commercially-Produced Ben P’kuah Meat
(Thursday, January 7th, 2016 10:52 AM)
rav chaim kanievsky[By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times]

There is a new type of meat, called Ben Pekuah Meat, that is about to enter the kosher consumer market, and it is stirring up some serious controversy, particularly in Boro Park. It seems that the Hebrew language Mishpacha had recently run an article on Ben P’kuah meat and has also published an alleged ruling of Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita. The Hebrew Yated had also run a piece on it. Two Rabbonim in Brooklyn have brought up the issue to this author, and have asked that the matter be investigated.

The meat is coming out of a company in Australia. But questions abound, both on the nature of Ben P’kuah and on the specific company producing it. What is this meat? Who are the people that are behind this initiative? What are the underlying issues?

BEN P’KUAH MEAT

A Ben P’Kuah or BP is an unborn calf that is found in the womb of its mother that was just slaughtered. The Gemorah in Chullin 69a states that such a foetus does not require its own slaughter. The Mishna in Chulin 74a records a debate between Rabbi Meir and the sages regarding a fully matured calf. Rabbi Meir holds that it does require its own slaughter, while the sages hold that it does not – on a biblical level. There are two types of BP – the first is that of a foetus that was not fully formed – to which even Rabbi Meir agrees that Shechita is not required. The second type is when it reached maturity. There, Rav Meir holds that Shechita is required – biblically. The sages disagree.

THE REASONS

There seems to be three sources as to why the BP is exempt from Shechita. The Gemorah (69a) states that the verse “vekhol b’heimah” is the source. It is understood to mean that the entire animal can be eaten – even the foetus found inside. Later on (69b) the Gemorah returns to an original source called, “Behaima BaBehaima” that any animal within another animal is included in the original shechita. Finally, the Baal haMaor 70b understands it as falling under the rublic of “uber yerech imo – the foetus is considered a limb of its mother.”

THE CHAILEV AND VEINS

The Chailev and veins of a BP cow that is still in the cow are actually permitted (AH 13:2). The blood, however, still retains the prohibition of Dam Aivarim – blood absorbed into the limbs. There are essentially two reasons for the exclusion of the blood from the verse of “the entire animal” permitting it. 1] It is no different than any other organ of the slaughtered cow and 2] the verse only permits food that is generally eaten – blood is a liquid and is not in that category. There is a substantive difference between these two reasons. According to the first reason, ingesting the blood is a violation of a lav; according to the second reason, the ingestion of blood would involve the more stringent violation of Karais. After the calf’s legs hit the ground, the other items are forbidden on account of Maris ayin.

NO TREIFUS

The repercussions of being a BP cow is that there is no concept of treifus. The animal does not need to undergo the rigorous inspection of lungs that regular cows have to go through.

DESCENDANTS OF BP COWS

One of the most fascinating and pertinent areas of the laws of Ben P’kuah cows is the fact that if a cow descends from two parents who are BP cows, the descendant cow also only requires Shechita miderabanan. If, however, a regular cow fathers a calf from a BP cow, the calf will remain non-kosher forever. In the Gemorah’s language, “ain lo takana l’olam.” The explanation is that it is considered to have a delay in the shechita process called “Shehiya.” How so? The cow is considered to be half-shechted and half regular. There is no greater delay in the shechita process than this and it is thus considered “shehiya.”

OTHER ASPECTS OF BEN P’KUAH

Many students of Chumash will recall the debate explained by many commentators between Yoseph and his brothers as to whether there is a prohibition of aiver min hachai regarding a Ben P’kuah. Yoseph held that before matan Torah, they are considered as bnei noach, and thus the original shechita of the ben p’kuah’s mother does not stop the biblical prohibition of aiver min hachai, eating the limb from a live animal. The brothers held that they were full-fledged Jews in this regard and that the mother’s shechita does remove the prohibition of aiver min hachai.

The Gemorah in Bava Kamma 106b discusses whether there is an obligation for a theif who steals a Ben Pkuah cow to repay 4 or 5 times the value of the cow, just like there would be an obligation if he had stolen a regular cow. There are also questions as to whether there is a prohibition of shechting a Ben Pkuah and its offspring on the same day. Another question is whether the Ben Pakuaj may be shechted on Shabbos or not.

WHO THEY ARE

This author has been in communication with the general manager of the company as well as the supervising Rabbi through email and telephone conversation. The company is based in Melbourne, Australia, and it has been, they claim, a project ten years in the making. The Rabbi associated with the company is Rabbi Meir Rabi, who has authored an article on the topic in the 35th volume of Techumim.

FUNDAMENTAL ERROR

In this author’s opinion, the supervising Rabbi, Rabbi Meir Rabi, who authored the article in Tchumim, has made a serious error in his understanding of the nature of BP meat.
Rabbi Rabi seems to understand the BP animal as a new, different type of creature. He cites (in footnote 6 to his Tchumim article) the Meshech Chochma in Bereishis 18:8 as being of the opinion that BP meat is not fleishig. Rabbi Rabi then claims that Rav Moshe Shternbuch writes the same thing in his response Vol. IV #319. He further writes that he was told by Rav Shternbuch that according to all opinions the meat is pareve and that he was also told this by Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita.

However, it seems to this author that the Meshech Chochma is only saying that milk from a BP cow is not considered dairy, because it has the halachic status of a pre-shechted cow.
Milk from a shechted cow is only forbidden by Rabbinic decree, on account of maris ayin, but is biblically permitted. The Meshech Chochmah makes no mention of any possibility of the meat being considered pareve. Nor is there any such indication in Rav Shternbuch’s writings.

As far as the next two citations that Rav Shternbuch said that it is considered pareve as did Rav Chaim Kanievsky, there is no such indication in the rishonim or acharonim on the relevant Gemorahs, nor in the response, nor in the Poskim. It is difficult to conceive that such a view would have escaped mention in the nearly 1600 years since the Gemorah was written.
It is especially difficult to accept that Rabbi Shternbuch would say that all would agree that this is the case. I am conjecturing that Rabbi Rabi incorrectly understood both of these Gedolim.
This matter is so obvious that there is almost no need to show it, but Rabbi Akiva Eiger in his glosses to the Shulchan Aruch (YD 87:6) clearly shows that the only issue is the milk – not the meat. Rav Elyashiv zt”l in Kovetz Haaros al HaTorah (page 308) clearly indicates this too.

Although this is a substantive error, it would not, however, forbid Ben P’kuah meat. Why then bring it up? The reason is that a BP meat operation must ensure that no non-BP cow can mate with the BP cows. True, DNA testing is in the process, but a claim of DNA proven is only as good as the weakest link in the chain. Someone else assuring me that DNA testing was done – is not necessarily foolproof and only boils down to one person’s assertions. Let us also realize that a BP cow can also ruin the cows in a regular herd from being kosher in the future. This is a grave responsibility when commercially producing so many BP cows.

This is not to say that theoretically DNA may not be used Halachically to ascertain crucial information. Indeed, a shiur delivered by Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst from Chicago carefully delineates the parameters of when DNA can and cannot be used.

How does the Australian religious community view Rabbi Rabi? A website called J-Wire reports as follows: “Rabbi Meir Rabi took over the reins of authorising foodstuffs from Rabbi Shlomo Rudszki, a former chief minister at Melbourne’s South Caulfield Hebrew Congregation. However, many members of the community do not recognise his Kosher VeYosher certifications and the dominant Kosher Authority has told J-Wire that whilst they are still checking Nestles and Peters ice cream products, there has been no decision made and they state that the products classified as Kosher by Rabbi Rabi are yet to pass their tests.”
However, inquiries have not found anyone that is aware of this claim, including Rabbi Rudski’s own children.

There is an organization called “Kosher Australia” belonging to the wider Orthodox community. They do not recognize or accept Rabbi M. Rabi. Their official position is that Nestle’s and Peters are not under an accepted hashgacha.

His website, kosherveyosher.com, lists an approbation from the London Beis Din. However when the London Beis Din was contacted for verification, the following reply was received.

“Dayan Abraham has asked me to send you a copy of a letter which he sent to Rabbi Rabi, over a year ago. In the light of this letter, he regards Rabbi Rabi’s continued use of his letter of recommendation to be dishonest. Regards, David Frei, Registrar, London Beth Din”

When speaking to the London Beis Din representative this author was told that the Dayan of the London Beis Din felt that Rabbi Rabi was undermining kashrus in Australia by his private hechsher and had requested, actually demanded, that he remove the letter back in 2007, 2010 and also in November, 2014. Rabbi Rabi completely ignored it.

Another fundamental question deals with how the entire operation of a Ben P’kuah shechita would be any cheaper. The animals must land on the ground in order to eventually sire progeny. Thus they are subject to a very rigorous deveining process. After consulting with industry experts, it seems that the differences in processing would not amount to a significant savings. Why then is the company embarking upon the entire idea. One industry expert suggested that perhaps it is a marketing idea designed to get buyers.

The author contacted the managing director of the company, Stephen Bloch, as well as the Rabbi, Rabbi Meir Rabi, and the following exchange of conversation took place:

Q: Where is this BP operation happening?
A: In Australia. Original shechita is performed in a private location. They have opted to set up a private location where all the equipment is required, built according to Dr. Temple Grandin.
Q: Has she been at the site?
A: No she has not been. We have an independent auditor that monitors the process.
Q: Are the owners, or the majority shareholders, religious Jews?
A: Some are. Some are not. But why should that make a difference?
Q: Because some people, particularly in New York, only purchase meat items from Sabbath observing Jews. They would not eat from a hechsher of which the owner of the establishment might be in a position to have any position of possible control over things.
A: We understand and appreciate that. And there have been numerous problems in kashrus even with such a system with shomer Shabbos owners. We, however, have a system in place that ensures the absolute integrity of the meat. On our website, we have the auditor’s report and a foolproof system in place. The auditor monitors everything and we even use DNA tracking to ensure that it is only this meat that is being used.
Is the auditor is an observant Jew?
No. He is not. But it is a guaranteed system. And creates a mirsas.
Q: Mirsas is a halachic tool that works regarding other foods, but it is not an effective halachic tool in regard to meat. Is there a Posaik that has signed off on this idea that a gentile auditor is equivalent to a mashgiach?
A: We do not use it as a mashgiach. It is no different than the simanim that all hashgachos use. I have in my possession the identifying material, plumbas stickers of hechsherim, of numerous hasgachos that were just left at the place and they never bothered to pick them up. Our integrity, our system, will inspire much more confidence.
Q: I too, have such a collection – from the top hechsherim as well. But let’s get back to this concept. Let’s assume even, for the sake of argument, that your system is one hundred times better than a regular hechsher. But do you have a posaik, other than yourself, that has signed off on this idea that a goyish auditing firm can be acting in the role as mashgiach in your foolproof system? Do you have a gadol or posaik that has seen this system and has approved of this system where the hashgacha is overseen by a gentile auditor?
A: We do. I have to speak to him whether I can use his name.
Q: Okay. I have two more topics to bring up.
[The next phase of the conversation was a debate as to the reading of the Meshech Chochma. Rabbi Rabi claimed that the Meshech Chochma must hold that it is pareve because otherwise the rabbinic prohibition of using Ben Pekuah milk would have kicked in. The author responded that if he held that it was pareve he would have said that and one cannot build an entire edifice based upon a question, and that there are numerous answers to that question. Perhaps there was no prohibition of maris ayin in the time of Avrohom Avinu because there were no other Jews, and this is just one possible answer.]
Q: I had contacted the London Beis Din and they said that they have repeatedly asked you to take down their letter on your hechsher’s website, and yet you refuse to do that. Don’t you feel that you are morally obligated to comply with their request?
A: Rabbi Rabi- Well, it depends on why they are requesting that they take it down.
Q: Let’s assume the worst possible reason for the sake of argument. Let’s assume that your competitors in the field of kashrus had actually gone as far as bribing the London Beis Din to get them to ask you to take it down. Don’t you feel a moral obligation to take down the letter?
A: No, I do not.
Q: I think that this is a serious error on your part – in terms of public relations.
A: Stephen Bloch- This actually has nothing to do with us, it is not on the Ben Pekuah site – it is on the Rabbi’s own website.
Q: Still, it does reflect on your company as well as long as he is your endorsing Rabbi.
A: Rabbi Rabi: I responded to the Dayan of the London Beis Din and said that I would be willing to take down the letter if he would provide the same letter to me on his own letterhead rather than that of the London Beis Din.
Q: Still, if I were you, I would comply as soon as possible with the request of the London Beis Din and not use a letter that they do not wish you to use.

Subsequent to this conversation, Rabbi Meir Rabi sent some written communications allegedly from Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita that purport to show that Rav Chaim Shlita holds that BP meat is, in fact, pareve.
This author has sent inquiries to Rav Chaim to verify the accuracy of this, as well as to Rav Shternbuch. We will print it in the future as soon as we hear the information.

There is also a letter that was signed by numerous Gedolim in Eretz Yisroel against the commercial production of Ben P’kuah meat because of numerous problems associated with it. The problems are that milk from a Ben Pkuah cow is forbidden midrebanan, it will lead to leniencies in other shechitas, and it is virtually impossible to have adequate supervision. The letter is signed by Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Rav Nissim Karelitz and others as well. The letter signed by the Gedolim comes out against any commercial production of Ben Pekuah meat.

There has never been a commercial production of Ben Pekuah meat in recorded history since the time of the Gemorah. There are numerous reasons for this.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

 

MG Rabi’s Kashrus Business

It’s triangle K in the States all over except Ralbag is far more respected, yet also not accepted, by Rov Minyan and Binyan of frum kosher consumers and authorities.

  

    

Manipulation of elderly Rabbis

Thanks to the Internet we have all witnessed the disgraceful use and abuse of holy Rabbis who sit all day learning and can barely walk or talk while being cajoled to make statements which are blown out of all proportion by those who seek their approbation.These Rabbis often have no idea what they are getting into. They are being used.

We saw this with Rav Elyashiv. We see this with Rav Kanievsky.

Hagaon Rav Kanievsky Shlita One of the Tzadikei HaDor

We saw this with Rav Steinman, although despite his age, the latter has seen through the political chutzpah of many who have tried to manipulate his words.

His words of

Ga’avah, Ga’avah, Ga’avah

Were very powerful and showed he was a compassionate man who understood that those who had come to him were not the real McCoy but haughty people with Hats and  Peyos.

Be very wary when the best someone can do is quote an elderly Rabbi far removed from the world, but someone who can quote every saying of Chazal. As Rav Schachter says:

when you are in Yeshivah, your Posek may be your Rosh Yeshiva.

When you leave the Yeshivah, find a Posek who lives in your world and understands it,  so he can Pasken realistically and not in the world of a Beis Midrash

 

R’ Meir Rabi, Ben Pekuah Commercial Kashrus Venture and Mori V’Rabbi Rav Schachter

I am not here to discuss the laws of a Ben Pekuah. Look in Shulchan Aruch. Those who do not know about it (I’ve found it rather gross personally), let alone a commercialised farm of these, should discuss a commercialisation venture directly with their Rav who I expect will likely speak to a world-renowned kashrus expert.

I have mentioned R’ Rabi’s trips to various Rabbonim around the world, where he seeks their agreement to commercial projects he and his investors are involved in.

I have mentioned that the renowned world posek Mori V’Rabbi R’ Hershel Schachter, Chief Posek of the OU (with Rav Belsky) was displeased when I showed him a picture of himself and R’ Rabi from the day before, disbursed via the internet, as he had asked this not to be distributed via the net.

There is a danger that people would conclude that Rav Schachter was endorsing in any way R’ Rabi’s commercial kashrus projects or his stature. Rav Schachter is too nice a man to refuse a picture.

In that vein, I issue the following.

I have been in direct contact with Mori V’Rabbi Rav Schachter Shlita today, and he indicated that R’ Rabi had approached him about R’ Rabi’s plans for a commercial Ben Pekuah farm. Rav Schachter advised R’ Rabi clearly that in no way can Rav Schachter be involved or seen to be involved in such a venture, nor should anyone conclude such involvement by virtue of Rav Schachter’s picture appearing on web pages (without permission) or otherwise. The same applies to future communication that may be published by R’ Rabi with any pointer implied or otherwise regarding Rav Schachter.

Mori V’Rabbi advised R’ Rabi that he was in no way giving a Hechsher or even implied Haskomo to the concept. Nobody should conclude, therefore, that Mori V’Rabbi R’ Schachter is in anyway involved or has given approval to R’ Rabi’s commercial Ben Pekuah venture. There are many intricate and complex concerns about such a commercial project and these need very close and careful hands-on supervision by a knowledgeable expert, world-renowned Rav, who agrees specifically with each and all the details of R’ Rabi’s methodologies and particular supervision regime.

Rav Schachter does not endorse in any way, Rabbi  Rabi’s commercial Ben Pekuah farm, and encourages those who do wish to avail themselves of produce from such a farm, to discuss that issue directly with a world-renowned expert Posek who is fully across all the details of the commercial farm.

The exact above words were read to Rav Schachter and he thanked me for ensuring that people would not be misled in any way.

Meir Gershon Rabi’s latest venture: From Flesh to Milk

I heard about this probably a year ago or longer. The concept is far from new and has appeared in many halachic issues. For example: Dinei Yichud (being alone with someone of the opposite gender (or indeed same gender for someone who is Gay!).

First, an admission. In our family, we only drink mashgiach supervised Chalav Yisrael. Ditto for milk products, with the exception of a chocolate bar that is known to be from Milk powder (see Rav Frank in Har Tzvi, which is also accepted as normative in Israel by the Rabbinate).

The reason my family does this now is because I did it for about 7 years before I got married. Why did it I do it then? It wasn’t because I was a frumak who had returned from learning overseas and overturned his parent’s house and insisted on them making a range of changes because things weren’t “up to scratch”.

Absolutely not. I had and have no doubt so ever about any aspect of Kashrus in my parents’ home, where standard Australian Milk is and was used. Rather, in those days, in the early eighties, there were a group of people who did not accept the permission of the famed Chazon Ish*, R’ Moshe Feinstein, and others, that Milk in the US, and countries like Australia can be assumed as “supervised” as a non-Jew would be loath to breach Government regulations and introduce non cow’s milk. In Australia, they are particularly strict, as any visitor to this country trying to bring in an apple will know. Accordingly, I approached my mother, and asked permission if she minded that we have one bottle of milk that is humanly supervised by an assumed reputable Mashgiach in the house. I told her that my motive was to be another person who bought such products, so that the nascent business which was trying to produce traditional Chalav Yisrael would survive. I was somewhat altruistic, and even agreed to support Hungarians 🙂 so that an alternative view could also exist from a business perspective by my small gesture. My mother accepted, and would make things Chalav Yisrael as she wanted me to be able to eat them, after I mentioned this.

What started as an altruistic notion, was also expressed explicitly at the time, and even now, in terms of the fact that I do not consider, based on reliable world-renowned Poskim, the Government milk (Chalav HaCompanies) as any less Kosher. I did not take a blanket Neder (vow). As such, I never had or have a question of Keilim (vessels). I simply do not consider such vessels Treyf in any way or form.

Unfortunately, come companies, such as Cadbury’s do use real milk, so the milk powder view mentioned above loses much value! In Israel the Rabbinate notes when overseas chocolates are made with Milk Powder.

Enter Meir Gershon Rabi (MGR). He wants to produce Chalav that is supervised, using a web cam style supervision. The supposition is that in addition to Government regulation, one could “see” (although technically that can be faked easily enough) that its real milk from a Cow. Now, of course, as is well-known, MGR, runs a private BUSINESS  from his Kashrus together with other investors. I would call them business entrepreneurs who use kashrut as their commodity. I have no doubt that MGR and his family did not rely on the Chazon Ish or R’ Moshe Feinstein, and instead bought the fresh Chalav Yisrael from Adass or the long life version.

So, MGR announces that he has put into place a series of cameras for surveillance of a farm or two so that “more” confidence in the source of the milk can be ascertained. I assume he either considers this as more Mirtas or real Hashgocho. Whatever.

I don’t understand the business model. People who are quite comfortable with the Chazon Ish and R’ Moshe Feinstein can buy any milk on the Kosher Australia app or web sites or publications. These are Kosher. They are not mehadrin according to those who don’t follow the Chazon Ish or R’ Moshe. Those who know, make their mind up.

Presumably, MGR wants to increase the “confidence” in the mehadrin status of the milk through cameras. My prediction is that those who need a physical set of eyes via a Yotzeh V’Nichnas (surprise occasional visit from Mashgichim) or a full-time Mashgiach (who also examined the cans before milking—ask whether MGR’s web cams do that). Those people, and there are many, will not engage in MGR’s supervision of anything. They don’t eat from his Hashgacha anyway, and I’d love to know if MGR will now bring this new milk (which is used in this way in Israel but not accepted as mehadrin by the OU and others) into his own house for his own wife and children and grandchildren.

The others who are happy with milk as listed in Kosher Australia don’t need to be bothered with his innovation. The milk in the Kosher Australia list is already deemed Kosher Milk. Why do they need MGR’s Camera Milk suddenly? Did he tell them they needed traditional Chalav Yisroel before his got his surveillance by video working?

At the end of the day I am puzzled by this from a business perspective (although there is an initial outlay). Who are the potential buyers of such milk? MGR and his business partners must feel there is a new market?  At the end of the day MGR’s business is a private company, and they will not allow the community to see their books or the money made from his Kashrus “innovations”.

I just don’t get it. There seems to be no money in it!

A much more pressing issue is the Kashrus of cows in general! One must ascertain that they haven’t had their lungs punctured because of stomach problems, by veterinarians, because their Milk would be Treyf even with human eyes. Perhaps MGR also uses web cams to scrutinise the veterinary procedures and records. [I’m told that in Australia these procedures are less likely than in the USA due to the quality and type of feed]

What have I missed?

* There have been revisionists who claim the Chazon Ish wasn’t serious about his view. He most definitely was. The rest is the type of revisionism beautifully described by Marc Shapiro in his “Changing the Immutable” and documented with great precision by HaGaon R’ Dovid Segal.

From Greenberg Art

 

Kashrus and a higher level

The following is from Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, Dean, Machon Tzomet. The mind boggles in regards those who approve the lowest level AND run it as an entrepreneurial private business with closed books, wealth accumulation and a dishonest attempt to work with Halal on the grounds that they might imagine they are the ‘authority’ to represent the majority of kosher consumers, most of whom reject such supervision.

A hearing will soon take place in the Supreme Court in Israel on a request for an injunction by some restaurant owners in Jerusalem against the Chief Rabbinate, which fined them based on the Kashrut Fraud Prevention Law that gives the Rabbinate (and the IDF) exclusive control over the concept of “kashrut” in Israel. These restaurants are “approved by the community” in the framework of “private supervision,” headed by Rabbi Aharon Leibowitz, who is challenging the local Rabbinates and the Chief Rabbinate. The approval certificates are worded in a sophisticated way, in order to avoid using the protected word “kosher” – (for example “this place is supervised,” and other roundabout hints). And just in case somebody might think that the supervision involves other issues, such as health, ecology, or security, he can check his assumptions at their website, kashrut.org.il. The State Attorney as usual sets his eyes on the strict letter of the law, and he has therefore expressed support for the petitioners. The judges of the court scolded him, trying to “pay attention to how the people normally behave” [Berachot 45a], and demanded to hear from him the position of the Chief Rabbinate. The future result is not easy to guess. Will it depend on the specific judges who are called upon to rule? (As an aside: the kashrut approvals of the “Badatz” organizations are evidently provided in addition to regular approval by the Rabbinate. They have branded themselves as “Mehadrin,” holding to an especially stringent level of kashrut, and it seems that there is a demand for this.)

I agree with the feeling that the time has come for privatization in the realms of kashrut and other religious services (such as has been done with medical insurance and public transportation…). This would place the Chief Rabbinate in a regulatory role, “higher-level” supervision, giving approvals to those who directly supervise the kashrut, attesting to their honesty and their authority . Perhaps the Rabbinate should also be involved in setting the work conditions of the kashrut supervisors. With respect to the new organization in Jerusalem, I would insist on one other precondition – only groups that have proven experience in the field and that have attained public trust would be able to enter the arena as independent supervisors of kashrut. And there is another prerequisite: Transparency – the organization must prominently display the “kashrut elements” on which they depend, and which rabbis give them approval. For example, there might be room to accept rabbis who are willing to give kashrut approval to firms which do not observe Shabbat, while some people might reject them. Some would prefer to be stringent with respect to cooking in a restaurant by a Gentile, in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, while others may be more lenient, following the opinion of the RAMA (see Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Yechaveh Dei’ah, 5, 54). Some will be willing to accept the “heter mechirah” for Shemitta, while others will not. Some will be stringent about milk of Gentiles. Many examples can be given. But the main point is that there should never be any room for deception and misleading claims.

In the petition in Jerusalem, as long as the current law remains in effect and there is no regulatory mechanism, and as long as there is no “higher-level” supervision over the “private supervision,” the situation is indeed one of deception and misleading claims. The normal citizen, who is not aware of the ins and outs of all the power fights against recognized institutions, will tend to accept any “certificate of supervision” as if it was given by the officially recognized kashrut authority. Would we tolerate such sophisticated wording with respect to the ingredients of our food? Would the relevant government authorities allow “approvals” of this type with respect to health, security, or ecology, using very tricky wording?

Professionalization

Let me add that rabbis who are not expert in the issues involved should refrain from giving Shabbat approval to eg hot water heaters or samovars, or to ovens. And this reminds me of the recent scandal of the “kosher switch” which is being promoted by a group in the United States. This “kosher for Shabbat switch” has received approvals by some very low-level rabbis but is rejected by all the rabbis of recognized authority.

Just as it is unthinkable that approval by an amateur will be accepted in matters of security or health, so caution is needed for religious approvals.

He’s really doing us a favour, truly altruistic!

So, all the treyf gelatin that has been around for ages is suddenly acceptable! The company that makes the Gelatin have never been interested in Kashrus.

Look at the list from “It’s kosher?

PK®Blue Mint

Hubba Bubba®Strawberry Original

Extra® Peppermint Spearmint Strawberry,

EXTRA® Active™ Peppermint Spearmint

ECLIPSE® Peppermint Spearmint Cool Breeze Berry

ECLIPSE® Chewy mints Spearmint Fruit Trio Peppermint Watermelon & Strawberry

EXTRA® Professional Lemon Lime Bubblemint Peppermint

AIRWAVES® Menthol Eucalyptus 5gum® Cobalt (peppermint) Electro (spearmint) Tempest (watermelon)

Strawberry. SKITTLES® Fruits

Sours and Tropical

Now what I want to see is

  1. Each overseas Posek, who he likes to be photographed with happily munching on these based on his authoritative Psak
  2. His wife and children doing likewise.

Forget about either. It’s a business. Those who eat out, also follow this “authority”.

Open your books and stop taking the community on a rodeo.

The bottom line: if they still have a taste after 3 minutes, they are trayf.

Meir Gershon Rabi wouldn’t serve this to his children or grandchildren 

Important posting by the administrator (Yankel Wajsbort) of the Ask Kosher Australia Facebook group…

We do not recommend this rennet set cheese. Please see here for a discussion about how to make cheese kosher https://oukosher.org/blog/consumer-kosher/kosher-cheese/

Coon & King Island cheeses are made by Lion Dairy – a non-Jewish company – and these mass-produced cheeses would be considered Gevinas Akum. The question is how “It’s Kosher” (the supervising Rabbi) makes these Coon & King Island cheeses Gevinas Yisrael. Normally, non-Jewish cheese companies schedule a special supervised run for kosher cheese with kosher symbol on the label. A mashgiach/Rabbi is present in the factory who will add the kosher rennet to the milk for each kosher batch (this is the opinion of the Shach, as explained in the OU document). We believe that Coon & King Island are made in different factories.

Happy to provide you some information how mass produced yellow rennet set cheese is made. These companies usually manufacture cheese 24 hours a day. Milk is pasteurised and cooled to the right temperature and fed into the cheese vats (at least 8). The cheese vats for cheddar and tasty style cheese (made by large dairy companies) have typically a capacity of 14,000 litres each. By the time that the eighth vat is full, the first one has been emptied, washed and is ready to fill again. Every time the mashgiach would need to add rennet to the milk in each cheese vat order to make all the cheese kosher. Curds from the cheese vats are combined and further processed on the continuous line into large blocks of cheese. Large blocks of cheese are then matured for a couple of months and finally sliced, cut, shredded, packed and labelled, possible in a different location than the cheese making and/or maturing. 

We suggest you ask the agency to explain, when and who they sent as a mashgiach to the factories to add the rennet, in order to consider all these cheeses Gevinas Yisrael and kosher.

http://www.kosherveyosher.com/uploads/6/6/8/7/6687170/2988467.jpg?879


Whisky from Sherry Casks. The OU Position

The following is taken directly from the OU’s Daf Hakashrus. SHERRY CASKS Rabbi Eli Gersten, RC Recorder of OU Psak and Policy

Many whiskeys advertise on their labels that they have been “sherry cask matured”, or “sherry cask finished”, or will just print the words “sherry cask”. Simply put, this means that the whiskey was kavush in a sherry cask. Unless the whiskey has a hechsher, the sherry cask they are referring to was a barrel of stam yaynam. Some Rabbonim are maikel and allow drinking these whiskies, while other Rabbonim say that one should stay away. Why are there different opinions? What are some of the halachic questions involved with whiskey that was stored in such barrels, and why does the OU not permit serving these whiskeys at their establishments? Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 135:13) says that only a k’dei klipa (thin layer) of a wine barrel becomes assur. Since the volume of whiskey stored in these barrels is much more than 60 times the k’dei klipa of the barrel, the bliyos of wine are batel in the whiskey. Another sevara why Rabbonim are maikel with whiskey aged in sherry casks is because Shulchan Aruch (137:4) says that one may place water, beer or sha’ar mashkim into a clean wine barrel. The bliyos of wine that are absorbed in the barrel are nosain ta’am lifgam into these mashkim. Although Rema (Y.D. 137:1) paskens that wine barrels always have the status of a ben yomo, even if they have not been used for many months, however wine barrels are only mashbiach other wines. Since whiskey is not wine, it too should be included in this heter of sha’ar mashkim. This sevara would only apply to ordinary sherry casks, where the intent is to mellow the barrels, and they are not interested in the sherry taste. But this sevara would not apply to refurbished casks, which are loaded up with sherry, and the intent is to leach sherry into the whiskey. In this case, it is clearly intended as ta’am lishvach. In those whiskies where the intention is for the taste of sherry, it is possible that bitul would not help since it is ikro l’kach. Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 134:13) paskens like the Rashba that any drink which it is the derech to mix in wine is forbidden, even if the wine is less than shishim. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igeros Moshe Y.D. I:63) explains that Shulchan Aruch paskens that issurei hana’ah, such as stam yaynam, that are ikro l’kach are not batel. However, Rema writes that b’zman ha’zeh b’makom hefsed we do not consider stam yaynam issurei han’ah. Furthermore, the Mishna (Avoda Zara 29b) says that kosher wine placed in a stam yaynam barrel does not become assur b’hanah (only assur b’shetiya). So the chumra of ikro l’kach would seem not to apply here. Although placing whiskey into these barrels would still be a form of bitul issur, however if a non-Jew is mivatel issur, especially if his intention is to sell to other non-Jews, then according to many Achronim, it is permissible for a Jew to purchase this product. One more consideration is the age of the barrel. Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 135:15) says that a wine barrel that was not used for 12 months is permitted. Although these wine barrels have a chezkas issur, this is a chazaka ha’assuya l’hishtanos. However, this heter is not so clear, since whiskey manufacturers are interested in moist barrels, and will even transport the barrels with some sherry still in them to keep them from drying out. Although sherry casks add color to the whiskey, and in certain cases we say that chazusa is not batel, nevertheless in this case the chazusa is batel. This is because we pasken like the Pri Chadash (Y.D. 102:5) that chazusah of issurei d’rabbanan are batel. However, there are compelling sevaros to be machmir as well. Sherry is the name of a Spanish wine that is fortified with grape alcohol. Alcohol content of an average wine will range about 12-13%, but alcohol content of Sherry will range from 15 to 22%. Is sherry still considered just a wine, or due to the added alcohol is it considered a davar charif like yayin saraf? Noda B’Yehuda (Tinyana Y.D. 67) says that although wine will only assur a kdei klipa of the barrel, wine alcohol will be absorbed throughout the entire thickness of the barrel. The volume of whiskey to the thickness of the barrel is not even six to one. So if sherry is viewed as a davar charif, the bliyos would not be batel. Furthermore, Noda B’yehuda (Tinyana Y.D. 58) writes that wine alcohol is nosain ta’am lishvach into whiskey. So if indeed sherry is considered a davar charif, the whiskey would be assur. Even if we were to accept that the alcohol content in sherry is not high enough to consider it a davar charif, there are still reasons to be machmir not to drink these whiskeys. Shach (Y.D. 135:33) says that if we know that wine was kavush in a barrel for more than 24 hours then wine is absorbed in the entire thickness of the barrel, and not just the k’dei klipa. Although most Achronim do not follow this opinion, Chachmas Adam (Klal 81:6) writes that unless it is a tzorech gadol, one should be machmir to follow Shach. Therefore, one should avoid these whiskeys, since the volume of whiskey is not enough to be mivatel the entire barrel. It is difficult to apply nosain ta’am lifgam to whiskey, since whiskey is a davar charif. Ordinarily we assume that all bliyos, even ta’am pagum, are lishvach in a davar charif, especially here where we see that the sherry is mashbiach. Rav Belsky has also said that in some instances, such as when they use refurbished sherry casks, the intention of storing the whiskey in these barrels is to draw out the flavor. Perhaps this should be compared to cheres Hadreini and not to regular barrels. Cheres Hadreini was pottery that was allowed to absorb much wine, so that the flavor could be extracted later. The Mishna (Avoda Zara 29b) says that wine absorbed in cheres Hadreini remains assur b’hanah. If these bliyos remain assur b’hanah, they can assur the whiskey, even if they are batel b’shishim, since it is ikro l’kach. Although, we mentioned above that Rema does not consider stam yaynam b’zman ha’zeh to be issurei hana’ah, this is only when there is a makom hefsed. Another reason to avoid these whiskeys is because of bitul issur lichatchila. Radvaz (III:547) writes that lichatchila one should not purchase from a non-Jew a product that they know contains issur, even though the issur is batel. He was concerned that if one was permitted to purchase this item, this would lead to eventually asking the nonJew to prepare it for them. There is large machlokes Achronim whether we follow this Radvaz (See Yebiah Omer Y.D. VII:7). Although Igeros Moshe (Y.D. I:62) seemingly was not machmir for Radvaz, nevertheless he frowned on purchasing whiskey that relied on bitul: למהדרין ראוי ל”וז ליזהר מדברים שצריך הוראת חכם כהא דחולין דף ל“ז ודף מ“ד ואיפסק ברמ“א ס“ס קט“ז וכ“ש אוסרין גם שיש בזה. It should be noted that Rav Moshe zt”l was not discussing whiskey stored in sherry casks, which have additional considerations l’kula u’lichumra (as outlined above), but whiskey to which small amounts of wine were added. But it would seem that his caution is applicable here as well. Because of all of these concerns, the OU does not permit “sherry cask” whiskeys to be served by their caterers or at their restaurants. However, unflavored whiskey that is not labeled sherry cask and there is no reason to assume it was kavush in a sherry cask is permitted, as per Rema (Y.D. 114:10). Rema says if it is not necessary to add wine to a certain food, unless one knows for sure that the non-Jew added wine, it is permitted. The same rationale can be applied to a blend of many whiskeys. Since each individual whiskey might not have been stored in a sherry cask, the blend is permitted as well.

I will just note that Dayan Usher Weiss disagrees (Minchas Asher Chelek 1) and amongst other things asks where in the Gemora there is there a concept of Nosen Taam that takes say 10 years? He argues that Nosen Taam is always used in the context of an immediate or semi-immediate reaction as per the examples in the Gemora.

Is it Kosher? Does that also mean is it moral?

It is interesting to note, that the word כשר (kosher) does not appear in the Torah per se. It appears in only one place in the Tanach, and surprisingly perhaps to many, it is in the book of Esther. That book itself was parenthetically one which was a matter of argument amongst the Rabbis in that some felt it should be included in the Canon whilst others did not. In the end, we know that the conclusion is that it was קדש holy, and Esther herself, as quoted, asked for it to be included by the Sanhedrin.

So, we have the single occurrence of the word in the story of Esther and Ahashverosh in her request to the latter that he consider her plea that Haman’s decree be annulled. In that context, she asked Ahashverosh whether her argument/plea was “kosher”.

It’s a striking observation because it centers around the concept of whether a plea/argument was (morally) proper = Kosher.

Today, and this is also certainly reflected by the Geonim, Rishonim and Acharonim, the use of the word Kosher is almost exclusively referred to food.

Perhaps we should revisit this term, especially in light of matters here and around the world, and apply the opposite word “Treyf” or “not Kosher” to matters of an amoral and/or Chillul Hashem causing, just as often?

I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I find it ironic? Kosher didn’t start from food but has somehow morphed to be only what we put in our mouths.

While in NSW, the Kashrus mess is progressing thus …

[hat tip BA]

Emphasis is mine.
Disclaimer: Romy is my brother-in-law.

The Kashrut Commission of Inquiry established by The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies has released its recommendations.

The Commission has declared that:

The market for kosher products and services in NSW should be as open and competitive as possible so as to facilitate the reduction of costs for consumers.

• Urgent structural reforms in relation to the provision of kashrut certification in NSW should be made.
• The certifying kashrut authority should be transparent, representative of the Community, and run as a not-for-profit operation, with a recognised set of governance rules consistent with community norms.
• Community funds should be made available to seed and/or support such a kashrut authority.
• A resolution must be arrived at immediately in relation to:

a strategy and timetable for implementing cost savings;
the provision of a permanent kashrut certification to each of the Kosher Establishments in NSW not currently certified by the KA;
and the permissibility of meat products from inter-state certified providers to licenced Kosher Establishments in NSW.

• The Executive of the JBD should delegate to three people, one being a
member of the JBD Executive and two being members of the KCI, to supervise the implementation of these recommendations as far as possible.

Members of the commission established in late 2014 under the chairmanship of Robert Gavshon included:

• Bruce Fink, member (representing the UIA).
• Romy Leibler, member (representing the COSA).
• Geoffrey H Levy, AO, member.
• Yair Miller, member (representing the JBD).
• Peter Philippsohn, OAM, member (representing the JCA).
• David Sandler, member.
• Richard Scheinberg, member.

Jeremy Spinak, president of The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies said: “The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies fully endorses the Commission’s recommendations and, in partnership with other community-minded organisations, we will strive to see that they are implemented.
Kashrut is crucial to Jewish life and we strongly believe that the Commission’s recommendations, once implemented, will deliver the transparency, accountability and meaningful competition that the community demands.
We specifically commend the Commission for recommending a number of cost-saving measures aimed at lowering the cost of keeping kosher in NSW.
The recommendations are fundamentally concerned with Jewish continuity; we don’t want keeping kosher to be priced out of reach for Jewish families.
The report clearly shows that reforms are needed. We believe delaying doing so any longer would be to disadvantage the observant members of our community and other consumers of kosher products.

I look forward to working with our colleagues, including the Kashrut Authority, whose technical excellence in this area is unparalleled, in the spirit of Ahavat Israel to ensure that these important changes are implemented and that our model for kashrut arrangements becomes the best in the Jewish world.
Finally, I would like to thank the Commissioners, in particular Chairman Robert Gavshon, for producing such a rigorous and thorough report and for the months of hard work and dedication that they expended on behalf of our community.

The background:

The creation of the KCI was deeply rooted in the principle that the Community requires a range of kosher products and services (including catering and supervision services) at affordable prices, and requires delivery of these services in a transparent manner. Indeed, the sustainable, affordable and transparent provision of such products and services is a fundamental pillar of a strong Jewish community.

As a result of the development of significant solvency issues of kosher caterer Passion8 in 2013, a group of philanthropists and JCA donors asked the JCA to assist with the conduct of a financial review of Passion8’s business with a view to salvaging the business. This was felt essential due to Passion8 playing a pivotal role in the provision of kosher catering to the Community. Following the completion of the review, Passion8 was placed into administration.

In August 2013, during the review, the KA approached the JCA for financial support. It asked the JCA for a one-to-two year bridging loan in the approximate amount of $68,000, equivalent to the debt claimed to be owed to it by Passion8.1 It is not in the JCA’s charter to provide loans, nor to fund non-constituents, and the JCA could not therefore agree to provide such a loan or funding.

Shortly after Passion8’s closure, a new caterer, AIT, was formed. AIT acquired some of the assets of Passion8 from its administrator, and it was granted a temporary licence by the KA. When the temporary licence expired in October 2013, after being on foot for three weeks, and after negotiations between AIT and the KA broke down, a number of communal organisations saw an impending crisis where no kosher caterer would be able to deliver the majority of the large functions in Sydney, particularly in the period from November 2013 to January 2014, when a communal function and many private functions were then due to take place. The JBD, supported by the JCA, started a mediation process between AIT and the KA in an attempt to avoid such a crisis. COSA was also involved in an attempt to mediate a solution.

After operating for several weeks without a Hechsher from the KA, in late November 2013, AIT began to operate under kosher certification from Rabbi Yossef Feldman.

Once it was made public that they had become involved in the discussions with the KA, the JBD and the JCA were approached by multiple stakeholders (including the UIA, the JNF and Kesser Torah College) to review the current state of kashrut in NSW. They began engaging with many industry participants, including the meat and poultry suppliers, Kosher Establishments, rabbis and other communal organisations.

The JBD and the JCA did not succeed in getting the KA and AIT to agree on mutually acceptable terms to resolve their outstanding issues and withdrew from that process. Discussions with the KA, however, continued on the broader issues raised.

In the course of the negotiations and mediation the JBD and the JCA recommended to the KA that it move to an independently appointed rabbinic board, and that it expand the lay membership of the KA board. The KA initially welcomed the concept of additional lay members. The JBD and the JCA recommended five shomer Shabbat candidates who they felt could add balance and significant expertise to the KA board. Only one of the candidates was deemed acceptable by the KA. The KA made it clear that the structure and selection of the rabbinic leadership of the KA was an issue solely in the domain of the SBD and was not something that was open for discussion in any negotiations. This precluded the JBD and the JCA from taking this issue any further.

In November 2013, the KA published a document online and in the Australian Jewish News referring to the JCA having viewed its accounts.
(http://www.jwire.com.au/news/ka-myths-and-facts/)

After consideration, the then CEO and the President of the JCA felt that the document was potentially misleading as it implied that the JCA endorsed the accounts of the KA.

The JCA suggested, and the KA agreed, that the KA participates in a forensic review of its accounts. The JCA Executive believed that this would be beneficial for community confidence in KA finances.

Martin Bloom, former managing partner of Horwath NSW and then principal at Deloitte, was invited by the JBD and the JCA to conduct an independent review. Mr Bloom’s services were initially accepted by the KA. He had one meeting with the KA and other meetings with industry representatives. The KA declined Mr Bloom’s request for a subsequent meeting and asked that he be replaced by Peter Hersh, the KA’s own auditor.

While not questioning Mr Hersh’s expertise, the Presidents of the JBD and the JCA came to the conclusion, after careful consideration and consultation, that it would not be appropriate for an independent review to be conducted by the KA’s own auditor.

The KA withdrew any participation in the review and claimed that any use of the word ‘forensic’ had an implication of inappropriate behaviour. This issue had not previously been raised at any point in the previous months of discussion by the KA or their representatives. The JCA immediately agreed to drop the term “forensic” but recommended that the review should continue. The KA declined to agree.

As a result of the KA’s refusal to agree to an independent review of its accounts, its refusal to accept the appointment of independent directors to the lay board as suggested by the JCA and JBD at that time, the Presidents of the JBD, the JCA, the UIA and the JNF came together and requested the JBD to establish the KCI.

In January 2014 the KCI, was established by the JBD to examine kashrut in NSW on its behalf and to report back to the JBD with its findings and recommendations. The establishment of the KCI also followed discussions with, and had the imprimatur of, the COS, which is the roof body representing the majority (15) of orthodox synagogues in NSW.

Meir Gershon Rabi is involved once more in controversy

They say that all publicity is good publicity. I’m sure Meir Gershon Rabi and Kalman Gradman’s business benefit from each bit of publicity negative or positive. His clientele are set in their ways and largely are happy to leave the onus on Meir Gershon. This article and and happenings won’t bother those few.

I understand there is a fracas brewing between the Australian Jewish News and Meir Gershon over an apparent refusal to remove a Dayan in London’s letter of approbation ostensibly originally designed to ensure Meir Gershon is accepted for a job as a Mashgiach.

Where the truth lies I do not know. I am not a prophet.

However, note that there is a concept called Asmachta. Without using it formally, it can be thought of as an adjacency relationship.

This much I know for a fact. Meir Gershon has/used to have/ a gravatar which included Rav Belski from the OU. There can be many theories why someone would choose to do that. If I have a gravatar with a grandchild, then one assumes that I’m kvelling/happy to appear together with them. If a Chosid has a gravatar with his Rebbe, then we understand that entering that Chosid’s house one will find pictures of that Rebbe, and that Rebbe will be his guiding light in matters of life.

It is peculiar though for someone to have a gravatar with Rav Belsky, unless Rav Belski is Meir Gershon’s mentor, or Rav HaMuvhak, or was the one that gave him Smicha or perhaps Meir Gershon did shimush (rabbinical apprenticeship) with Rabbi Belski. I don’t expect Meir Gershon will ever tell us why he did so, but there will be various theories as to such.

For my part, I didn’t allow that gravatar on my blog. I asked him to have a picture only of himself. At the end of the day, nobody who eats using his imprimatur is eating from any other authority except Meir Gershon. Each to their own. His curious need to rub shoulders with Rabbis and then publish pictures may be a marketing ploy. I don’t know or understand why this should be done.

What I can advise, and have advised, is that Meir Gershon visits many Rabbonim around the word where he discusses various aspects of his ideas, hetterim, and future projects.

I was talking to Mori V’Rabbi Rav Schachter, Posek of the OU, who advised that he had received some written material from Meir Gershon. Readers may remember that Rav Schachter said he could not see a problem with Kosher thick style Matzos made K’Das V’Kdin, although he had absolutely zero to do with Meir Gershon’s own production and in no way gave it his own imprimatur.

Meir Gershon has had an idea for some some seven years regarding cattle, and has been researching it assiduously, asking questions on the internet and to Rabbonim.

I attended Yeshiva University’s Yarchei Kallah in December. Speaking to Rav Schachter, I showed him a selfie of Rav Schachter and Meir Gershon. Rav Schachter was shocked and asked ‘how did you get that. I met with him only yesterday’. I responded that it apparently was on the internet. Rav Schachter shrugged his shoulders and said that he had advised Meir Gershon not to put the picture on websites. It seems Meir Gershon is selective in his hearing.

For what it’s worth, I also have pictures of myself with Rav Schachter, but they are in the vein of

והיו עיניך רואות את מוריך

I don’t run a kosher business and mentioned to Rav Schachter that my pictures would not appear on the internet (certainly not without his permission)!

I have a problem with Kashrus Businesses.

If the melbourne community had more communal sense, it would come to a scheme of arrangement whereby Mizrachi was paid for their investment in Kashrus. The Kashrus should be handed over to the Melbourne Beth Din, with current staff intact. Any experts from Adass should be invited to join as well as Yeshivah. The Rav Hamachshir should remain Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick. He is a true expert in the area, and he should have someone in training for the future. The standard used needs to be OU standard, and frankly, I wouldn’t be upset if Kosher Australia became an arm of the OU in Australia. All States would set up a similar operation. There would be one hechsher. One could confidently buy from any butcher shop. Independent audits could be inaugurated. A lay body would oversee finances and eventually profits would be poured back into a reformed COSV (which I perceive as tired and haggard) and which sought to help Orthodox Shules become more attractive without becoming Conservadox, as well as the sponsoring of programs for the disabled and challenged amongst us.

There would be no place or space for more than one authority. This is what I saw in Johannesburg, and recently in Miami. What a pleasure it was.

To put it bluntly, Kashrus Supervision should not be a business. Proper respectable wages should be given, and contracts and KPI’s implemented but the notion of making a business out of hechsherim is anathema to me.

Yes, it is true, there will be some contentious matters, and sometimes we will need to compromise so that world’s best standards are adhered to. This will benefit the Australian export market. And yes, those who want to have whisky from wine casks, can do so in their own homes. Personally, my own view is that this whisky is okay, but I don’t have a problem with an authority adopting accepted world standards. That being said, the wording that has been used needs to be vetted more carefully, and I understand that this will be the case in the future. As much as I like a good scotch, it’s not the be all and end all.

AMI MAGAZINE INTERVIEWS RABBI MENACHEM GENACK, CEO OF OU KOSHER

[Hat tip BA]

November 24, 2014

Rabbi Hershel Schachter once told me that if there’s a disagreement in matters of halachah at the OU between him and Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, you are the deciding vote.

The halachic decisors at the OU are the three of us. So if there’s a dispute the majority rules.

You’re also involved in running the office?

Yes. That is part of my responsibilities.

Have standards been lowered over the years to expand and broaden the kosher market?

I think that generally during my 35-year tenure as the CEO of the Orthodox Union’s Kosher Division the standards have actually been enhanced. There’s a good side to the kosher market’s expansion, and a less good side. Rabbi Berel Wein would often bemoan the fact that we’re seeing a lot more “glatt” kosher and a lot less “standard” kosher, a lot more “shmurah” matzah and less “regular” matzah. My own experience growing up in America was that even the Conservative Jews had two sets of dishes. While they weren’t necessarily careful about kashrus outside the home, they were nonetheless careful inside the home. Unfortunately, because of the erosion of the Jewish people to assimilation, that broader commitment has weakened dramatically.
Coextensive with that, we’ve seen the growth of the Orthodox community, especially the chasidic and yeshivish com-munity, which is much more careful and demanding about kashrus. This is expressed most dramatically by the fact that in the 1940s there was no such thing as glatt kosher in America. Glatt kosher began to emerge primarily when Satmar came to America after the war. Before that it didn’t exist. Rav Moshe Feinstein never ate glatt kosher because according to the Rema one doesn’t have to. Today in the OU market everything is glatt. The driving force is the consumer market, which today is much more stringent in this matter.
We’ve actually seen conflicting attitudes. On the one hand, the frum community became much more demanding in terms of kashrus, but we’ve also seen the degrading of kashrus by the general population, which is very unfortunate. It’s unfortunate because we want them to be careful regarding kashrus, and also because kashrus is something that binds them together as Jewish and is a bulwark against assimilation.

When I studied in Lakewood, I remember the yeshivah used food products that I don’t think they would use today.
I have the same recollection. I remember when I was in Lakewood in the ’60s they used regular Rice Krispies, and so on. I don’t think that’s the case anymore. When Rav Aharon Kotler started Lakewood, he wasn’t makpid on chalav Yisrael. The famous story that’s told is that when he was finally convinced to switch to chalav Yisrael it came in a big canister, which overturned, and he was very upset about the entire switch.

The OU still certifies kosher chalav akum.

We’re sensitive to those who are diligent about chalav Yisrael. If something is used with what Rav Moshe called “chalav hacompanies,” we list it as OU-D on the ingredients. And when we certify products that are chalav Yisrael we indicate that.
The Chazon Ish has a discussion about chalav Yisrael and he quotes the Pri Chadash, that when there’s pikuach hamemshalah [government supervision] it’s muttar. It’s interesting to cite what Rav Wosner writes in Shevet Halevi that when the Chazon Ish wrote this, Rav Wosner recommended he not print it, since the Chasam Sofer does not permit it. However the Chazon Ish didn’t agree with him. Rav Moshe in his teshuvah claims that government supervision is good even according to the stringent position of the Chasam Sofer. So that’s the OU’s position in terms of dairy products. We have many products we give supervision to that are chalav Yisrael.

The consumer should know what the differences are between local chasidishe hashgachos and the major hashgachos. Would you agree with that?

100%.

Do you find those hashgachos to have more chumros?

I think the OU generally has more chumros. All the hashgachos we give we believe are l’chatchilah. We’re dan on everything. We record everything in terms of the halachos, the psakim. We have a secretary, a safra d’dayna, Rabbi Eli Gersten, who’s a very big talmid chacham. We don’t do things on a b’dieved level in shechitah or any production we certify. I think people have come to recognize that. One of the reasons is the level of the rabbanim we employ. There are over 50 rabbanim working in my office, not to mention the people in the field. These are musmachim of our finest yeshivos. They’ve come to recognize that the OU is a purely communal, non-profit organization. Beyond our salaries, we’re not the beneficiaries of even a penny that the OU earns. It goes right back into the Jewish community in terms of kiruv and to the Yachad Program, for children with disabilities. I think that makes the OU unique.

While there are three fine rabbanim in charge of the OU, we also have to rely on the individual mashgichim and on the credibility of the owners of companies. So while we may be able to rely on the OU, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is kosher.
Every hashgachah is based ultimately on the credibility of the entrepreneur who’s running it. If we find someone who’s dishonest, it doesn’t matter if he’s a Jew or a non-Jew; we remove our certification.

Rabbi Schachter told me that China is very problematic, since Chinese entrepreneurs have been caught cheating many times. With that in mind, how comfortable can we feel that we’ll actually be eating kosher at the end of the day?

In terms of China, as the global economy expanded, American companies started sourcing ingredients from every corner of the world. That requires us to go to China and other far-flung places. We inspect all these plants. We have people in China. And, generally speaking, the ingredients we use coming from China are in most cases ingredients that are relatively innocuous. We look at the kashrus sensitivity of the product. We inspect all the plants. The need is there because of globalization.

You have competition and I’m sure the OU is competitive to get as many companies certified by the OU as possible. How do we know you won’t compromise to get a customer?

Obviously it’s an issue and we confront it all the time. But in terms of the OU, that’s one of the things that’s a major underpinning behind our founding. The advantage of the OU as an organization is that there’s an infrastructure and any monetary temptation is mitigated because it’s a communal organization. Our people won’t be rewarded financially; their parnasah doesn’t depend on this or that company. That’s the advantage of communal kashrus.

There’s a conception that kosher food is more healthful and cleaner. Is this only among non-Jews, or also among those Conservative and Reform Jews who, you said before, stopped eating kosher?

You’re right. Companies who look for kosher supervision are not only looking to sell to Orthodox Jews who keep kosher. The kosher market is much larger than that. It includes people who for their own religious requirements look for kosher, such as Seventh-day Adventists or Muslims or people who have lactose intolerance and want to see if it’s pareve, or gluten intolerance and want to see if it’s kosher for Pesach. But a big part of the market includes those who have a perception that if it’s kosher, either quality- or health-wise it’s a better product. Part of that, candidly, is not always the case. For example, a kosher salami sandwich has just as much cholesterol as a non-kosher one. But other times it’s accurate: For example, when there was the problem with mad cow disease; because kosher slaughter eliminates a lot of the blood through salting, it seems it was less susceptible to mad cow. I think another thing is that we provide another set of eyes watching the plant. The USDA or FDA sees a plant maybe once a year. So the kosher designation gives consumers some comfort that there’s an extra set of eyes in the plant.

Does that hold true for non-Orthodox Jews?

I assume it’s universal. Also, in terms of the general Jewish population, we see that around Pesach time American Jews come home to roost and for the Seder and Pesach they’re more likely to buy kosher products.

How closely do you work with other kosher agencies?

The OU’s position is we will use other ingredients from other agencies that we feel meet a certain standard. So there is a certain amount of communication.
The OU is much larger than all the other agencies combined. We could’ve used our leverage to say that if you want to be an OU company you can only use OU products. But we didn’t. When I came to the OU 35 years ago, one of the people who told me to maintain that was Rav Soloveitchik. There was a company that applied to the OU that was under another certification. That certifier complained that we took the company away. I said, “We didn’t take them; they applied on their own.” He said,”Let’s ask Rav Soloveitchik.” Rav Soloveitchik told us, “It’s a free country, and they’re doing this for marketing reasons; they can choose whom they want to use for kashrus.” Then the Rav said to me: “I wouldn’t want to see everything come under the OU, because I don’t think that’s healthy for the American Jewish community that this should be a monopoly.” And I was always guided by that direction from the Rav.

It’s impossible today for any hashgachah not to rely on the OU, since no small kashrus supervision organization can possibly certify all the ingredients that are used in most products.

True. It’s impossible. Every supervision is relying for the basic ingredients on the OU. That doesn’t mean to say that some of them will not check with us as they may want to go see the plants on their own. But ultimately, basic ingredients, for example oils, are under the OU. I remember when I was growing up it was very difficult to get kosher oils. Then Crisco Oil came under the OU. What people take for granted now was very much not the case then. Trying to convince companies to make basic ingredients kosher was heroic work in the 1950s.

Kosher food is often expensive. Maybe we should educate people that in some things the extra hechsher is just a waste of money.

We try to do that in our Pesach directory. We have a special box where we list things we think are innocuous that are kosher all year. We know that to be an Orthodox Jew is a very expensive endeavor. With so many products under different national supervisions it’s possible not only to have kosher food available throughout the US, and if you’re buying a national product that has an OU, it’s the same cost as similar unsupervised items. That’s a tremendous savings. It makes it possible for people to keep kosher at no additional cost.

Any plans for future improvements?

There’s always room for improvement. A lot of it just has to do with a sense of seriousness and purpose. I’m proud of the people who work at the OU. They’re all talmidei chachamim and are endowed with that sense. So they’re the ones who inspire me.

The people in your office are really from diverse yeshivah backgrounds. I’ve been there more than once. You have Modern Orthodox rabbis and chasidim.

That was by design. When I first came to the OU, I thought the OU was a communal organization and should represent all different communities and yeshivos, and we tried to build it on that basis. On a related issue, another thing the OU does is we go to all yeshivos and we make presentations explaining what’s involved in kosher supervision. And also, every other year we do a program for three weeks to teach kashrus to yeshivah guys.

by Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter

Reprinted with permission from Ami Magazine

http://oukosher.org/blog/consumer-kosher/ami-magazine-interview-rabbi-menachem-genack/

Benedictine, Gin and Tonic, and those sorts of things

This is forbidden by most major Kashrus authorities. Nothing is unchanged, and even those who wish to claim that it may have been Kosher, need to produce evidence that it’s currently Kosher.

Now, there is a rumour that Rav Lande from B’nei Brak permits it. I’d love to see that letter. It seems to be elusive. I think Rabbi Hasofer, who was once in Melbourne, is now the younger Rav Lande’s right hand man on Kashrus.

I note that I became a recent convert to diet tonic water (NOT for pregnant women). Schweppes used to be on the list, then were removed. It seems that much of the problem with Schweppes may be that they can’t be bothered saying what’s in their drinks and as such, we don’t know.

Enter Kirks. I bought those. Now they don’t seem to make the diet or normal tonic anymore (unless someone can direct me where I can buy).

In the meanwhile, I bit the bullet, and said to “hell” with relying on these secretive companies. We bought a SodaStream which also supports Israeli enterprise, and it has a diet tonic flavour. Provided you don’t but the fancy version with the LED lights (LED lights on Shabbos is a topic on its own) you can use it on Shabbos too.

Many of the flavours are new, and I just love the diet pink grapefruit. Reminds me of breakfast in an Israeli hotel where you fress to the extent that you can’t eat lunch.

Slurpees revisited

I listened to a Shiur from the Star K on this topic, a reputable Kashrus authority. Basically, you have every right to drink a slurpee as long as the syrup is kosher. What is kosher. Well the OU are strict and insist that their flavours have the OU symbol, and Star K advise that if you are in doubt ask the proprietor to show you the syrup.

We have a situation in Melbourne, however, that we seem to be unable to check the source of many flavours as they may well come from disparate sources. They certainly aren’t using OU.

Now, in Sydney, apparently they are more lenient. I find that a little hard to understand (as it supposedly due to the London Beth Din ruling).

Here is an interchange which might make you question the same. It’s okay to say X is my Posek, but you should never be afraid to ask your Posek to explain himself.

 

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 2.32.13 pm

Interesting Yerushalmi in respect of Kashrus

This is from Terumos. צתרי is sometimes translated as thyme (e.g. the Rambam. The ערוך also calls it some type of hyssop that provides taste)

Basically, Rav held that the thyme which wasn’t tithed was forbidden but Shmuel disagreed. That of itself isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that when Rav visited Shmuel, Shmuel fed him the thyme that had been infused with other food (and had a taste which one would probably describe as נותן טעם לשבח, even though he knew that Rav held it was forbidden. The מראה פנים on the spot gives an explanation where he claims that Rav had changed his mind. That is, somewhat strained? The Chasam Sofer tries to deal with this Yerushalmi as well in חידושי חת”ס על פסחים, עו, ב

דף נב,א פרק י הלכה ב גמרא פליגא מתני’ על רב אין צולין שני פסחים בתנור אחד מפני התערובות לא אמרו אלא מפני התערובות הא שלא מפני התערובות לא מי צתרי רב אמר אסור ושמואל אמר מותר אייכיל שמואל לרב מי צתרי

I haven’t spent much time on this, but I’d be interested to hear any nice explanations about this surprising story from learned readers.