Hypothetical – You’re a Mashgiach at a Wedding
By Harold Zwier
A group of us have a shiur every Wednesday evening with Rabbi Meir Rabi. Recently we had a discussion about ethical behaviour and Halacha associated with food preparation. The topic generated an energetic and interesting discussion.
What do you think?
You’re preparing a dinner for some strictly kosher friends at home. It is a vegetarian/dairy meal, out of courtesy to one of the guests who is an avowed vegetarian. A large pot of vegetable soup becomes contaminated with a tiny drop of meat fat which has accidentally splashed into the soup. You call your rabbi to determine if the soup is still pareve (deemed to be non-meat and non-dairy according to Halacha). Yes, he rules, it is still pareve. He explains this is so since the drop is so tiny and it was added inadvertently.
You however, are certain that your vegetarian friend would not eat food that has even the tiniest amount of meat fat in it and is relying upon you to maintain his commitment.
Do you tell your guests what happened, and about the rabbi’s ruling?
You are reluctant to omit the soup from the menu since it is your renowned vegetable soup which has been awarded many accolades.
Your wife will be extremely annoyed if you do tell everyone because she fears they will not eat her renowned dessert, dairy vanilla pepper ice cream.
Do you just tell your vegetarian friend what happened?
You’re the rabbi certifying a Kosher wedding of a vegetarian/dairy meal.
A large pot of vegetable soup becomes contaminated with a tiny drop of meat fat which has inadvertently splashed into the soup.
As the rabbi, you certify that the accidental drop of meat fat is so small that you have no hesitation in ruling that the vegetable soup remains kosher and pareve.
You have a close friend, a strict vegetarian, who is a guest at the wedding. You are certain that your friend would not eat food that has even the tiniest amount of meat fat in it. He trusts that your certification guarantees that the menu showing vegetarian soup means that the soup is vegetarian.
You strongly suspect that if everyone knew what had happened, many guests would not eat the dairy foods at the reception, or would not eat the soup in order to be able to eat the dairy foods. You also strongly suspect that the hosts would be most annoyed and perhaps even take legal action, if you disclosed what had happened to the soup. And what you mostly fear is that your reputation as a Kosher certifier will suffer a very serious setback.
Should you tell anyone about what happened?
In scenario 1 & 2, the inadvertant contaminant was meat fat from a kosher animal. But what if the inadvertant contaminant was pig fat? (don’t even think of asking how pig fat can be found in a kosher kitchen!)
The Halacha is the same, but the revulsion co-efficient is exponentially multiplied. You strongly suspect that if everyone knew what had happened, many guests would not eat any food at the reception and the wedding itself may be ruined. Does anything change? Is there a greater obligation to disclose what has happened, and if so, why?
You are not the rabbi at this wedding, but the supervisor – the Mashgiach. This identical case has occurred in the past and you know the rabbi’s ruling: it’s all 100% Kosher. Do you tell the rabbi who is a guest at the wedding? [Yes, this rabbi does eat food which is under his own Kosher certificate].
If you decide to tell the rabbi, and as expected he agrees that the soup is still kosher and pareve, does the rabbi have an additional obligation to eat the soup?
What if he doesn’t like vegetable soup and never eats it?
Harold Zwier is a member of a small modern orthodox synagogue. He has been hosting Rabbi Rabi’s shiur for a decade. If anyone (female & male) would like to try the shiur (Wed. evening 8:15pm to 9:30pm) please e-mail Harold at hzregent AT optusnet.com.au