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Hypothetical – You’re a Mashgiach at a Wedding

June 28, 2012 – 6:37 pm71 Comments

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?

Scenario 1:

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?

Scenario 2:

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?

Scenario 3:

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?

Scenario 4:

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

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71 Comments »

  • Harry Joachim says:

    I’m glad you find the shiurim with R Rabi insightful, but I question why you specifically chose these inane issues for broader discussion on Galus.

    Vegetarian = pareve, except for fish. Full stop.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    And if a rav rules it’s pareve, then so be it!

  • Ilana Leeds says:

    B’H
    Harry you will find that fish is pareve too. What did you think it was milchig or meat? If it was me cooking I would be inclined to scoop the drop of meat fat out of the pot but it is unlikely to happen if your kitchen is properly separate, although it does happen. The Pig fat now that I find a bit dubious and even if it was considered pareve I would say, Me personlly, I will not eat it.
    But that is my meshuggas.

  • Marky says:

    Illana, fish is parve but not vegetarian. If you look at many packs of cheese, it claims to be vegetarian(incl Tempo). And my Rabbi’s opinion is that cheese is milchig.. so, Harry, not everything vegetarian is Parve.

  • Steven says:

    The question is do you turn a blind eye when you know that morally you should speak up at the expense of possibly being criticised and ridiculed and even losing your job.

    But you should know that there is no such thing as a secret and it will eventually come back to bite you, even if it 20 years later. I am primarily talking about molesters but applies to everything.

  • Elijah says:

    What a wonderful hypothetical, sure to get our “kosher” authorities spinning.

    Well here’s a problem in halacha that’s real.

    Is our meat kosher?

    Ordinarily accepted in the diaspora, are Torah commands to provide several Kohanic gifts: examples include Pidyon HaBen, Challah and Pettor Chamor. In Devarim and further discussed and codified in the Mishnah and Talmud is the command from Hashem to give Kohenim the “Shechita” gift of the jaw with the tongue attached, the right foreleg and the abomasum.

    In Melbourne, NONE of the “kosher” butchers comply with giving of the gift. In fact, all of these “kosher” butchers sell tongue and the foreleg to anyone. There is the severe penalty of Cherem (communal shunning / excommunication) for not providing the gift let alone the even more serious transgression of selling parts of the gift. There are positions in the Talmud discussed by rabbonim that suggest that the rest of the meat of the slaughtered animal is not kosher and provides arguments that it is Gezel (theft). This position is greatly strengthened when the gift or portions of it are sold.

    In Melbourne, these “kosher” butchers falsely claim that State law prohibits the supply of the abomasum. I have checked with the State authority ‘Primesafe’, they told me this NOT true. Primesafe simply requires the slaughterhouse to have in place procedures that comply with HACCP regulations. A competent shochet always inspects the abomasum after slaughter to ensure the animal is not treif!

    With the cooperation of the three “kosher” authorities, these “kosher” butchers appear to have deliberately transgressed the command to provide the “Shechita” gift, all for the sake of tainted profit. It is appalling that one of these “kosher” authorities holds itself out to be supreme in Kashrut standards and supervision. Smugly, they will not provide hechshers to bakers that do not give the gift of Challah. They place paramount importance on Bishul, Pat and Chalav Yisroel standards. Suggesting Stam products are a compromise, even a necessary evil to satisfy ‘lesser’ Jews in the community.

    Sanctimoniously and paradoxically, this “kosher” authority criticized another authority for ‘Soft Matzo’, yet this same “authority” is utterly wrong about the five grains that constitute Chametz. This has severe repercussions during Pesach and for other times and commandments the rest of the year. The scientific evidence confirmed by archaeology, is that the five grains are actually: Einkorn, Emmer, Six row Barley, Two row Barley and Durum (wheat).

    How then, can we have confidence in the three “kosher” authorities that supervise one each of the “kosher” butchers when they FAIL to ensure that the Torah command of “Shechita” gift is kept? Is our meat kosher?

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Marky,

    You write: “If you look at many packs of cheese, it claims to be vegetarian(incl Tempo). And my Rabbi’s opinion is that cheese is milchig.. so, Harry, not everything vegetarian is Parve.”

    Everything that is pareve is 100% vegetarian, except for fish. IN ADDITION, vegetarians will also eat milchig products, eggs and honey.

    For the vegan, everything that is pareve is vegan, except for fish, eggs and honey.

    Satisfied now?

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Elijah, why do you persist with this nonsense? You have posted elsewhere on this site the same comments verbatim about shechitah and the five grains. You have no idea what you are talking about and your comments fly in the face of anyone with even a modicum of knowledge about kashrus.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Ilana, you wrote “Harry you will find that fish is pareve too. What did you think it was milchig or meat?”

    Perhaps you should read my post properly before accusing me of ignorance.

    I said that a vegetarian can eat all pareve food EXCEPT for fish (which is the only type of pareve food that a vege cannot eat).

    OK now?

  • Joe in Australia says:

    For what it’s worth, which in these hypothetical questions is very little, when operating in a private capacity I would inform my friends who rely on me for kashrus that the soup is kosher and pareve (well, in this question I would let them maintain their correct assumption that it’s kosher and pareve). I would tell my vegetarian friend who is relying on me that the soup is halachically pareve but may not be vegetarian.

    I would do the same as a supervising rabbi or mashgiach, but I might tell my vegetarian friend that the fact that soup is pareve does not necessarily mean that it doesn’t have a minute amount of accidental contamination from animal products. But he ought to know that, anyway.

  • chaim says:

    the Mashgiach’s job is to make sure the food is Kosher not vegetarian so he don”t have to tell anyone anything other then saying its kosher

  • TheSadducee says:

    “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.”

    -It is this sort of thing which is a total waste of the time and resources of rabbis in communities.

    Seriously, who rings their rabbi to question whether a drop of meat fat which fell accidentally into a large pot of soup has changed its pareve status?

    Don’t they have better things to do, like report allegations of child abuse in the community rather than satisfy the scruples of the meshuge?

    (Incidentally, does anyone consider that 200 years ago, the cook wouldn’t have run across their town to consult their rabbi in person to get an answer – they would have made their own call – grow up and take some responsibility folks!)

  • Reality Check says:

    Simple. vegitarian and kosher are two seperate issues, sort of like milk and meat. To a vegitarian, fish is meat, no matter what your rabbi may think, and a drop of meat fat into vegitable soup, may still remain parve, according to your rabbi, but to a very strict vegitarian, it contains meat. Now what’s so hard to understand about that?

  • Reality Check – you are quite right. We don’t know how “observant” the vegetarian is. Strict vegans are “makpid on keilim”, i.e. they will not use utensils that were ever used for cooking non-vegan food. This is a similar standard to kashrut. Someone who eats vegetarian food in a restaurant cooked in a frying pan that was recently used for meat will, according to kashrut principles, be ingesting some meat flavour.

    Saduccee – 200 years ago, the cook would’ve likely run or sent someone to the local Rabbi to ask a question unless there was a mashgiach present.

    Kashrut laws are like any other laws. It’s not a case of either being scrupulous in kashrut OR doing the correct thing when it comes to reporting abuse and not both. That has nothing to do with this discussion.

  • TheSadducee says:

    David W

    I don’t know about your situation but I can guarantee that no women in my family from 200 years ago would have done something that daft. People did what they could do and managed these type of silly issues – the type of scrupulousness being displayed today is a symbol of decadence in the faith. People’s focus has moved from the big issues to the trivial.

    Btw, I’ll be down in Melb later this year – I’d love to catch up if you are interested? (I’ll email you in the near future).

  • Mark Symons says:

    I would have thought that many vegetarians assess the vegetarian status of processed foods by reading the list of ingredients on the label. As I understand it, there may well be minute quantities of animal-derived products in these foods that are not mentioned on the label, yet vegetarians eat the food anyway – either they are not bothered by this, or they are not aware of it. The scenarios you mention would seem to me analogous, therefore I think you are under no obligation to tell them what happened.

    The issues may seem trivial, but they are illustrative of broader principles.

  • Ari says:

    Saducee
    Anyone with a knowledge of Halacha knows that the bet Yosef quotes large numbers of sources as the basis for its halachas which read something like
    Case x came before rabbi y and he ruled ….
    Anyone with a knowledge of Gemara knows that it exists there as well such as – case x came before tanna y and he ruled …

    So yes for thousands of years people have been scrupulous and sent questions to rabbis about everyday Halacha. T

  • Sadducee – very happy to catch up – just e-mail me directly.

  • Harold Zwier says:

    Ilana Leeds wrote: “Me personlly, I will not eat it.
    But that is my meshuggas.”

    I would love to hear more from Ilana about what lies behind her “meshuggas”.

    It seems to me that there is no obligation for a rabbi or mashgiach to disclose information that ultimately has no bearing on the kashrut of the food or on food safety. On the contrary, disclosure may adversely affect the enjoyment of the participants in the meal/function.

    Ilana has already told us: “Me personlly, I will not eat it.”

    But if you didn’t know of the contamination (that has no halachic effect) would you worry?

  • Tomika Boman says:

    I am a vegetarian and for me this made my health and fitness much better. I dont want to go back consuming those meat with lots of unsafe fats that clogs your arteries.

  • Ari says:

    One other thing which is important to note as far as I am aware is on a halachic level if it is possible to remove the forbidden food it should be removed – this includes a case where if you cool the soup the fat will solidify and rise to the top.

  • Lan says:

    The only moral issue is the halachic issue. Vegetarianism isn’t a factor from a Jewish perspective. If the Rabbi says it is kosher, it goes out to the diners. End of story.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Ari

    I’m not doubting that people asked the rabbis about situations and sought clarification. But I sincerely doubt that they did it while the soup was on the cooker.

  • These scenarios were not proposed in order to explain Halacha nor to outline the types of Halachic questions that are everyday occurrences. They were designed to help unravel the complicated process that goes on inside our heads when we make decisions or evaluations. We used these scenarios because they allow simple description and evaluation.

    There are any number of motivating forces that sit quietly in the background and influence our decision making. For example, consider the following contributions to this discussion:
    • “Me personlly, I will not eat it. But that is my meshuggas.”

    As Harold asked, please let us know more about your personal preferences and values.

    • “morally you should speak up at the expense of possibly being criticised and ridiculed and even losing your job.”

    Now that is a tremendously powerful observation of principle, but is it easy to apply? What rationalisations does one need to deal with in order to apply those principles successfully? Does such an evaluation not lead us to consider the issues relating to prosecuting or giving evidence against someone who has taken advantage over a child?

    • “when operating in a private capacity I would inform my friends who rely on me for kashrus that the soup is kosher and pareve (well, in this question I would let them maintain their correct assumption that it’s kosher and pareve). I would tell my vegetarian friend who is relying on me that the soup is halachically pareve but may not be vegetarian.”

    And here we see a division between one’s personal obligations and one’s religious obligations. This is truly fascinating.

    • “I would do the same as a supervising rabbi or mashgiach, but I might tell my vegetarian friend that the fact that soup is pareve does not necessarily mean that it doesn’t have a minute amount of accidental contamination from animal products. But he ought to know that, anyway.”

    And here is it being suggested that since the vegetarian OUGHT to know we therefore need not inform him of her? And is the same true for the Halacha of Kashrus? Meaning do we not inform our rabbi friend that a drop fell in because it is absolutely Kosher and he ought to know that it may well contain such a drop?

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Yes, precisely. It is halacha that determines whether something is kosher, not our prejudices. Mashgichim probably consider dozens of halachic questions at every function (“Is there an issue of bishul akum here? Do I need to worry about basar ne’elam min haayin? What sort of kashering is needed for this surface?”) and it would be silly to pretend that the diners can or should be informed of the precise circumstances which led to the mashgiach’s decision in each case.

    Surely you realise that in practice mashgichim don’t inform diners of any problems that have been resolved. I’ve been to many, functions over the years and I’m sure that the caterers must have made mistakes on more than one occasion. But never – not once – has a mashgiach come over to tell me that he’s going to rely on one heter or another.

    A more substantive question would be whether mashgichim should rely on bittul (“nullification” – the acceptance that minute quantities don’t affect the kashrut of a product) as a general rule. My understanding is that this is something of a live issue and I’m sure your views would be illuminating.

  • Well, Joe; although you may not ever have been told of any issues that occurred in the kitchen, there may have been others who were informed.

    The question we are pursuing here is – is it correct to inform some but not others.

    How would you feel if you discovered that a friend of yours was getting inside information about a good investment but failed to pass that info on to you?
    Let’s say this information brought him great wealth, would that change your evaluation?

    Let’s say your friend is informed not to buy the calf meat this week because the Shechita was not as good as usual; how would you feel then?

    And let’s just imagine that you are not informed that one of the teachers at your children’s school is suspected [nothing proven of course] of various matters that would make you ensure that your children were never alone with that teacher; but you were not informed. However, you notice that some families somehow seemed to have managed to avoid having their children in that class.

    Communities and friendships thrive or die based upon the confidence or lack of that we have with one another.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    And what if my grandmother had circular objects that could be used for physical transport if they were attached to axles, and somebody came offering a good deal on re-used pistons but my grandfather was not aware of this. Would she be a steam engine?

  • looks like we touched a raw nerve

  • Joe in Australia says:

    With respect, Rabbi Rabi, I posted a response to a question about the moral duties of mashgichim; I have no interest in discussing stock tips, child abuse, and shechita; nor do I have I the patience for your armchair psychoanalysis.

  • TheSadducee says:

    What would the motivation be to inform someone of their (apparent) misfortune and/or missing out on something if you weren’t the responsible party?

    Would this be appropriate conduct?

    Would the motivation of the third person (essentially spreading gossip?) be a good one?

    I’m sceptical unless the issue was particularly egregious and then I would ask why they didn’t get involved first?

  • Joe, If a member of your family is a steam-engine, does not reflect upon matters of deception and halachic-moral values and valuations.

    We are contemplating the dozens of decisions made by Mashgichim and Rabbonim, and who they do and do not inform and whether they ought or ought not inform family, friends and not others.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Perhaps you are; I’m not. The questions as posed by R’ Zwier are about supervising and preparing food. If you want to bring in other matters by all means ask the moderators to let you post your own questions.

  • Sadducee,

    great question; what is the motivation to relate such information?

    that is why I compared it to disclosing this info to our vegetarian friend. I think most people would consider it proper to inform the vegetarian. We respect the vegetarians because we feel their commitment is sincere. And I suspect that we sometimes feel that the commitments to stringencies regarding Kosher are somehow less sincere.

    I wonder if vegetarianism is seen as a more sincere personal decision whilst stringencies in Halacha is somehow tainted.

  • Elijah says:

    Harry,

    First, I have never written anywhere before about the five grains that the Torah considers Chametz. I base my assertions on information that comes from genetic research and archaeological finds by respected researchers, including Professor Zohary in Israel and Dr Nesbitt in the UK.

    Common Oats (Avena Sativa) is a domesticated form found in Europe and Eastern Turkey. Contrary to amateur Internet sources, wild Oats have been found in various places in Israel, Gilgal is one such example. The wild forms found include Avena Sterilis and Fatua. Archaeological evidence indicates that the wild Oats were peripheral weeds consumed as fodder. In the Mishnah & Talmud there are discussions about the appearance of Shibbolet Shual, described as having rows. There is also the law of Kilayim. The ability to cross breed, is something that Barley (Hordeum Vulgare) cannot do with Oats. Furthermore, Oats look nothing like Barley. Oats has another problem, even the domestic Sativa variety has very low gluten content and subsequently it is extremely difficult to get it to leaven according to the Halachic definition. Pure Oat bread does not rise or form a leavened crumb.

    Rye (Secale Cereale) and various wild sub species were not grown in Israel as it favours a cooler climate. Even in northeastern Turkey where it is possibly thought to originate, there are very few archaeological finds. Rye is predominantly found in Europe.

    Spelt (Triticum Spelta) is currently thought to have two separate origins, Europe and Asia. Genetic investigations show that the two forms of Spelt have evolved differently and probably independently. Asian Spelt is thought to originate in what is now Iran, it moved slowly northwest and northeast. The archaeobotanical record shows no traces in Israel or immediate adjacent areas.

    Second, if you think Matnot Kehuna (Priestly gifts) is “nonsense”, you’re entitled to your view. Orthodox Jewry who considers the gifts to be a vital part of Judaism and essential to Kashrut does not share your view. Maybe in an egalitarian spirit, you might like to also criticize the “kosher” authority for devoting on their website an entire page or in their kosher guide book, three pages on the gift of Challah. This guidebook makes it quite clear that kosher bread to their standard MUST have Challah gifted. In the same spirit you might also like to criticize all non-kohenim and non-levites for redeeming their firstborn with silver coins or bullion.

    My gut feeling is that your statement “You have no idea what you are talking about and your comments fly in the face of anyone with even a modicum of knowledge about kashrus” true purpose, is to protect through some sort of demented logic a real and serious transgression of Torah law by both the “kosher” butchers and the “kosher” authorities.

    Hypothetically, an industrial baker uses 30 ton of dough a week. Dough is usually half flour and half water. Industrial sized batches of dough might weigh 200kg. One source of Jewish law requires 1/48 of the dough to be gifted. Alternatively other sources of Jewish law only require a hand-sized portion from the batch for the gift, weighing maybe a 100g. Assuming a cost of $1 dollar per kilogram of flour, the cost of the gift might vary from $10 to $300 for the weekly production.

    A true kosher butcher that provides the “Shechita” gift forgoes the income derived from the tongue, cheeks, the right foreleg and the abomasum. Lets say an industrial “kosher” butcher on a weekly basis sells to each of sixty clients 1.2kg of Pressed Tongue and provides them 100% markup on the product. The retail cost of the Pressed Tongue is $34 per kg. The butcher’s gross income is $1224 dollars. Assuming the same markup, he also sells one each of 0.5kg whole tongue, 0.5kg smoked tongue and 0.5kg pickled tongue to each client selling retail for $19.25 per kg, the gross income is $866.25 dollars. Assuming the same markup, he also sells each client 2kg Osso Bucco retailing for $12 per kg, the gross income is $720 dollars. Assuming the same markup, he also sells each client 1kg Diet Mince retailing for $17 per kg, the gross income is $510 dollars. Assuming the same markup, he also sells each client 0.5kg Smoked Bones retailing for $4 per kg, the gross income is $60 dollars. Assuming the same markup, he also sells each client 0.5kg Abomasum retailing for $3 per kg, the gross income is $45 dollars.

    This “kosher” butcher has derived a hypothetical total gross income of $3425.25 dollars. Lets assume his costs are 50%; the net profit is $1712.63 dollars. The butcher providing the “Shechita” gift is approximately 6 to 170 times worse off than the baker. Is it any wonder why “kosher” butchers in Melbourne don’t provide the gift?

    Kashrut authorities income is derived from any one, some or all of regular periodic fees, intermittent fees and a percentage fee based either on volume or profit or both!

    By the way, your statement “For the vegan, everything that is pareve is vegan, except for fish, eggs and honey” is wrong. Vegans do not eat, use or consume anything that is non-plant derived. Dairy products are an obvious animal product.

    “Satisfied now?”

  • Marky says:

    Elijah, on this I totally agree with Harry. The Halacha in Shulchan Aruch(YD 61:21) is that we do NOT practice Matnot Kehuna in Chutz Laaretz. Hence there is no chiyuv whatsoever. So you did write nonsense.

  • Elijah says:

    Hi Marky,

    You rely on one source only, Rabbi Yaakov ben Raash who wrote Yoreh Deah around 1300CE. Rabbi Yaakov ben Raash vacillates when he wrote that those who give the gift are doing a great mitzvah (YD 61.22).

    The more compelling authorities views are: the Mishnah states that the application of this Mitzvah is not dependent on whether the temple in Jerusalem stands. Likewise, it is non dependent on whether the animal is slaughtered in or outside the land of Israel, as the gift are to be given nonetheless (Mishnah Hullin 10:1).
 The Talmudic view coincides with that of the Mishna requiring the giving even outside the land of Israel. The basis of this view is due to the Mitzvah not being a obligation of the land but an obligation of the body. 
The Talmud delves further than the Mishna in terms of citing instances of penalties being levied against both individual transgressors and entire communities for failure to give these Gifts (Talmud Hullin p. 132b).
 The view of Hai ben Sherira coincides with the Talmud regarding penalty, urging excommunication on those who do not carry out the commandment.
Maimonides, both in his commentary to the Mishna (Chullin Ch. 9 and 10) and in his Mishna Torah compilation was of the opinion that the giving of the gifts are completely mandatory outside of Israel. Nachmanides stated that any leniency applied to giving of the gifts outside the land would lead to forgetting entirely about the practice. He therefore stated that regardless of whether the obligation is direct from the Torah (min haTorah) or Rabbinical (midirabanan) the gifts are to be given outside the land.
 Dealing with the issue of gift giving outside the Land, Meir of Rothenburg was by far the most lengthy and detailed of all Rabbis, Meir reasoned that reliance on Rabbi Elai in the Mishnah for leniency and or invoking a hekesh between reishith haGez and the gifts is invalid.
The Prisha (Commentarian to Tur Shulchan Aruch) argues that partnering with a non-Jew with the intent to excuse the obligation of giving the gifts is “trickery” which causes the Kohen to lose out on his rightful due.
 The Vilna Gaon sided with the opinion of Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg and differentiated between the gifts and Reshit HaGez. Hence making it not only a proper Jewish custom to give the gifts, but halachically mandatory. It is also recorded by his pupils that he actively engaged in giving the gifts. The Chasam Sofer follows 
this view. Recently (1996CE), Rav Rafael Abraham HaCohen Soae with the concurrent views of Rabbi Ovadia Yossef, his son Rabbi Yitzchak Yossef and Rabbi Shraya Deblizki all require the giving of the (“Shechita”) gift.

    The fact that overseas butchers, both in the diaspora and Israel give the gift are strong evidence that what happens in Australia is “nonsense”.

  • Elijah – “only one source”??? Shulchan Aruch is THE authoritative source on matters of halacha. Not opinions that precede it in Mishna and Talmud, and not more contemporary opinions that have not been accepted broadly. Is this done anywhere in the Jewish world today?

    Your comments are a storm in an abattoir and totally off-topic!

  • Marky says:

    Precisely, David. He has also seemed to have misquoted souces. When I get a chance will check.

  • TheSadducee says:

    David

    Perhaps it is heretical but I think we need to consider that in terms of the construction of halachah itself that there can be no true authoritative source – rather the Shulchan is the preeminent source for today (until a new source is developed)?

    Don’t cherem me bro!

  • Sadducee – the construction of halacha (in particular leading to the shulchan aruch) is already well established. But even that has both the mechaber and the Rama, following Sefardi and Ashkenazi traditions, and to be able to rule on an individual case, one does have to be well versed in the many opinions, kullot and chumrot, and know how and when to apply them (known as “shimush”). The large body of achronim and responsa also help to develop and qualify the shulchan aruch and deal with situations that were not contemplated.

    While it does has clear boundaries (e.g. no-one will say you can light a fire on Shabbat), there are many situations in which halacha is surprisingly flexible and subjective.

  • TheSadducee says:

    David

    Obviously the amount of knowledge required to rule well is quite significant.

    This leads me to wonder how many rabbis today would actually have the level of knowledge to be able to make quality authoritative rulings?

    You are involved with Chabad which seems to have a very large number of rabbis – in your opinion how many of these have this level of education/erudition?

  • Since this discussion has pretty much moved off the central thread, I would like to make the following contribution, in order to shed some light on what type of mastery is required these days in order to provide a Kosher certificate.

    Pay no heed to the story but to those who read it, to those who are the target audience. This is an excerpt from a Haredi newspaper [obviously] and its purpose is to reinforce and shape a particular type of thinking [or lack of it]. And my point is, I suspect that erudition is important, but not as important as the Posek’s mental posture, the landscape he sees himself operating in. If the Posek has already made up his mind about the style of Pesak that he is inclined to follow, the erudition will select those perspectives that suit and block out those that do not. It is the Talmid Chacham’s Placebo effect.

    Here is the excerpt – about a well known Rav who provided a a well recognised Kosher certificate:
    “The following amazing story, which I witnessed with my father, proves that what you eat influences the soul. The milkman in Bnei Brak would come around each morning with a pitcher of milk to sell to the residents. My father always asked the milkman to bring him milk that he had personally supervised from the time of the milking. So the milkman would come with one large pitcher of regular milk and a smaller pitcher with my father’s special milk.

    “Each year, in the week of his birthday in Iyar, my father would travel to Yerushalayim and stay at the Beit Hakerem boarding house, where they prepared food especially for him. The food was all vegetarian, with no meat, and he was able to relax a bit and learn undisturbed. The rest of the family remained in Bnei Brak.

    “When my father returned from Yerushalayim and the milkman came by, my father looked at him and asked, `Why are you tricking me?’ The milkman blushed, and a few seconds later admitted to his guilt; indeed, it was hard for him to take the time to personally supervise my father’s milk, so he just put some regular milk in a small pitcher and brought it to my father.

    “When the milkman left I asked my father how he knew that he was being tricked. He replied that when he was in Yerushalayim he felt that he was davening better, and that his kavanah was more sincere. After thinking about it, he realized that the only difference between the two cities was the milk he drank in Yerushalayim and surmised that something was wrong with his milk at home. He felt it influencing his soul. Unbelievable!”

  • TheSadducee says:

    “Unbelievable!”

    Exactly.

    I hope this wasn’t a demonstration of the erudition that I asked about?

  • Harry Joachim says:

    I commend Joe in Australia and TheSadducee for their comments in response to Rabbi Rabi’s outlandish posts.

    As a former mashgiach in Sydney (and as a vegetarian) I can attest that the ONLY consideration incumbent upon the mashgiach is whether the food is kosher and milchic or fleishic. The mashgiach is not a health inspector, not is he responsible for the vegetarian status of the food in a fleishic eatery. Stock tips and child abuse (R”L) have absolutely NOTHING to do with the role of a mashgiach.

    Furthermore, the Rabbi’s belief that telling a vegetarian about the status of the food is comparable to reporting child abuse is beyond belief. The Rabbi’s moral compass seems to be somewhat off centre, to say the least!

    Likewise, TheSadducee so cogently and succinctly pointed out that a chasidic maiselah about a milkman has nothing to do with kashrus supervision!

    One hopes that KvY/It’s Kosher follows HALACHA in its supervision, rather than engaging in obsessiveness about topics that have nothing to do with kashrus!

  • Sadducee – with the added complexity of end-to-end manufacturing processes, not a lot!

    The Chabad custom of getting semicha gets Rabbis to a bare minimum – it’s up to the individual how much additional study they do to advance their knowledge, and that is likely based on their career path.

    Kashrut a a sub-speciality like in any academic discipline. Think of semicha as a Bachelor of Jewish Law, that might be followed by a Masters of Kashrut, and perhaps a Masters of Food Technology, and several years as an intern on rotation through a variety of food production environments.

  • Neil says:

    I would like to change the details of the hypothetical slightly.
    What would happen if some dairy product was accidentally dropped into a vegetarian pareve certified soup at a fleishig dinner.

    One of the guests has a known allergy to dairy products.

  • Harold Zwier says:

    Neil,

    I am not a medical person, but I would imagine that a very small amount of dairy in a very large amount of meat soup would be unlikely to affect people who have an allergy to dairy. However, if there is any concern that a persons health could be adversely affected by the presence of a contaminant then there is a clear obligation to disclose, regardless of other consequences.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Neil – then it would be the responsibility of the caterer/outlet, not the mashgiach. If it doesn’t impact on the halachah then it is simply not her/his responsibility.

  • Neil says:

    Harry,

    A person who has an allergy to something may become very ill or even die when there are only trace amounts of the allergen. The person is said to have an anaphylactic reaction.

    There is a concept called Pikuach Nefesh where almost every law in Judaism can or must be broken to save a life. It would seem appropriate and even mandatory for a mashgiach who is aware of the allergy sufferer to notify them that the soup poses this danger. I would think the responsibility falls directly on the mashgiach and not a third party.

    The mashgiach that thinks it’s not their problem is highly immoral and culpable.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Uh huh, so it’s now the mashgiach’s job to interview the guests to check for food allergies and to keep a running tab on what is served where and to whom?!

    If a guest makes known their dietary sensitivities to the caterer, then it is the caterer’s job to meet that guest’s needs!

    The mashgiach is in the kitchen supervising the cooking. S/he is not charged with any duty other than kashrus. S/he is employed by a kashrus agency, not by the Dept of Health, consumer affairs, or any other authority!

    It is obvious that you Neil have never spoken to a mashgiach or worked in a kosher food outlet. You have no idea of the practicalities of the catering field and the responsibilities of the mashgiach.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    BTW Neil… Have you ever heard of a case where the mashgiach was blamed for food poisoning? There have been at least 2 incidents in Sydney over the past few decades that I am aware of where guests at a kosher catered event fell ill as a result of unhygienic food handling. Why weren’t the mashgichim blamed? Wasn’t it a case of pikkuach nefesh?!

    The answer is obvious: Because it is not their job to check whether the kitchen staff washed their hands!

    Similarly, it is not their job to check all the food in accordance with dietary sensitivities!

  • Harry Joachim says:

    TheSadducee: You ask “This leads me to wonder how many rabbis today would actually have the level of knowledge to be able to make quality authoritative rulings?”

    The answer is, unfortunately, that most rabbis today are not equipped with the knowledge to answer questions of detailed Jewish law. Hence, each major community has “expert” rabbis that are known as sufficiently knowledgeable to approach with halachic questions. There, for example, a handful of rabbis in Sydney that I would not hesitate in approaching if I had questions relating to Shabbat practices, kashrut issues, or the laws of family purity.

    Synagogue rabbis are (hopefully) good at what they do, but the majority are not expected to pasken sheelos (issue authoritative rulings on detailed questions of law).

  • Neil says:

    Harry,

    I have now looked at position descriptions for Mashgiachs, they all require compliance with government laws, observe all Jewish laws and be G-d fearing. They are required to observe and control all food preparation. A proper mashgiach puts their good name, that of the supervising rabbi and the name of the community on everything done on their watch.

    The needle on your moral compass has broken off and appears lost. I would think there is halacha, on not leaving to chance, that a 3rd party would report a threat to life. How could you possibly think it’s OK to allow the possibility that someone could be harmed.

    I’m sorry, but your comments are like those that said they were only following orders at Nuremberg.

  • Someone here has missed the point. It is not a question of being blamed for an illness or an adverse reaction; our issue is about doing what is right and proper. If the Mashgiach is aware of a concern that may inconvenience or harm some or even one of the guests or the client or the caterer, what are they to do?

    If it was the child of your friend [or your child] who is at risk of becoming ill [not a risk of Pikuach Nefesh], and you are the Mashgiach and aware of this child’s sensitivity; would you refuse to disclose this information?

    And the fact of the matter is, there are increasing numbers of events where special dietary requirements are provided, nut allergies, lactose allergies, etc. So the case of a drop of milk inadvertently added to a soup at a meaty banquet becomes not just a Halchic problem but a health issue and also a legal issue.

    But all this is of course not the true issue. We want to think about a case where there are no other concerns but those of a personal preference, the vegetarian who prefers not to consume any meat whatsoever, or the vegan any milk whatsoever and the ultra-orthodox who prefers to not consume even what the Halacha deems to be Kosher. But the Mashgiach knows of the contamination and we are probing: is it proper to make this disclosure or not?

    It is not adequate to declare, “It is the caterer’s job to meet special dietary requirements”. That would suggest that we report this breach to the caterer and allow them to decide. If it our own child that will suffer, we would surely ensure that they are protected. Is that not the right thing to do? Why would anyone else’s child deserve less?
    It is bordering on being hard-hearted to suggest that, “The Mashgiach is not charged with any duty other than kashrus; they are not employed by the Dept of Health, consumer affairs, or any other authority!” As Ehricher Yidden we are charged with doing what is right and proper, and fully anticipate answering to Gd for our actions and inactions.

    David, the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah applies to all Jews. Your illustration (think of Semicha as a Bachelor of Jewish Law, that might be followed by a Masters of Kashrut, and perhaps a Masters of Food Technology, and several years as an intern) although apt, does not convey our true obligation. Everyone must learn and know the Torah; poor and wealthy, smart and slow, rabbi and layman.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Neil – your comparison between my moral position and that of the Nazis is beneath contempt.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    RR – better yet, let’s have the mashgiach write a detailed note to be placed on every plate at a function detailing the socioeconomic, health-related and halachic considerations in relation to the food. That way, vegetarians, vegans, carnivores, environmentalists (aka carbon footprint), health-conscious individuals, chumra-seekers, et al., can ensure that the food they consumer meets all of their personal preferences.

    You’ve gotta cover all bases so the mashgiach does his/her moral duty after all, don’t you?

  • TheSadducee says:

    Neil – your comparison between my moral position and that of the Nazis is beneath contempt.

    Agreed – and additionally extremely daft.

  • Neil says:

    Harry,

    I’m sorry that I compared you to Nazis.

  • TheSadducee says:

    I actually do think Neil has a point however – I think the mashgiach does have an obligation to at least inform whoever is responsible for the event/kitchen that some contamination occured and although the mashgiach may make a kosher ruling on the matter which permits the food to be consumed as its non-contaminant type, they have also responsibly addressed any potential health/moral concerns from their perspective.

    At that point then whoever is responsible for the kitchen/event needs to make the call how to proceed at their own professional/reputational/legal risk.

  • These days, a lot of mashgichim have dual roles in food preparation – this helps reduce costs. It could explain why the position descriptions include certain clauses.

    At the end of the day, anyone in the kitchen has a job. Maybe the question is: to what extent should they step outside their official position to point out something they feel is wrong? What if a waiter sees some meat fall into something and happens to know people on his table are vegetarians? Where does it end?

  • Halacha guides us to be loyal to Gd, to be a real man, by making decisions based upon truth not convenience.

    This seems to have eluded those contributing comments: those who only see the Kashrut concerns of these scenarios and forget or ignore what Halacha has to say about the human element – which was at the core of the article. A Rav who knows how to rule that something is Pareve but is unaware, unwilling or incapable of seeing the Halachic perspectives of the human element, is not a Rav but getting close to being a monster. If a Mashgiach is not troubled by the fact that a vegetarian’s principles will be violated, or a food intolerance [non-life-threatening] will be triggered, that person is not worthy of their responsibility. And it is the identical convenient moral blindness that maintains and fuels other evils in our community.

    These are the issues dealt with by the Halachot of Shemirat HaLashon. What may we, what may we not and what must we disclose, to protect someone from making a negative life decision? Be it for a Shidduch, a business partnership or a food they are considering to eat.

    This of course goes even further; sometimes our own decisions may be monitored by others and be read as either a support or a condemnation of another person or business. Consider Reb Moshe’s non-Halachic observation in his Teshuva regarding whiskies aged in wine casks. He rules they are Kosher but applauds those who avoid drinking them, and then adds that he will drink such a whisky when at a Simcha. Reb Moshe is actually making an important Halachic observation: there are other factors beyond the letter of the Law of Kashrus.

    So what we do in the privacy of our own life, and I don’t mean our own home, because our actions impose also upon our family; what we wish to do in our own very private life is one thing but how can we ignore that Halacha has something to say about the impact that has upon others? Can there be any support in Halacha for someone to refuse a LeChaim because it is aged in a wine cask? And even if this is not a loud protest, is the awareness, the undercurrent of such attitudes a signal of a healthy community? One wonders what people would have been thinking when they observed Reb Moshe drinking whisky which they knew he preferred not to drink? I wonder if anyone whispered into his ear that this was not such a Kosher whisky and what Reb Moshe may have answered.

    This discussion is not about making a legally sound declaration, “this Pareve soup may contain traces of meat etc.” Firstly, no one would voluntarily do that because it would immediately be seen as a compromise in Kashrut. If it was compulsory by government law, then it would be ignored just as we ignore today legal warnings that foods may contain traces of fish or milk. This discussion is about interpersonal obligations, duties and concerns, the stuff that is the very fabric of all meaningful relationships, the most meaningful being that between ourselves and HaShem.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    “A Rav who knows how to rule that something is Pareve but is unaware, unwilling or incapable of seeing the Halachic perspectives of the human element, is not a Rav but getting close to being a monster.”

    Can I take it RR that the It’s Kosher/KvY mashgichim receive intensive training on all aspects of the SHulchan Aruch, not just the dinim of kashrus, as well as participate in an intensive mussar learning program to ensure that their ethical awareness (knowledge of the “human element”) is on a par with yours?

    No doubt you pay these supermen/women a respectable salary commensurate with the life/death quandaries that they are expected to rule on each day?!

    And I assume that your mashgichim who focus solely on the food, not on the proclivities of the guests at an event, are “monsters” whose services are terminated forthwith?!

  • Marky says:

    RR writes:..”no one would voluntarily do that(declare traces of meat in parve) because it would be seen as a compromise in kashrus”

    This seem to contradict your previous posts including the opener in your last “..make decisions based on truth not convenience”

  • I am delighted that my comments have been read so carefully, and I am confident that reading them slowly once again will assist in understanding them in their fuller perspective and contributing meaningfully to the discussion.

    The Mashgichim need to know what to ask and when to ask the necessary questions. They need to know what to report. And we take time to discuss hypotheticals in order to anticipate all sorts of possibilities. It is the Rov’s responsibility to cultivate the correct attitude and Pasken the Sheilos. Dismissing a Mashgiach is a last option imposed when a Mashgiach refuses to learn.

    And indeed, there are many possible tensions in providing Kashrus – including the question of disclosing if inadvertent compromises should or should not be disclosed.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    “It is the Rov’s responsibility to cultivate the correct attitude and Pasken the Sheilos. ”

    Ah huh. So it’s not the mashgiach’s responsibility after all to engage in such “life and death” decisions. It’s the rav’s!

    Glad you finally admitted RR that the mashgiach’s job is to be in the kitchen dealing with kashrus. Any other consideration is simply not their’s to address.

  • Elijah says:

    Hi Marky,
    It’s been a month that you’ve had to check my sources. Readers can now assume that I’m correct.

    Hi David,
    Shulchan Aruch is the “dummies” or simplified version of the Beit Yosef published six years earlier. At the time it was published, many contemporary poskim refuted many of its decisions and they still do. Yosef Karo believed in many strange things including that an angel sat on his shoulder telling him what to do and he had a friend, who he actively supported, Solomon Molcho who thought he was the messiah and then was burnt at the stake. The Beit Yosef has many strange decisions that contradict the author’s own professed rules for arriving at conclusions. They include previously non-kosher insects are rendered kosher utilizing spurious artificial conditions. Cochineal is a perfect example. How about mixing meat and milk is OK as long as the milk is curdled when found in the abomasum of a kid after shechita. So, are all the Rabbis wrong today, which rule colour 120 is not kosher? Is this a case of an old decision overruled by Karo and then later overruled again by later poskim. Yosef Karo made some very strange decisions; these are just two such examples of many.

    Rabbi Kook, the former Chief Rabbi wrote this of those that do not give the gift – “Refusal to Tithe: The lowest level is one of outright refusal to support the Cohanim. This attitude stems from a spiritual crisis in which the heart has become unable to appreciate the great benefit of a spiritual life in general, and the holy influence of God’s servants, knowledgeable in His Torah, in particular. Such a person does not feel a connection to the special covenant of the kehuna (priesthood) and its overall goal, encompassing all generations of the Jewish people throughout history. This is a terrible curse, the result of a tremendous emptiness, a tragic estrangement from the light of Torah”

    Fairly clear-cut language that Yoreh Deah 61.21 is a ‘bunch of old cobblers’. Rabbi Yitzchak Yossef and several other respected rabbis support a little farm called Reishit Ha’aretz to observe all the Matnot Kehuna including Zeroah, Lechayayim & VeKeivah (“Shechita gift”) and purposely state that the gift must be given in the diaspora.

    In Melbourne, May 2009, Yumi Friedman with the help of Rabbi Beck observed the Matnot Kehuna of Petter Chamor. The day after the ceremony, the substituted sheep was shechted and the “Shechita gift” was given to a Cohen. This somewhat puts an end to the lie about abomasum not being available from the abattoirs and confirms what Primesafe, the Victorian Government authority stated to me. It is obvious that Rabbi Beck thinks Yosef Karo was wrong.

    So why do the “kosher” butchers not give the gift? Money!!!
    If the shochets in Melbourne were properly trained to do Nikkur achoraim instead of wasting the hindquarters, the butchers would have double the meat to sell. Logically, the financial burden of the gift would not be so great.

    Marky, David and Harry do you have a financial or familial interest in the kosher butcher business? Are you mouthpieces for the so-called “kosher” authorities?

  • Marky says:

    No. You write things that are totally incorrect. E.g. That Maharam Mirottenberg holds that Matnas Kehunah is noheg these days. The sif in ShA we are discussing says the opposite. There are many innacuracies in your posts. R Kook’s comments you brought have nothing to do with Chutz Laaretz.

    And the fact is R Yosef Karo is and was accepted by the great majority of Rabbonim and his psakim binding. .

    I won’t even bother responding to your besmirching of this great gaon and ShA R”L..

    Your views are completely off mainstream relgious judaism.

  • Elijah – I do not have any financial or familial interest in the kosher butcher business. I am a proud, passionate, paid-up, card-carrying carnivore. Marky’s final comment is spot on.

  • Elijah says:

    Hi Marky,
    I’m still waiting for your proofs that the sources I quoted are wrong.
    R Yosef Karo is well known to have had the “maggid” sit on his shoulder, it’s part of the lore about him. Documents about, from and to Solomon Molcho are historical fact. Besmirch??? Read a dictionary! You could read a biography – ‘Maran Rabbi Josef Karo’.

    R Kook wrote “….it will only be when the entire nation is on a high spiritual level…”. This means he is referring to ‘Chutz Laaretz’.

    Rambam and Rashi disagreed, Rabbi Yaakov ben Raash and R Yosef Karo disagreed. In fact R Yosef Karo copied Rabbi Yaakov ben Raash’s “Tur” structure, even the names he gave to its various parts ie. Yoreh Deah.
    The Vilna Gaon and the Chasam Sofer disagreed with Karo about the gifts. The preponderance of paskim are against Rav Karo on this issue.

    Mainstream Religious Judaism observe the Matnot Kehuna as best they can. 14 of the gifts must only be given within Jerusalem and or the Temple. Ask an Orthodox Rabbi about the Matnot Kehuna of Pidyon Haben or Pettor Chamor or Challah. Are they outside mainstream Judaism?

    Hi Harry,
    I see you have been up to your old tricks again.
    The KA of NSW were so good at their job, the government shut down its partner abattoir for cruelty to animals. The whole purpose of shechita is to ensure the strict command of Hashem in relation to animal slaughter is adhered to. The KA of NSW having a go at Rabbi Rabi about the hechsher for IKU is bigotry.

  • Marky says:

    You obviously wrote this response to my last post without reading what I had written. You wrote that the Maharam of Rottenberg holds Matnas Kehuna needs to be practised these days in Chutz Laaretz. However, Shulchan Aruch says the exact opposite of MoR. So why should I believe anything you write in the name of any Posek.

    As far as I am aware, all Acharonim of the past few hundred years and present have based their teshuvos on ShA of R Yosef Karo. He is respected and revered by all. All halacha is based on his psak(with of course some different psakim of the Remah for the Ashkenazic community).

    That you write what you write and further cannot see where you besmirched one of our greatest men, shows all the more that you are completely off the rails with regards to Orthodox Juidasm.

  • Marky says:

    I meant:
    ShA says that Maharam of Rottenberg holds the exact opposite of what you write in his name.

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