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What if… R’ Meir Rabi on Emulating What Works and Dispensing with the Ridiculous

March 10, 2014 – 9:34 am23 Comments

By Rabbi Meir Rabi:

beth din2I recently visited Johannesburg, South Africa and wondered what does South Africa have that we in Australia do not?

Why do I ask that question?

Because after having observed their community and having chatted with their Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Goldstein; and their Senior Dayan, Rabbi Rappoport [distant Mishpocha with my wife] and Dayanim, congregational rabbis and members of the various congregations; I observe that they have:
* Shules and Rabbanim and Minyanim that are active throughout the day,
* a functioning Beis Din,
* a community that respects their rabbinic leadership,
* a community in which even the non-religious respect the Beis Din and its authority
* a Beis Din whose expert services of Din Torah are used by everyone in the community to resolve their conflicts
* a Beis Din that authorises every single marriage in South Africa – and heaven help that rabbi who does not comply
* many many more Kosher eateries than we do in Melb or Syd,
* almost all foods bear Kosher certification; all the large companies Nestle, Unilever etc are in on this
* Jewish schools
* Yeshivos
* Shules and Minyanim
* a Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Warren Goldstein who is visible active, admired, loved and respected
* a Chief Rabbi who unified and mobilised the community and promoted a campaign to successfully bring 20,000 people to keep a Shabbos from whoa to go
* rabbis, well qualified rabbis, learned rabbis who are everywhere and are actively engaging with the general community
* a thirst for learning Torah that is sincere, determined and serious

And this is my answer:
South Africa has more than 100 years of recent Jewish history. That history is predicated upon a unified Jewish group who were like-minded and shared common ambitions and common Halachic customs and common Jewish world views – they all originated from the same geographic location and shared very similar Jewish tendencies – they were also Lithuanian, which I think may also contribute to their ability to put personal preferences and rivalries aside and work for the common good.

This long period of time and shared outlooks and willingness to work to build for the future, has created a core community leadership system which is very powerful, and has momentum. It is an edifice with deep solid foundations that curbs the tendency of human rivalries to get out of control, and nips in the bud, those petty power grabbing empire building surges that human weakness seems to gravitate towards.

Just try to imagine for one minute a Beis Din in Australia that every single Rabbi had to submit to – every single marriage must be approved by this Beis Din and Heaven help the rabbi who fails to comply.
I was sitting with the senior dayan, Dayan Rapoport, in his office – when they were in fact dealing with one such rabbi. For whatever reason, he had failed to complete all the paperwork, it was assumed that the Chupah had proceeded as scheduled and the Dayan was preparing to drag this rabbi in for a reprimand. It’s no joke – the Shule would sack their rabbi if so instructed by their Beis Din.

The respect the community shows their community leaders is wonderful. I Davenned with the Chief Rabbi on Shabbos, he is a local product and a very modest approachable and likeable man. When he is called up to the Torah, everyone and I mean everyone in the Shule stands up as he moves from his place to the Torah.
Allow your brain to cook that piece of information and digest what that actually signifies. Think about that and our Shules here in Melbourne.

The Beis Din has a purpose built court-house, imposing and designed to honour the Dayanim and put the litigants on notice. I asked Dayan Rapoport how often it is used, and was staggered when told, about once a week. So may Dinei Torah? I asked. He enlightened and delighted me – by far the majority are for the non-religious community, who prefer the speed, cost and privacy of the Beis Din.

But I pointed out that the most important aspect of this is – the Beis Din is trusted and respected.

Now process that in your brain and heart and then think about our Melb and Syd communities.

I wrote an article here on Galus about the ridiculous, insulting, corrosive and divisive “Minhag Melbourne” to Kasher the exclusively Kosher kitchen at Werdiger Hall if Heaven Forbid it has been used with the OTHER Hechsher meat or caterer. We have so grown accustomed to this ridiculous foolish and destructive behaviour, that we no longer see it as a problem. Of course a rabbi does not eat of his own Hechsher, nor use the Eruv he approves of etc. Oh, how fortunate we are to be so enlightened and blessed to have such holiness amongst us. [sounds of angels playing the harp]

South Africa does have a separate Shechitah for a “more” or perhaps better described a “different style” Mehadrin but it is under the auspices of the Beis Din.
And GET THIS – one can order such “other” Mehadrin meat in the restaurants there – now hold on to your hat, Peyos and don’t let this blow your sock off – the Mehadrin special will be served on the same crockery, eaten with the same cutlery and cooked in the same kitchen and with the same utensils used to prepare the non-Mehadrin meat.

I think Gd and His angels dance and sing when they see this going on in South Africa, and weep and gnash their teeth when they look upon Melbourne and Sydney.

I suspect that the community of South Africa is welded together by love for one another and love for Torah. [yes of course there are fights and they have their fair share of human weakness and nonsense, but nevertheless] Even those who are not orthodoxly religious, love and respect the Torah and the institutions that represent the Torah. On the other hand, the religiously inspired Yidden in Melb and Syd, seem to have somehow not quite mustered the same dedication and Love of Torah. Perhaps it is because we don’t glorify, with the same passion, the honour of the Torah and those who dedicate themselves to it, the institutions that embody the Torah. In Melbourne and Sydney it is too common a perception that Torah is used as a weapon against those who are not liked for one reason or another, those who different ideals or political perspectives are inconvenient, and those who are not of our tribe. At the same time the Torah is conveniently manipulated to provide shelter behind which, cover is taken for one’s own protection. Gd’s Torah, or better said, interpretations of Gd’s Torah, are perceived to be used disingenuously. There is a sinking feeling in the community when the opinions, attitudes and world-perspectives of out holy Torah are presented as though the different perspectives [of which Gd orders that there MUST be many and they MUST be diverse, just have a look at any page of our Talmud] are presented as being the ONLY possibly legitimate perspective, that only one group knows what Gd wants.

You know in the Ohr Sameach of Glenhazel, Johannesburg, South Africa; there would be more than 100 people coming daily for Micha MaAriv in the various Minyanim there. And the Jewish and their “frum” population is significantly less in numbers than ours in Melb.
They have an energy and a passion for Torah, without it reeking of evangelism, fanaticism or their being distorted.

I sat at the wedding of [and danced as well] Nom Chester and Yehuda O [Mazal Tov Phil and Ilana] there was a Mechitza – for the dancing, I was begged to join the various Rabbanim with their wives – I will repeat that – WITH THEIR WIVES at the same table – what a breath of fresh air – May Gd preserve and protect them from the fanatics.

Human nature, by Gd’s design, is competitive. Our Sages teach that even though envy is not an honourable nor a truly productive motivator, nevertheless when it exists it should be harnessed to energise our excellence in Torah knowledge.

We would love to see our institutions dedicate money, time and energy into promoting Torah learning. We have seen in recent years an astounding resurgence and energy in the Tikkun Leil Shavous learning programs of Melbourne. Imagine, if we would have such a program running 10 times a year. 10, 8 hour sessions provided over 12 months, in a dozen participating Shules, or all the Shules and communities coming together in a common location; is that not a beautiful thought?

Imagine if on every second Sunday, 20 odd times a year, we would see a successful thriving hour family learning program sweep across Melbourne and Sydney. Torah, the soul and sole generator of our nation’s miraculous continuity throughout and despite, the vicissitudes and malicious machinations of history, the sheep amongst the seventy wolves, as our Sages describe it, would not only be outsourced to professionals who are dedicated and doing a great job, but would also be an active pulsing power from within our family.

As the Ponevicher Rov, the charismatic Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Kahanaman said, “I am dreaming – but I am not sleeping.”

Are we dreaming but not sleeping?

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  • Robert Weil says:

    Well, G-d and the angels must really be dancing. For once I find myself in total agreement with Rabbi Rabi. I was in South Africa the same week and came away marveling at the vibrancy, cohesiveness and achdus of the South African community. Also noted the price of kosher meat was only marginally dearer than regular meat and the cost of a main course in a top class kosher restaurant averaged about AUD18.00.

  • Meir Rabi says:

    Robert, I am delighted not only that you and I agree but that you consider this reason for the angels to dance

  • Sunshine says:

    Agree Agree Agree

    As an ex South African I can also add that the levels if discrimination here if you don’t match the levels of observation is huge.

    This community is not united but fight each other and look down on any group that doesn’t match theirs.

    In S Africa we embraced everyone and never embarrassed another Jew by not eating their food because they may not keep shabbos, or bought from the wrong kosher butcher.

    Recently I was told that being kosher and not keeping shabbos your food tried in Melbourne unless you are from a particular family where this means it’s ok.

  • Benseon Apple says:

    What Dayan Rabi describes as the “ridiculous, insulting, corrosive and divisive ‘Minhag Melbourne'” is in fact the practice of kashrus agencies the world over, not exclusively in Melbourne. It is standard procedure to kasher the premises when catering a function, regardless of who occupied the premises immediately beforehand.

    It is not this “minhag” that Dayan Rabi describes that is “ridiculous, insulting, corrosive and divisive”. What IS in fact ridiculous and insulting is his assertion that “the religiously inspired Yidden in Melb and Syd, seem to have somehow not quite mustered the same dedication and Love of Torah”.

    Torah learning is, BH, growing in Australia, as are the number of shiurim and other learning opportunities for the dedicated learner, the baal habayis, and the BT.

    If Dayan Rabi feels that – despite the evidence to the contrary – there is a dearth of “successful and thriving learning programs” perhaps he should put his money where his mouth is and develop and fund the programs that he envisions.

  • Curious G says:

    Rabbi, if there was this Beit Din here, would all the rabbis obey it? Would you?

  • Joel says:

    This is your article and you have made some sweeping statements. I would like to take Curious G premise a step forward.

    Where Melbourne/ Sydney (AUSTRALIA) to present a Beis Din that could mimic the successful harmony of SA – Who do you believe could pull it together.

    Let’s not just ponder and pontificate but rather start machinations that could actually lead somewhere

  • Welcome to my friends, especially Benseon who recognises my status as Dayan Rabi, and also to Curious, whatever you may be.

    The practice of many kashrus agencies the world over, not exclusively in Sydney and Melbourne, appears from many angles to be, to [ab]use their weight, prominence, dominance and tribal-appeal to the general public; a significant [but Praised be The Lord, an ever decreasing] proportion of whom they have browbeaten into submission due to fear, such that they will not drink a bottle of water unless it has a Kosher certification. Their motivation is a thinly disguised passion to “make Gd V happy”, but the manner in which they appear to manipulate their power to their own financial and political advantage, belies considering that to be a credible proposition.

    The “standard procedure” you laud Benseon – is in truth a standard malpractice; a standard insult; a standard put-down; a standard corrosive, corrupting, careless, cachaemic, cachexic which signifies a cacaesthesia state of our Kosher landscape.

    Now perhaps Benseon can tell us something – does he believe that the Jewish religious scene in Melbourne and Sydney, when compared to South Africa, is as vibrant, passionate and that it is untrue that “the religiously inspired Yidden in Melb and Syd, seem to have somehow not quite mustered the same dedication and Love of Torah”?
    And indeed, what makes him think that?

    I agree with Benseon; Torah learning is, BH, growing in Australia, as are the number of shiurim and other learning opportunities for the dedicated learner, the baal habayis, and the BT. But this does not address what I observed and what anyone who has eyes in her head and is blessed with a fair share of common sense can observe, of the SOuth African Jewish community being more advanced than we in Australia.

    And I must say that even if I would feel that there is no dearth of “successful and thriving learning programs”, I would still, and do in fact, make my small contribution to expand authentic, Jewish, Torah education opportunities.

    And to Curious, if there was such a functioning and respected Beis Din here in Australia, I strongly suspect that all the rabbis would obey it. As would I.

  • Conflict of Interest says:

    And yet…

    The vision and images ascribed to the Johannesburg community are truly inspiring. Let us hope that the vision is accurate, and not, as so often occurs, and indicator of the impact of a brief period of observation, insufficient to show the undercurrents of a community.

    What appears incongruous, though, is a call for centralization of authority from a party who is seeking to operate a private kosher authority, not under the auspices of any communal agency, board or beit din. This strikes me as counter-productive, particularly as, as we have heard here, the standards of kashrut offered by that kosher agency differ from the main-stream, global practice. However we are to conclude about the justice of the outcome, are these measures that act to advance towards the vision that the author is articulating?

  • You see, this is the true problem
    What appears to our poster, Conflict of Interest, to be incongruous, is in fact a clear view of his or her own clouded and distorted vision.

    I make no call for centralised authority.

    Think about it, I speak of the beauty of a community that honours its rabbis and leaders and Torah scholars. And when they ARE respected and honoured there WILL be an automatic creation of a centralised authority.

    Now is that not a breath of fresh air?

    Indeed I am an authority who seeks to operate a Kosher authority not much different although significantly superior, to other Australian Kosher authorities. For example, The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, had an agreement to run a forensic analysis of the KA of NSW, following all KAS’s boasting about their being open to scrutiny and being dedicated to the benefit of NSW’s Jewry.

    But KAS reneged; do you wonder why? Will KAM agree to such an open and transparent investigation?

    And of what value is it that a Kosher agency runs under its own auspices or those of its mates – that’s what we call incestuous – it’s like a rabbi applying for and being granted a PhD which is supervised and authorised by a fellow rabbi, and the two of them are very chummy.

    And you are dead right, it is astounding that you and other vigilantes tolerate in silence, and perhaps even endorse through your patronage, those Kosher certified eateries that are owned and operated by non-Shomrey Shabbos Jews, that produce and sell meat, fish, cheese and Chalav Yisrael, in spite of not having full time Kosher supervision. But you don’t find It’s Kosher engaged in such shoddy arrangements.

    I am sure this is what you allude to – “differ from the main-stream, global practice” but you really ought to be more courageous and talk about Halahca, not some wishy washy [editor: please do not use homophobic terms on this site] wimpy “mainstream global practice” I mean what is Halacha? Some type of art nouveau that you pontificate about over a glass of Riesling?

    I shall tell you what I am articulating – since you don’t seem to speak or read simple English – I mean there is too much arrogance and too much pushing of personal and tribal agendas and that is what prevents us in Australia from getting to where they are in South Africa.

    And I’m pretty sure it is what prevents the arrival of Moshiach – that we all say we are waiting for. We are too busy trying to shoot down the other guy. If you dont want to eat a certain Hashgacha that’s OK – but in this little intense arena that’s not enough – it is necessary to stamp out the other guy, to ensure that no one else eats it either.

    So our Sages said – we get the leadership we deserve. DO we deserve better?
    Welcome the Messiah.

  • Benseon Apple says:

    In Dayan Rabi’s latest post he uses the highly offensive term, “faggot”.

    I, for one, do not understand why Rabi needs to deride homosexuals in the context of his rant about kashrus and the rabbinate in Melbourne.

    (Editor: thanks for pointing that out. It’s been edited out. You’re correct that it is an unacceptable word)

  • I do apologise for use of that word – I did look it up and found this –
    “but must pushes obliviously through the crowd while texting on his phone, trying to locate his other faggoty friends. His girlfriend will undoubtedly be the ….”

    so I certainly did not intend to use it the manner in which you read it

    I will also add that you Benseon, really ought to have worded your criticism as a question – offering me a possible benefit of the doubt, not only because it is Halacha, and also the right thing to do; but because it offers you the opportunity to look dignified and honourable.

  • Curious G says:

    Come on rabbi, you can’t be serious about this one. You seem pretty willing to criticize everyone else, and you don’t seem to bother making it a question!

  • Moshe in Caulfield says:

    Let me get this straight. Rabbi Rabi decries the practices and standards of kashrut authorities, but happily takes a mechalel Shabbos, treif eatery and gives it a hechsher for the morning only!!!

    My issue is not so much whether his ‘half’ kashrus is good or not, but why should a treif place open on Shabbos be supported by any kosher authority when fully kosher establishments are closed Friday night and Saturday, absorb all the additional costs of only kosher ingredients, close on yom tovim and bear the cost of kosher certification.

    I wonder what the rabbis and kosher authorities in the mythical Land of South African Jewry would make of a ‘half’ hechsher?

  • Whatever we wish to call those who “must push obliviously through the crowd while texting on their phone, whilst trying to locate their other f*gg^ty friends ….” one thing is sure – we have found them here, as they proudly distort any issue in order to vainly slur the object of their derision and what they fear.

    Is anyone surprised that these masked bandits have ignored the cold hard facts I posted earlier, “The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, had an agreement to run a forensic financial analysis of the KA of NSW, following all KAS’s boasting about their being open to scrutiny and being dedicated to the benefit of NSW’s Jewry. But KAS reneged; do you wonder why? Will KAM agree to such an open and transparent investigation?”

    I have verified both the facts and the Halacha – as you can readily and ought to do yourself – that I am Halachically bound, in spite of my reluctance, to publicly notify that Kosher certified eateries that have non Sh Shabbos staff and owners; handling, processing and selling meat and fish as well as hard cheese and Ch Yisrael, do not have a full time Mashgiach which is clearly a violation of Halacha. It is a terrible blight on our Kashrus landscape – and would never be tolerated in South Africa, or any other community that is dedicated to truth and Halacha.

    So I ask my fine feathered friends – tell me – if you were on an El Al plane and served by a Jewish steward a Kosher LeMeHadrin Min HaMeHadrin meal – BUT it arrives to you with the seal broken – would you eat it? I doubt it. Yet, you permit – and you want me to permit – without the slightest protest that a guy running a profit making business, without constant supervision, in which with a simple substitution the profits can be VERY significantly increased, to have Kosher MeHadRin certification? Fine feathered friends is an allusion to BB, I said, an allusion to BB.

    And you really believe that your question has ANY substance? Do you mean that when you go to a wedding at Crown or any other venue where they constantly run non-Kosher functions, and squeeze in a Kosher function every so often, that the Kosher protocols are different to having Kosher in the mornings only?

    I would not say you are out of your mind, I would say you don’t have one. Because not using your Gd given faculties to make even the most basic observations, and to refuse to hear them when they have many times been clearly enunciated – is like packing that badge of honour that Gd has blessed you with, that differentiates man from the beast, into a locked box and throwing the key away.

    And now we can answer Moshe from Caulfield. However, I will ask him a question and see if even in his disguise he has the Kadurim to respond –
    Moshe, do you really insist that the extra costs, that drive people away from Kashrus, are legitimate and Halachcially appropriate? Do you really believe that in order to give Parnossa to a Yid, we should coerce, we should remove the cheaper option?
    Because as you explain so succinctly, a Treif place, which is also open on Shabbos and YmTv, saves a power of money which permits them to offer Kosher services at better prices to the Jewish community.

  • HARRY says:


  • Harry,

    Thank you; the fact is, that everything I said about this matter is absolutely correct.
    BTW, did you eat there?

    I was commenting on the inescapable logic of Moshe from Caulfield. Does Moshe really believe that in order to give Parnossa to a Yid, we should coerce, we should remove the cheaper option?
    Because as he explains so succinctly, a Treif place, which is also open on Shabbos and YmTv, saves a power of money which permits them to offer Kosher services at better prices to the Jewish community.

    So Harry, have you Houdini like, escaped from Moshe’s inescapable logic?

  • Sunshine says:

    But the food and service sure as hell is!

  • Elijah says:

    I am rather astounded by Galus censoring and / or removing comments which are factual yet at the same time inconvenient for one of their regular contributors. I am even more concerned that Galus described my facts as being “nasty”. Furthermore, Galus closed the article to further comments; hence the reason my new comments appear here.

    I am referring to the article “The AJN Got It Very Wrong: The Slurpee Saga”. I made the following comment:

    “I like Rabbi Rabi and his position on Kashrut. I regard most other Australian “Kosher Authorities” as being more interested in empire building and financial gain.

    I’m keenly interested in stamp collecting. Why is this relevant? The other week I was perusing Rabbi Rabi’s It’s Kosher website and found an image of the certificate he uses for providing to manufacturers and retailers. I am reliably informed the certificate is displayed at “It’s Kosher” retailers.

    The core image of the certificate is the APPROPRIATED design of the Israeli 150 Pruta stamp commemorating the “Memorial Day for the Fighters for Independence” and “The Seventh Independence Day” by the late world famous graphic artist George Hamori. The Israel Post Office released this stamp on the 26 April 1955.

    George Hamori was born in Hungary, survived the holocaust, immigrated to Israel and later moved to Australia. He designed a vast number of stamps, many of which were issued by Australia and Israel. George Hamori’s family continue to live in Australia.

    I feel very strongly that Rabbi Rabi needs to discontinue the appropriation of Hamori’s design for the following reasons:

    [1] The stamp was designed to commemorate the sacrifice of the independence fighters to establish and protect Israel. It is entirely wrong that this ideal is vandalised for commercial or personal gain.

    [2] Misappropriation of intellectual property, either: belonging to the Hamori family or the Israel Post Office.

    [3] No attribution was provided to George Hamori on the certificate.

    [4] Shock to the Hamori family who might see the certificate image at an It’s Kosher certified retailer.

    The Hamori family deserve an explanation and apology.”

    I found this on the Kosher Ve Yosher website of Rabbi Rabi in the legal section:

    “COPYRIGHT … We therefore grant permission to publish and disseminate any texts (NOT IMAGES) found in this website …without the prior written consent of Rabbi Meir Rabi.

    Publishing information from this site requires:
    • that it be used and presented such that it clearly pursues the same objectives as are presented on this website.
    • that full credit be attributed to Kosher VeYosher or its Kosher! together with and on the same page as, the relevant texts.
    • that the full internet address of the this website and the name of Rabbi Meir Gershon Rabi appear on the same page as the relevant texts. That these attributions be clearly observable on the relevant page.”

    I feel that you are a hypocrite.

    Fact: you or some one working for you must have acquired the image of the stamp and then used software to remove “Israel” in English and Arabic along with the denomination “150”. This appropriated artwork was then used as the core image for your hechsher. Why instead didn’t you create your own original artwork with a menorah?

    Your self admission that you thought the copy right had expired is telling.

    It’s time to observe the Halacha you cherish so much and provide an apology to the Hamori family.

  • Nadav Prawer says:

    The issue of copyright has been raised with Rabbi Rabi. He has committed to making a reply. I am sure that we will see one in the coming days!

  • Avigael says:

    12 min video of the Shabbos Project that SA successfully implemented, which is inspiring and uplifting. It is nice to know that at least one Community in the Diaspora is trying to do its best for all Jewry under its care and leadership.

  • Elijah says:

    [off topic attack removed – do it again and your account will be suspended]

  • Elijah says:

    [Editor: Do not discuss moderation policy in thread. Failure to comply will result in suspension of your account]

  • Nosson t says:

    Hello good to hear from u again a long lost friend

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