Saturday, December 15, 2007

Interesting Shabbat Talk

This Shabbat we had a lot of guests. It was just wonderful! So many children running around, eating, making a mess. Different talks at the table...the men talking about...whatever lol and us women talking about our thing.

My sister, who was there, mentioned that she ate at a mashgiachs house one time and the topic turned into kashrut and hechsherim.

It left me numb.

From what everyone was saying, there are so many problems with checking that food is really kosher, that some Hassidic sects have resorted to not eating out. Other folks have decided to avoid meat! yet, others just try to rely on the fact (a leniency?) that no repercussions happens to someone who buys food with a good hechsher but that is not kosher.

Part of the problem is that many of the kitchen workers are not Jewish and so they simply don't know all the rules of kashrut, or that they don't really see the importance of it and so will violate an instruction secretly (i.e. knowing enough to know that the 'boss' shouldn't catch you giving garlic and onions cut with a fleishig knife to the dairy section -but not valuing that enough to not sneak and do it).

Personally, I would think that if kashrut is one of the basic BUT BASIC tenets of Judaism (the three main 'ya gotta do's' are kashrut, keeping Shabbat, and family purity) then why would kashrut be left to someone who doesn't value it? The response was: That's why they have mashgichim. As for the kitchen workers -its just too expensive to hire Jewish workers.


And then if there's a problem, its the women that needs to dress up yet even more tzeniusly? I worry.


Rafi G said...

that is the problem with mass production of anything. It falls from the desired standards. By mass producing food, there is no way it can be kept at the standards preferred. Mistakes will always happen. Sometimes they will be caught and sometimes not. People are human. Those non-Jewish kitchen workers often don't even know they are doing anything wrong.

Lion of Zion said...

i have a friend in school who trained in israel as a shohet. when we graduate he plans to do his own shehitah because of all the problems. (it is actually more expensive to do your own shehitah then to be it in the store.)

as far as mashgichim go, it depends on how good/careful they are and how many there are. for example, i would never go away to one of those resort hotels for pesach that are now popular. there is no way in hell that you can keep a kitchen for a thousand people kosher (forget about for pesach) when the rest of the year the staff is not used to these standards.

also, there is a wide variety of what goes by the title mashgiach. when i was in college a friend asked me to fill in as a mashgiach. while i guess i fill the basic requirements as i am shomer shabbat, i am an am ha-aretz and have no business being a mashgiach.

Miriam said...

Rafi, Lion, Thanks. Does it mean people should just eat in? Can all hechsherim be at the same level?

I used to think that expensive hechshers, such as badatz have a statistically lower margin of error- is that a correct assumption?


Rafi G said...

there are people who believe no hechsher can be relied upon. They just eat in their own house.

Don't forget though, in your own house too you are using mass produced goods with hechsers that you are relying on. I know people, generally old time Yerushalmim, who do not eat anything they did not make from scratch. We know someone who when we were goign on a trip to the US, she asked us to purchase a certain brand of tomato paste in the US for her. She said this brand has no additives. none at all. It is the only one they found with no additives and is only pure tomato paste. So normally, they crush their own tomatoes, but because we were willing she asked us to bring a couple of cans of this brand for her.

But to me, and most people I think, that is kind of extreme and unrealistic. You pretty much have to trust a hechsher, so then it is just a decision how trusting to be.

A mashgiach in Israel, he is a rav of a community who also works in kashrus and is a "chief mashgiach" for one of the "better" (i.e. more accepted) hechsherim, told me that there is no real difference between most of the (mehadrin) hechsherim. I was asking him about the difference between sfardi and ashkenazy hechsherim. he said they all want everyone, sfardim and ashkenazim, to eat from them, so they all use pretty much the same chumros, they all use pretty much the same standards, and there is no difference.
If some people do not want to eat a specific hechsher that is mehadrin, it is either ignorance or politics.

I eat pretty much every mehadrin hechsher. I figure once I am trusting, I see no difference between this one and that one. Kashrus was not meant to divide Israel (I won't eat by you because you use that hechsher, etc.).

And no, the better hechsherim do not have less mistakes. they are just as human as the non-better hechsherim. They just don't publicize the mistakes (because they do not answer to anybody).

Kylopod said...

In America most frum Jews have very little difficulty navigating the world of kashrus. Of course there are a few issues such as chalav yisroel, but they're pretty easy to keep track of, and people with different practices usually have no trouble eating at each other's homes.

When I went to Israel, it seemed far more complicated. No longer was food simply kosher or not kosher. There were numerous levels, and numerous contradictory opinions. Even superficial matters made a difference: in America, most hechsherim consist of easily identifiable symbols like OU or Star-K. In Israel, all hechsherim use pretty much the same symbol, and you have to look at the name of the organization (in small print) to know if it's reliable. I eventually went to Star-K's website to sort out some of the confusion over issues like shmitta, because I'm increasingly buying Israeli products, some of which don't have an American hechsher.

Miriam said...

Hi Kylopod! Great to see you again.

I see you're shaking things up over at Emes v'Emuna.

You picked an interesting time to buy Israeli products. Do you mean fruit and veggies? Well, I think fruit is not an issue yet....