Double-Duty Soups, Onerous Onions, and Nat bar Nat, or Preparing Milchig and Fleishig for Shavuos

There is a widespread custom to eat at least some milchig meals on Shavuos. A housewife asked me this question: since this year Shavuos follows on the heels of Shabbos, and she has no large pareve pots, is there a way for her to prepare side dishes or desserts that she may then serve with both her meat and her dairy meals? In response, I bring you:

Double-Duty Soups, Onerous Onions, and Nat bar Nat, or Preparing Milchig and Fleishig for Shavuos

Question #1:

Rachel asks her Rav:

“Someone told me that I may cook a pareve soup in my fleishig pot and then serve it with both milchig and fleishig meals. Can this possibly be true?”

Question #2: Reuven wants to know:

“May I eat the leftover kugel alongside my milchig lunch?”

Question #3:

Mrs. Goldberg calls with the following question:

“My neighbor, Mrs. Dwek, told me that she cooks her rice and other vegetables in her dairy pots and then serves them with either meat or dairy meals. I was taught that this is strictly forbidden. May I trust the kashrus in her house? She seems more knowledgeable and careful about halacha than I am.”

To answer these questions properly, we need to study the following halachic areas:

I.          What is the status of pareve food cooked in milchig or fleishig pots?

II.         The rules of pungent foods.

III.       Why we wait after eating fleishig before eating milchig.

We will also acquire a glossary of several halachic terms, such as nat bar nat, davar charif, and eino ben yomo. I will explain each of these terms as we come to them.

I.          What is the status of pareve food cooked in milchig or fleishig pots?

When the Torah prohibited eating meat cooked in milk, it also prohibited eating food that contains the flavors of both meat and dairy. For example, if one cooked meat and then dairy in the same pot on the same day, meat flavor goes into the dairy food – thus creating a prohibited mixture of meat and milk (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 93:1).

Chazal extended the Torah’s proscription against eating meat and milk cooked together to include eating meat and milk simultaneously, even when they are not cooked together (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 88:1). The issue that we will discuss is:

To what extent did Chazal prohibit the mixture of milk and meat? Did they prohibit eating pareve food cooked in fleishig pots together with dairy? To answer this question, we need to be introduced to the concept called nat bar nat.

NAT BAR NAT

The Gemara (Chullin 111b) states that, under certain circumstances, fish prepared in fleishig equipment may be eaten with dairy food. The poskim call this phenomenon nat bar nat, literally, a taste that is son of a taste. This means that since the meat taste has undergone two steps, first into the equipment (the first taste) and then back into the fish (the “son” of the taste), the residual “meat” taste is too insignificant to be considered meat. This rule also applies to the use of dairy equipment; that is, pareve food prepared in dairy equipment may be eaten with meat.

WHEN DOES THIS APPLY?

Most Rishonim contend that food cooked in a meat pot may be eaten with dairy, provided the meat equipment was clean from significant meat residue. Following their approach, a pareve soup cooked in a clean fleishig pot may be eaten together with dairy foods even if the pot was used to cook meat immediately before the pareve soup. Similarly, if one cooked dairy, emptied out the pot, and then immediately cooked vegetables in the same pot using exclusively pareve ingredients, these vegetables may be eaten with meat. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 95:1) follows this position, and this is the accepted ruling among Sefardim. However, many authorities rule that this is permitted only after the fact, but that one may not cook vegetables in a fleishig pot intending to eat or serve it with milchig food and vice versa.

Other authorities contend that nat bar nat applies only to pareve food placed in a kli sheni, that is, in a bowl in which hot meat had been placed after being removed from the fire. According to this approach, nat bar nat applies only if one cooked pareve food in a pareve pot and then emptied the very hot contents into a fleishig pot that was not heated or into fleishig serving vessels. However, fish or vegetables cooked in a pot in which meat was cooked the same day may not be eaten with dairy, nor can fish or vegetables cooked in a pot in which dairy was cooked the same day be eaten with meat (Rivan, quoted by Tosafos, Chullin 111b).

The Rama (ad loc.) follows this approach, ruling that one should not eat pareve food cooked in a meat pot together with dairy, or pareve food cooked in a dairy pot together with meat. However, the Rama accepts that one may eat such fish or vegetables which were cooked in a dairy pot on fleishig dishes and with fleishig utensils, and that one may eat them before and after eating meat. He prohibits eating these vegetables only together with meat. This is the approach followed by Ashkenazim.

MORE THAN 24

Even according to the Rama, pareve food cooked in a pot that was last used for meat more than 24 hours previously may be eaten with dairy. The reason for this is that, once 24 hours have passed, the meat flavor absorbed by the pot no longer imparts a pleasant taste – and, therefore, the flavor transmitted to the pareve food is no longer considered “meat.”

A vessel that has not been used for hot food for more than 24 hours is called eino ben yomo, which I will translate as not used today.

The authorities dispute whether one may lechatchilah cook pareve food in an eino ben yomo fleishig pot in order to eat it with milchig.

Let us now discuss Rachel’s question raised above: “Someone told me that I may cook a pareve soup in my fleishig pot and then serve it with both milchig and fleishig meals. Can this possibly be true?”

According to what we have said so far, if Rachel already cooked her soup, she could serve it at a milchig meal, but not at the same time that she has milchig food on the table. If she is sfardi, then most authorities rule that she could even have milchig food on the table. However, it is important to note that many authorities rule that one may not plan one’s menu this way, and that the heter of nat bar nat is only after the fact.

There is also another very important caveat that we will now explain – all this assumes that Rachel’s soup does not include any pungent ingredients that may already have become fleishig.

A PUNGENT EXCEPTION

Does the lenience of nat bar nat apply whenever one uses fleishig equipment to prepare pareve food? No, there are some exceptions. One major exception is that the rule of nat bar nat does not apply to what halacha calls a davar charif, a pungent food, such as radishes, onions, garlic and lemons. Pungent foods intensify flavor and therefore transmit flavor in ways that bland items do not. (For halachic purposes, we refer to any non-pungent food as “bland.”)

There are several ramifications to this law of pungent foods, as we will soon see.

A SHARP BACKGROUND

The Gemara (Chullin 111b) prohibits eating dairy together with a radish sliced by a knife that had previously been used to cut meat, but permits eating bland food sliced by the same knife. Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 96:1) rules that the radish is fleishig, because the meat flavor absorbed into the knife transferred into the radish and is still considered a strong meat flavor. We do not consider the knife to be a nat bar nat, notwithstanding the fact that the flavor of the meat was first absorbed into the knife and only then transferred from the knife into the radish. The reason is that pungent foods, such as radishes, intensify flavor, causing the meat flavor in the radish to remain strong enough to still be considered meat.

However, although one should not eat these pungent items together with dairy ingredients, they do not become so “meaty” as to require six hours after eating them. One should be careful not to eat them together with dairy, but one may eat dairy immediately after eating the onions or other pungent foods.

MORE THAN 24

Notwithstanding the fact that pareve food cooked in an eino ben yomo fleishig pot may be eaten with dairy, the Rama concludes that the lenience of eino ben yomo does not apply to pungent foods. Thus, someone who fried onions in an eino ben yomo fleishig pan must treat the onions as fleishig.

Therefore:

You sliced an onion or a lemon with a fleishig knife. Since these items are pungent, they have absorbed enough meat flavor to be considered fleishig and cannot be mixed with dairy.

COMMON KITCHEN MIX-UPS

From my experience, the most common type of kitchen mix-up involves the misuse of onions sliced with a fleishig or milchig knife. It is for this reason that I highly recommend a family kitchen policy of slicing all onions, lemons, radishes and garlic exclusively with pareve knives.

At this point, I want to return to Rachel’s question: All that we permitted Rachel to do assumes that she did not use pungent ingredients, such as onions or garlic, in her soup.

Should she want to add onions to her soup, she should be careful to slice them with a pareve knife. Should she want to sauté them first, and she has no pareve pot or pan large enough for the soup, she has the following option: she could first sauté her onions in a pareve pot. Once the onions are cooked, they lose their pungency; if they are now added to the bland ingredients in the fleishig pot, they will no longer absorb fleishig taste from the pot, and her soup will remain pareve. (Onions are interesting, because when raw, they qualify as davar charif, although they lose their pungency quickly when they are cooked.)

At this point, we can also answer the other two questions asked above:

“May I eat the leftover kugel alongside my milchig lunch?”

The answer is that if the pot in which the kugel was made was fleishig and ben yomo, then one should not eat the kugel at the same moment that one is eating actual dairy products, although one may eat it using dairy equipment.

“My neighbor, Mrs. Dwek, told me that she cooks her rice and other vegetables in her dairy pots and then serves them with either meat or dairy meals. May I trust the kashrus in her house?”

The answer is that what Mrs. Dwek is following a psak that, according to some authorities, is perfectly acceptable for Sfardim. An Askenazi should not do this lichatchilah. Either way, you may certainly trust her kashrus.

The Great Cottage Cheese Controversy

Before Yom Tov, I sent out a basic article on the concept of kosher cheese. This week I am sending out a sequel to that article.

Question #1:

The whey it was.

Rav Schwartz* tells me that his Rosh Yeshiva, a world-renowned European-born gadol, held that one may eat cottage cheese that is not chalav Yisrael, even though one should otherwise always be careful to keep chalav Yisrael. He also held that there is no gevinas akum problem. What is the rationale for this?

Question #2:

Is this the whey to go?

If gevinas Yisrael requires either that a Jew supervise the entire production, or that he own the milk or cheese, how can hechsherim certify cottage cheese produced by a non-Jewish company without a mashgiach temidi?

Question #3:

No whey!

My friend Yaakov* often travels in places where there are no kosher products available, and he has amassed a list of items that he can eat and drink wherever he finds himself. He told me that someone once told him that when traveling he may eat cottage cheese without any hechsher. What is the rationale for this psak?

In other articles, I explained the basic halachic issues involved in the rabbinic prohibitions called chalav akum and gevinas akum. Chazal prohibited consuming milk that was not supervised by a Jew out of concern that it could have been adulterated with milk from a non-kosher species, a prohibition called chalav akum. (Henceforth, I will use the term “non-kosher milk” in this article to mean milk from non-kosher species, and “kosher milk” to mean milk from a kosher animal.) In an earlier article, I explained the dispute among halachic authorities whether this prohibition exists when there is strong basis to assume that no adulteration took place, milk that is colloquially often called “chalav stam,” and that Rav Moshe Feinstein referred to as “chalav companies.”

There is also a prohibition called gevinas akum, cheese from gentiles. According to some authorities (Rama, Yoreh Deah 115:2) this is obviated by having a Jew supervise the cheese making and, according to others (Shach ad loc.), only when a Jew adds the enzyme or acid that curds or “sets” the cheese, or alternatively, when a Jew owns the milk or the cheese. “Curdling” or “curding” means that some of the solid particles naturally suspended in the milk, predominantly the casein (cheese protein), precipitate out of the milk and clump together.

When a Jew does not supervise the cheese making and does not own or participate in the manufacture of the cheese, it is prohibited as gevinas akum.

Also remember from our previous article that many authorities contend that if the cheese is kosher, we are not concerned that it was made from unsupervised milk because of a principle chalav tamei eino omeid – non-kosher milk does not curd into cheese. This law applies not only to the cheese produced, but also to the whey byproduct of kosher cheese production (Shu’t Chasam Sofer, Yoreh Deah 79).

This is the whey we make our cheese

How is cottage cheese made? When cheese is made, the part of the milk that remains liquid and does not become cheese is the “whey,” whereas the part that solidifies is called “curd.” In earlier days, a forerunner of cottage cheese was made simply by allowing milk to curd naturally, which created a product called “curds and whey” (remember Little Miss Muffet?). Contemporary commercial cottage cheese is produced by adding an enzyme (also called rennet) to warm skim milk, allowing it to curd into its separate components, the curd and the whey. The curd is then removed from the whey and rinsed thoroughly to remove every trace of whey; after which a “cheese dressing” consisting of milk, some salt (unless it is sodium-free unsalted cottage cheese) and other minor ingredients (such as a preservative, and a stabilizer so that the cream and skim in the dressing does not separate) is added to the curd. If the cottage cheese is seasoned with fruit, chives or other garnish, these ingredients are also added to the dressing. The percentage of fat in the cottage cheese is determined by whether the milk in the dressing is made from pure skim milk, which means no fat, or has cream added.

There are three potential kashrus issues that can be involved.

  1. Is commercially produced cottage cheese prohibited because of gevinas akum if a Jew did not add the rennet and/or supervise the entire production?
  2. Must it be made from chalav Yisrael milk?
  3. Are the rennet and all other ingredients kosher? Although rennet is used in minuscule quantities, and a food containing less than one part in sixty of a non-kosher ingredient is usually kosher bedei’evid, after the fact, non-kosher rennet still poses a serious kashrus problem since this is what causes the cheese to form. This gives the rennet a halachic status called davar hamaamid, an ingredient that creates a physical change in the processed food, which is not nullified even in small percentages.

When there is a will, there is whey — a gevinas akum review

Is cottage cheese prohibited because of gevinas akum?

In a previous article, I noted that the Gemara mentions seven different potential concerns why Chazal instituted the prohibition of gevinas akum:

  1. The enzyme used to curd the cheese may be from the stomach of a calf slaughtered not according to halacha.
  2. The enzyme may be from the stomach of a calf that had been offered for idol worship (Avodah Zarah 29b).
  3. The milk used for the cheese may have been left in a place where snakes could poison it.

4.   The milk may have been adulterated with milk of a non-kosher species. Although milk from non-kosher species contains very little casein and thus cannot be made into cheese, some fluid that could contain non-kosher milk may remain in the cheese.

5. The surface of the cheese may be coated with lard.

6. Non-kosher vinegar may have been used to set the cheese.

7. Sap of an orlah fruit may have been used to set the cheese (Avodah Zarah 35).

As I mentioned in the previous article, the Rishonim dispute which of the above reasons we follow and what are the resultant halachic conclusions. For example, a minority opinion, referred to as the chachmei Narvona, permitted eating gentile cheese in places where they used vegetable rennet. However, the Shulchan Aruch rules like the majority opinion and prohibits this “vegetable rennet” cheese.

This is the whey we make our butter

Before analyzing whether cottage cheese is prohibited because of gevinas akum, we should research an old controversy concerning whether butter produced and owned by non-Jews is permitted for the kosher palate.

Let us first understand how butter is made:

Milk consists of many components: water, cream, proteins, natural sugars (lactose), and various other nutrients. Butter is made by first separating the cream from the rest of the milk, which happens on its own if the milk is not homogenized, and then churning the cream, which causes its fat globules to combine and solidify. The liquid left behind is called buttermilk (not to be confused with cultured buttermilk, a different product sold in the dairy case of your local supermarket, called by an almost identical name to confuse the innocent).

Is butter included in the prohibitions of gevinas akum or chalav akum?

A thousand years ago, Jewish communities grappled with the following question: “May one purchase butter from a gentile?” After all, both cheese and milk of a gentile are prohibited. Why should butter be any different?

Indeed many authorities and communities held this way. However, there were also authorities and communities who permitted chem’as akum – “gentile butter” (Rambam, Hilchos Maachalos Asuros 3:15). According to the Vilna Gaon (Yoreh Deah 115:17), these authorities conclude that gevinas akum is prohibited because of concern of the use of non-kosher rennets, a reason that does not apply to butter. After all, although butter is a processed dairy product, it does not use rennet to separate the butter from the buttermilk.

Those who prohibit butter as gevinas akum rule in accordance with the other reasons mentioned above to prohibit gevinas akum that do apply to butter. For example, if gevinas akum was prohibited because of concern that some milk residue may be left (reason #4 above), this reason applies equally to butter, because some milk residue does remain in the butter even after the buttermilk is removed.

But why is butter not prohibited because of chalav akum?

Those who permit gentile butter contend that just as non-kosher milk does not make cheese, it also does not make butter. Although the processes of making cheese and butter are completely dissimilar, and different components of milk are used for each, it is still true that it is difficult to make butter from non-kosher milk because of its low cream content. (See Shu’t Melamed LeHo’eil, Yoreh Deah #34, who provides a chart for the amount of dairy fat and casein found in the milk of various common farm animals, both kosher and non-kosher.) Thus, there were early authorities who permitted purchasing butter from gentiles, contending that it was exempt from both the prohibitions of gevinas akum and of chalav akum. The common practice was to follow the lenient approach.

Beware of “whey cream”!

Please note: In the contemporary world, butter should not be used without a reliable kosher certification. This is because of a host of potential kashrus concerns in today’s butter manufacture, the most common of which is the use of “whey cream,” the cream salvaged from cheese production, which is often prohibited because of gevinas akum absorption. Also note that a hechsher on butter does not mean that it is made from chalav Yisrael milk unless this is specified.

A wheyward flock?

In a landmark teshuvah on the subject, Rav Moshe Feinstein discusses the kashrus issues involved in the consumption of cottage cheese (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:48). It is important to understand the details and context of the responsum. In 1960, Rav Shimon Schwab, the late Rav of Khal Adath Jeshurun in Washington Heights, was aware that people were using cottage cheese without any hechsher whatsoever. He asked Rav Moshe a shaylah whether one should publicly announce that cottage cheese that has no hechsher is not kosher.

In answering the question, Rav Moshe discusses all three issues that we raised above:

(1) Is cottage cheese prohibited because of gevinas akum?

(2) Is cottage cheese prohibited because of chalav akum?

(3) Do we need to be concerned that the rennet used may not be kosher?

Rav Moshe first analyzes whether cottage cheese is prohibited as gevinas akum, and presents a line of reasoning that might permit it. He notes that although accepted halacha rules unlike the chachmei Narvona and that gevinas akum applies even when the cheese is set with kosher enzymes, it is possible that the prohibition does not apply to varieties of cheese that can be produced without any rennet at all. If one leaves the milk at the proper temperature, it will naturally curd to create the cheese part of cottage cheese. This would draw a distinction between cottage cheese (and similar products such as farmer’s cheese, cream cheese, and baker’s cheese) and so-called “hard cheeses” that require rennet to produce them.

Rav Moshe concludes that although one should not rely on this analysis to permit cottage cheese, one is also not required to rebuke those who consume this product.

But maybe the rennet isn’t kosher?

Subsequently, Rav Moshe discusses that the cheese should be prohibited because the rennet used may not be kosher. Although rennet is used in very small quantities, it should not be nullified in the finished product because it qualifies as a davar hamaamid. Rav Moshe notes, however, that since cottage cheese can be made without any supplementary enzyme, the rennet is added only to speed up the process. A davar hamaamid is the exclusive cause of the forming of the product; however, when natural means or a kosher enzyme is assisted by non-kosher rennet, the rennet can become bateil in the finished product. Therefore, even if the gentile company used non-kosher rennet, the resultant cheese is not prohibited.

Rav Moshe also discusses whether one may eat cottage cheese that is not made from chalav Yisrael, which he permits based on his analysis that chalav companies (his own term) is permitted. I refer the reader to my previous article on the topic of chalav akum for a further analysis of this dispute.

I would like at this point to quote the conclusion of Rav Moshe’s teshuvah:

As a final decision, I do not say that this is permitted, but I also do not rebuke those who are lenient since there is a reason to permit it and the prohibition is rabbinic… as a result, I see no requirement… to prohibit those who are not asking, and even moreso since there is the possibility that they will not listen… which allows for the additional reason that it is better to violate negligently than intentionally. However, one certainly should not publicize that there is a basis to be lenient.”

Thus, Rav Moshe concludes that his reasoning excluding cottage cheese from the prohibition of gevinas akum is not clearcut and should not be relied upon. This allows us to make an interesting comparison between Rav Moshe’s psak and that of the other gadol I referred to in our original question:

Rav Schwartz tells me that his Rosh Yeshiva, a world-renowned European-born gadol, held that one may eat cottage cheese that is not chalav Yisrael, even though one should otherwise always be careful to keep chalav Yisrael. He also held that there is no gevinas akum problem. What is the rationale for this?

I have two observations based on this anecdote quoting this esteemed gadol, whom I knew personally. The first is that this gadol disputed with Rav Moshe on a halachic issue. Whereas Rav Moshe contended that one should not rely lechatchilah that cottage cheese and other “soft” cheeses are not prohibited as gevinas akum, this other gadol apparently held that one may lechatchilah rely on this heter.

Is this the wrong whey?

My second observation is that I believe this gadol was unaware of a technical fact. It appears that he assumed that the liquid part of cottage cheese is the whey byproduct of the cheese manufacture, precisely what Little Miss Muffet ate. It may be that where this gadol grew up this was a commonly produced or purchased food, and indeed this food would have no problem of chalav akum. However, contemporary cottage cheese is made by adding milk to the cheese curd. Although the heter of “chalav companies” that Rav Moshe accepts applies here, this particular gadol did not rely on this heter, but held like the Chasam Sofer that one may not use milk that a Jew did not supervise. Nevertheless, this gadol permitted whey from unsupervised milk that was a byproduct of kosher cheese production because he felt that the same heter that permits cheese from non-supervised milk, should apply to the whey, its byproduct.  Note that I mentioned before that the Chasam Sofer ruled this way. (or is it “whey”?)

Perhaps this gadol had some other reason why he felt that the “dressing” added is not a chalav akum concern.

By the whey

Many years ago, a prominent rav living in a community where chalav Yisrael milk was available but just making inroads, was faced by a dilemma. People in his community were using non-chalav Yisrael, non-gevinas Yisrael cottage cheese, which Rav Moshe rules that lechatchilah one should not use, yet the market for fully chalav Yisrael/gevinas Yisrael cottage cheese did not yet exist. He arranged that a mashgiach add the rennet to non-chalav Yisrael milk to produce a batch of cheese curd from supervised kosher ingredients. The curd produced this way is gevinas Yisrael. The rav arranged that the milk added as “cheese dressing” to the gevinas Yisrael curd be chalav Yisrael, so that the resultant product was certainly kosher, gevinas Yisrael and containing chalav Yisrael, although its gevinas Yisrael was not made from chalav Yisrael.

At this point, I would like to address the second question I asked above:

“If gevinas Yisrael requires either that a Jew supervise the entire production, or that he own the milk or cheese, how can hechsherim supervise cottage cheese produced by a non-Jewish company without a mashgiach temidi?”

According to Rav Moshe’s teshuvah, the above-mentioned product should not be used lechatchilah, so how can someone provide it with a hechsher? The answer is that they feel that there was an old minhag, going back to Europe, to permit soft cheeses that were not gevinas Yisrael. Although Rav Moshe clearly was unaware of such a minhag (otherwise he certainly would have mentioned it), it seems that the other gadol I mentioned above, who was raised in Poland, was familiar with such a minhag.

We can now address the last question raised above:

Yaakov often travels in places where there are no kosher products available, and he has amassed a list of items that he can eat anywhere. Someone once told him that when traveling he may eat cottage cheese without any hechsher. What is the rationale for this psak? The answer is that the person who permitted him felt that when traveling he could rely on the minhag that “soft” cheese is not considered gevinas akum. We should realize that Rav Moshe rules that this product should not be used, and, furthermore, even those who permit this cottage cheese do so only in a place where the leniency to use “chalav companies” applies.

Conclusion

Specifically in the context of gevinas akum, the Gemara teaches that the rabbinic laws are dearer to Hashem than the Torah laws. We see how a vast halachic literature developed devoted to understanding the prohibitions of gevinas akum and chalav akum, created by Chazal to protect the Jewish people from major sins.

*All names in this article have been changed.

Must I Immerse a Candy Dish?

Question: A Sweet Saga

Avraham Sweet, the proprietor of Candy Andy, wants to know:

“I have a gift business in which I sell glass candy bowls filled with candies, fruits, and nuts. Must I toivel these dishes before I fill them?”

Introduction:

In Parshas Matos, the Torah teaches: Regarding the gold and the silver; the copper, the iron, the tin and the lead: any item that was used in fire needs to be placed in fire to become kosher, yet it must also be purified in mikveh water. In addition, that which was not used in fire must pass through water” (Bamidbar 31:22-23). From these verses we derive the mitzvah of tevilas keilim, the mitzvah to immerse metal implements in a kosher mikveh or spring prior to using them for food. The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 75b) notes that this immersion is required even if the vessel has never been used. In other words, this mitzvah is unrelated to the requirement to kasher equipment that was used for non-kosher food and to the laws related to purifying implements that became tamei.

The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 75b) further states that in addition to metal items intended for food use, we are also required to immerse glass dishes, because both metal and glass share a similarity – they are repairable by melting and reconstructing. This renders them different from vessels made of stone, bone, wood or earthenware, all of which cannot be repaired this way.

What Types of Dishes must be Immersed?

The Gemara cites a dialogue about the mitzvah of immersing new vessels that is highly instructive:

“Rav Nachman said in the name of Rabbah bar Avuha: ‘One can derive from the verse that one must immerse even brand new items, because used vessels that were purged in fire are as kosher as those that are brand-new, and yet they require immersion.’

“Rav Sheishes then asked him: ‘If it is true that the mitzvah of immersing vessels is not because of kashrus concerns, then maybe one is required to immerse even clothing shears?’

“Rav Nachman responded: ‘The Torah only mentions vessels that are used for meals (klei seudah)'” (Avodah Zarah 75b).

Rav Sheishes suggested that if the immersion of utensils is not a means of kosherizing a non-kosher vessel, then perhaps we have many more opportunities to fulfill this mitzvah, and it applies to any type of paraphernalia — even cameras, cell phones and clothing shears!

To this, Rav Nachman retorted that the Torah only includes items used for klei seudah — literally, implements used for a meal. Thus, the mitzvah of tevilas keilim applies only to utensils used for preparing food, and not those intended for other purposes.

Klei Seudah – Appliances Used for Meals

We should note that Rav Nachman did not require immersion for all food preparation utensils, but only required immersion of klei seudah, items used for meals. We will soon see how this detail affects many of the halachos of tevilas keilim. But, alas, what exactly are considered klei seudah, and how is this different from simply saying that all food implements must be immersed?

Klei Sechorah — “Merchandise”

The halachic authorities note that a storekeeper does not toivel vessels he is planning to sell, since for him they are not klei seudah, utensils that he intends to prepare food with or eat with, but items he intends to sell. Later authorities therefore coined a term “klei sechorah,” utensils used as merchandise, ruling that these items do not require immersion until they are purchased by the person intending to use them (based on Taz, Yoreh Deah 120:10). Furthermore, several halachic authorities contend that the storekeeper cannot immerse the vessels prior to sale since there is as yet no requirement to immerse them (Shu’t Minchas Yitzchak 8:70). This is based on a comment of the Rama which implies that tevilah performed before one is obligated to immerse a utensil, such as while it is still owned by a gentile, does not fulfill the mitzvah and must be repeated after the utensil becomes the property of a Jew (Rama, Yoreh Deah 120:9). Thus, reciting a beracha on this precipitative tevilah would be a beracha levatalah.

Based on this discussion, we can now address our above-mentioned question:

“I have a gift business in which I sell glass candy bowls filled with candies, fruits, and nuts. Must I toivel these dishes before I fill them?”

I was actually involved in the situation that precipitated this question. We received a filled glass candy bowl as a gift, including a note from the proprietor that the bowl had already been toiveled. I called the owner of the business to inform him that, in my opinion, not only is he not required to toivel the dish, but I suspect that the tevilah is premature and therefore does not help. My reasoning is that, although the proprietor fills his dishes with nuts and candies, from his perspective the bowl is merchandise. The dish therefore qualifies as klei sechorah which one need not immerse, and therefore immersing them does not fulfill the mitzvah. As a result, not only is the proprietor not obligated to immerse the dishes, but doing so fulfills no mitzvah, and it is a beracha levatalah for him to recite a beracha on this tevilah. Including a note that the dish was toiveled is detrimental, since the recipient will assume that he has no requirement to toivel this dish, whereas in fact the end user is required to immerse it. For these reasons, I felt it incumbent on myself to bring this to the attention of the owner of the business.

The proprietor was very appreciative. He told me that in truth it was a big hassle for him to toivel the dishes, but he had been assuming that halacha required him to do so before he could fill them with nuts and candy.

Shortly after writing these words, I received the following shaylah:

“I wanted to ask you whether one must toivel an item that one is giving away as a present. When I studied the topic, I concluded that even if I purchase a utensil that requires tevilah, but I am planning on giving it to someone, it does not have a chiyuv tevilah until it reaches the recipient’s hands. Only then does it become kli seudah. This would also apply, for example, if someone gave a shalach manos bowl filled with candy, etc.; the utensil wouldn’t require tevilah until the person receives it. What do you think?”

To which I answered:

“It seems to me that since one is purchasing the item for someone’s personal use, and not to sell, that it should have a chiyuv tevilah at this point. Only items meant to be merchandise are absolved from tevilah.”

And then I received the following response:

“Who says that the recipient is going to use the utensil at his table? Indeed, I had the very same shaylah tonight. My wife took a small receptacle that was holding a plant, filled it with nuts and dried fruit, and brought it to someone as a present. Who said that the recipient will use it afterwards for food? Maybe it will be a candleholder, a decorative piece, etc. It doesn´t become kli seudah until she decides what she will use it for.”

The point the correspondent is making is that it may indeed be that this item will never be a food utensil, and therefore never be required to be immersed. Only the end user determines whether the item is indeed a food utensil, and therefore until he decides what to do with it, there is no requirement to immerse it.

Conclusion

According to Rav Hirsch, metal vessels, which require mankind’s mining, extracting and processing, represent man’s mastery over the earth and its materials. Whereas vessels made of earthenware or wood only involve man shaping the world’s materials to fit his needs, the manufacture of metal demonstrates man’s creative abilities to utilize natural mineral resources to fashion matter into a usable form. Consuming food, on the other hand, serves man’s most basic physical nature. Use of metal food vessels, then, represents the intellectual aspect of man serving his physical self, which, in a sense, is the opposite of why we were created — which was to use our physical self to assist our intellect to do Hashem’s will. Specifically in this instance, the Torah requires that the items produced be immersed in a mikveh before we use them, to endow them with increased kedusha before they are used for food. This demonstrates that although one may use one’s intellect for physical purposes, when doing so one must focus on the spiritual aspect that is served by the physical.

*Name has been changed to protect the confidence of the individuals involved.

Chalav Yisrael and Powdered Milk

When Yaakov’s family reached Egypt, they were now going to live in a country which raised large quantities of camels, horses, and donkeys, all of them non-kosher mammals that can be commercially milked. Since we know that the avos kept the entire Torah before it was given at Har Sinai, they now had to be concerned about the possibility that non-kosher milk might get mixed into the milk from their goats and sheep. Thus, although the halacha of chalav Yisrael was not created by Chazal until later, the concept must have already existed in this week’s parsha.

Question:

Dr. Levy asks me the following: “Friends of ours keep chalav Yisrael, but they will use foods made with non-chalav Yisrael powdered milk. But I know from my professional research that one can purchase powdered mare’s (female horses) and camel’s milk – they are specialty products that command a very high premium. So why is there any difference between using non-chalav Yisrael powdered milk, and non-chalav Yisrael fluid milk?”

The Mishnah (Avodah Zarah 35b, 39b) proscribes consuming milk that a gentile milked, a prohibition called chalav akum, unless a Jew supervised the process. Chalav akum was prohibited because of concern that the milk may have been adulterated with milk of a non-kosher species. As I wrote about extensively in a different article, there are three major approaches to define exactly when the prohibition applies.

The most lenient approach is that of the Pri Chadash (Yoreh Deah 115:15), who understands that one only needs to be concerned about chalav akum when the non-kosher milk is less expensive than the kosher variety, or it is difficult to sell. However, when kosher milk is less expensive, he contends that one does not need to be concerned that the gentile would add more expensive specialty non-kosher milk into regular kosher milk.

On the other extreme is the position of the Chasam Sofer, who maintained that the prohibition has a halachic status of davar shebeminyan, a rabbinic injunction that remains binding even when the reason why the takanah was introduced no longer applies and that the takanah remains in effect until a larger and more authoritative body declares the original sanction invalid (see Beitzah 5a). Since a more authoritative beis din never rescinded the prohibition on unsupervised gentile milk, consuming this milk involves a serious violation. The Chasam Sofer furthermore contends that consuming unsupervised milk violates a Torah prohibition of nedarim since the Jewish people accepted this ruling. All this is true, he contends, even when there is no incentive for the non-Jew to adulterate the product.

And there is an approach in between these two positions, that of Rav Moshe Feinstein and the Chazon Ish (Yoreh Deah 41:4) who contend that, in a place where non-kosher milk commands a higher price than kosher milk, it is still prohibited to use unsupervised milk. However, Rav Moshe understands that the takanah did not specifically require that a Jew attend the milking, but that one is completely certain that the milk has no admixture of non-kosher. However, when one is certain that the kosher milk is unadulterated, halacha considers the milk to be “supervised” and therefore kosher (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:47).

How can one be certain? The Mishnah recommended the most obvious way: have a Jew nearby who may enter at any moment. Of course, we realize that even this method is not foolproof, but it is as thorough as halacha requires.

Is there another way that one can be certain? Allow me to use my own example to explain Rav Moshe’s approach. Dr. Levy runs laboratory tests on some unsupervised milk and concludes with absolute certainty that in front of him is 100% sheep’s milk. However, no Jew supervised the milking. Is the milk kosher?

According to Rav Moshe’s explanation of the topic, this milk is certainly kosher since we can ascertain its source based on laboratory analysis.

In his earliest published teshuvah on the subject, Rav Moshe explained that when the government issues fines for adulteration of cow’s milk, the fear of this fine is sufficient proof that the milk is kosher. In later teshuvos, he is very clear that other reasons why we can assume that the milk is kosher are sufficient proof, including that normal commercial enterprises assume that standard milk is bovine milk (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:48, 49).

Being Stringent

Although Rav Moshe concludes that where one can rely that the standardly available milk is kosher there is no prohibition of chalav akum, he still rules in a different teshuvah that a chinuch institution must use only chalav Yisrael products even if all the children come from homes that do not use chalav Yisrael exclusively. He contends that part of chinuch is to show children that one follows a stricter standard even when halacha does not necessarily require one.

Powdered milk

With this introduction, I would now like to discuss the question raised above: Friends of ours keep chalav Yisrael, but will use foods made from non-chalav Yisrael powdered milk. But I know from my professional work that one can purchase powdered mare’s and camel’s milk – they are considered specialty items. So why is there any difference between using non-chalav Yisrael powdered milk, and non-chalav Yisrael fluid milk?

Those who allow use of non-chalav Yisrael milk powder follow the opinion presented by Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, Rav of Yerushalayim until his passing fifty years ago, and one of the greatest poskim of his era. Rav Frank assumed that the halacha follows the Chasam Sofer who requires Jewish supervision to permit the non-Jewish milk, and did not accept the heterim of the Pri Chadash, nor that of the Igros Moshe and Chazon Ish. Nevertheless, Rav Frank permitted powdered milk from an unsupervised gentile source for a very interesting reason.

The poskim permit using cheese that is gevinas Yisrael and butter (both these topics I explained in other articles) even when these products were made from unsupervised milk. Why did they permit this? Because the milk of non-kosher species is low in casein, it does not curd, which is the first step in producing cheese. In addition, the milk of non-kosher species is also low in milkfat (also called butterfat or cream), which makes it unprofitable to make butter from non-kosher milk. (I invite those curious about this aspect to read the highly entertaining responsum of the Shu’t Melamed LeHo’il, 2:36:2, on this topic.) For these reasons, even in the days of Chazal one could assume that a gentile would not add milk of non-kosher species when he intends to produce either cheese or butter, and therefore these items were excluded from the prohibition of chalav akum.

May powdered milk be treated like cheese and butter?

Rav Frank notes that there is a significant qualitative difference between cheese and butter, on the one hand, and powdered milk, on the other, in that there is an inherent problem with making cheese and butter from non-kosher milk, whereas one can powder any milk. (This is precisely Dr. Levy’s question I mentioned above.) Thus, one could argue that the leniency that applies to cheese and butter should not apply to milk powder.

However, Rav Frank quotes the Ritva (Avodah Zarah 35b) who pointed out that technically one could make cheese even from non-kosher species, but the cheese yield from these milks is very poor, and when the milk curds, most of it becomes whey. Thus, although it is theoretically possible to make cheese or butter from non-kosher milk, the halacha does not require one to be concerned about this. Rather one may assume that a gentile would not adulterate this milk. It is indeed noteworthy that while researching milk and cheese made the world over, I discovered cheeses made from the milk of cows, sheep, goats, water buffalo, and yak, all of them kosher species. I also found places where milk from several non-kosher mammals, such as donkeys, mares, and camels, are consumed. But I did not find a single populace making cheese from the milk of non-kosher species, verifying the Ritva’s observation that it is simply not worthwhile to make cheese from the milk of non-kosher species.

Rav Frank concludes that what permits the unsupervised milk used in cheese and butter is not that it is impossible to use non-kosher milk for this process but that it is unlikely. Thus, he reasons, although one could powder non-kosher milk, the prohibition of chalav akum was limited to fluid milk and other products available in the days of Chazal which could easily be made from non-kosher milk. Since powdered milk did not exist in the days of Chazal, and since we are certain that standardly available powdered milk is of bovine origin, the prohibition against chalav akum does not apply to milk powder just as it does not apply to butter and cheese.

We should note that the Chazon Ish took strong issue with Rav Frank’s position treating milk powder differently from fluid milk, the Chazon Ish contending that the lenience that applies to cheese and butter applies only because these products inherently are not made from non-kosher milk, a logic that does not apply to milk powder.

Thus, Dr. Levy’s friends who keep chalav Yisrael but use foods made with non-chalav Yisrael powdered milk follow the conclusion of Rav Pesach Frank, whereas those who are strict regarding milk powder follow the Chazon Ish’s approach. In Eretz Yisrael this has become one of the major defining factors for the difference between what is called mehadrin (stricter) kashrus standard, and regular non-mehadrin hechsherim. The regular hechsherim allow use of non-chalav Yisrael milk powder (at this point, always imported from the United States) whereas the mehadrin hechsherim use only pure chalav Yisrael products. The non-chalav Yisrael milk powder is usually noted on the label with the statement, in Hebrew א. חלב נכרי, which stands for avak chalav nachri, or gentile milk powder. (By the way, no Eretz Yisrael hechsher allows use of regular unsupervised fluid milk as kosher; all hechsherim, both mehadrin and non-mehadrin, have accepted the position of the Chasam Sofer.)

Now that we are all a bit more educated about the topic, we might want to read up on the topics of chalav Yisrael butter and cheese.

What Will the Neighbors Think? – Understanding the Halachos of Maris Ayin

When Yehudah’s friend the Adulami was unable to locate Tamar, Yehudah reacts: “What can I do? This will lead to an embarrassing situation.”

This sounds like a good week (parshas Va’Yeshev) to study the halachos of maris ayin.

Question # 1:  My boss asked me to attend a lunch meeting with a new client in a non-kosher restaurant. May I attend the meeting, or do I violate maris ayin if I am seen in a treif restaurant? If it is permissible to attend the meeting, may I order a cup of coffee or a fruit plate?

Question # 2: When I serve coffee after a fleishig meal, I like to put non-dairy creamer on the table in a small pitcher because the original container is unsightly. Recently, someone told me that I may not place the creamer on the fleishig table unless it is in its original container. Is this true?

Question # 3: Hyman Goldman would like to retire and sell his business, Hymie Goldman’s Bakery, to a non-Jew who will keep it open on Shabbos. Must he require the gentile to change the shop’s name?

Question #4: My not-yet-observant cousin is making a bar mitzvah in a Reform temple. We have a good relationship, and he is very curious about exploring authentic Judaism. May I attend the bar mitzvah?

Answer: Most of us are familiar with the prohibition of maris ayin, avoiding doing something that may raise suspicion that one violated halacha. However, most of us are uncertain when this rule applies, and when it does not.

Here are some examples of maris ayin mentioned by the Mishnah and Gemara:

A. One may not hang out wet clothes on Shabbos because neighbors might think that he washed them on Shabbos.[1] This is true even when all the neighbors realize that he is a meticulously observant individual.

B. Officials who entered the Beis HaMikdash treasury did so barefoot and wearing garments that contained no hemmed parts or wide sleeves, and certainly no pockets or cuffs, so that it would be impossible for them to hide any coins.[2] The Mishnah states that this practice is derived from the pasuk vihiyisem nekiyim meiHashem umiyisroel,[3] — Do things in a way that is as obviously clean in the eyes of people as it is viewed by Hashem. Rav Moshe Feinstein contends that some types of maris ayin are prohibited min haTorah![4]

C. Tzedakah collectors should get other people to convert their currency for them and not convert it themselves, because people might think that they gave themselves a more favorable exchange rate.[5]

A Curious Contradiction

The concept of it being a mitzvah to avoid a situation of maris ayin is a fascinating curiosity, because it contradicts another important Torah mitzvah – to judge people favorably. This mitzvah requires us to judge a Torah Jew favorably when we see him act in a questionable way.[6] If everyone were to judge others favorably at all times, there would never be a reason for the law of maris ayin. Yet we see that the Torah is concerned that someone might judge a person unfavorably and suspect him of violating a mitzvah.

Indeed, a person’s actions must be above suspicion; at the same time, people observing him act in a suspicious way are required to judge him favorably.

Entering a Treif Restaurant

May I enter a non-kosher restaurant to use the bathroom, to eat a permitted item, or to attend a professional meeting?

A prominent rav once gleaned insight on this shaylah from early poskim, who discussed the kashrus issues of Jewish travelers. In the sixteenth century, there was a dispute between the Rama and the Maharshal whether a Jewish traveler may eat herring and pickles prepared and served in non-kosher inns.[7] The Rama ruled that, under the circumstances, a traveler could eat these items on the inn’s non-kosher plates, whereas the Maharshal prohibited using the inn’s plates. However, neither sage prohibited either eating or entering the inn because of maris ayin; from this, the rav inferred that entering a non-kosher eating establishment does not violate maris ayin.

However, Rav Moshe Feinstein rules that entering a non-kosher eatery is a violation of maris ayin.[8] Why does he not compare this law to the inn of the earlier poskim?

The answer is that in the sixteenth century, the inn functioned as a place of shelter and lodging, not only as a place providing food. Therefore, someone seeing you enter the inn would have assumed that you were looking for a place to sleep, and that you had no intention of eating non-kosher food there. Thus, the sixteenth-century inn is comparable to a twenty-first century hotel that contains non-kosher restaurants. There is certainly no maris ayin prohibition to visit a hotel, since a passerby would assume that you are entering the hotel for reasons other than eating non-kosher food. However, the primary reason people enter a non-kosher restaurant is to eat treif food. Therefore, Rav Moshe rules that it is prohibited to enter a treif restaurant because of maris ayin.

Likely? Or almost likely?

This leads us to a practical question. May one do something that could be interpreted in different ways, one of which involves violating the Torah and the other not? Is this activity prohibited because of maris ayin? For example, someone hanging up wet clothes on Shabbos may have just washed them, or he may have just accidentally dropped them into a basin of water or used them to mop up a spill. Yet the halacha is that this is prohibited because of maris ayin. This implies that since the most common reason for hanging out clothes is that they were recently washed, the activity is prohibited because of maris ayin.

Similarly, there are many reasons why one might enter a treif restaurant: to attend a meeting, to use the comfort facilities, or to drink a cup of water. On the other hand, the most common reason people enter a non-kosher restaurant is to eat non-kosher food. This is why Rav Moshe prohibits entering a treif restaurant.

However, Rav Moshe rules that under highly extenuating circumstances, such as when one is famished and there is nowhere else to eat, one may enter a treif restaurant. This is based on another principle of Chazal that when one suffers a great deal, one may override a rabbinic prohibition to alleviate the pain.[9] For this reason, Rav Moshe permits someone who is famished to eat kosher food in a non-kosher restaurant. Based on his ruling, one could presumably permit entering a treif restaurant to use the restroom, if it is the only one readily available.

The Company Cafeteria

Many workplaces provide a cafeteria where one can purchase (non-kosher) food or bring in one’s own food. Alternatively, some cafeterias have packaged kosher food available. In either of these situations, there is no concern for maris ayin, since people enter the cafeteria to eat kosher food also.

May I Attend a Meeting where they will serve Non-Kosher food?

Rabbonim rule differently on this issue; therefore, one should ask a shaylah of his own rav. Personally, I believe that the answer depends on how secure one is at one’s employment. If you feel that skipping the meeting might jeopardize your employment, then you may attend, since losing your job entails a great amount of suffering. However, if you feel that it will not jeopardize your employment, you may not attend.

Are there new Maris Ayin cases?

If a situation exists that could be a case of maris ayin, but is not mentioned by Chazal, is it prohibited because of maris ayin? There is actually an early dispute about this question, between the Rashba and the Pri Chodosh. A little explanation is necessary before we present this case: Chazal prohibited placing fish blood, which is perfectly kosher, in a serving bowl since someone might confuse it with animal blood.[10] Based on this Gemara, the Rashba prohibited cooking meat in human milk, even though human milk is halachically pareve.[11] Similarly, the Rama prohibits cooking meat in “almond milk” — a white, milk-like liquid made from almonds that probably looked similar to our non-dairy creamer or soy milk — because of its similar appearance to cow’s milk. One may cook meat in almond milk and serve it only if one leaves pieces of almond in the “milk” to call attention to its non-dairy origin.[12] The Pri Chadash disagrees with the Rama, contending that we should not create our own cases of maris ayin and one should prohibit only those items that were prohibited by Chazal.[13] The consensus of poskim is to prohibit these new maris ayin cases, following the position of Rashba and Rama.

Based on this ruling, some contemporary authorities contend that one should not serve pareve, non-dairy creamer after a fleishig meal, since someone might think that something milchig is being served after a fleishig meal. They permit serving the “creamer” in the original container that clearly identifies it as a pareve product, similar to serving the meat cooked with almond milk, provided there are some almonds in the “milk.”

However, other poskim contend that today no maris ayin issue exists germane to these products, since the average person knows about the ready availability of pareve creamers, cheeses, ice creams, margarines, soy and rice milk, and the like.[14]

This leads us to a new discussion —

Maybe this is no longer Maris Ayin?

If something was prohibited as maris ayin in earlier generations, does it become permitted if there is no longer a maris ayin issue? Can we prove that the prohibition against maris ayin disappears if the issue is no longer a concern? Is it correct that although, at one time, one could not cook meat in almond milk, today one may cook meat in soy milk, since pareve milk substitutes are readily available? Similarly, may one serve margarine at a fleishig meal?

We can gather proof for answering this shaylah from the following case:

One may not hire a gentile to perform work on Shabbos that a Jew may not do. However, a non-Jew may operate his own business on Shabbos, even if he rents his facility from a Jew.

The Gemara rules that a Jew may rent his field to a non-Jewish sharecropper, since the gentile is not his employee. However, a Jew may not rent his bathhouse to a gentile, since the non-Jew may operate the bathhouse on Shabbos.[15]

How is a Bathhouse different from a Field?

Why may I rent the non-Jew my field, but not my bathhouse? What is the difference between the two?

At the time of the Gemara, it was common to rent fields, and thus someone seeing a gentile work a Jewish-owned field on Shabbos would assume that the gentile rented it. He would not think that the Jew hired the gentile to work for him, which would constitute a violation of the laws of Shabbos.

However in antiquity, it was uncommon to rent out a bathhouse. The person who owned the bathhouse hired employees to operate the business for him. Therefore, someone seeing a gentile operate a Jewish-owned bathhouse on Shabbos might assume that the Jew hired gentiles to operate his bathhouse on Shabbos, which violates halacha. Because of this, Chazal prohibited renting a bathhouse to a gentile, because it would result in maris ayin when people see the gentile operating the Jew’s bathhouse on Shabbos.[16]

Shulchan Aruch[17] rules that if it is common in a certain city for people to rent out their bathhouses, one may rent one’s bathhouse to a gentile, despite the Gemara’s ruling. There is no maris ayin, since people in this city will assume that the gentile rented the bathhouse from its owner. Thus, the maris ayin prohibition of the Gemara is rescinded in places and times when the concern of suspicion no longer exists. Similarly, we can conclude that nowadays, someone seeing non-dairy creamer served at a fleishig meal will assume that it is a pareve milk substitute, and that there is no issue of maris ayin.

Question # 3: Hyman Goldman would like to retire and sell his business, Hymie Goldman’s Bakery, to a non-Jew, who will keep the business open on Shabbos. Must he require the non-Jew to change the name of the shop?

First, some background to this shaylah.

Rama permits renting a business that people do not associate with a Jewish owner to a gentile.[18] Thus, a Jew may buy the regional franchise of a non-Jewish company and rent or franchise out the individual stores to gentiles. Acharonim dispute whether he may do this even where the Jew is sometimes involved in the management of the stores.[19] Similarly, a Jew who owns a shopping mall may rent the stores to gentiles, since people assume that each business is owned individually. However, if the rent includes a percentage of sales, he might thereby be receiving sechar Shabbos, profits from work performed on Shabbos. One should ask a shaylah, since the halacha in this case depends on the specific circumstances involved.

However, although a Jew may rent his facility to a gentile tenant, it is unclear whether he may sell the business to a gentile who will keep the Jew’s name on the business and have it open on Shabbos. Even if passersby realize that there are now exclusively non-Jews staffing Hymie’s, they may think that Hyman still owns the shop and is hiring gentiles to operate the business for him. I discussed this shaylah with several different rabbonim and received different answers.

Here is another interesting maris ayin shaylah:

“I will be working in a town with very few observant people. There is an observant woman in town who lives alone, who will be away the entire time I am there. She is very willing to let me use her house while she is away. Is there a problem that people may not realize that she is away, and they might think that we are violating the prohibition of yichud – being secluded with someone of the other gender to whom one is not closely related?”

Rav Moshe Feinstein discusses this almost identical shaylah. Someone wants to sleep and eat at a widow’s house when she is out of town. Is there a concern of maris ayin, because people will think that he is staying at her house when she is home, and that they are violating the prohibition of yichud? Rav Moshe rules that it is permitted, reasoning that since there are many ways to avoid yichud, we need not assume that people will think that he is violating the halacha.[20]

This is not Maris Ayin

Rav Moshe Feinstein notes that maris ayin does not include doing something permitted that people might mistakenly think is forbidden. Maris ayin means that someone thinks I violated something – he thinks that I misappropriated someone else’s money, washed clothes on Shabbos, ate something non-kosher, etc. However, it does not include doing something permitted that people might mistakenly think is forbidden.

Thus, Rav Moshe discusses whether there is any prohibition in traveling a short distance by car on Friday evening after candle lighting time, when you will certainly not come to desecration of Shabbos. He rules that one may do this, since there is no prohibition against doing work after candle lighting time, even if ignorant people think that there is.

Question # 4: My not-yet-observant cousin is making a bar mitzvah in a Reform temple. We have a good relationship, and he is very curious about exploring authentic Judaism. May I attend the bar mitzvah?

Rav Moshe rules that one may not enter a reform temple at the time people are praying there, because someone might think one prayed there, which is prohibited according to halacha. Alternatively, someone might erroneously learn from this person’s example that it is permitted to pray with them. Someone faced with the above predicament should discuss the issue with his rav, how to develop the relationship with his cousin, without entangling himself in any halachic issues.

Conclusion:

By examining the parameters of maris ayin, we become aware of the importance of the impression that our actions make. We cannot delude ourselves into thinking that it does not matter what others think of us. Our behavior must not only be correct, but also appear correct. In general, our lives should be a model of appropriate behavior and kiddush Hashem. Let others look at us and say, “He is a frum Jew – he lives his life on a higher plane of honesty, of dignity, and of caring for others.” — As Chazal say in Pirkei Avos: “Kol she’ruach habrios nocha heimenu ruach hamakom nocha heimenu, One who is pleasing to his fellowman is pleasing to his Creator.


[1] Mishnah and Gemara Shabbos 146b

[2] Shekalim 3:2

[3] Bamidbar 32:22

[4] Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 4:82

[5] Bava Basra 8b; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 257:2

[6] For further information on the mitzvah of judging people favorably, see Shaarei Teshuvah of Rabbeinu Yonah, 3:218.

[7] Yam shel Shelomoh, Chullin 8:44; quoted by Taz, Yoreh Deah 91:2

[8] Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:40

[9] see Kesubos 60a

[10] Kereisos 21b

[11] Shu’t HaRashba 3:257

[12] Rama, Yoreh Deah 87:3

[13] Yoreh Deah 87:6

[14] Shu’t Yechaveh Daas 3:59

[15] Mishnah Avodah Zarah 21a

[16] Avodah Zarah 21b

[17] Orach Chayim 243:2

[18] 243:2

[19] see Mishnah Berurah 243:14

[20] Shu’t Igros Moshe, Even HaEzer 3:19

The Milky Whey — Does Chalav Yisrael Apply Today?

clip_image002_thumb.gifQuestion #1:

Shirley mentions to her friend:  “I do not understand why people are concerned about using only chalav Yisrael. Do they really think that someone is adding pig’s milk?”

Question #2:

Muttie inquires: “My friend quoted his rav that it is more important to keep chalav Yisrael today than it ever was before. How could this be?”

Chazal (Bechoros 6b) derive from this week’s parsha a rule that whatever derives from a non-kosher species, such as eggs or milk, is also non-kosher, and thus milk of mares, camels, llamas, donkeys or sows are all non-kosher. Still, people find chalav Yisrael a perplexing matter. We have all heard various authorities quoted as saying that today use of chalav Yisrael is only a chumrah, whereas others rule that consuming non-chalav Yisrael foods is a serious infraction of halacha. The mission of this article is to provide appreciation of the issues involved. So, let us start from the beginning of the topic by understanding the origins of this proscription and then explaining the different approaches as to why it does or does not apply today.

Before we even begin our halachic discussion, we need some biological and food production information. The definition of a mammal is an animal that nurses its young with mother’s milk. (The Modern Hebrew word for mammal is yoneik, literally, that which nurses, meaning that the young suckles mother’s milk.) Hashem, who provides for all His creatures, custom-developed a formula that provides the ideal nourishment for the young of each mammalian species. This supplies the perfect “food pyramid” balanced diet with all the proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals that a young growing foal, cub, kitten, puppy, kid, lamb, infant or calf needs to thrive and mature until it is ready for an adult diet, which in many species is when it is ready to earn its own living.

There are thousands of species of mammals, yet each species’ milk is somewhat unique. The young of kosher animals require a certain protein, called casein, in higher proportions than do the young of non-kosher animals, and therefore Hashem made kosher milk with a higher proportion of casein. Non-kosher milk, of course, also contains significant amount of protein necessary for a young growing mammal, but most of this protein is categorized as “whey protein.” (When I use the term “non-kosher milk” in this article I will be referring to milk from non-kosher species.) Kosher milk also contains whey protein, but in much smaller proportion to the casein in the milk.

The Origins of Chalav Yisrael

The Mishnah (Avodah Zarah 35b, 39b) proscribes consuming milk that a gentile milked, unless a Jew supervised the milking, a prohibition called chalav akum. The Gemara notes that we are not concerned that the gentile is misrepresenting non-kosher milk as kosher — milk from non-kosher species looks different from kosher milk, and this would be easily identified. Rather, the prohibition is because the milk may have been adulterated with milk of a non-kosher species. The Gemara subsequently discusses how closely must the Jew supervise the milking, concluding that when the gentile has both kosher and non-kosher animals that could be milked, the Jew may be sitting in a place where he/she cannot observe the milking, provided that should he/she stand up he would be able to observe the milking. Since the Jew can rise to his feet at any moment, we may assume that the gentile would not risk milking his non-kosher animal and losing the Jew’s business. Therefore this milk still qualifies as kosher chalav Yisrael, meaning milk that was supervised by a Jew.

On the other hand, should the gentile have only kosher species in his herd, the Gemara implies that the Jew does not need to maintain as close supervision, but it does not define exactly how much supervision is required. Although the milking still requires the attendance of a Jew, the halachic authorities dispute the reason and purpose of the Jew’s presence. This dispute is what underlies the controversy alluded to above.

The most lenient approach

The most lenient approach to the question of chalav akum is that of the Pri Chodosh (Yoreh Deah 115:15), who understands that one needs to be concerned about chalav akum only when the non-kosher milk is less expensive than the kosher variety, or when the non-kosher milk is difficult to sell. However, when kosher milk is less expensive, he contends that one does not need to be concerned that the gentile would add more expensive, specialty non-kosher milk into regular kosher milk. The Pri Chodosh reports that he was living in Amsterdam at the time that he wrote his commentary (he subsequently relocated to Eretz Yisrael), and the vast majority of the Torah community there drank the milk sold by gentiles and did not consider it to be chalav akum. He further adds that he himself relied on this approach and drank this milk. The key point of the Pri Chodosh is that there is no requirement that a Jew actually observe the milking, nor is there even a requirement that one be absolutely certain that no non-kosher milk was added. It is sufficient that there be no incentive for the gentile to add non-kosher milk to his product, and the Mishnah and Gemara that required a Jew to supervise the milking did so only when the gentile had some motivation to adulterate the milk.

The Chasam Sofer’s approach

On the other hand, the Chasam Sofer (Shu”t Yoreh Deah #107) took tremendous umbrage at people who were lenient in the use of milk from gentiles. He maintained that Chazal required that a Jew actually supervise the milking and that, furthermore, should their reason no longer apply, the rabbinic injunction remains binding until a larger and more authoritative body declares the original sanction invalid (see Gemara Beitzah 5a). Since a more authoritative beis din never rescinded the prohibition on unsupervised gentile milk, consuming this milk constitutes a serious violation. The Chasam Sofer requires that a Jew be on hand to observe (or be able to observe) the milking, and if a Jew is not there, the produced milk is completely non-kosher because of the rabbinic injunction, even when there is no incentive for the non-Jew to adulterate the product.

Risk of Snake Bite

Chazal (Bava Basra 110a; Avodah Zarah 27b) invoke the verse uporeitz geder yishachenu nachash  to mean that someone who violates a rabbinic injunction deserves to be punished by being bitten by a snake, an indication that people should be exceedingly careful not to ignore rabbinic prohibitions (see Koheles 10:8). The Chasam Sofer writes that someone who ignores the rabbinic prohibition of chalav akum and drinks milk relying on the assumption that the gentile would not add non-kosher milk should be categorized as a poreitz geder, deserving of the punishment of yishachenu nachash.

Furthermore, the Chasam Sofer contends that even if the Pri Chodosh is correct that when kosher milk is cheaper than non-kosher milk the prohibition of chalav akum does not apply, since the Jewish people rejected this ruling of the Pri Chodosh, we are prohibited from consuming dairy products that a Jew did not supervise because of the laws of nedarim, vows. Since Jews did not use chalav akum even in places where non-kosher species are not milked, it is considered that they accepted a vow to prohibit unsupervised milk. As a result, the Chasam Sofer rules that it is prohibited min HaTorah to consume unsupervised milk, with the full stringency of a vow.

One in-between position

There is an approach in between these two positions, that of Rav Moshe Feinstein and the Chazon Ish (Yoreh Deah 41:4), who contend that in a place where non-kosher milk commands a higher price than kosher milk, it is still prohibited to use non-supervised milk. However, Rav Moshe understands that the takanah did not specifically require that a Jew attend the milking, but that one is completely certain that the milk has no non-kosher admixture. However, when one is certain that the kosher milk is unadulterated, halacha considers the milk to be “supervised” (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:47).

How can one be certain? The Mishnah recommended the most obvious way: have a Jew nearby who may enter at any moment. Of course, we realize that even this method is not foolproof, but it is as thorough as halacha requires.

Is there another way that one can be certain? Allow me to use my own example to explain Rav Moshe’s approach. Someone runs laboratory tests on some unsupervised milk and concludes with absolute certainty that in front of him is 100% sheep’s milk. However, no Jew supervised the milking. Is the milk kosher?

According to Rav Moshe’s analysis, this milk is certainly kosher, since we can ascertain its source.

In his earliest published teshuvah on the subject, Rav Moshe explained that when the government fines those caught adulterating cow’s milk, the fear of this consequence is sufficient proof that the milk is kosher. In later teshuvos, he is very clear that other reasons why we can assume that the milk is kosher are sufficient proof, including that normal commercial practice is that standard milk is bovine milk (Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:48, 49). One should note that the Chazon Ish also agrees with Rav Moshe’s approach.

Being Stringent

Although Rav Moshe concludes that where one can rely that the standardly available milk is kosher there is no prohibition of chalav akum, he still rules in a different teshuvah that a chinuch institution should use only chalav Yisrael products even if all the children come from homes that do not use chalav Yisrael exclusively. He contends that part of chinuch is to show children that one follows a stricter standard, even when halacha does not necessarily require one.

Contemporary Problem

There is another major reason why some poskim who in general accept the lenient approaches regarding the prohibition of chalav akum feel that one should be stringent today. This is because of the common occurrence of a veterinary problem that affects dairy cows called displaced abomasums, which is often treated in a way that may render this cow’s milk non-kosher. I will discuss this topic a different time.

At this point, we can answer Shirley’s question, which I mentioned above: “I do not understand why some people keep chalav Yisrael today. Do they really think that someone is adding pig’s milk?”

Indeed, even in the time of the Gemara, it was probably unheard of for anyone to add pig’s milk or, for that matter, for anyone to use pig’s milk, since sows are almost impossible to milk. Although most non-kosher species do not allow themselves to be milked (have you ever tried to milk a cat?), camels, donkeys, and mares can all be milked and produce a palatable product. As a matter of fact, at times there was a large (non-kosher) market for mare’s milk, because of its reputed health benefits. (See Encyclopedia Talmudis Volume 15 column 178-179.) Contemporarily, there is extensive research at Ben Gurion University about use of some antibodies found in camel’s milk for treatment of a host of autoimmune diseases. I have been asked many questions about use of this milk, which is clearly non-kosher, but is permitted in case of a life-threatening ailment. (The shaylos that result from this last case will need to be dealt with at a different time.)

To answer Shirley’s question succinctly: although we can assume that the milk on your supermarket shelf is unadulterated cow’s milk, the Chasam Sofer still rules that Chazal prohibited consuming this milk, and this prohibition is in full effect today, even when the reason for the takanah no longer applies. In addition, other rabbonim have voiced other concerns about the kashrus of unsupervised dairy cows.

Stricter than Ever?

At this point, let us examine the second question I mentioned above: “My friend quoted his rav that it is more important to keep chalav Yisrael today than it ever was before. How could this be?”

One obvious reason for this rav’s position is that he holds, as does the Chasam Sofer, that using non-chalav Yisrael incurs a Torah prohibition of violating vows. Furthermore, he may feel that since being lenient on this issue is so rampant, one must demonstrate the importance of this mitzvah. He may also be concerned about the displaced abomasums problem, and holds that this prohibits the milk min haTorah.

In Conclusion

Notwithstanding the fact that the Chazon Ish writes the reasons why unsupervised milk is permitted, he never allowed its use; and Rav Moshe similarly advocates being strict, and himself did not rely on the heter. Similarly, it is well known that Rav Eliezer Silver traveled across North America by train taking his own chalav Yisrael milk with him as he went. (I have no idea why it did not spoil en route.) In conclusion, we allow each reader to clarify with his own rav whether his or her circumstances permit relying on using non-chalav Yisrael milk.

Observing a Colorful Lifestyle

clip_image002This week’s parsha describes how master artisans used three dyes, techeiles, argaman, and tola’as shani, in the manufacture of the Kohen Gadol’s vestments. These colors were also used to produce the curtains and coverings of the Mishkan, and the halachic conclusion is that these dyes are also used for dyeing the kohen hedyot’s belt (see Rambam, Hil. Klei HaMikdash 8:1, 11, 13, based on Yoma 6a, 12a). In addition, processing the ashes of the parah adumah (Bamidbar 19:6), purifying a metzora and decontaminating a house that became tamei all use tola’as shani (Vayikra 14:4, 49). As we will discover, correctly identifying the tola’as shani not only affects these halachos and those of the Beis HaMikdash, but also concerns a wide assortment of foods and beverages that we eat and drink.

At one point in my life, when I worked as a "rabbinic field representative" (aka  a mashgiach), I once made a surprise inspection of a company that produced juice drinks – let’s call it Generic Juices Inc. I was surprised to discover that the plant was bottling beverages containing carmine red coloring, and other drinks colored with enocianina, a coloring derived from grape skins. Neither of these products was on the lists of approved ingredients, and for good reason. Of course, this created a serious problem for the hechsher, the company, and most of all, the unsuspecting consumer.

Whether we like it or not, many of our foods are colored with a host of coloring agents; some derived from food items, such as beets, berries, sugar (caramel coloring), turmeric and annatto; whereas others are derived from inedible materials such as coal or petroleum, whose sources most consumers would prefer to ignore. Although processing colorants can compromise the kashrus of the finished product, few food colors are themselves obtained from non-kosher materials. However, two common food pigments originate from non-kosher substances: One is carmine red, also called cochineal, which is a very common color used to color fruits, yogurts, juice drinks, maraschino cherries etc., and the other is enocianina, colloquially often called simply eno, a red or purple color similarly commonly used in beverages, fruit fillings and confections. The origin of carmine is from a scale insect — I discussed the kashrus ramifications in an article that I sent out on Parshas Va’eira Suffice it to say that almost all kashrus organizations treat carmine color as non-kosher.

ENO – A GRAPE SKIN EXTRACT

After the juice has been squeezed out of the grapes, the remaining skin pulp is processed into a commercial coloring agent called enocianina. Although one could produce kosher eno from kosher-processed grape skins, grape skin color available today is almost always produced after the grapes have become non-kosher and thus we usually assume that eno is not kosher. However, the prohibition here is only the rabbinic prohibition of stam yeinam, grape juice and wine product handled by a gentile.

GENERIC JUICE DRINKS

Unfortunately, Generic Juices had already produced and shipped tons of product using either carmine or eno – and all of it bearing the kosher certification symbol on the label! Is the kashrus agency halachically required to insist on a recall of the product from the supermarket shelves?

RECALL

Companies hate having their products recalled, both for technical reasons, the major expense involved, and because it is a public relations nightmare. The policy of this particular hechsher was not to require the company to recall the product unless the product could not be used even after the fact, bedei’evid. However, if the product would be kosher be’dei’evid because of bitul, the hechsher would not require that the product be recalled. It was now the responsibility of the hechsher’s poskim to decide whether the product is prohibited or permitted after the fact.

Why should the finished product be kosher if the colorant added was not?

The basis for this question follows:

Coloring agents are used in very minute amounts. Indeed, when the Spaniards discovered carmine red, they sold the concentrated powdered pigment at a higher price per ounce than gold! Thus, the amount of coloring used to color a juice drink or maraschino cherry is significantly less than the amount that we usually say is bateil (nullified) in a finished product. Although one may never add treif product to a food and rely that it will become bateil, if non-kosher product was inadvertently added in minute quantities the finished product is usually permitted.

The primary criterion to determine whether the treif food is bateil is:

Can the non-kosher product be tasted, either because of its quantity or because it is a flavoring agent?

This test is passed with flying colors! None of these colors can be tasted in the finished product.

However, there is another criterion:

Is the treif product noticeable?

If one can see a treif ingredient floating inside a food, one may not consume the food without first removing the non-kosher item.

COLORS ARE NOTICEABLE

The boldness of a color announces its existence. Can we say that a color is bateil when we clearly see evidence of its existence?

Several great halachic authorities discuss this question, reaching widely different conclusions. Some prohibit consumption of the resultant product precisely because one can notice its existence (Pri Megadim, Mishbetzos Zahav 100:1; Minchas Kohen, Sefer HaTaaroves 3:3, quoted by Darkei Teshuvah 102:30). They contend that bitul can only happen when the offending item leaves no trace. A colorant is by definition very noticeable and therefore not bateil. According to this approach, all of the juice drinks mentioned must be recalled since the non-kosher ingredient is very noticeable.

On the other hand, the Vilna Gaon argues that determining whether the food is kosher depends on whether one can taste the treif ingredient (Yoreh Deah 102:6). In our instance, although the color is noticeable, no one tastes the colorant, and therefore the finished product is permitted, assuming that the admixture was made in error. An earlier authority, the Minchas Yaakov (74:5), also espouses this position.

A COMPROMISE POSITION – IN WHOLE CLOTH

Some authorities concluded a position between these two positions, comparing our question to a Gemara that discusses whether someone who stole dye and cloth and now returns the dyed fabric fulfills his mitzvah of returning what he stole. The Gemara rules that this depends on whether the dye is considered to still exist after it has been used because its color is still noticeable (Bava Kamma 101a). Is the color on the cloth treated as if the dye itself still exists, or did the dye become bateil and no longer exists?

The particular issue in that Gemara remains unresolved, and therefore halachically is considered an unresolved doubt, a safek (Shu”t HaRan #70). Based on this discussion, several prominent authorities contend that a colorant that may involve a Torah prohibition is prohibited, because of the principle of safek de’oraysa lechumra, we rule stringently in a question involving an unresolved Torah issue; whereas one that involves only a rabbinic prohibition is permitted because of safek derabbanan lekula, we are lenient regarding an unresolved question involving only a rabbinic prohibition (Pri Chodosh, Yoreh Deah 102:5; Chasam Sofer, quoted by Darkei Teshuvah 102:30).

CONCLUSION

By this time, I presume most readers want to know what the hechsher did. The deciding posek ruled like the last position mentioned, and contended that the carmine coloring might be prohibited min haTorah and therefore the company must recall the beverages containing carmine. Since the grape skin extract only involves a rabbinic prohibition, he did not require the company to recall this product, contending that according to most authorities this product may be drunk since the eno is nullified in the final mix.

We should always pray that the food we eat fulfills all the halachos that the Torah commands without resorting to any controversial shaylos.

Can the Hechsher HACK It? What Is behind the Kosher Symbol?

clip_image002Question #1:

“My rav discreetly told me to avoid using a particular hechsher which I see is very popular. I am curious why this should be so. I know that there are negligent hechsherim out there, but don’t all reliable hechsherim follow the same Shulchan Aruch?”

 Question #2:

“Some of my friends use specific hechsherim, and do not use others. Is there something halachic behind these distinctions, or is this simply politics?”

 Answer:

“And Yaakov was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man realized that he was unable to defeat Yaakov, he struck the “kaf” of Yaakov’s thigh, which became dislocated as a result of the wrestling. And the sun rose as Yaakov passed Penuel and he was limping because of his injured thigh. Therefore, the descendents of Yisroel do not eat the sciatic sinew to this very day, for the man struck Yaakov on that sinew, dislocating it” (Breishis 32:25-26, 32-33).

 With these words, the Torah introduces us to the first kashrus mitzvah. Ever since, availability of kosher food has remained an ongoing concern. Nevertheless, modern life has changed who is responsible for overseeing and controlling the “kosher food chain.” Whereas in earlier generations, governance of the local kosher standard was the province of the town’s rav, modern production and distribution has placed much control hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Yes, it is true that the local rav or vaad hakashrus may still decide the standards maintained by the caterers, restaurants, and local bakeries who accept its authority, but even here, the local rabbinate is dependent on others for the halachic quality of the raw materials. Often local hechsherim do not have the ability, budget, or resources to perform their own independent review of the sources and instead rely on the organization overseeing the production.

 In addition, contemporary food manufacture has created new areas of responsibility for the local rabbinate. The old-time rav was chosen because of his Torah knowledge, his yiras shamayim (fear of G-d), and his common sense. These factors allowed the rav to successfully oversee the kashrus of the community. Today’s complex world of food production, however, requires additional skills and knowledge, including familiarity with modern manufacture, to ensure proper kashrus.

Although most consumers are very curious why some hechsherim are used and others are not, nevertheless, the average kosher shopper is almost clueless why a particular product is deemed usable or not. Most people make their day-to-day food shopping decisions on a sociological basis – they purchase items based on whether the kashrus of the particular product or hechsher is trusted by “their crowd.” The kosher customer is eager for more information.

The goal of this article is to appreciate the incredible work that hechsherim assume to provide us with kosher food. At the same time, we will analyze why different rabbonim have different standards even though all are following their understanding of the halacha. This will make us better educated consumers, which is always an advantage.

WHAT MAKES A HECHSHER?

In addition to the absolute requirement that everyone involved in reliable kashrus must be G-d fearing, we can categorize the dynamics involved in maintaining proper kashrus under three main headings:

I. Halachic Knowledge

Every person in the chain of a good hechsher must have adequate knowledge of halacha to fulfill his responsibility so that the hechsher can maintain quality kashrus standards.

II. Awareness of Modern Manufacturing

Kashrus in the contemporary world requires extensive knowledge of modern manufacturing procedures and the processing of raw materials.

III. Control of the Product

The hechsher must establish proper methods of control so that the desired standards indeed exist.

When the hechsher can successfully HACk these requirements, the product is reliably Kosher.

Let me explain briefly what these three categories entail.

 

I. HALACHIC KNOWLEDGE AND STANDARDS

The kashrus control department of a supervisory organization can be divided into three units:

(1) Deciders — Those in charge of making the decisions. Their responsibility includes all halachic decision making.

(2) Administrators — Those with the administrative responsibility to oversee the actual day-to-day running of the operation.

(3) Field Personnel — The field personnel, sometimes called mashgichim, who serve as the eyes and ears of the organization in order to maintain its kashrus standard.

A proper hechsher must staff each of these three units with personnel who have the halachic and practical knowledge necessary to adequately fulfill their roles. There must be a talmid chacham or talmidei chachamim available to paskin any shaylos that occur, scholarly and well-trained yirei shamayim administrators who understand what is involved in the factories from both a halachic and a technical vantage point, and well- trained erlich field personnel who oversee and check the actual facilities.

 

II. AWARENESS

Assuming responsibility for kashrus in the contemporary world requires not only extensive halachic knowledge, but also expertise in modern manufacturing and raw materials, much of it specialized information. For example, granting certificates that flavors are kosher requires a tremendous amount of technical, chemical and manufacturing background. Providing a hechsher for cholov yisroel products necessitates significant acquaintance with the details of factory operation and equipment. Checking a factory entails not only familiarity with all ingredients and understanding how the equipment works, but also what other products may be heated in the entire facility. Similarly, someone supervising a modern abattoir must be aware of how the equipment may affect the ability to perform proper shechitah and whether the equipment or the processing may conceal the possibility that the animal is treifah.

 

III. CONTROL

In addition to comprehending all of the above, proper kashrus means that a hechsher has proper means to guarantee that the desired standards indeed exist. Some of the items included under this broad heading are:

A. Does the hechsher have a system to ascertain that each facility it oversees is appropriately supervised? Does the visit guarantee that the kashrus standard is being kept by the company?

B. How often do field personnel visit a facility?

C. Are the field personnel properly trained and supervised? Is it possible that the factory will know of upcoming visits in advance and conceal evidence?

D. How does the hechsher guarantee that its symbol is not used on products that it does not supervise? Among many other things, this requires that the kashrus agency monitors the labels that use its emblem and keeps guard against unauthorized use.

APPRECIATE THE HECHSHER

We can now appreciate the extensive job that responsible hechsherim perform to guarantee reliably kosher products. Inadequate supervisory agencies lack these factors.

With this background, we can now explore the first question above:

“My rav told me to avoid using a particular hechsher although other people I know use it, and I am curious what might be wrong.”

The rav who told you to avoid a certain hechsher may interpret the requirements of kashrus supervision differently from the way the hechsher does. Here are some specific reasons why your rav may recommend avoiding a particular hechsher or product:

(1) He may disagree with the kashrus standard that the rabbonim of the hechsher feel is adequate.

There are hundreds of examples that I can provide of disputes concerning kashrus standards. Here are some examples:

(a) The authorities of the last generation disputed to what extent one needs to supervise fish after the removal of its skin, most contending that any fish product left unsealed outside the control of a Torah observant Jew is regarded non-kosher. According to this standard, kosher whitefish salad requires an observant Jew to be present from the skinning of the fish until the sealing of the container. On the other hand, some supervisory agencies accept a more lenient approach that permits use of the fish with only occasional spot inspection of such a facility. Thus, although an otherwise recognized hechsher approves this product, your rav may tell you not to use it.

(b) Most large hechsherim in North America certify dairy products that are not cholov yisrael, relying on the psak of Rav Moshe Feinstein, the Pri Chodosh and others who permitted them. However, your rav may not accept this psak, or he may feel that you should be stringent about this practice.

(c) Your rav may not be comfortable with the approach used by the certifying agency to guarantee that the product has no problems of insect contamination, called tola’im.

(2) Your rav may feel that the method of control used by the particular hechsher is not as adequate as it should be. How often should one send a mashgiach to spot-check that a factory is maintaining the required standard? Obviously, this depends on the product and what else is manufactured at the facility. However, there is a wide discrepancy of standards concerning what is considered adequate supervision of a facility, and the hechsher may feel that their frequency of inspection is sufficient whereas your rav may feel that it is not.

Here is an example of such a circumstance: In the past, I was once responsible for the supervision of a variety of local businesses including a large bread and rolls bakery. I personally made sure that someone representing the hechsher could enter the bakery at any time of the day or night so that the owners and employees had no idea when we might make the next spot inspection. I also had access to the bakery’s computerized inventory so that we knew exactly what the bakery had in stock. Although these should be standard practices in all kashrus facilities, they are not, and your rav may feel that one should not eat from any factory where this approach is not followed. He may feel that a system must be in place whereby all raw materials are approved by a mashgiach before they are used, a practice followed in very few facilities.

INADEQUATE CERTIFICATIONS

Until now, I have been discussing situations in which there is dispute among different kashrus agencies, all of which assume fidelity to halacha and supervision. Unfortunately, I have often come across completely reckless “supervision agencies” which assume little responsibility to guarantee that the consumer is indeed eating kosher. Some of these situations would be humorous were they not so tragic.

Here are a few anecdotes, all drawn from my firsthand experience. Once, when checking a meat supplier, I visited a particular abattoir as a guest of the supervising rabbi. As we entered, the shocheit offered the supervising rabbi the opportunity to examine his knife, which is halachically correct etiquette. However, I noticed that the rabbi did not know how to check the knife properly, although he pretended that he did. Obviously, it was beyond his competence to give hechsherim on shechitah.

KOSHER ELASTICITY?

On another occasion, I visited a wine factory, whose kashrus reputation was far from pristine, to see whether one mashgiach could possibly maintain proper kashrus controls of the sprawling, three-story, city-block-sized plant. Indeed he could not, and I discovered many kashrus concerns. Shortly thereafter, I met the certifying rabbi who asked me for my impressions of the operation. I respectfully noted some of the shortcomings that I had observed, some of which he denied, while regarding another, he claimed that halacha permits it. When I pointed out that halacha permits such a product only bishaas hadechak (under extenuating circumstance), he replied “shaas hadechak is an elastic term.” You could well ask, were his unfortunate consumers aware that they were purchasing and drinking questionably non-kosher wine when they had better alternatives? Did they realize how rubbery their wine was?

MAGNIFICENT RESORT, MEDIOCRE KASHRUS

Another true and curious anecdote occurred when my shul was conducting a fundraising auction of donated items. One contributed item was a week in a well-known resort hotel, which, however had a poor kashrus reputation. In order to determine whether our shul could auction this prize, I called the hotel, seeking out the supervising rabbi, and reached the gentleman on the phone.

After identifying myself and explaining the reason for my call, I asked my colleague on the other end of the line what sources of meat the hotel used. He mentioned certain high production meat packers with less than sterling kashrus reputations. I then noted to the certifying rabbi that these packers do not butcher or soak and salt (kasher) the meat.

            “The hotel has its own staff of butchers, who butcher and kasher the meat.”

 

            “Do you have personal expertise in kosher butchering and removing veins and forbidden fat?”

 

            “No, I have never learned the trade.”

Further questioning revealed that both the rabbi providing the supervision and the mashgiach knew nothing about kosher butchering, and the butchers employed by the hotel were all either non-observant or non-Jews. Thus, there was absolutely no supervision on the proper butchering of the meat, one of the many reasons the hotel well earned its glamorous kashrus reputation!

 

On another occasion, I conducted the initial inspection of a factory on behalf of a well-respected hechsher to discover labels bearing the logo of a different supervisor. When I inquired whether the other rabbi was still certifying this facility, I was told that they had given up his certification many years before, notwithstanding that they were still using his labels!

 

At this point, we can answer the second asked above:

“Do people avoid certain hechsherim because of political reasons, or are there valid halachic reasons for avoiding them?”

 

Although there are indeed occasional political reasons why people shun certain hechsherim, usually, a hechsher is avoided for valid halachic reasons. Some organizations are disorganized, for example. I have seen many situations where although the people involved are erliche yiddin¸ they run their kashrus supervision in too haphazard a fashion to maintain a proper standard. Others send mashgichim to kasher plants without adequately instructing them what to do. Other hechsherim do not even bother sending mashgichim to check at all, and I have found more than one instance where the “hechsher” never bothered to send someone to check a plant even once!

 

WHAT IS A CONSUMER TO DO?

 

Just as you make yourself knowledgeable before buying a couch or a refrigerator, so you should try to be more knowledgeable about kashrus. Ask questions. If you feel you are receiving inadequate responses, keep asking until your questions are satisfactorily answered.

 

I have often discovered serious problems involving caterers that “everyone uses.” When invited to a wedding or other simcha, double check to ensure that there is proper supervision. Ask to meet the mashgiach, and ask him questions. Of course, your questions should give the impression that you know what you are talking about. Once you begin asking, it will not take long to become a knowledgeable and inquisitive consumer. Hopefully, you will not find the types of problems I mentioned above, but if you do, you will be able to write your own article!

 

If you are making a simcha, investigate the possibility of hiring your own experienced mashgiach.

 

Tour groups are especially notorious for lack of proper kashrus arrangements. Among problems I have discovered were tours advertised as glatt kosher chassidishe shechitah only, while the person overseeing all kashrus arrangements was married to a non-Jewish woman!

 

Your rav should be a good source of up-to-date kashrus information. A well-educated consumer asks. Often asking one’s rav forces him to research the matter more carefully and he discovers issues of which he was unaware. I have discovered this many times myself, not only in areas of food kashrus, but also in such diverse areas as tefillin and shofar manufacture, and the kashrus of mikva’os.

 

Based on the above information, we can gain a greater appreciation as to how hard it is to maintain a high kashrus standard. We certainly have a greater incentive to become better educated kosher consumers who better understand many aspects of the preparation of kosher food, and why it is important to ascertain that everything one consumes has a proper hechsher. We should always hope and pray that the food we eat fulfills all the halachos that the Torah commands us.

The Crisis of Unwashed Meat

clip_image002Devorah calls me: “During our summer vacation, I entered a butcher shop that has reliable supervision and noticed a sign on the wall, ‘We sell washed and unwashed meat.’ This seemed very strange: Would anyone eat unwashed meat? Besides, isn’t all meat washed as part of the koshering process? What did the sign mean?”

Michael asked me: “Someone asked me if I have any problem with the kashrus of frozen meat. What can possibly be wrong with frozen meat?”

Answer: This week’s haftarah foretells how, soon in the period of Moshiach, the nations of the earth will follow the Divine light shining on the Jewish people and bring their finest flocks to His altar. No doubt, the sheer quantity of all this livestock available in Yerushalayim will afford the Jewish people the finest choices of meat available for their tables.

Also today it is certainly ideal to have a steady supply of kosher meat with all possible hiddurim. However, in some circumstances this is not always feasible. This is where “washed meat” and “frozen meat” may enter the picture; both terms referring to specific cases whose kashrus is subject to halachic dispute.

Knowing that Devorah enjoys stories, I told her an anecdote that illustrates what can happen when kosher choices are slim.

I was once Rabbi in a community that has memorable winters. Our city was often covered with snow around Rosh Hashanah and on occasion it was still snowing in May. On many occasions, we could not use the sukkah without clearing snow off the schach, something my Yerushalmi neighbors find hard to comprehend.

One short erev Shabbos the weather was unusually inclement, even for our region of the country; the major interstate highway and all secondary “state routes” were closed because of a blizzard. The locals call this weather “whiteout” — referring not to mistake correction fluid, but to the zero visibility created by wind and snow.

Fortunately, I lived around the corner from shul and was able to navigate my way back and forth by foot. Our house too was, baruch Hashem, sufficiently stocked to get through Shabbos.

About a half-hour before Shabbos, in the midst of our last minute preparations, the telephone rang:

“Is this Rabbi Kaganoff?” inquired an unfamiliar female voice. I responded affirmatively, even though somewhat apprehensive. People do not call with shaylos late Friday afternoon unless it is an emergency. What new crisis would this call introduce? Perhaps I was lucky and this was simply a damsel in distress inquiring about the kashrus of her cholent, or one who had just learned that her crock pot may fail to meet proper Shabbos standards. Hoping that the emergency was no more severe, I listened attentively.

“Rabbi Kaganoff, I was given your phone number in case of emergency.” I felt the first knots in my stomach. What emergency was this when I hoped to momentarily head out to greet the Shabbos queen? Was someone, G-d forbid, caught in the storm! I was certainly unprepared for the continuing conversation.

“I am a dispatcher for the All-American Transport Company,” she continued. “We have a load of kosher meat held up by the storm that needs to be washed by 11 p.m. Saturday.” My caller, located somewhere in the Nebraska Corn Belt, was clearly more familiar with halachos of kosher meat than she was with the ramifications of calling a frum household minutes before candle lighting. Although I was very curious how All-American had located me, a potential lone washer in the Wilderness, the hour of the week required expedition, not curiosity. Realizing that under stress, one’s tone of voice can create a kiddush Hashem or, G-d forbid, the opposite, I politely asked if she could call me back in about 25 hours which would still be several hours before the meat’s deadline. I guess that she assumed that it would take me that long to dig my car out.

Later, I determined the meat’s ultimate destination, a place we will call Faroutof Town, information that ultimately proved highly important.

Why was a Nebraska truck dispatcher calling to arrange the washing of kosher meat? Before returning to our meat precipitously stalled at the side of the highway, I need to provide some halachic background.

EXORCISING THE BLOOD

In several places, the Torah commands that we may not eat blood, but only meat. Of course, blood is the efficient transporter of nutrients to the muscles and permeates the animal’s flesh while it is still alive. If so, how do we extract the prohibited blood from the permitted meat?

Chazal gave us two methods of removing blood from meat. One is by soaking and salting the meat, and the other is by broiling it. In practical terms, the first approach, usually referred to simply as kashering meat, involves soaking the meat for thirty minutes, shaking off the water, salting the meat thoroughly on all sides, and then allowing the blood to drain freely for an hour. At the end of this process, we rinse the meat thoroughly in order to wash away all the blood and salt. Indeed Devorah is correct that the salting of all meat involves several washings. She was correct in assuming that the sign she saw in the butcher did not refer to these washings, but to a different washing that I will soon explain.

BROILING MEAT

An alternative method of extracting blood from meat is by broiling it. This is the only halachically accepted method of removing blood from liver. In this approach, the liver is sliced or slit to allow its blood to run out, the surface blood is rinsed off and the liver is placed under or over a flame to broil. Accepted practice is that we sprinkle a small amount of salt on the liver immediately prior to broiling it (Rama, Yoreh Deah 73:5).

Halachically, it is perfectly acceptable to broil any meat rather than soak and salt it. However, on a commercial level, broiling is impractical and therefore the usual method used for kosher cuisine is soaking and salting. For most of mankind’s history, this was performed at home, but contemporarily the properly supervised butcher or other commercial facility almost universally performs it.

Although this explains why one must salt meat before serving it, we still do not know why Ms. Nebraska was so concerned that her meat be washed en route.

SEVENTY-TWO HOURS OR BUST

The Geonim enacted that meat must be salted within seventy-two hours of its shechitah. They felt that after three days, blood inside the meat hardens and is no longer extractable through soaking and salting. Should meat not be soaked and salted within 72 hours, they ruled that only broiling successfully removes the blood. Of course, if one does not want to eat broiled meat, this last suggestion will not satisfy one’s culinary tastes.

Is there any way to extend the 72 hours?

The authorities discuss this question extensively. Most contend that one may extend the time if the meat is soaked thoroughly for a while during the 72 hours (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 69:13, see Taz ad loc.), although some permitted this only under extenuating circumstances (Toras Chatos, quoted by Shach 69:53). On the other hand, some authorities ruled that a minor rinsing extends the 72 hours (Shu”t Masas Binyamin #108). It became standard to refer to meat that was washed to extend its time by the Yiddish expression, gegosena fleisch, hence the literal English translation, washed meat.

Also, bear in mind that this soaking only helps when the meat was soaked within 72 hours of its slaughter. Once 72 hours have passed without a proper soaking, only broiling will remove the blood.

WASHING OR SOAKING

At this point in my monologue, Devorah interrupted with a question:

“You mentioned soaking the meat and extending its time for three more days. But the sign called it ‘washed meat,’ not soaked meat. There is a big difference between washing something and soaking it.”

“Yes, you are raising a significant issue. Although most early authorities only mention ‘soaking’ meat, it became common practice to wash the meat instead, a practice that many authorities disputed (Pischei Teshuvah, Yoreh Deah 69:28; Darkei Teshuvah 69:231- 237). There are also many different standards of what is called ‘washing’ the meat. Some hechsherim permit meat that was not salted within seventy-two hours of its shechitah by having the meat hosed down before the seventy-two hours have elapsed, and consider this washing as a renewal of the seventy-two hours. Thus, this meat is only permitted if it was washed within seventy-two hours of its shechitah or previous washing. If the meat was washed thoroughly, it is now ‘good’ for another 72 hours. If one is unable to kasher it by then, one can rewash it again to further extend its 72 hours. However, most authorities require that the meat be thoroughly wetted with a high-power hose so that the meat becomes moist even inside. This is unlike cases I have seen where someone sprays a light mist over the meat and assumes that the meat is ‘washed,’ or often simply takes a wet rag and wipes down the outside of the meat.”

“Why would anyone do that?” inquired Devorah?

“In general, people like to save work and water, and soaking properly a whole side of beef is difficult and uses a lot of water. In addition, if one hoses meat while it is on a truck, the water may damage the wood of the truck, whereas it is even more work to remove the meat from the truck. But if one does not hose the meat properly, most authorities prohibit it.

At this point, we can understand why Ms. Nebraska was concerned about the washing of the meat. She knew that if the meat went 72 hours without being hosed, the rabbis would reject the delivery as non-kosher. During my brief conversation, I asked her if she knew the last time the meat was washed. “It was last washed 11 p.m. Wednesday and needs re-washing by 11 p.m. Saturday,” she dutifully notified me.

At this point, I noted to Devorah that we now had enough information to answer her question. “The sign in the butcher stating that they sell washed meat means that they sell meat that was not kashered until 72 hours after its slaughter, but was washed sometime before the 72 hours ran out. It does not tell us how they washed the meat, but it is safe to assume that they did not submerge it in water. If they were following a higher standard, they hosed the meat on all sides until it was soaking wet. If they followed a different standard, hopefully, they still did whatever their rav ruled. Since you told me that it was a reliable hechsher, presumably they hosed the meat thoroughly.”

I then asked Devorah if she wanted to hear the rest of the blizzard story. As I suspected, she did – and so I return to my anecdote.

MOTZA’EI SHABBOS

By Motza’ei Shabbos the entire region was in the grips of a record-breaking blizzard. Walking the half block home from shul had been highly treacherous. There was no way in the world I was going anywhere that night, nor anyone else I could imagine.

At the very moment I had told the dispatcher I could be reached, the telephone rang. A different, unfamiliar voice identified itself as the driver of the stuck truck. His vehicle was exactly where it had been Friday afternoon, stranded not far from the main highway.

The driver told me the already-familiar story about his load of kosher meat, and his instructions to have the meat washed before 11 p.m. if his trip was delayed.

There was little I could do for either the driver or the meat, a fact I found frustrating. Out of desperation, I called my most trusted mashgiach, Yaakov, who lived a little closer to the scene of the non-action. Yaakov was an excellent employee, always eager to work whenever there was a job opportunity. I explained the situation to him.

“Rabbi,” responded Yaakov, “I was just out in this storm. Not this time. Sorry.”

I was disappointed. Not that I blamed Yaakov in the slightest. It was sheer insanity to go anywhere in this storm. In fact, I was a bit surprised at myself for taking the matter so seriously. After all, it was only a load of meat.

With no good news to tell the trucker, I was not exactly enthusiastic about calling him back. I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings. So I procrastinated, rather than tell the trucker he should sit back and wait for his kosher meat to expire.

An hour later, the phone rang again with Mr. Trucker on the line. “Rabbi,” He told me, with obvious excitement in his voice, “I’ve solved the problem.” I was highly curious to find out where he located an Orthodox Jew in the middle of a blizzard in the middle of nowhere. For a fleeting moment I envisioned a frum Jew stranded nearby and shuddered at the type of Shabbos he must have had.

The trucker’s continuing conversation brings me back to the reality of the unwashed meat.

“Well, Rabbi,” he exclaimed with the exhilaration Columbus’ lookout must have felt upon spotting land, “I discovered that I was stranded a few thousand feet from a fire station. And now all the meat has been properly hosed. Listen to this letter.” The trucker proceeded to read me the documentation of his successful find:

“On Saturday evening, the 22nd of January, at exactly 9:25 pm, I personally oversaw the successful washing of kosher load of meat loaded on trailer 186CX and tractor 2008PR. To this declaration I do solemnly lend my signature and seal,

“James P. O’Donald, Fire Chief, Lincoln Fire Station #2.”

Probably noticing my momentary hesitation, the trucker continues, “Rabbi, do I need to have this letter notarized?”

“No, I am sure that won’t be necessary,” I replied. I was not about to tell the driver that halachah requires that a Torah observant Jew supervise the washing of the meat. On the contrary, I complimented him on his diligence and his tremendous sense of responsibility.

At this point, I had a bit of halachic responsibility on my hands. Since I knew the meat’s ultimate destination, I needed to inform the rav in Faroutof Town of the situation.

I was able to reach the Faroutofer Rav, Rabbi Oncelearned. “I just want to notify you that your city will shortly receive a load of meat that was washed under the supervision of the ‘Fire Station K.’” Rabbi Oncelearned had never heard of the “Fire Station K” supervision and asked if I was familiar with this hechsher. I told him the whole story and we had a good laugh. I felt good that I had supplied Rabbi Oncelearned with accurate information and prepared him for the meat’s arrival. After all, it would be his learned decision that would rule once the meat arrived in town.

WHERE’S THE BEEF?

Of course, Rabbi Oncelearned now had his own predicament: Would he have to reject the town’s entire order of kosher meat, incurring the wrath of hungry customers and undersupplied butchers? Or could he figure out a legitimate way to permit the meat.

There was indeed a halachic basis to permit the meat under the extenuating circumstances because of a different heter, but not because of the Lincoln fire station hose.

FROZEN MEAT

It is common that meat is slaughtered quite a distance from where it is consumed – such as slaughtering it in South America, and shipping it frozen to Israel. Today, all mehadrin supervisions arrange that meat shipped this way is kosher butchered (called trabering) and kashered before it is frozen and shipped. This is a tremendous boon to proper kashrus, but it is a relatively recent innovation. Initially, these meats were shipped frozen and, upon reaching their destination several weeks later, they were thawed, trabered and kashered. Thus, the question developed whether this meat was fit to eat since it arrived weeks after its slaughter.

In truth, earlier halachic authorities had already debated whether meat frozen for 72 hours can still be kashered by salting, some contending that this meat can only be broiled (Minchas Yaakov, Responsum #14 at end, quoted by Be’er Heiteiv 69:8; Pri Megadim, Sifsei Daas 69:60), whereas others ruled that deep freezing prevents the blood from hardening (Aruch HaShulchan, Yoreh Deah 69:79; Yad Yehudah 69:59; Shu”t Yabia Omer 2:YD:4 and Shu”t Yechaveh Daas 6:46). Some frowned on making such arrangements lechatchila, but ruled that kashering this meat (by salting) is acceptable under extenuating circumstances (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:27; 2:21).

Rabbi Oncelearned consulted with a posek who reasoned that since the truck had been stuck in a major blizzard, unquestionably the meat had been frozen solid and that they could rely on this to kasher the meat after it thawed out. Thus, the firemen’s hose was used for naught, but I never told them. Please help me keep it a secret.

Someone meticulous about kashrus plans trips in advance to know what hechsherim and kashrus situations he may encounter. If one’s plans go awry, he should be aware that in extenuating circumstances, a rav may permit products that he would never allow in a normal situation.

Let’s Talk Turkey – …and Prairie Chicken and Muscovy Duck

clip_image002Last week I presented two questions that I did not answer:

Question #1: “While camping in Western Canada, we saw thousands of wild, roaming birds called “prairie chicken.” They were clearly different from the familiar, common chicken, but appeared so similar that I was tempted to bring one to a shocheit to prepare for us. Halachically, could I have done this?”

Question #2: “Someone told me that a variety of duck, called the Muscovy duck, is raised in Israel for its kosher meat and liver although the American rabbonim prohibit eating this bird. How could this be?”

Last week’s discussion prompts us to ask the following:

Question #3: According to the popular story or legend, Benjamin Franklin advocated that the United States choose the turkey, which is also native American, as its national bird, rather than the bald eagle. He preferred the turkey’s midos and felt that it better reflects American values. However, if turkey is indeed indigenous only to North America, how can it have a Jewish tradition that it is kosher?

IDENTIFYING AS KOSHER

We learned last week that whereas the Torah identified kosher animal and fish through specific attributes called simanim, it specifically listed the bird species that are non-kosher, implying that all other birds are kosher. Indeed, the Gemara records that someone familiar with all the avian non-kosher varieties may identify all other fowl, even those unfamiliar to him, as kosher, and teach this to others. Since it is not always practical to find someone familiar with all 24 varieties of non-kosher birds, the Mishnah provided four simanim. A bird with all four simanim is definitely kosher, whereas one with some of these simanim may or may not be kosher. Any bird without any of the simanim is certainly non-kosher.

WHAT ARE THE FOUR SIMANIM?

The Mishnah reports that any bird that is doreis is not kosher. There are several different ways to explain the meaning of the word doreis, most meaning that the bird uses its claws in a distinctive way when it preys or eats. The other three simanim describe physical characteristics of the bird, not feeding habits. They are:

(1)  The bird has a crop, an expandable food pouch for storing undigested food.

(2)  The inner lining of its gizzard (the pupek) can be peeled.

(3)  It possesses an “extra claw,” a term that is interpreted by different Rishonim in diverse ways.

SIGNS OF DOREIS

We find three distinctive features that demonstrate whether a bird is doreis. The first, recorded by the Mishnah, is that any bird that when sitting on a rope or stick, places two of its claws on one side of the rope or stick, and the other two on the opposite side, is definitely doreis and non-kosher. The second is that a bird that swallows its food in mid-flight is not kosher (Chullin 65a). The third is that any bird that has webbed feet and a wide beak is certainly not doreis (Baal HaMaor). Since this information will become significant as we proceed, allow me to explain these avian characteristics.

SEPARATES ITS CLAWS

The Mishnah teaches, “Rabbi Elazar the son of Rabbi Tzadok says, ‘Any bird that separates its legs is non-kosher’” (Chullin 59a). The Gemara explains that you stretch a length of rope for the bird to walk or rest on: A bird that places two claws of its leg on one side of the rope and two on the opposite side is non-kosher because this indicates that it is doreis. If it places three claws on one side of the rope and one on the other, it is probably kosher (Chullin 65a).

The morning I wrote these words, I visited someone who owns a pet cockatiel, a small Australian parrot, and noted that the bird clenched the sticks it stood on in the classic doreis position of two claws fore and two aft. I found this surprising since the cockatiel’s diet of seeds combined with its owner’s observations of its docile behavior make it difficult to imagine that this bird is doreis. However, one could explain this Mishnah in the following fashion:

The Mishnah does not clarify how often a bird needs to be doreis to be non-kosher. The Gemara describes a variety of bird called a “marsh chicken” that was assumed to be kosher until the Amora, Mareimar, noticed it being doreis (Chullin 62b). Rashi notes that we could observe a bird for quite some time without seeing it doreis and only catch it being dories after a while! Thus indeed, the marsh chicken was non-kosher the entire time although they did not know. For this reason, Rashi concludes that we do not rely on our observation that a bird is not doreis; instead, we do not consume fowl unless we have a mesorah that this variety does not doreis.

Thus, one approach to explain why the cockatiel spreads its foot across a rope or branch non-kosher style is that although the cockatiel is doreis, it does this so rarely that we may never notice.

WEBBED FEET

As I mentioned earlier, many Rishonim cite a tradition that a bird with webbed feet and/or a wide beak is definitely not doreis. Following this approach, someone discovering a bird that possesses all of the following body simanim: it has a crop, a gizzard that can be peeled, an “extra claw,” webbed feet, and a wide beak, can assume that this bird is kosher.

It is noteworthy that while many early authorities quote Rashi’s opinion that we do not rely on our observation to determine that a bird is not doreis, they also quote the tradition that a bird with webbed feet and a wide beak is not doreis (Rosh, Chullin 3:59 and 60; Issur VaHeter 56:18; Shulchan Aruch 82:2, 3). Obviously, they understood that a bird possessing webbed feet and a wide beak has a mesorah that it is not doreis, and is kosher if it has the other body simanim — even though no one recalls a specific mesorah on this bird. In other words, Rashi did not declare that no birds can be eaten without a mesorah — he only contended that we do not rely on our observation that a bird is not doreis. This is indeed the Shulchan Aruch’s ruling on this subject, as well as many later halachic authorities, both Ashkenazic and Sefardic (Yam shel Shelomoh; Pri Chodosh; Pleisi, Kuntros Pnei Nesher, located after his commentary to Yoreh Deah 82; Shu”t Sho’eil Umeishiv 5:1:69).

MESORAH IS ABSOLUTE

I am unaware of any authority who disagrees with the above conclusion prior to the time of the Rama (Yoreh Deah 82:3). The Rama, however, records an accepted minhag prohibiting consumption of any bird without a known mesorah that it is kosher. Most authorities assume that as a result of this ruling Ashkenazim do not consume any fowl lacking a known mesorah to be kosher, although some contend that no such minhag exists (Yam shel Shelomoh, Chullin 3:115; Pleisi; Shu”t Sho’eil Umeishiv 5:1:69). (It should be noted that the Taz cites Rashi as the source for the Rama’s minhag. Although the obvious interpretation of the Taz’s comment is that he feels that Rashi rejects the approach that webbed feet and wide beak are valid proof that the bird is not doreis [Minchas Yitzchak 2:85], his comments can be interpreted in a different way.)

MUSCOVY DUCK AND THE CIVIL WAR

By definition, a non-migratory bird native to the Americas, Australia, or New Zealand cannot have an ancient mesorah ascertaining that it is a kosher species since no one resides there who could possess such a mesorah. Does this mean that according to the Rama, any bird native to the Americas cannot be eaten? Some poskim indeed held this position regarding the Muscovy duck, a bird that, notwithstanding its name, is a Mexican native. (No one is certain why this duck is named after frigid Moscow, when it is indigenous to a much warmer climate.)

A rav in Civil War era New Orleans, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Illowy, who was extensively involved in kiruv rechokim over a hundred years before the field became popular, discovered that members of his community were raising this duck for food and that the local shochatim were shechting it. Rav Illowy notes that the Muscovy appears to have all the simanim of any common duck, including the webbed feet and wide beak that indicate it is not doreis. Nevertheless, he maintained that since this bird has no mesorah, it cannot be eaten as kosher. He then sent the shaylah to Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch and to Rav Nosson Adler, both of whom agreed with Rav Illowy’s decision.

Notwithstanding this psak, the Muscovy apparently became a popular food in many kosher communities, both in the Union and the Confederacy, and eventually in Europe also. Later its liver became popular when prepared as foie gras, a delicacy once made exclusively from goose liver. (Nowadays foie gras is commonly produced from the liver of the mullard, a crossbreed of the Muscovy with the pekin, an established kosher variety of duck.) Indeed several prominent later authorities, including the Netziv, Rav Shmuel Salant, and Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank ruled that the Muscovy duck is indeed kosher since observant Jews had been consuming it (Shu”t Har Tzvi, Yoreh Deah #75). How could they permit a bird that clearly has no mesorah?

The Netziv ruled that, since observant Jews were already consuming Muscovy, they can be considered kosher for three reasons:

1. They are fairly similar to varieties of duck that possess a mesorah that they are kosher and could perhaps be considered the same min as far as halacha is concerned. One should note that the halachic definition of a min is highly unclear, although one matter is certain: It has little relationship to any scientific definition of what is considered a species.

2. They will freely breed in the wild with varieties known to be kosher ducks, even when other Muscovies are readily available. This factor is significant because the Gemara rules that two species, one kosher and the other non-kosher, will not reproduce together (Bechoros 7a). Although there is debate over whether this rule applies also to birds or only to land animals, several authorities contend that it also applies to birds (Shu”t Chasam Sofer, Yoreh Deah #74; Shu”t Avnei Nezer, Yoreh Deah #75:4 and many others). According to this approach, since a Muscovy readily mates with varieties of known kosher duck, one may assume it to be kosher.

3. The Rama’s minhag prohibiting consumption of fowl without a mesorah applies only to a newly discovered bird and not to a variety that observant Jews are already eating (Shu”t Meishiv Davar 2:22).

ANOTHER NATIVE AMERICAN

Of course, this leads to our discussion of the turkey, also a native American that appears to have found its way to the Jewish pot since its introduction to Europe in the Sixteenth Century. The Kenesses HaGedolah, authored in the Seventeenth Century, is the earliest source I found discussing the kashrus of the turkey, and it is apparent from his comments that Jews were already eating it. Although one would imagine much discussion on the kashrus issues of this bird, every other teshuvah I have seen discusses not whether the turkey is kosher, but why, and each is written hundreds of years after turkey consumption became commonplace in the kosher world.

For those who question whether the turkey was commonly eaten in this earlier era, I refer them to the comments of the Magen Avraham (79:14), who assumes that a passing reference to a “red chicken” by the Shulchan Aruch refers to the turkey, providing us with fairly clear evidence that in his day the turkey was commonly found in Jewish domiciles. The Magen Avraham makes no reference to any controversy regarding the kashrus of this bird, which was already a well established member of Jewish households.

TURKEY VS. DUCK

From a strictly anatomical perspective, the Muscovy duck can rally better proof to its kosher status than can a turkey. Whereas the Muscovy duck needs to contend only with the ruling of the Rama that it bears no mesorah, it certainly has the wide beak and webbed feet that the Rishonim accept as proof that it is not doreis. Thus, according to all authorities prior to the Rama, one could consume Muscovy based on its possessing kosher simanim. Rav Hirsch and the others who prohibit it did so because they accepted the minhag recorded by Rama not to rely on simanim.

On the other hand, the turkey is faced with more of an uphill battle anatomically.

It does not have webbed feet or a wide beak – thus, to permit it because of simanim we must ascertain that it is not doreis — and Rashi rules that we do not rely on observation to determine that a bird is not doreis. Yet, the common practice of hundreds of years is to consider it kosher!

TALKING TURKEY

I have seen numerous attempts to explain why indeed we consume turkey, of which I will share only some. Many authorities thought that the turkey had a mesorah from India as a kosher bird (see Kenesses HaGedolah 82:31 and several others quoted by Darchei Teshuvah 82:26). Of course, this was based on a factual error — the Yiddish and Modern Hebrew name for turkey is “Indian chicken,” and it is so named in many other languages, based on the same confusion that resulted in the islands of the Caribbean being called the “West Indies.” Notwithstanding that these names merely reflect Columbus’s impression that he had discovered an area near India, the confusion led some to conclude that the Indian Jews possess an ancient mesorah that the turkey is kosher.

Others contend that the practice of eating turkey predates the Rama’s ruling that we consume only birds that have a mesorah. Thus, one could say that it was grandfathered into kosher cuisine.

Still others contend that although we usually do not rely on our observation that a bird is not doreis, since thousands of Jews have raised turkeys and never seen them doreis, we can be absolutely certain that they do not and we can therefore assume them to be kosher because of simanim (Darchei Teshuvah 82:26 quoting Arugos HaBosem).

A different approach is that although the Rama required mesorah to permit the consumption of fowl, once observant Jews have accepted to eat a certain variety of bird, one may continue this practice (if it is not definitely non-kosher). Once Klal Yisroel has accepted a bird that appears to be kosher, we assume that it is kosher even if we do not, and cannot, have a mesorah on its kashrus (see Taz 82:4). The Netziv justifies the consumption of the Muscovy duck because of the fact that turkey is accepted to be kosher even though it has no mesorah either!

To answer our original questions, the Muscovy duck has not escaped contemporary controversy, some rabbonim and hechsherim, particularly in Eretz Yisroel, permitting it; others forbidding; while still others will consider it kosher but not mehadrin. I have been told that the North American hechsherim do not treat it as kosher.

Regarding the prairie chicken, it is assumed to be non-kosher, or more accurately, without either mesorah or acceptance that it is kosher, and therefore I am unaware of anywhere that it is slaughtered as a kosher bird.

TURKEY VS. EAGLE

Did Benjamin Franklin really want the turkey to be the symbol of the United States of America?

In a letter to his daughter, Ben wrote:

“For my own part I wish the eagle had not been chosen the representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly… He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest… The turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America… He is… a bird of courage and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat.”

To reinforce good old Ben’s argument, we note that whereas the turkey seems to have all four simanim of a kosher bird, the eagle has none (according to Rashi’s opinion). The Ramban explains that the Torah forbade the non-kosher birds because the Torah wants us to avoid the bad midos that they exhibit. One could assume that the kosher species may exhibit admirable traits that the Torah wants us to emulate. Certainly, the courage to observe mitzvos in times of adversity is a virtue worth emulating that we should contemplate the next time we eat turkey.

image_print