Saturday, May 9, 2009

Keeping Kosher

This past Tuesday we (the Smicha Bochurim in RCA) had a shiur with Rabbi Levi Gorelick of the OK. Here's what he said. As always, I'm responsible whenever it doesn't make sense or it's not true or whatever. Oh, and one more thing before the feature presentation. There's a new Haveil Havalim up!

Until the Rebbe, "Kashrus" meant that a Rav has to know what the laws of Kashrus. Now, after the Rebbe, Kashrus means helping Jews keep Kosher.

The Tzelimer Rav once came to the Freidiker Rebbe and asked him why he didn't open a hashgacha to help support his Yeshivos and other mosdos? The Friediker Rebbe answered him, "You're making food that's kosher, I'm making people that keep kosher."
Someone in Lakewood doesn't have issue of Kashrus-there's always Kosher food available. A bochur in Lubavitch, however, has to be an educated consumer. When you're on Merkos Shlichus in who know's where...

I grew up on shlichus, we had no Kosher butcher, bakery, anything. I used to go down to the fish market, watch a goy fillet a fish, grind it up, and my mother would make gefilte fish out of it.

When we wanted milk, we had to go to a farm to get milk that was chalav yisrael. We had to pasteurize it once a week, and even used to make our own cheese. Once my family went up to a farm and the farmer had just finished milking his cow, so my father said we couldn't drink it, even though my mother really needed the milk. The farmer promised that he had no other animals on the farm, but my father still wouldn't allow it. Eventually the guy admitted he also had a donkey on the farm, but even so, this was definitely cow's milk. My father still wouldn't allow us to drink it.

Reb Chaikel Chanin, a big chassid, once came to Italy and told me a story. When he was a bochur in Russia there was once a big fight in his city about who would be the next rav, a chossid or a misnaged. The local chassidim sent a delegation to the Friediker Rebbe asking for a brocha that a chossid should be appointed rov, but the Rebbe told them that they should appoint a misnaged instead! The Chassidim of course immediately dropped their opposition, and a new, misnagdishe, rov was soon appointed.

One of the local chassidim figured that something strange must be going on here, and he decided to find out what was going on. Back in those days rabbis didn't have offices, they would just set up shop in the shul and answer questions there. This chossid decided to hide under the Rov's table in the shul and figure out what was going on.

A local, non-chassidic guy came to the rov, and started to pour out his heart. He worked in a factory where the manager was a virulent anti-semite, possibly even Jewish, who made things as hard as he possibly could for his Jewish workers. He even refused to allow them to take shabbos off, threatening them that they'd lose their jobs if they tried to do such a thing. The rov listened to the man's problems, cried with him, and in the end told him that it was a matter of pikuach nefesh, and as long as he tried as hard as he could to avoid violating the laws of Shabbos he was allowed to work there.

A few minutes later a Lubavitcher walked in to the rov, and it turned out that he too had this very same problem! He poured out his tale of woe, and the Rov was deeply affected by his suffering. At the end of the conversation the Rov said, "You, a worker for the government with kids in a government school, have no heter!"

(In Russia there used to be special schools for children of government officials where they would be trained to be the next generation of government employees. The rov was saying that as a Lubavitcher, who represented mesiras nefesh, he had no heter to work in shabbos, even if it was mesiras nefesh)
I once took my kids up to my brother in law in New Hampshire to see how milk is actually made, i.e., that it cows from a cow, not from a container. While we were there I saw a sign that said "Pure Maple Syrup", and I decided to show my kids what Kashrus really means. I went to the farmer and asked, "What's in your maple syrup? The farmer answered that the only thing in there was maple syrup, as the sign explicitly said. "So it is kosher?" I asked? He answered that it certainly was. I said, "No it's not." He wanted to know why. After all, what else was in there but pure maple syrup? I asked him, "What's your anti-foaming agent?" He said, "Oh, I use my own home-made butter." I said, "You see? It's not kosher." And you know what? This isn't even illegal! According to the law, you don't have to report anti-foaming agents. The truth is, it would probably be bittul, but you're not allowed to teach a goy the laws of bittul, because then he'll start being his own rav and be mevatel things lechatchila, which is of course not allowed.
I was once quoted in El-Al's magazine, and soon after took a flight to Israel. I noticed a bunch of frum people going to the back of the airplane after they had eaten a fleishik dinner to look for non-dairy creamer for their coffee. I asked on one of them, "Why are you going to the back of the plane to get non-dairy creamer? What's wrong with the regular creamer?" He looked at me funny and said, "The dinner they served was fleishik, so I need non-dairy creamer." I said, "What's wrong with having milk and meat together?"

Suddenly there was a big tumult, everyone was looking at me like I was crazy, a Jew in a black hat and coat with a beard saying that you could eat milchigs and fleishigs together! One of the stewardess's came over to me, and asked me what my problem was. I said, "It's not fair to to you, having to be bothered by all these people for non-dairy creamer, when they could just as well use the provided dairy creamer!" The stewardess looked at me like I was crazy, and wondered how I could say such a thing? I showed her my picture in the in-flight magazine, and she realized that a Rabbi working for the OK probably knows his stuff, so she listened to what I had to say. I said, "Look at the ingredients of the non-dairy creamer you're going to serve these frum Jews here and tell me what you see." She got a container, read the ingredients, and said, "What's the problem? I don't see any milk here." I said, "Look closely at the ingredients." She started to read them out loud, and when she reached "WPC" I asked her, "What is that?" She had no clue, and I explained that it's whey protein concentrate, i.e. a dairy product. She asked me how it was legal to call it "non-dairy" creamer, and I answered her that in Torah, anything which has milk or any milk product in it is milchig, but in American law, only milk is dairy. It's possible that cottage cheese can be non-dairy too!
It's not possible, naturally, that apple juice, orange juice, whatever, should taste the same year after year, due to changes in climate, growing patterns, etc. And yet somehow it does taste the same. How? Through the addition of sugar or water to adjust the taste so that it should be uniform. Did you know that according to the law a company can write on their product "100% Juice" and add up to seventeen (17!) percent sugar or water?
There's a heter to eat butter made by a non-Jew, because it's impossible to make butter from a non-Kosher animal. Nowadays though, this heter doesn't work, even for people who eat chalav akum. Why? Because it's possible to have treif butter.

Milk is put through a separator, which separates the hard milk from the water. It used to be that this water was just thrown out, but nowadays it's used to make sugar, whey, etc.

In order to make hard cheese you need rennet to put in milk. For this cheese a Jew has to put in the rennet, or according to some opinions merely own it (Shach). If this isn't done, then the cheese is gevinas akum, which is forbidden by all. While this cheese is being made it makes whey, which is then used to make butter. So if this whey comes from gevinas akum then the butter is not kosher, even if it has all kosher ingredients.
There was a company which produced hand-made chocolate balls. They wanted to become kosher, so we told them to send us a list of their ingredients. After we received the list we went to the plant to take a look at their operation. One of the mashgichim noticed that the workers would dip their hands in vinegar before making each ball in order that the hot chocolate shouldn't stick to their hands. This vinegar was not on the ingredient list, because it didn't go into the food (it evaporated once the balls dried).

We told the owner of the plant that he had to write everything that the company used, not only what he thought we'd care about. When we got the next ingredient list, it had toilet paper, mops, everything! The guy had no clue what needed to be kosher!
There are different types of ingredients which can go into a product, and the list of what is what is kept secret. Why? Because the list is constantly changing, and it wouldn't do for people to be relying on an old list.
1. Items that need no hechsher, regardless of where they're made in the world or by whom. This list does not include fruits and vegetables.
2. Item is Kosher, even without symbol, whether it's from a from certain supplier, with a specific lot number, etc.
3. Needs a hechsher, i.e. a symbol, stamp, or letter.
4. Tanker-this fleet is always kosher, for example, Domino Sugar's tankers are all kosher.
5. Tanker that needs instructions along with it.
6. Ingredients that are not kosher but are allowed in a kosher factory, for example gelatin in a candy factory. Since gelatin can only be used in soft candy (the equipment used to make hard candy would be destroyed by gelatin) it's allowed in certain instances.

A factory is not allowed to have compatible Kosher and not-kosher products, i.e. it's not allowed to have both kosher and not-kosher canola oil.
To kasher a home is relatively simple. A factory is very difficult. For example, nowadays many factories use a closed loop steam system, which means that you can kasher everything involved in making a product, and yet if the steam system is connected to something which is used to make non-kosher food then the whole thing is treif.

Or, for example, there's a major problem with spray dryers, massive three-story funnel-shaped machines, which turn liquids into powders. How do you kasher them? After all, everything in them turns immediately to a solid! Once someone tried kashering one with a blowtorch, but I don't think they ever allowed him to try that again.
Zev Katz tells a story of a big rav who always cursed out Lubavitch who suddenly stopped. He was asked why, and he explained by telling a story.

He had once gone on a trip to some small city in Canada, and he went to eat breakfast by a non-Lubavitcher Rabbi in the city. He was offered coffee, and the Rabbi mentioned that since he was so far from "civilization" he had no access to chalav yisrael milk, for which he apologized. The Yerushalmi Rav said it was ok, but he didn't have any milk. Later that day he was invited to the local shliach's for supper, which was pareve, and he was offered coffee and milk afterwords. He declined, explaining that he only drinks chalav yisrael milk. The shliach said, "What do you think I drink?" The Rav said, "But the other Rabbi in the city told me that there's no chalav yisrael available in the city?" The shliach replied that he would go to a farm every week and ensure a supply of chalav yisrael.

The Rav said, "Since then, when I saw the mesiras nefesh a Chabad shliach has, I only have good things to say about Lubavitch."
So we once had a mashgiach working in a big hotel in Manhattan making a dinner for a big Jewish organization that included 800 Cornish hens. The mashgiach was walking around the kitchen, and he spotted a bunch of chicken entrails in a garbage can which obviously should not have been there. He asked the chef in charge, and the guy said, "Don't you see there's 800 chickens here? How the heck should I know?"

The mashgiach immediately called up Rabbi Heller and asked what to do. After all, this was a Chaticha Haruya Lehiskaved, did they have to throw them all out?

You want the answer? Go learn!


C said...

I read the whole thing! And, I enjoyed it!


Modeh B'Miktsas said...

This one was good. Thanks.

sarabonne said...

You're really upping the farbrengan department, I'm barely through one bout of ADD when suddenly there's another.


Nemo said...

Why do all Lubavitch Rabbis that speak have to tell Chassidim-misnagdim stories?

le7 said...

Interesting you wrote about this since I spent all of Shabbos talking about Kashrus. Uch.

The Real Shliach said...

C: impressive!

Modeh: my pleasure.

Sara: I do what I can.

Nemo: what could be more entertaining?

le7: so why uch?

Nemo said...

It's no wonder people think Lubavitchers are a bunch of supremacists.

le7 said...

Uch is because it's hard to trust anything/anyone.

The Real Shliach said...

Nemo: people are usually right.

le7: trust in kashrus, or bichlal?

le7 said...

Kashrus. Yet no.

The Real Shliach said...


e said...

No doubt about it. Lubavitchers are supremacists. What Jews are to Goyim, Lubavitchers are to Jews (and Tzfatim are to Lubavitchers).

le7 said...

Kashrus. You should be able to trust people right? It's not trusting people who don't have the same standards as me, it's trying to trust people who have higher standards than me!

e said...

Judaism makes people OCD.

Nemo said...

Look, I have no problem with telling a story here and there or contrasting chassidim and misnagdim to illustrate a certain point or emphasis, but why does a "shiur" about some guy's kashrus adventures have to begin by telling misnagdim stories?

The Real Shliach said...

le7: just because someone keeps kosher it doesn't mean they're a koher person.

e: only OCD people.

Nemo: ever heard of a milsa d'beduchsa, or parporos l'chachmah?

Leo de Toot said...

Dear Mr. Real S.
Another fine effort and much appreciated. Regarding Mr. Nemo's comments - I don't think I've ever heard a Chassidim-Misnagdim story from a Misnagid - probably because Misnagdim never come out looking good. Just a thought, L de Toot.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

No doubt about it. Lubavitchers are supremacists. What Jews are to Goyim, Lubavitchers are to Jews (and Tzfatim are to Lubavitchers).Damn straight.

TRS: And your spelling shows that you spend too much time on the stories and not enough learning gemara to get the words right [/snark]

Nemo: All kashrus shiurim are agenda-ridden. Even moreso in snag school.
LDT: Here is one misnagid-chossid story where the snag comes out looking good. I have a lot more.Reb Yaakov and the Sakmar were at some kind of aguda thing at night. THe rebbele had not yet davened mincha and was putting a minyan together so he came over to reb yaakov and asked him "Nu, hut g'davent mincheh?" To which Reb Yaakov answered "Haint nacht nisht" Oh. And the one TRS told about the rov is good.

The Real Shliach said...

LtD: thanks.

Modeh: there aren't any lubavitch-misnagdim stories where the misnaged comes out on top. We can hardly be held responsible for the poilishers.

e said...

Maybe the snags are less vindictive? Maybe they don't need to push others down to make themselves look good?

The most obvious reason is that ldt doesn't hang around those kinds of snags.

Nemo said...

Modeh: the thing is, there's a defense/retort for every Chassidim-Misnagdim story where the Misnagdim look good. There's no way for a Chassid to come out looking bad.

Yours is an easy answer: it wasn't that late or that Chassidim aren't so makpid on zmanim (and then turn it around and say that misnagdim have no kavanah) or, if it was really too late, that he's a rebbe and therefore he doesn't have to daven b'zman because he's higher than zman.

But with other stories, the excuses might not be as easy come up with, so their are always some back-up excuses to choose from, like misnagdim hating, being jealous or not having true yiras shomayim.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

The kotzker once said "I never saw a fake rebbe. A fake rosh yeshiva yes because you can put on a kapote and be an am ha'aretz but you start prancing around in white tights and a gold bekishe with curlers in your peyos schoen! Ah rebbe."

And there are plenty of stories where lubavitchers look bad. I just don't tell them because as a whole I respect the movement unlike sakmer.

e said...

aha! That's a story which makes "poilisheh" chassidim look bad! We have plenty of those.

Nemo said...

Cummon Modeh, try it!

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

My friend has a very nasty response to the yechi: "Oh, you mean Elvis! I like him too." and then bursts into a rousing rendition of you ain't nothing but a hound dog.