Approaching the secular new year, I sit nostalgic of the Jewneric that was in the days of yore. Well, that’s not really true. I sit wondering why the only topics people can think to post are food related.
Let’s recap for those who are new here.
Jewneric began in August with posts on Airport food, China (?) and Pesach Food. September made way for “Swallowed Whole”, Food at Sporting Events, Eli’s Restaurant, Beer… Do you see where I’m going with this?
There is this obsession with food! I don’t know if it’s because my fellow Jewneric authors have personal problems focusing on real issues, or if it is a problem involving the lager Jewish community.
Why don’t we sift through the Jewneric charter: “Each writer has chosen topics that he or she is passionate about.” Clearly, most of our writers are passionate about food. Topics, we are told, will range “from sports to technology and from steak to Torah.” Well, that one article about kosher food at a tennis game could have only been read on the internet. As our President would say: mission accomplished. (Just remember, it ain’t over until the burkaed lady sings.)
There are plenty of ways we can use this forum to be food related and still be relevant. We can assume fairly well that when Yoohoo! boasts an O-U people will either not care or already know. And then there are the big issues: Is the food we are eating Kosher? When can a person trust what he is eating in a non-kosher establishment is Kosher? What’s more important: saving face or saving people from sinning? That last one applies to almost every issue facing Orthodoxy today.
Recently a fine dining eatery in Monsey lost its Hashgacha. The restaurant was owned by a non-Jew. The rabbis in Monsey decided to invoke their longest lasting halachic ruling: “One can not give a Hashgacha to any place owned by a non-Jew.” This edict survived nearly a week- enough time to remove the previous Hashgacha and put in place a new one. This was something the owner was very happy to do. His business requires that he have Jewish customers. His having Jewish customers requires that he be Kosher. He wants to be Kosher. He lost the first Hashgacha not because of anything he did, but because the Mashgichim were inept and allowed treif products to enter the establishment and thus the food.
One might think that when a scandal such as this is exposed the person to hurt most would be the original Hashgacha. Maybe a full page ad in the Jewish Press saying not to trust that rabbi and his symbol. But the rabbis in Monsey knew that it would be damaging to this rabbi’s good name to expose him, and the better action would be to impose fines and new procedures on the business owner… for being not Jewish.
Of course, there are those on the other side. Some youngsters who think Kashrus has gone too far with too little, some more elderly who remember the way to determine Kashrus when they were children: “if it tastes good, it isn’t Kosher.” They come together and say, “You don’t have to be Goyish to eat Wonderbread.” This may extend to eating salad or plainly prepared [otherwise kosher] fish at a restaurant. Or it may just give them the opportunity to enjoy McDonalds’ famous “100% Vegetable Oil” fries, perfect for vegetarians and people who abide by religious dietary laws.
Speaking of vegetarians, doesn’t anyone remember that PETA video that exposed a Kosher slaughterhouse of a massive number of violations of both secular and religious law? Pita certainly doesn’t have the best interests of Kashrus in mind, but we’d be naive to believe the rabbis with their famous last words, “everything is fine; nothing is ruined.” Instead of changing procedure, the rabbis put forth a letter saying, “don’t worry about it… keep eating. Of course it’s kosher- I the great, all powerful rabbi with the daas torah say that even if it’s not Kosher, it’s still Kosher – poof!”
Well now doesn’t that just fill you with confidence? And there you have the three opinions of Kashrus today:
1) Nothing is Kosher even if it is. One requires a Heter Meah Rabbaim to eat.
2) Everything is Kosher, even if it might not be.
3) As long as the rabbi blesses it, it is Kosher… even if it’s roadkill.
Frankly, I’m beginning to go with an “everyman for himself” (#2) attitude. The other two are about as tasty and filling as the cookie sheets they bake on.