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Beit Hamidrash

Kashrut For All?

By: Yitzy Shizgal

What does Mehadrin Kashrut have to do with the concern that everyone in Am Yisrael keep the mitzvah of eating kosher? Yitzy Shizgal discusses this important question, that is very relevant to public Halacha observance.

Yitzy Shizgal

What does Mehadrin Kashrut have to do with the concern that everyone in Am Yisrael keep the Mitzvah of eating kosher? Yitzy Shizgal discusses this important question, that is very relevant to public Halacha observance.

A question that arises often among Kashrut observers, especially in Israel, where many private Kashruyot exist, is whether the individual can rely on Rabanut supervision, or, instead, should try to find a Mehadrin Hashgacha.  The answer to this question is important because many businesses are unable or unwilling to incur the higher costs of Mehadrin Hashgacha and would not consider anything other than Rabanut Hashgacha.  However, if the religious public does not accept such Hashgacha, these firms will forego any Hashgacha, thereby exposing their patrons to nonkosher products.

Why the religious public?  The answer is simple.  Nonobservant Jews will patronize an establishment whether it is kosher or not.  Therefore the owner will have no incentive to introduce Hashgacha unless it will bring religious trade to his business.  The amount of new business, moreover, must be more than the cost of the Hashgacha for the owner to be willing to accept the restrictions of Hashgacha.  As a practical matter this will rule out Mahadrin Hashgacha for most businesses because of its costly requirement that a Mashgiach be continuously on the premises.  Rabanut supervision permits unannounced intermittent supervision, which is significantly less costly.    

The obvious question that arises, however, is whether I may lower my standard of observance in order that my fellow Jew may not sin.  The short answer to the question, based on several Talmudic sources, is yes.  Beit Yosef, 306, discusses the question put to him of whether a father may violate the Sabbath to rescue his daughter from an apostate Jew who had taken her from her home by force and was suspected of attempting to cause her to abandon Judaism.  Noting the magnitude of the harm that would likely befall the daughter if not rescued immediately, the Beit Yosef cited several Talmudic cases that permit doing a relatively “minor” sin to prevent another person from committing a much greater sin and ruled that the father could violate the Sabbath to rescue his daughter.  The Beit Yosef even held that we can force him to do so.  The case before the Beit Yosef involved an individual.  It would follow that it should be permitted to rely on a lower level of Hashgacha, which does not even involve committing a sin, for the purpose of preventing many nonobservant Jews from sinning by eating nonkosher food. 

You may ask why we should be concerned whether or not secular Jews eat kosher when they themselves could not care less.  The answer is that “Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Ba Zeh,” All Jews are surety one for another.  Halacha tells us that Jews are responsible for each other.  No one would question that if someone attempts suicide in my presence, I must try to save his life, whether he wants to continue living or not.  Likewise, if my fellow Jew is endangering his spiritual life by violating basic mitzvoth such as the commandment to eat only kosher food, I am duty-bound to try to help him avoid such transgressions.

Eating kosher, moreover, is, along with observance of the Sabbath, a defining characteristic of being a Jew.  Kashrut and Shabbat are unique among the Mitzvot in that they identify the distinguishing character of Jewish observance.  They therefore must be preserved even if sacrifice is required.  Promoting Kashrut observance benefits not only every Jewish individual but Am Yisrael, the people of Israel.

The bottom line is what we deem more important, the perceived protection of our own souls from any potential spiritual contamination regardless of the consequences for the Klal; or doing what is good for the majority of Am Yisrael while still conducting ourselves in accordance with normative Halacha.   You may ask, can’t the two levels of Hashgacha coexist?  The answer is, yes, provided that both kinds are accepted by the public as fully valid.  If, however, Rabanut Hashgacha is shunned as unacceptable, then the consequences described above for Kashrut observance by Klal Yisrael are a likely result. One may want to eat according to the highest Kashrut principles possible, but concern for Am Yisrael should cause one to be willing to go by a lower but Halachically permissible standard.

May we all eat great tasting and Kosher foods!