Changing the Law as They See Fit

The Attorney General should be fired for attempting to render meaningless the Law against Fraud in kashrut * The Supreme Court allows the Karaites to present their meat as being kosher and under rabbinical supervision * With the food industry becoming increasingly complex and intricate, the supervisory authority of the Chief Rabbinate on all kashrut organizations is essential * The transition from Shabbat to the Fast of Tisha B’Av * How to make havdalah when Tisha B’Av falls on Motzei Shabbat * The halakha for pregnant and nursing women when Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat, and is postponed to Sunday

The Kashrut Law

The 1983 Kosher Fraud Law stipulates that the Council of the Chief Rabbinate, and the local rabbis ordained by it, are the only ones allowed to provide a certificate of kashrut for food in the State of Israel.

Recently, the Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, with his characteristic arrogance and that of the legal system, ruled that any person, whether rabbi or boor, whether religious or secular, is permitted to issue a certificate of kashrut supervision for a restaurant, a food chain, or for hotels. All they must do is indicate clearly that “this document does not constitute a kosher certificate from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel”, nor write that it is a “kosher” establishment.

In other words, any man in the street can issue a very dignified and impressive certificate on behalf of, let’s say, “Beit Din Tzedek ‘Shomrei HaTorah’, under the auspices of the Gaon John Doe”, and write in this certificate:” All the food sold or served in this store has been prepared in accordance with all the rules of halakha, Mehadrin min HaMehedrin, taking into account the opinions of all poskim, Rishonim and Achronim, Sephardim and Ashkenazim. Enjoy your food!” etc., and the bottom line will read: “This document was issued by the ‘Badatz of Shomrei HaTorah’ and not by the Chief Rabbinate.” The “rabbis” who grant the certificate can be either totally secular, naive tzadikim, or just plain people who received money for it – and this will not constitute any violation of the law whatsoever, because on their fancy certificate it will not be written that it was provided by the Chief Rabbinate, and the word “kosher” will not appear on it.

Even the Supreme Court, in a decision which harmed the authority of the Chief Rabbinate, agreed that “the objective and purpose of the law is to prevent fraud in relation to the kashrut of food in terms of its quality, preparation, and supervision” (Theodore Or, 05/27/90). And now, the Attorney General dares to strip the law of all its substance, in stark contrast to the lawmaker’s intent. It would be proper to demand his immediate dismissal. Let’s hope that, at any rate, such outrageous acts will bring us closer to the required changes in the entire judiciary system.

The Supreme Court and the Karaites

In the meantime, the legal system landed another blow to traditional and religious Jews who keep kosher. On Sunday, the Supreme Court accepted the position of the Karaites, allowing them to sell meat under the title “Kosher under the supervision of the Karaite Rabbinate.” Halachically, the meat is treif (not kosher), because the Karaites do not keep halakha according to the Oral Torah scholars. However, the Supreme Court judges permitted them to deceive the public, as though their meat is kosher and under some type of rabbinical supervision, in complete contradiction to the Kosher Fraud Law.

The Importance of the Kashrut Law

It’s impossible to provide kosher food for the masses of Jewish people without the Chief Rabbinate having the authority to supervise all the various kashrut organizations. As each year passes, the food industry becomes progressively more complex and intricate, leading to a need for broad, inclusive, and authoritative supervision. Without it, even rabbis with good intentions would falter in providing kashrut for foods that are not kosher – for various reasons: Either they would be unable to check if the fruits are orlah, or if the grain, most of which is imported, was harvested in contradiction to the prohibition of chadash, or if the meat comes from a factory where it was not slaughtered properly, etc. etc.. All the more so when we know that in the food market, vast economic interests are involved, and it is clear that there are elements who would abuse the gaping hole that the secular legal system opened before them, and find a way to buy a cheap “kashrut certificate”, and under it auspices, market treif food.

Just as there are general veterinary inspections of all foods, and general supervision for all doctors, so too, there is a need for general supervision of the kashrut system, and this is the purpose of the Kosher Fraud Law in kashrut. Let’s hope that the government will quickly find a way to block this loophole, and by doing so, put the legal system in its place.

The Laws of Tisha B’Av that Falls on Shabbat

When Tish’a B’Av falls out on Shabbat, we postpone the fast until Sunday, and on that Shabbat one may eat meat, drink wine, and even serve a meal like King Shlomo did in his day. We also sing Shabbat songs as usual, because there is no mourning on the Sabbath (concerning things done in private, see S.A. 554:19).

The Transition between Shabbat and Tish’a B’Av

However, there is an intermediate time between Shabbat and the fast, during which Shabbat has not yet ended but the prohibitions of the fast have already begun. This happens because we are unsure when one day ends and the next day begins – at sunset, or when the stars emerge. Therefore, the period between sunset and the emergence of the stars is ambiguous, being possibly day, and possibly night. It is called “bein hashmashot” (twilight). And since there is a mitzvah to add time onto Shabbat, Shabbat continues until a few minutes after the stars emerge, as listed on most calendars (in Jerusalem, sunset is at 19:45, and Shabbat ends at 20:21. In Tel Aviv, sunset is at 19:43, and the Shabbat ends at 20:23).

Consequently, the time between sunset and shortly after the emergence of the stars is both Shabbat and Tish’a B’Av. During that time, it is forbidden to do anything that would appear like a custom of mourning, because we do not mourn on the Sabbath. On the other hand, after sunset, we avoid doing anything that is not necessary for the sake of Shabbat, like eating, drinking, washing, and anointing.

Seudah Shlishit

Therefore, we eat the third Sabbath meal (seudah shlishit) like we do on any other Shabbat, including the singing of Sabbath songs. However, we stop eating and drinking before sunset, because there is no obligation – from a Shabbat perspective – to continue eating seudah shlishit after sunset. It is also fitting not to sing joyous songs after sunset, and doing so does not constitute an expression of mourning, for people do not generally sing happy songs every moment of Shabbat.

Washing During the Transition Period

We also refrain from washing and anointing ourselves after sunset; after all, we do not bathe or anoint ourselves on Shabbat in any case. However, one who relieves himself during bein hashmashot should wash his hands normally, for if he washes only part of his hands as required on the fast, he is, in effect, mourning on the Sabbath.

The Changing of Clothes and Shoes

We remain in our Sabbath clothing, keep our shoes on, and continue to sit on chairs and greet each other until a few minutes after three, mid-sized stars appear in the sky. Then, we say “Baruch ha’mavdil bein kodesh le’chol (‘Blessed is He Who separates between the holy and the mundane’), by which we take leave of the Sabbath. Afterwards, we remove our shoes, take off our Sabbath garments, and change into weekday clothes.

Some people have a custom to remove their shoes at sunset, seeing as wearing shoes is one of the prohibited actions on Tisha B’Av, and since in any case, there is no obligation to walk in shoes all of Shabbat, there’s no lack of respect for the Sabbath by doing so. However, if others take notice that one has removed his shoes for the sake of mourning, it is clearly forbidden. Therefore, the prevalent custom is to remove one’s shoes only after Shabbat has ended.

When changing from Shabbat to weekday clothing, one should wear clothing that was already worn the previous week, because one may not wear freshly laundered clothing on Tish’a B’Av.

Evening Prayer

Many communities have a custom to delay Ma’ariv until around fifteen minutes after Shabbat ends, in order to give everyone time to take leave of the Sabbath at home, remove their shoes, change their clothes, and come to the synagogue for Ma’ariv and the reading of Eichah in weekday clothes.

Havdalah in Speech and Over Wine

The fast begins immediately after Shabbat, making it is impossible to say havdalah over a cup of wine. Therefore, we postpone saying this form of havdalah until after the fast. Nevertheless, we say havdalah – “Ata Chonantanu” – in the Ma’ariv prayers, after which we are permitted to do work. Some say that women should pray Ma’ariv on such a Saturday night, in order to make havdalah in ‘Ata Chonantanu’. Women who do not follow this practice should say, ‘Baruch ha’mavdil bein kodesh le’chol’, after which they are permitted to do work.

The Blessing over the Candle

In addition, we recite the blessing over fire on such a Motzei Shabbat, because this blessing is not dependent on the cup of wine. Rather, it is an expression of thanks to God for creating fire, which was revealed to Adam on the first Motzei Shabbat. The custom is to recite the blessing after Ma’ariv, before the reading of Eichah, because people light candles at that time. Women also recite the blessing over fire. If they are in synagogue, they should hear the blessing of the chazan (cantor), and have benefit from the light of the candle lit in their vicinity so they can see it. If they are at home, they should light a candle and recite the blessing (see, Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 8:1, footnote 1).    

Havdalah over Wine after the Fast

At the end of the fast, two blessings are recited: Borei pri hagefen, and HaMavdil (‘He Who separates’). No blessing is made on spices or fire.

When the fast is over, it is forbidden to eat before making havdalah over the cup of wine, because saying “Ata Chonantanu” or “Baruch ha’mavdil bein kodesh le’chol” permits one to do work, whereas havdalah over a cup permits one to eat and drink.

Pregnant and Nursing Women

Since the fast is postponed from Shabbat until Sunday, if a pregnant or nursing woman feels weak or has difficulty fasting, she may eat or drink. The reason for this is that the status of a postponed Fast of Tisha B’Av is similar to that of the Minor Fasts, in which pregnant and nursing woman are completely exempt (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 10:20).

Havdalah for a Sick Person Who Needs to Eat on Tisha B’Av

A sick person who needs to eat on Tish’a B’Av, must say havdalah over a cup before eating. In such a case, it is proper to use chamar medinah, literally, a beverage containing alcohol, but is not wine, such as beer. In a sha’at dachak (time of distress), one may also make havdalah on coffee, for some poskim hold that it is also considered a mashkeh medinah (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 8:4). If one has no such beverage, he should say havdalah over grape juice, for since it has no alcohol content, it does not make one happy. And if even that is unavailable, he should say havdalah on wine and drink only a melo lugmav (a cheek full) [around 40 ml.].

A minor who eats on Tish’a B’Av need not say havdalah before eating.

The Laws of Mourning on the Day after Tisha B’Av

The majority of the Temple actually burned on the tenth of Av. Nevertheless, our Sages set the fast on the ninth of Av, according to when the fire began, but since in practice the majority of the Holy Temple was burned on the tenth, the People of Israel have a custom not to eat meat or drink wine on that date. In addition, many Jews are accustomed not to take a haircut or shower in hot water, do laundry, or wear laundered clothes on the tenth of Av.

This year, however, when Tish’a B’Av falls out on Shabbat and the fast is postponed until Sunday, the tenth of Av, the customs of mourning do not continue after the fast, and one is allowed to bathe in hot water, do laundry, and wear laundered clothes. As far as eating meat and drinking wine in the evening after the fast is over, someone who is machmir (stringent) tavo alav bracha (pious conduct for which one is blessed for being stringent), but one who wishes to be lenient is permitted.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found here: