Relying on Kashrut

Notwithstanding the basic trust of man, since people have a financial reason to cheat, supervision is required to permit food they sell * Supervision is based on deterrence, by means of surprise and punishment * In the kashrut system, both the Rabbinate and Badatz organizations, there are problems requiring improvement * Nonetheless, on the whole, the level of kashrut in Israel is good * In spite of flaws and forgeries now and then, if there is a kashrut certificate that has not been proven to be fake – one can rely on it, and if it turns out that the Rabbi or mashgiach was negligent in their job – the sin is on their head, and not on the purchaser

In this article I will discuss the kashrut system in Israel, and explain the need for a kashrut certificate for food, and the difference between a standard kashrut certificate and a mehadrin kashrut certificate (the most stringent level of kosher supervision).

The general rule is that when a business operator has a financial incentive to cheat, supervision is required to monitor he does not do so. For that reason, the Torah commanded that merchants be supervised to make sure their weights are accurate, so as not to deceive buyers (Deuteronomy 25:15; Baba Batra 89a). However, this does not mean venders and food manufacturers are not be trusted at all, for if so, supervision would be required at all times, and even the supervisors would have to be supervised lest they are dishonest, ad infinitum. Rather, the basis of everything is basic trust in people requiring reinforcement by means of supervision when they face financial temptation.

The Foundation of Supervision: Deterrence

Hashgacha (kashrut supervision) rests on the basis of deterrence, which is divided into two components – surprise, and punishment.

Surprise: When there is concern that a business owner or worker will do something that renders the food non-kosher, he must be aware that at any moment the mashgiach (kashrut supervisor) might appear and observe him. To this end, a key must be given to the mashgiach so he can come to the factory at any time without prior coordination, and inspect everything done there (Avodah Zara 61a; S.A., Y.D. 129:1; 131:1).

Punishment: If a shochet (ritual slaughterer) or a business owner is caught selling non-kosher food, God forbid, his kashrut certificate must be revoked. As our Sages instructed, a shochet who sold treif (non-kosher) meat, is permanently disqualified. And even if he claims he did it inadvertently and will do teshuva (repent) by letting his hair and nails grow as an expression of grief for his wrong-doing, he is no longer trusted. Since he has lost his credibility, there is concern his teshuva was done for the purpose of obtaining a permit to sell meat, but when faced with temptation once again – he will fail, and cheat. Only if he moves to another location , and there a rare case occurs by which it becomes crystal clear he overcame his lust for money, can he be trusted to have done teshuva (Sanhedrin 25a; Rashbah 1:20; S. A. 119:15).

The Weakening of Deterrence, and the Increase of Supervision

At the beginning of the period of the Achronim some four hundred years ago, when the process of professionalization grew, there were families whose entire livelihood depended on the ritual slaughtering and selling of meat, and if a father was permanently disqualified from selling meat, his livelihood, and that of his family, was destroyed. Therefore, the rabbis instructed to judge him leniently and arrange a method for him to do teshuva by way of fasting and self-punishment, and after his punishment was completed, his credibility was re-instated (Rashal, Taz 119:16; Sho’el U’Mayshiv 141, 2, 170. See, Chulin 18a; Daat Kohen 2).

This is also the custom today: if it appears to the rabbis responsible for kashrut that someone caught cheating will change his ways for the better, they punish him by disqualifying his kashrut certificate for a certain amount of time and arrange for him a method of doing teshuva, and afterwards, return his kashrut certificate. Certainly, however, since general deterrence has been hampered by the fact that denial of kashrut certification is not permanent, the need was created to increase the importance of supervision of all food businesses, especially those who were caught cheating.

Kosher and Mehadrin

In kashrut organizations, it is customary to grant two types of certificates: a standard kosher certificate, and a mehadrin kosher certificate. The difference between them is in two areas: first – in mehadrin kashrut, when there is no great difficulty, the opinions of the machmirim (strict poskim) are taken into consideration even when they are a minority, and even when the law is based on Divrei Chachamim (rabbinical ordinance). Whereas in standard kashrut, they go according to the rules of halakha, namely, in a dispute of Divrei Chachamim, when necessary, they rule according to the lenient opinion, and in a dispute regarding an issur Torah (a Torah prohibition), if there is a clear majority of poskim who rule leniently – when necessary, they rely on their opinion, and if the dispute is equal – they are machmir (rule stringently). Only in the law of sirchot (scar tissue) of the lungs of animals – although considered an equally disputed law of a Torah prohibition – they rule leniently, and the reason for this is due to the high cost of the chumra (a stringency that exceed the bare requirements of halakha), and also because the lenient opinion seems more acceptable (since animals who have sirchot do not die within twelve months).

The second area concerns the degree of supervision. Standard kashrut follows the customary rules of halakha according to the majority of poskim, and they rely on the business owner to adhere to the system of kashrut practices they set for him; consequently, the mashgiach (kashrut supervisor) visits the business periodically to check that everything is going as agreed. If they find he had cheated, they invalidate the kashrut, but as long as they did not find a significant problem, they continue trusting the owner. In contrast, mehadrin kashrut relies less on the business owner, and usually requires a mashgiach on-hand to oversee all food preparation.  In addition, a slight violation of the instructions can also invalidate the kashrut certificate.

As a general rule, the Chief Rabbinate and local rabbinates provide both standard and mehadrin kashrut, while the various private kashrut organizations usually provide one kashrut level. The recognized Badatz organizations in Israel only grant mehadrin kashrut.

Problems in the Kashrut System

For various reasons, the kashrut system suffers from a number of problems, in particular: 1) A lack of uniform procedures for defining kosher and mehadrin. 2) Lack of supervision of certain rabbinates and Badatz organizations who are sometimes negligent in their work. 3) Competition that sometimes becomes unruly, accompanied by defamation which unjustly harms the presumption of the kashrut of trustworthy people. 4) Often there is a conflict of interest that may cause mashgichim or kashrut organizations to turn a blind eye to problems in order to continue being paid for the kashrut.

Between the Rabbinate and the Badatz Organizations

One of the problems about kashrut in many local rabbinates is that the mashgiach receives his salary from the business owner, raising concern he will be afraid to voice disapproval. On the other hand, the Badatz organizations have an incentive to continue providing kashrut because they earn a living from it, while a local rabbi has a fixed salary and no incentive to continue granting kashrut, and as a result, his halachic ruling is impartial. In addition, the local rabbinate may be examined by the Chief Rabbinate and the State judiciary system, and in this way, the Rabbinate has an advantage (as Rabbi Moshe Bigel explained in the introduction to his book ‘Echol B’Simcha’). On the other hand, by fact that the Badatz organizations deal with higher-standard kashrut with closer supervision, this balances out their conflicts of interest. The fear of criticism from competing kashrut organizations also balances out conflicts of interest.

Striving for Improvement

It would be appropriate to attempt improving the entire kashrut system; establish uniform procedures for defining kosher and mehadrin and procedures reducing the concern of conflict of interests; require kashrut organizations to report transparently on their level of supervision so the buyer knows what they are strict about and what not; and have the Chief Rabbinate monitor all of this reliably.

In Spite of All, the Level of Kashrut is Good

Nevertheless, despite all the problems requiring correction, overall, the kashrut system in Israel is good. There are a few reasons for this: First, thanks to the basic yirat Shamayim (fear of God) of the vast majority of people involved in the field of kashrut. Second, the competition between the various kashrut organizations and the media exposure of faults, causes them to analyze themselves and improve. Third, the fact that most of the food produced in Israel is kosher, greatly helps maintain kashrut.

The Presumption of Kashrut for all Supervisions

Although rumors are occasionally spread about the kashrut of a particular rabbinate or Badatz being remiss and employing fraudulent or negligent mashgichim, and sometimes there are stores that sell treif (non-kosher meat) alongside their kosher certificate, and the media now and then reports about a store presenting a fake kashrut certificate – in spite of all this, as long as there is no clear evidence of exactly where the treif is being sold, one is permitted to buy food in all places that have a kashrut certificate from a rabbinate or private kashrut organization. There are two main reasons for this:

First: The basis of relying on kashrut is that “one witness is relied upon in prohibitions,” and consequently, we rely on the mashgiach who testifies verbally or by a kashrut certificate that the food is kosher. Although the mashgiach receives a salary for this, since the rabbis choose reliable mashgichim and supervise them, they may be trusted. And while sometimes people lie, including those considered particularly trustworthy, the minority of liars does not cancel out the general rule that “one witness is relied upon in prohibitions.” Just as two witnesses may sometimes lie, nevertheless, as long as it is not otherwise proven, we rely on two witnesses even in the most severe judgements (Rambam, Yisodei Torah 7: 7). In other words, the first foundation is the presumption of basic kashrut of the rabbinate granting the kashrut seal, which cannot be uprooted without thorough investigation.

We Follow the Majority

The second foundation: we go according to the majority, and most places that have a kashrut certificate are kosher. After all, the halakha is that even if food is found on the street, if in the area the majority of stores are kosher, although the minority of stores sell treif food, the food found on the street is kosher, for we go according to the majority (Chulin 95a; S. A., Y.D. 110:3). Kal v’chomer (a fortiori) it is permitted to buy food in stores that have a kashrut certificate (and it should not be argued that the fraudulent places are considered kavu’ah (permanent), because in the opinion of the majority of poskim, the law of kavu’ah applies only to a known place, or at the very least, a place that with little effort may be easily found, whereas in this situation, one does not know which place is fraudulent. And in the law of kavu’ah the opinion of the machmirim is not taken into consideration, since it is d’Rabbanan (rabbinical), and in any safek (doubt) concerning the law of kavu’ah, halakha goes according to the lenient opinion, as explained in ‘Peninei Halakha: Kashrut’, Vol. II, 16).

Standard Kashrut is Kosher, and Mehadrin Kashrut is Mehadrin

Therefore, in halakha and in practice, all foods that have kashrut supervision of the Chief Rabbinate and the local rabbinate are kosher, and foods having mehadrin kashrut of the Rabbinate or private kashrut organizations are usually kosher, or kosher l’mehadrin as appears on the kashrut certificate. If it turns out that the rabbi and mashgiach were negligent in their job, and the food a person ate was not kosher or not mehadrin as requested, the sin is entirely on the head of the rabbi and the mashgiach, whereas the buyer who was meticulous in purchasing food having kashrut supervision – is free of sin. If the rabbi and the mashgiach did their job faithfully, but the manufacturer cheated them, the sin rests entirely on the fraudulent manufacturer’s head.

All Together Now – On the Holiday of Sukkot

The Jewish nation was commanded to take the four species on the holiday of Sukkot, as it is written: “On the first day, you must take for yourself a fruit of the citron tree, an unopened palm frond, myrtle branches, and willows [that grow near] the brook. You shall rejoice before God for seven days” (Leviticus 23:40).

The Sages taught that the four species are mutually indispensible, in other words, if one of the species are missing, the mitzvah is not fulfilled (Tractate Menachot 27a).

Le’chatchila, (at the preferred halachic level), they should be taken together, binding the lulav (palm frond) with the hadassim (myrtle branches) and the aravot (willows).

Bedi’aved, (ex post facto), if one took the four species separately, he has fulfilled his obligation, since, in the end, he took all of them (Shulchan Aruch 651:12).

A profound idea is hidden in this halakha concerning the unity of the Jewish nation, which is also connected to our preparations for Yom Kippur, since the primary aspect of kappara (atonement) is reliant upon our being a part of Clal Yisrael (the Jewish nation as a whole).

Four Species, Two Groups

The comparison of the four species to the four different groups of Jews is familiar to many. However, in the Talmud (Tractate Menachot 27a), the Sages arranged the four species into two groups, saying that just like in the four species, two of them yield fruits – the etrog (citron) and lulav (dates from the palm tree), while the other two – the haddas (myrtle) and aravot (willows) – don’t bear fruit.

So too, there are talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars), and there are ordinary people. And just as one cannot fulfill his obligation of taking the four species if one of them is missing, this is also true concerning the Jewish nation – Torah scholars cannot exist without the help of the regular people who assist them in their livelihood, and the regular people cannot exist without the Torah scholars who connect them to the spiritual world and the World to Come (see Tractate Chulin 92a).

Compared to the Four Groups

In more detail, the Sages explained (Vayikra Rabba 30:12) that the four species allude to four types of people in the Jewish nation. The etrog, which possesses both taste and smell, is compared to Jews who are complete in Torah and good deeds. The lulav, which possesses taste but has no smell, is compared to Jews who have Torah but lack good deeds. The haddas, whose smell is pleasant but does not yield fruit, is compared to Jews who have good deeds but lack Torah. And the arava, which has neither fruit nor smell, is compared to Jews who lack both Torah and good deeds.

“What does God do with them (the Jews in the category of aravot)? To destroy them is impossible! Rather, God said: Let them all be tied together in a single bundle, and one will atone for the other.”

Etrog Jews

Jews compared to the etrog are complete in Torah and good deeds, and assist in the future tikkun (perfection) of the world. This is also exhibited in the halakha– we are more meticulous concerning the beauty of the  etrog than all the other species.

Although the etrog is indeed the most beautiful of all the species, nevertheless, we cannot ignore the fact that, as far as taste is concerned, the dates which grow on the palm tree are tastier, and the smell of the haddas is more pleasant. As if to say: True, the Jews compared to the etrog are indeed extremely beautiful and integrate the full range of qualities in their personalities, but they require the lulav and the haddas.

Lulav Jews: Torah Scholars

It is illogical to explain that the Jews compared to the lulav are people who  study Torah diligently but do not fulfill the mitzvoth; for what value is their Torah study if they don’t identify with its commandments (Tractate Yevamot 109b)? Rather, it refers to diligent Torah scholars who, as a result of their constant learning, do not merit fulfilling scores of good deeds, but nevertheless, give expression to the importance of Torah study more than others. Their level is especially high, for Torah study is tantamount to all the other mitzvoth combined. In practice, we also see that the lulav is taller than all the other species – implying that the level of the Torah is highest of all. Therefore, the blessing over the taking of the four species is “Blessed art Thou… and commanded us concerning the taking of the lulav.

Torah Study and Jewish Unity

The study of Torah contains a basic stipulation: it must stem from a connection to Clal Yisrael in unity. And although there are different opinions and diverse sides of the Torah, all come from one source, and are one.

As the Sages said (Tractate Chagigah 3b): “The men of assemblies,” which means the Torah scholars…some declare certain things pure, while others declare them impure; some prohibit, and others allow; some make valid, while others make invalid. But if one may say: If this is the case, how can I learn the Torah (due to the abundance of rifts and disagreements)? Therefore, it is written: “Given by one shepherd.” One God gave them, and one Master (Moses) said it from the mouth of the Lord of all creatures, blessed be He.”

The Lulav Shouts “Unity”!

The lulav, in its’ unique shape, expresses the quality of unity. Its leaves grow on two opposite sides, but they cling to the spine of the palm collectively. On the one hand, the lulav brims with many leaves; however, one leaf covers the next, with each leaf adding a little bit of its own, and all together, they envelop the spine of the palm in unity. And if the leaves split and are separated from the spine – the lulav is pasul (disqualified).

Also, every leaf is composed of two separate leaves clinging together via the tiyomet (twin middle leaf of the lulav), and if the tiyomet is divided – the lulav is pasul, not kosher. Even the lulav’s straight form expresses unity – aiming completely at one goal – but when it is bent, it curves in two different directions, and therefore, is pasul.

And thus the Sages said: “Just as the date (from the palm tree) has only one heart, so too, Israel has only one heart – to their Father in Heaven” (Tractate Sukkah 45b).

Similarly, the Sages said: “An unopened palm frond – these are the Torah scholars, who compel themselves to learn Torah from one another” (Vayikra Rabba 30:11) – for only through modesty and unity can Torah truly be learned.

Accordingly, Torah scholars must awaken to spread peace and unity, as the Sages said: “Torah scholars bring peace to the world” (Tractate Berachot 64a).

Haddas Jews: The Righteous

The haddas alludes to Jews who perform many mitzvoth and good deeds. Of course, Jews compared to the haddas are not disconnected from engaging in Torah, rather, they excel by doing numerous mitzvoth and good deeds, and as a result of these acts, holiness is revealed in the world.

Also, we have seen that the righteous have been called haddasim, and in their merit, the world survives and is not destroyed by sins (Tractate Sanhedrin 93a). Likewise, Queen Esther, in whose merit the Jewish nation exists in the world, was named Haddasah, in the name of her righteousness (Tractate Megillah 13a).

The Sages have said: “One who sees a haddas in his dream – his assets will be successful, and if he lacks assets – an inheritance will fall to him from somewhere else” (Tractate Berachot 57a).

Most Important – Good Deeds

In several respects, the greatest mitzvah is to marry and “be fruitful and multiply”. This mitzvah expresses piousness, for by means of it, holy souls are continued into the actual, physical world. And indeed, the Sages said that the multiplicity of the three -pronged leaves of the haddas alludes to the multiplicity of children.

Therefore, they said that the haddas is likened to our forefather Yaacov, and his wife Leah. “Just like the haddas is replete with leaves, so was Yaacov replete with children”, and “so was Leah replete with children” (Vayikra Rabbah 30:10).

The custom of chassidim to dance before the bride while holding branches of haddasim in their hands was not coincidental (Tractate Ketubot 17a).

The Arava – Simple Jews

On the face of it, the arava has no eminence whatsoever. It has no taste or smell, and the Jews compared to it lack both Torah and good deeds; they exist only by connecting themselves to Clal Yisrael.

However, the arava does have intrinsic value, for it possesses a tremendous growth force. If a large willow tree is pruned in the month of Nisan (spring), by Tishrei (fall) it will return to its fullness.

In this respect, the arava reflects tremendous vitality in this world. And amongst the nation of Israel, Jews likened to the arava express the idea that derch eretz (good manners) precedes the Torah, for although they do not engage in Torah study and mitzvoth, nevertheless, they act civilly and are productive individuals.

By virtue of their natural vitality, the Torah scholars and righteous people are strengthened in their work. And from this very same natural vitality, new Torah scholars and active individuals sprout amongst the Jewish nation, as we have witnessed numerous times, that important Torah scholars and achiever’s have come from simple families.

Therefore, it is essential to take the arava amongst the four species. And thus we learn that only through unity of all the resources can the Jewish nation fulfill its mission – to perfect the world through the word of God.

Arava: Our Matriarch Rachel

The arava alludes to beauty and the natural, practical forces in the world, and when watered properly, it grows strongly; on the other hand, if it is not attached to water, it quickly withers.

In a similar way, the Sages likened the arava to the Matriarch Rachel and Yosef Ha’Tzaddik, for on the one hand, both of them died relatively young, and had difficulties finding full expression in the Jewish nation; on the other hand, their vitality, beauty, and practical talents sustained Am Yisrael.

In the merit of Rachel, all the tribes were born, and in the merit of Yosef, Israel survived the famine and exile in Egypt.

The task of the arava Jews is extremely difficult. They are required to reveal the holiness contained within everyday-life in this, material world. Unlike the lulav Jews who engage in Torah and the haddas Jews who fulfill mitzvoth, the arava Jews are engaged in the regular duties of this world, “down to earth” – and to reveal holiness there is no simple task.

Therefore, in the meantime, they are fruitless and seem empty, but the vitality within them expresses high aspirations.

And in the future, when the world is filled with the knowledge of God, and even on the bells of the horses shall there be inscribed ‘Holiness to the Lord’ (Zechariah 14), and non-bearing fruit trees in the Land of Israel will give-off fruit (Tractate Ketubot 12b), the lofty virtue of the arava Jews will be revealed.

We Must Never Separate

In the meantime, it is forbidden to take leave of the aravot – firstly, so they don’t fall and get lost amongst the nations, and secondly – if they are missing from the Jewish nation, who will fulfill the great vision of revealing the word of God in this, material world?

It is precisely the arava Jews, like Rachel and Yosef Ha’Tzaddik, who upon connecting to the holy, will merit revealing the holiness in the natural, physical life — in beauty, and in all the talents revealed in the life of this world.

I Invite to My Meal Poor, Lonely Ushpizin

The mitzvah of joy on Chag includes concern to make one’s family happy, and the poor and needy * The primary concern of joy should be between husband and wife, and both of them together are responsible to make the rest of the family happy * The Ushpizin in the Sukkah are first and foremost the poor and lonely, as well as new immigrants, and it is a mitzvah to invite them to a meal on Chag. Anyone who invites such guests merits hosting the exalted Ushpizin, the righteous souls * The laws of kashrut for guests: A person can rely on a host’s kashrut even without supervision, provided he is sure the host is familiar with the halachot, and does not disrespect them

The Mitzvah to Rejoice and Make Others Happy

The primary mitzvah of simcha (joy) on the holiday of Sukkot is to be happy and make others happy, for true joy is achieved only when one strives to share the joy with others, as the Torah says: “You shall rejoice on your festival along with your son and daughter, your male and female slave, and the Levite, proselyte, orphan and widow within your gates” (Deuteronomy 16:14).
Upon further observation, we find that this mitzvah has two components: First, to rejoice together with one’s family and household members. It should be pointed out that the word ‘ata‘ (you) in the above mentioned verse includes both husband and wife jointly – one’s spouse always comes before all other relatives. Also, we find indeed that a man’s primary simcha is the festive meal which his wife customarily prepares, while a woman’s primary simcha is for her husband to buy her new clothes or jewelry. The responsibility of imparting their joy with members of the family is equally shared, for the simcha of Chag is incomplete without the participation of the entire family. The time-honored custom of all Jews is sharing the joy of the holiday with the family.

The second component of the mitzvah is bringing joy to neighbors and friends, the poor and the lonely. The orphan and widow mentioned in the verse were typically poor having lost their main source of sustenance, and the mitzvah to gladden them is carried out by giving them tzedakah (charity). The ger (convert), having left his homeland and family is liable to suffer from loneliness, and the mitzvah to make him happy is achieved by inviting him to participate in the festival meal.

In recent generations, a special mitzvah has been added to natives of Israel: to host immigrants, who often feel lonelier specifically during the holidays, and it is a great mitzvah to include them in the joy.
It should further be noted that the Torah commanded including the Kohanim and Levi’im (Priests and Levites) in the joy. Their task was to teach and instruct B’nei Yisrael, both young and old. From this we can learn that today, Torah scholars – the rabbis and educators who teach Torah and instruct throughout the year similar to the Kohanim and Levi’im, should also be made happy on the Chag. (Binyan Shleima, 1:33).

Who are the Ushpizin According to the Holy Zohar

The lonely or poor guests are the special ones of the festival of Sukkot, who are called in Aramaic ushpizin, and the more guests one brings joy to in his sukkah, the more praiseworthy he is.

Consequently, our Sages said in the Zohar that one should also invite to the sukkah “ushpizin ila’in” (supreme and holy guests), namely, the souls of the seven tzadikim (righteous men), Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David, whose spiritual light shines on Chag Sukkot. In other words, having merited the mitzvah of sukkah and bringing joy to guests, particularly the poor and lonely, one is able to elevate spiritually and also invite supreme and holy guests to the sukkah, i.e., enlightenment from the souls of the tzadikim. Each day, the spiritual light of one the tzadikim shines bright, and he enters the sukkah first, followed by the other six tzadikim.

The Zohar also relates the custom of Rabbi Hamnuna Sabba, who, upon entering the sukkah, was extremely joyful and would stand inside the entrance of his sukkah and bless, saying: ‘Sit down, supreme and holy guests, sit down. Sit down, guests of Faith, sit down.’ He joyfully raised his hands and said: ‘Happy is our lot, happy is the lot of Israel who sit in the sukkah. For whoever has a share in the holy nation and the Holy Land, dwells in the shadow of Faith to receive the light of the seven tzadikim hosted in the sukkah, to rejoice in this world, and in the World to Come!’ (Zohar Emor, Vol.3, 103, 2-104:1, translation).

The Zohar Concerning Those Who Are Not Hospitable

In continuation, it is written in the Zohar (translation, and interpretation): “And although he merits receiving the souls of the righteous, he must be careful to gladden the poor, for the portion of the guests he invited to his meal, belongs to the poor. He sits in the shadow of Faith and invites these lofty guests, the guests of Faith, yet does not give them, namely the poor, their share of the meal, the tzadikim get up from his table because one should not be a guest of a kamtzan (miser)… for the table he set for a festive meal is a table made in honor of himself, and not in honor God, and of him it is written, “And spread on your faces, even the dung of your feasts” (Malachi 2:3). Woe to that man when the guests of Faith stand back from his table. Abraham , who throughout his life used to stand at the crossroads to invite guests and set the table for them, sees that this person who set his table did not give the poor their share, he stands up and says: “Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men” (Numbers 16:26), and the rest of the supreme guests walk away after him… one must not say, ‘First I will eat and drink, and whatever is leftover I will give to the poor’, rather, first and foremost he should give to the poor. If he acts properly and gladdens the poor and satiates them, The Holy One blessed be He is happy with him, and each of the faithful guests bless him…”

Basic Reliability in Kashrut

Q: Rabbi, I know it’s a mitzvah on Chag to have guests in one’s sukkah and also to visit family members and friends, but when eating at other people’s sukkah, can I trust that they are strictly observant of the laws of kashrut?

A: In general, Jews who believe in Hashem and his Torah can be trusted in mitzvot. Consequently, the Torah commanded that every Jew, whether man or woman, fulfill the mitzvoth of kashrut by himself – slaughter his beasts and kasher the flesh from chalavim (forbidden fats), gid ha’nasheh (displaced tendon) and blood, and also set aside trumot and ma’asrot (tithes) from his fruits – without the supervision of a Kohen or Rabbi, and anyone who is a guest at another Jew’s house can trust him, and eat from his food.

Not only that, but according to the mitzvoth of the Torah even the Kohanim trusted every Jew and ate from their shechita (ritual slaughter), for indeed it commanded that every Jew who slaughtered a beast for himself, give the Kohanim as a gift the zero’a (foreleg), leḥayayim (jaw) and kevah (maw, or stomach). This is the meaning of our Sages statement: “One witness is believed in matters concerning ritual prohibition”, in other words, that a man can testify that his foods are kosher (Rashi, Yevamot 88a, s.v. “ve’amar”; Chulin 10b, s.v. “eid”). We also find that every Jewish man trusts his wife concerning nida on her say so (Tosafot, Gitin 2b s.v. “eid”), and as well, our Sages said: “The laws of hekdesh, terumot, and tithes are indeed essential parts of the law, and they were entrusted to the ignorant” (Shabbat 32a).

Two Conditions of Reliability

However, this basic trust depends on two conditions: first – that it is a person who knows how to fulfill the details of the mitzvoth. Therefore, for example, although a Jew is trusted when he says that he slaughtered his beast according to halakha, when a young man wishes to be a shochet (ritual slaughterer), he is accompanied to see that he knows how to slaughter properly (Chulin 3b; S. A., Y.D. 1:1). Also, when our Sages realized that amei ha’aretz (unlearned individuals) were not well versed in the laws of taharot (purity) and tumot (impurity), they enacted not to rely on an am ha’aretz in issues of tumah and tahara, unless he accepts upon himself before three witnesses to strictly adhere to its laws (Rambam, Metamme’ey  Mishkav uMoshav 1: 1-5).

The second condition is that he does not disrespect the mitzvah. But if he is known to disrespect the mitzvah, he is not trusted. Therefore, when our Sages found in the Second Temple period that due to the high price of ma’asrot, many amei ha’aretz did not set them aside properly – they decreed that only those who pledged before three witnesses to be faithful to the laws could be trusted in matters of terumot and ma’asrot (Sota 48a; Yerushalmi, Sota 9:11; Rambam, Ma’aser 9:1).

In conclusion: When the hosts are known to be familiar with the rules of halakha and respect them, they can be trusted without asking questions.

The Need to Supervise Merchants

The basic trust of all Jews has to do with ordinary situations, such as a person hosted by his friend, who can rely on he is serving him kosher food. But when it comes to merchants, they need to be supervised, because of the economic temptation that could cause them to fail, as the Torah specifically warned merchants about measurements and weights that they be exact so as not to cheat with them, as written: “You must not keep in your house two different measures, one large and one small. You must have a full honest weight and a full honest measure. If you do, you will long endure on the land that God your Lord is giving you” (Deuteronomy 25: 14-15). Our Sages learned from the Torah’s emphasis “you must not keep” teaches that it is a mitzvah to appoint market inspectors (agradmin) to supervise the merchants measurements and weights, and to punish the scammers (Baba Batra 89a; Rambam, Geneva, 8: 20).

Even a Kohen, who mainly deals with matters of holiness, when confronted with a great temptation – he is not trusted. Therefore, our Sages instructed that if a bechor (first born kosher animal) attended to by a Kohen had a blemish that could be inflicted by a human, the bechor would not be permitted to be slaughtered and eaten without the Kohen bringing a witness to testify that the blemish had naturally developed. If there is no witness, the bechor is not permitted to be slaughtered, because there is concern that the Kohen may have inflicted the blemish to permit its slaughter, and to rid himself of having to look after it (S. A., Y. D. 314:1).

Also in the case of food sellers, where the merchant benefits from selling non-kosher food, he must be supervised. In recent generations, food production has become complex and segmented, to the point where it has become a resolute custom not to buy food whose kashrut is doubtful from a factory or a store that does not have a kosher certificate, even if the seller is known as someone who observes mitzvot (see, Meyshiv Davar 2:7, Igrot Moshe, Y.D. 4:1; Neharot Eitan 2:38; Minchat Asher 1: 37).

Indeed, there is no precise definition of the level of supervision required, but three basic rules guide the level of supervision. The first – the greater the temptation, namely, that by cheating the merchant profits more, the tighter supervision required. The second – the greater amount of people the merchant provides food for, the more rigorous his supervision must be, in order to prevent large-scale transgressions. Third – the greater the concern is about the severity of the prohibition, the tighter the supervision should be. Torah prohibitions are the most severe, followed by rabbinical prohibitions, and after them, prohibitions founded in minhag (custom). Consequently, the most stringent supervision is on meat where the temptation to deceive is huge since the price of kosher meat is double the price of non-kosher meat, and involves problems of Torah prohibitions. All the more so when it comes to a large-scale merchant.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.

The Secret of Yom Kippur’s Atonement

On Yom Kippur, the everlasting covenant between God and Israel is revealed, independent of our deeds, and continues despite sins * A central place in the service of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur is atonement of the Kodesh by way of the goat chosen by lot for God – this atonement is also important and relevant today* The values ​​revealed in the Holy of Holies reflected in the Ark, the Tablets, and the Kaporet is belief in God through the holiness of Israel, Torah, and love * Consequently, on Yom Kippur we should awaken to reflect on how to improve these matters: our attitude to Am Yisrael in all its diversities, Torah study, love of humanity, raising families, and settling the Land of Israel, on which all holiness rests

The foundation of Yom Kippur is in the brit (covenant) of love between God and His nation, Israel. Its origin is based in the brit God made with our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which took place through the mitzvah of brit milah (circumcision), was strengthened in the Exodus from Egypt, and sealed in the Giving of the Torah. This brit was revealed in particular on Yom Kippur, the day on which God completely forgave Israel for the Sin of the Golden Calf, and then, once again, gave Israel the Torah in the second Tablets and commanded to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle) so his Shechinah (Divine Presence) could dwell among them (Pirkei De’Rabbi Eliezer 46; Tanchuma, Teruma 5, Ki Tisa 31). For generations as well, we were commanded to observe the service of Yom Kippur, in which the brit of love between God and Israel is revealed, and thus, Israel’s iniquities are atoned.

The Brit Is Not Dependent on Deeds

The brit does not depend on external circumstances, but rather on Divine choice, namely, that God chose his Nation of Israel as his Am Segula (a treasure out of all peoples), and created a special neshama (soul) for Israel which longs for Tikun Olam (perfection of the world) by means of revealing the Ohr HaEloki (Divine Light). As the Torah says: “You are a nation consecrated to God your Lord. God your Lord chose you to be His special people among all the nations on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6). And as written in Tehillim: “Because the Lord chose Jacob as his own, God chose Israel as his treasured possession” (Psalms: 135:4). Therefore, even if Israel incurs immeasurable sins, the Divine brit will not be breached, as it is written: “The Lord will not reject his people; he will not abandon his very own possession” (Psalms 94:14).

Rules of Law and the Brit on Yom Kippur

In general, the world is governed according to the rules of law that God determined at the Creation of the World, namely, that the world would function according to the deeds of man: if they choose good – blessing will increase, and if they choose bad, blessing will diminish, and troubles will increase. Seemingly, according to this if Israel sins beyond a certain limit – they will destroy the entire world. However, on Yom Kippur, the Gates of Heaven are opened, the Uppermost Divine governance is revealed, Israel’s sins are forgiven at their root, and in merit of this, the world continues to exist and advance towards its redemption. As it is written in the Torah: “This is because on this day you shall have all your sins atoned, so that you will be cleansed. Before God you will be cleansed of all your sins” (Leviticus 16:30). Nevertheless, the rules of law are not cancelled, and for every sin and wrongdoing that is not perfected by teshuva (repentance), punishment will come. If the sins increase and multiply – the punishments will be unbearable; nonetheless, through them Israel is perfected and purified. Thus, even if Israel does not do teshuva, by virtue of the brit revealed on Yom Kippur, the Geulah (Redemption) God promised to our forefathers and us will transpire, but it will come by way of suffering. The more teshuva we do and choose well, by virtue of the kedusha (holiness) of Yom Kippur, we will merit bringing the Geulah closer in a pleasant way of teshuva and binyan (building). Each individual as well – the more teshuva one does on Yom Kippur, the more kedusha, kapara (atonement), and bracha (blessing) he will draw upon himself in his personal life throughout the year by means of revealing the Light of Israel.

The Goat and Atonement for the Holy Sanctuary

The main atonement of Yom Kippur is achieved by the two goats drawn by lots – one for God, and the other for Azazel. What is amazing is that the goat for Azazel atoned for all of Israel’s sins and that of the Kohanim (Priests), whereas the goat for God was meant to atone solely for Israel’s transgressions in Mikdash (the Holy Temple), and the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) would also sacrifice a young bull for a sin offering to atone for the transgressions of the Kohanim in the Mikdash. Why was the bull and the goat whose blood was sprinkled in the Kodesh HaKodeshim (Holy of Holies) and afterwards in the Kodesh (Inner Sanctuary), intended only to atone for iniquities of the Mikdash, whereas the goat for Azazel alone atoned for all the remaining sins?

This however represents a very important idea: the root of all sins stems from our failing to fully identify with the sacred values. Consequently, atonement is mainly dependent on the tikun (repairing) of our relation to sacred values, and after this pivotal tikun is made, of its own accord it becomes clear that all of the sins are superficial, and one can release himself from them with relative ease. And this is why we were commanded to atone for all the rest of the sins with the goat sent to Azazel – to desolation.

Teshuva to the Values of the Mikdash

Therefore, the main effort of teshuva on Yom Kippur is to return to the system of Divine values ​​revealed in the Mikdash, according to their proper and balanced order. The Mikdash was divided into two parts – the inner third is the Kodesh HaKodeshim (Holy of Holies), and the remaining two-thirds is the Kodesh (Inner Sanctuary).

Inside the Kodesh HaKodeshim were placed the Aron HaBrit (Ark of the Covenant) containing the Luchot (Tablets of the Covenant) and the Torah; the significance the Kodesh HaKodeshim is the revelation of the brit between God and Israel by way of the Torah.

Inside the Kodesh there were three vessels: the Shulchan (the Table of Showbread), the Menorah (Candelabra), and the Mizbayach HaZahav (the Golden Altar). The Shulchan symbolizes the sacred value of all the types of work that people perform for yishuv ha’olam (the settlement of the world), the Menorah symbolizes the sacred value of all the wisdom in the world, and the Mizbayach HaZahav symbolizes the service of the heart in all of Israel’s prayers. Due to a lack of space, I will only deal with the values ​​revealed in the Kodesh HaKodeshim.

Kodesh HaKodeshim

Inside the Kodesh HaKodeshim was the Aron HaBrit which contained the Luchot HaBrit and the Torah given to Moses from Sinai, and by this, the connection of the brit between God and His Nation Israel was revealed.

Above the Aron was the Kaporet HaZahav (the golden lid of the Aron), and on it were the two cherubs which expressed the brit of ahava (covenant of love) between God and Israel, which is the root of all love in the world. Thus, the principal values ​​revealed in the Kodesh HaKodeshim are the emunah (belief) revealed by the holiness of Israel, the Torah, and love.

The first foundation of the revealing of emunah is the holiness of Israel, God’s nation, as we have learned in the book “The Kuzari,” that emunah is revealed in the world through Am Yisrael (the People of Israel). Indeed, this is what we say in Birkat HaTorah (the blessing of the Torah): “Who chose us from among all the peoples, and (thus) gave us his Torah.” And since on Yom Kippur the holiness of the Kodesh HaKodeshim is revealed, in which the holiness of Israel is revealed, on Yom Kippur we should awaken to the love of all of Israel, in all its groupings and factions. Therefore, the Yom Kippur prayer is performed in complete unity, including all of God’s beloved sons, tzadikim (righteous) and avarya’nim (sinners) alike.

The Torah

The second foundation is the Torah, and therefore on Yom Kippur, every Jew should connect more intensely and eagerly to Torah, and accept upon himself to increase and deepen his Torah study throughout the year. In particular on Shabbatot and Yamim Tovim which are intended for Torah study, as our Sages said: “Shabbat and Yom Tov were given solely to study Torah on them” (Jerusalem Talmud, Shabbat 15: 3). For throughout the week, the people of Israel must spend a great deal of time engaging in sacred values rooted in holiness, namely, in all the works rooted in the Shulchan, and in all the studies of wisdom rooted in the Menorah. But on Shabbat, Torah study should be increased, along with the oneg (pleasure) of sleeping and eating – may’ain Olam HaBa (a taste of the World to Come) – and by doing so, draw enlightenment to the practical side of life. This advice is worthwhile particularly for people who are engaged in yishuvo shel ha’olam (welfare of society), upon whose study of Torah on Shabbat rests Tikun Olam and its redemption.

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

The third foundation is love, for emunat Yisrael (the faith of Israel) is the belief of yichud (unity), and the expression of unity-based faith in life, is through the love of all humanity. For that reason, Rabbi Akiva said: “Love your neighbor as yourself – this is a great rule in the Torah” (Leviticus 19:18, Sifra, ibid), for through love between man and his fellow man, Divine Unity is revealed on a small scale.

Seeing as love of humanity expresses emunat ha’yichud revealed in the Kodesh HaKodeshim, anyone who has sinned against his friend throughout the year should reconcile him before Yom Kippur, as our Sages said: “Yom HaKippurim does not effect atonement, until one has pacified his fellow” (Mishnah, Yoma 85b).

Family Values ​​in the Kodesh HaKodeshim

The culmination of the love of humanity is revealed in the brit and love between husband and wife – this was symbolized by the cherubim, which were placed in the Kodesh HaKodeshim on the Aron HaBrit in the form of a man and woman in their devotion and love (Baba Batra 99a) to imply there is a parallel between the love between husband and wife, and that of the relationship between God and Israel, as it is written: “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62: 5).

Thus, it is understandable why, while the Temple existed, after the service of the Kohen Gadol was completed in the Beit HaMikdash, the daughters of Jerusalem would go out to dance in the vineyards, and find their matches with the young men of Israel (Mishna Taanit 26b). For after the Kohen Gadol had entered the Kodesh HaKodeshim where the holiness of love and marriage is revealed, it was fitting to substaniate matches of love and holiness. As our Sages said, when a man and woman merit living in love and faithfulness, the Shechina (Divine Presence) dwells between them.

Today, however, when the Beit HaMikdash is destroyed, we do not feel worthy to engage in matchmaking on Yom Kippur. But nevertheless, since the holiness of Yom Kippur is connected to the sanctity of the Jewish family, it is proper for every single man and woman to pray on this day for his or her match, and to repent for the faults hindering them. Often, bad character traits, such as pride and lust prevent one from finding their suitable match. On Yom Kippur, the day on which a person’s pure soul is revealed, young men and women can consider more accurately  about their aspirations in life and about the match that truly suits them, the person with whom they can lovingly fulfill Torah and mitzvot, and together increase joy and life.

Married spouses also need to repent on Yom Kippur for all times they did not properly love and make each other happy, and pray that they merit to be reunited with love and joy so the Shechina dwell between them, and merit raising sons and daughters engaged in Torah and mitzvot.

Settlement of the Land

Another important foundation is revealed in the Kodesh HaKodeshim – namely, the holiness of the Land of Israel, because the holiness of the entire location upon which the Temple was built stems from the holiness of the Land of Israel. This is what our Sages said: “Settling the Land of Israel is equal to all the mitzvot in the Torah” (Tosefta, Avodah Zarah, 4: 3; Sifre, Re’eh 53). Consequently, the revealing of emunah depends on the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (the settlement of the Land), as our Sages said: “Whoever lives in the Land of Israel may be considered to have a God” (Ketubot 110b). Therefore, every Jew should awaken on Yom Kippur to contribute their part to the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz.

For lack of space I was unable to explain the values ​​revealed in the Kodesh; in essence, work is symbolized by the Shulchan, wisdom by the Menorah, prayer by the Mizbayach HaZahav, and mesirut nefesh (self-sacrifice) is symbolized by the Mizbayach HaChitzon (the Outer Altar) – through which the sacred values ​​are properly revealed. To merit complete teshuva and Geulah, we must give all the values ​​the correct and respectable place.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew. To read the article in Hebrew, click here:

For what is Man Judged?

Alongside the judgement of Clal Yisrael, which is the central point of the High Holidays, every single individual is also judged * The individual’s judgement mainly concerns the World to Come, that is, the World of Souls and after the Resurrection of the Dead * The judgement on the World to Come also includes the path to it in this world – will one merit conditions in his life that will help him in Torah and Mitzvot, and what challenges will he face in order to fulfill his purpose * Reward is not evident in this world, in order to allow free choice. But for the most part, those who choose the good path and know how to take a deep look – realize that in the long run, they have been blessed

We learned in the previous column that the main judgement and prayer in the Yamim Nora’im (High Holidays) is for Clal Yisrael (the entire physical and spiritual community of Israel, past, present, and future), who reveal Malchut Hashem (the kingdom of God) in the world, thereby perfecting it. In this column we will examine the judgement of the individual, who’s ideal kavana (intention) should be to merit uniting with Clal Yisrael in Tikun Olam Be’Malchut Shadai (perfection of the world in the kingdom of God).

Our Sages said that on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur tzadikim (righteous) are judged for life, and rasha’im (wicked) for death, and as we will learn further on, the meaning is life both in Olam Ha’Zeh (this world), and Olam Ha’Ba (the World to Come) (Rosh Hashanah 16b).

The Two Stages of Olam Ha’Ba

Life in Olam Ha’Ba consists of two stages. The first stage begins after man’s death – then, his neshama (soul) ascends to Olam Ha’Neshamot (the World of Souls), where Gan Eden (Heaven) is for the tzadikim, and Gehinom (Hell) for the rasha’im. The second stage will come after Tikun Olam (perfection of the world) is completed with Techiyat Ha’Maytim (the Resurrection of the Dead), at which stage the souls will be reunited with the body, and together, will have an infinite elevation (Ramban, ‘Shaar Hagemul’; Ramchal, ‘Derech Hashem’ Part 1, Chap. 3).

Olam Ha’Ba in its two stages is also called Olam Ha’Emet (the World of Truth), because in contrast to Olam Ha’Zeh where falsehood prevails and the external image obscures the inner essence – in Olam Ha’Ba, the true status of man, and the true value of his actions, is clarified. Seeing as Olam Ha’Ba is infinitely more important than Olam Ha’Zeh because “this world is like a lobby before the World to Come” (Avot 4: 16), in the opinion of many Torah Sages, the main judgement a person is judged on Rosh Hashanah is on Olam Ha’Ba.

The Judgement of Olam Ha’Ba

There are two components of judgement concerning Olam Ha’Ba. One is that every year, all the actions a person does during the year is taken into account – for the good actions, reward is reserved for him in Olam Ha’Ba, and for the bad ones, punishment. However, the judgement on Rosh Hashanah is not final, because if one repents in the coming years, he will save himself from judgement in Gehinom, and his reward in Olam Ha’Ba will be increased. But if, God forbid, he changes his mind, and regrets the good deeds he did, he will inherit Gehinom, and lose the reward that was reserved for him in Olam Ha’Ba.

The second part concerns one’s ability to come closer to Hashem in the coming year. A person judged for life on Rosh Hashanah will be given opportunities throughout the year that will help him continue elevating in Torah and mitzvot, by way of which he will merit life in Olam Ha’Ba. When learning Torah, he will merit gaining additional enlightenment and understanding, and while fulfilling mitzvot and good deeds, merit gaining additional joy and blessing – me’ayn Olam HaBa (a taste of the World to Come). But if, God forbid, one is judged for death, he will encounter throughout the year challenges and events liable to distance himself from Hashem, and lose his Olam Ha’Ba. In such a situation, even when studying Torah, it will be difficult for him to absorb the Divine enlightenment in it, and even when performing mitzvot, he will not feel the kedusha (holiness) and oneg (pleasure) of the mitzvot properly.

What are “Life” and “Death”?

Overall reward is called chaim (life), and punishment is called mavet (death). The meaning of life is closeness and attachment to Hashem, the Source of Life, by which man merits all the good that Hashem showers in Olam Ha’Zeh, Olam Ha’Neshamot, and Olam Ha’Ba. Since the root of all goodness and pleasure in this world comes from life that Hashem showers to the world, the reward in Olam Ha’Ba is infinitely greater than all the pleasures of this world, which are only but a pale reflection of the source of pleasure. This is the meaning of our Sages statement: “One hour of spiritual bliss in the World to Come is worth more than the whole life of this world” (Avot 4: 17). This is because in Olam Ha’Ba, one is able to enjoy the splendor of Hashem and revel in Him, and life in him becomes infinitely greater and intensified, whereas in this world, the Divine Light comes to us through screens and great reduction. Nevertheless, by adhering to Hashem in the study of Torah and observance of mitzvot, one can also gain a taste of Olam Ha’Ba in this world, and gain enjoyment from de’veykut (adherence) to Hashem.

In contrast to reward termed chaim, the general name of punishment is termed mavet (death), which means distancing from the Source of Life, which causes the increase of distress, until the death of the body in this world, and agony of the soul in Gehinom.

The Complexity of Judgement and Free Choice

Although the rules of judgement are simple, namely, that a person who walks in the ways of Hashem is blessed in this world and the next, and one who is evil is punished in this world and the next, the details of judgement are infinitely profound and complex. Consequently, there are incidences where a righteous person suffers from poverty and illness and dies at an early age, and an evil person who persists his wicked ways in prosperity and good health. The main point is that everything is aimed at Tikun Olam. I will explain this a bit.

In order to perfect the world, man must have free choice. Therefore, as long as the world has not yet reached perfection, it is impossible for all the righteous to enjoy the good, and the wicked, to suffer. Thus, the rule of judgement is extremely complex and detailed, and thus, there will always be righteous people having to deal with anguish, and evil people that seem to enjoy the pleasures of this world. In this way, free choice is not compromised, and the person who chooses goodness, merits perfecting himself, and the entire world.

At any rate, when the long-term is weighed, for example, family relationships and true happiness in life, we find that in general, righteous people merit blessing in this world as well, and the wicked are punished. And this is the main challenge, for the yetzer ha’ra (evil inclination) inclines man to observe the world superficially and short-term, whereas the yetzer ha’tov (good inclination) encourages man to look deeply and in the long-term. Therefore, despite the fact that in general, even in this world the righteous usually merit favor and the wicked are tormented, free choice still remains, because in the short-term, things are not evident.

The Meaning of Judgement when Fate is Determined

I will explain a bit about the details of judgement: There could be a man whose destiny in life is to be rich and cope with the yetzer accompanying wealth – therefore, even if he sins a lot, he will be rich. All of the judgement on Rosh Hashanah in this matter is about the conditions of his life as a rich person – whether he will be happy with his wealth, or be agitated by worries because of it. Concerning his life in Olam Ha’Ba as well – judgement is whether his wealth will cause him to endure very difficult trials, easy trials, or may even assist him in serving Hashem. On the other hand, there could be a person destined to cope with poverty, and therefore, even if he has numerous merits, will remain poor – his judgement is about whether poverty will be unbearable or tolerable, and concerning Olam Ha’Ba – whether the conditions of his life as a poor person will benefit or hinder him in serving Hashem. In rare cases, as a result of special merits or severe sins, a person can change the fate of his destiny.

Judgement when Fate is Not Determined

Occasionally, a person’s destiny is not determined, but rather, sets the direction and allows for certain changes. In this case, the judgement of Rosh Hashanah can also affect a person destined to be rich – whether he will be well-off, wealthy, or extremely rich; for a poor person as well – whether he will be a little tight, downright poor, or destitute.

Sometimes a person has no special destiny to be poor or rich, and thus his fate is not permanent, but since he has chosen to act properly regarding money matters and tzedakah (charity), he justifiably deserves to be rich. In such a situation he will gradually become wealthier, so that he may continue growing in piety and righteousness. And other times it is revealed before the Knower of hidden thoughts, that if he were to gain wealth, his yetzer would overcome him, and he would be likely to sin in pride, lust, and greed, and lose his degree of righteousness. In this situation, since devotion to Hashem is the main factor, upon which his life depends, he is shown mercy and judged with difficulty in parnassa (earning a living) so that he can escape the difficult challenge, and merit life in Olam Ha’Ba. But if he was not so worthy, he may become rich in this world, but would have to face difficult challenges liable to relegate him to the worst of places.

According to the Extent of the Challenge

There is another consideration, namely, the degree of challenge it takes for a person to choose good and avoid evil. Some people, by the fate of their destiny, were created with a very strong evil inclination, or grew up in a harsh and bad environment, and even if they are able to learn a little Torah and do a few good deeds – it has tremendous value, and they will merit great reward. As our Sages said: “The reward is according to the suffering” (Avot 5: 23). On the other hand, there are people whose good inclination is strong, and grew up in a good environment, and therefore if they sin, they will be severely punished.

Reward for the Wicked in This World, and Vice Versa

There is an additional accounting, namely, that sometimes the judgement of a rasha who performed some mitzvot is to receive all the reward for it in this world, in order to be relegated to Gehinom. And at times the judgement of a righteous person who sinned a bit, is to receive all his punishment in this world, so that he will ascend to Gan Eden pure and clean.

Although reward in this world is incomparable to the reward in Olam Ha’Ba, such judgement is just and proper, because the rasha did his mitzvot for superficial reasons – to boast and brag – consequently, it is appropriate that his reward also be in this fleeting world, and not to receive reward for them in Olam Ha’Emet (the World of Truth). And similarly for a tzadik, seeing as his main desire is devotion to Hashem – if he sinned by mistake, just as his sin is superficial, it is only fitting his punishment be superficial in this world, and be cleansed until no stain remains from it in Olam Ha’Ba (Kiddushin 39b; Derech Hashem, Part 2, 2:6).

Judgement of the Clal and the Individual

Another point: Although judgement on Rosh Hashanah is for the nation as a whole and for each individual, judgement of the individual is greatly influenced by the general state of the nation – each nation according to its own state of affairs. Indeed, sometimes there is no contradiction between the judgement of the nation and that of the individual, for even when the nation as a whole merits to be inundated with blessing – the blessing is not hindered because some individuals are punished for their sins; likewise, when the nation as a whole receives punishment – the punishment is not hindered because some individuals merit reward. However, sometimes there is a contradiction between the judgement of the nation and that of the individual, such as when the nation is punished with destruction and exile, and in that case, it is inevitable that the righteous are punished as well. Even so, the judgement remains in force, for in Olam Ha’Neshamot, in Gan Eden, the tzadikim will receive their full reward, and the entire completion will be in Olam Ha’Ba, at the time of Techiyat Ha’Maytim (Resurrection of the Dead), when the souls will reunite with their bodies.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew. To read the

Hashem’s Blessing to the Nation in This World

The reward and punishments written in the Torah are intended primarily for the entire nation, and are meant to be fulfilled in this world * The blessing is realistic: A nation that lives a Torah and faith-based life – is wiser, invests more, has more families, and is more successful in all spheres of life * When the State of Israel lives according to the Torah, its security, scientific, and economic success will make it exemplary for the Gentiles * On Rosh Hashanah we pray primarily for the crowning of Hashem as King through the nation * In the exile, crowning of Hashem as king was expressed mainly in our cry that He save us; in the Land of Israel, the crowning of Hashem means accepting responsibility and building a society according to the ways of Torah

The Question of Reward and Punishment

It is widely believed that the reward and punishment written in the Torah in affairs concerning life in this world are mainly directed at the individual, who, if he follows the ways of Torah and mitzvot will merit wealth and happiness, and a good and healthy life. If so, a question arises – how is it that there are tzadikim (righteous people) who suffer from poverty, illnesses, and deprivation, and in contrast, rasha’im (evil people) who enjoy riches, good health, and esteem.

Indeed, our Sages said: “The length of one’s life, the number of children he will have, and his livelihood, depend not on merit, but rather on mazal (good fortune)” (Moed Katan 28a). All of these virtues are not dependent on one’s merit, but on his mazal, in other words, his fate, or the destiny he was assigned when born. The Gemara brings evidence of this from the lives of two of the great Amora’im – Rabbah and Rav Hisda, who were both tzadikim — in times of drought, both of their prayers were answered. Rav Hisda lived ninety-two years, and Rabbah lived only forty years. In Rav Hisda’s house, sixty weddings took place, and in Rabbah’s house, sixty cases of bereavement occurred. In Rav Hisda’s house wealth abounded – even the dogs were fed the purest wheaten bread (‘loshon guzma’ – not to be taken literally), while Rabbah’s house was poverty-stricken – they didn’t even always have cheap barley bread to satisfy their needs.

The Remuneration Spoken of in the Torah is intended for the Clal

Rather, the main reward and punishment for the individual are in Olam HaNeshamot (the World of Souls) and Olam Ha’Ba (the World to Come), whereas the reward and punishment written in the Torah are written for Clal Yisrael (the entire physical and spiritual community of Israel, past, present, and future), for the Torah talks of rainfall and economic blessing that descends from Heaven over the entire Land of Israel, and a general state of health, fertility and peace, victories over enemies and a praiseworthy status in the world, and above all, the dwelling of the Shekinah (Divine Presence). And as for punishment, in contrast, drought, a curse on the crops of the Land, poverty and famine, epidemics, defeat at the hands of our enemies, the concealment of the Shekinah, servitude to other nations, and exile.

A nation’s general situation, of course, greatly affects each and every individual, for indeed, even if an intelligent and industrious person is born in a poor country torn by wars, his life will be short and miserable. In contrast, someone born in a rich and developed country, even if he is not so talented and diligent, will live a comfortable life.

Freedom of Choice

If the main reward and punishment in this world was intended for the individual, we wouldn’t have bechira chofshit (freedom of choice), and no expression of the tzelem Elokim (image of God) in man, for if every sinner was punished on the spot – no one would ever sin, and if for every good deed a person received an immediate reward – everyone would be tzadikim. However, when the judgment is for the Clal, in any case, it progresses in a long and complex process, and an individual’s fate depends largely on his overall destiny, and not by his choice. Thus, each individual chooses his path according to his beliefs and values.

In any event, the precise and correct judgment remains unchanged, for, in Olam HaBa, each individual will receive exactly what he deserves.

A Glimpse of the World to Come in this World

All the same, a little bit of the reward in Olam HaBa descends from above and is revealed in this world, for indeed, a person who chooses the good path – merits emunah (faith), and consequently, everything that happens in his life, fills him with meaning; even when he suffers torment, Hashem is with him, and his anguish is eased. On the other hand, one who chooses evil, even if he enjoys the pleasures of this world, his life is empty and meaningless, and ultimately becomes loathsome. Besides that, the more we look at the longer term, we see that even in this world, the tzadikim usually merit greater blessing.

The Natural Blessing of Torah Life

Let’s return to the Torah’s guidance – if we follow the ways of Hashem we will merit receiving favor and blessing, that will come to us in a natural way. This is one of the most important objectives of Torah study – explaining the logic of how the observance of Torah and mitzvot gives value and meaning to all fields, and thus, is blessed. Even if such an advantage is indicated by a few percentage points on an individual basis, and consequently does not violate bechira chofshit, when it comes to an entire public living by the light of Torah – the blessing is wonderfully abundant.

In other words, if we comprehend the Torah properly, we will better understand the value of education in general, and the development of science in particular (as explained in Rambam, the Gaon of Vilna, and many more), and as a result, it would be reasonable to assume that our children will, on the average, reach better academic achievements by a few percentage points than is customary in developed countries. Thanks to recognizing the value of work and its contribution to tikun olam (perfecting the world), they will exert a bit more effort acquiring a quality and useful profession, and at their jobs, will probably reach a slightly higher level on the average than is customary in developed countries. Thanks to setting regular times for Torah study throughout the week, and in particular on Shabbat, they will merit a little bit more inspiration in development, creativity, and assimilating Torah values in their fields. Thanks to modesty and moderation, each individual relative to what he or she has, they can spend more years studying the profession or science they chose, and reach slightly better achievements in their fields.

Thanks to emunah and adherence to tradition, all these values ​​will continue to be strengthened, and will also add social cohesion and a sense of camaraderie. Thanks to the Torah guidance of family life, more families will live in love and happiness, and merit raising more children to Torah and mitzvot, and all other good deeds. Thanks to emunah, there will be greater willingness to contribute to the nation in the army and in settlement of the country; the security situation of the state will improve, and of course, this improvement will reflect on all other areas.

In order to realize all this goodness for the long-term, of course, everything has to be founded on the belief in Hashem and His Torah, with all its values and morals.

The Vision for the State of Israel

If indeed we do merit adhering to the proper path, we can assume that the State of Israel’s GNP (Gross National Product) will be, on average, higher than the other developed countries. We will continue advancing in the fields of social welfare, improve the educational system, and then, within two generations, the average wage in Israel will be twice as high as in the most developed countries. The Nation of Israel, living in its Land, will multiply, grow stronger, and lead the world in terms of ethics, science, and economics.

Diaspora Jews, of course, will long to make aliyah and take part in the success, and even those “lost in the land of Assyria, and those dispersed in the land of Egypt” will seek to discover their roots, and return to their People and their Land. And a great, powerful, and populous nation will proclaim faith and justice to the world, paving the way for moral education and intellectual development for the benefit of mankind, innovating methods and technologies for longevity and quality of life, and thus, in a natural way, we will merit seeing the fulfillment of the prophet’s vision: “In the end of days, the mount of the Lord’s Temple will be established above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths.’ The Torah will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2: 2-3).

Rosh Hashanah Prayer

Consequently, our main prayers in the Yamim Nora’im (the High Holidays) concern the general condition of Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael, and this is the main judgment rendered on Rosh Hashanah. Therefore, in the Birkat Ha’Yom (blessing of the Day) in the Amidah (silent) prayer, our main request is for the dwelling of the Shekhinah and the revelation of His kingdom in the world, upon which blessing is contingent: “Our God and God of our ancestors, may your sovereignty be acknowledged throughout the world. May your splendor and majestic glory be reflected in the lives of all who dwell on earth. May all that you have made be aware that you are their Maker, and may all that you have created acknowledge that you are their Creator; and may all that breathe the breath of life proclaim: The Eternal, God of Israel, reigns and his sovereignty embraces everything in the universe.”

The Crowning of Hashem – Accepting Responsibility

A person may think that the foundation of emunah is self-effacement and the recognition of man’s uselessness as opposed to the greatness of Hashem, and thus, his whole prayer is just a cry for help, that Hashem will do everything, save and redeem us. However, according to everything we have learned in the Torah, from the ways of our Avot (our forefathers) and tzadikim, the meaning of crowning Hashem is the fulfillment of the Torah in all its glory, by means of which, all blessings in the Torah are continually revealed, and this is the way the kingdom of Hashem is revealed in the world.

In this manner, Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God) is much greater, since not only does Hashem bestow upon us plenty from above, but rather, by our following in the path of Torah and mitzvot – Divine abundance already inherent in man and the world is continually revealed. As it is said: “Truth springs up from the ground; righteousness gazes down from Heaven. Yes, Hashem gives what is good, and our Land yields its produce.” (Psalm 85:12- 13).

This is how Hashem is crowned in the world in the proper manner.

However, when God forbid, we are in terrible exile, all we have left is to cry out to Hashem, and this is the way we proclaim His kingdom – that we have not lost faith He will redeem us. But when He begins to redeem us, and we have the ability to act, then, it is our duty to fulfill the Torah in practice, and do all we can to realize its guidance and blessings. This is the true de’vaykut (devotion) to Hashem – that all of life is all revealed through our faith and actions.

We Forgot How to Crown

As a result of the agonies of exile, to a certain extent, we have forgotten how to reveal the kingdom of Hashem in the proper way. This is because, on account of the sins that led to exile, His kingdom is revealed to us through punishment, the most severe of which is exile with all its terrible sufferings, and consequently, all we have left is to cry out to Hashem. However, this is not the appropriate way, for the punishment came as a result of of the forsaking of Divine guidance in the world. In other words, the problem was not that we did not cry out to Hashem, but rather, that we went astray after idolatry, and sinned in murder, incest, the torment of orphans and widows, distortion of justice, baseless hatred, unethical behavior between man and his fellow man, desecration of Shabbat, and slave bondage. As a result of this, all the work in the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) was individual; society fell apart, and all the curses in the Torah came upon us. If we do not make an effort to be redeemed from exile on our, willingly, then: “This is what Hashem Elokim says: As surely as I live, with a strong hand, an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out, I will be your king!” (Ezekiel 20:33).

We must pray on the Yamim Nora’im, they should be for the good, that we merit working in conjunction with Hashem in the revelation of His kingdom, through the powers, talents, and initiative that Hashem has given us, and by doing so, we will merit receiving all the Torah’s blessings in a natural way, all of which are songs and glory to the King of the world.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.

Why Does Food Need Kosher Supervision?

A person’s basic loyalty to eating kosher is not applicable in the business world, where there is concern people will cheat to make money; therefore, food must be supervised * The list of ingredients shown on a product wrapper does not indicate its kashrut, because all food additives such as emulsifiers, stabilizers, flavor enhancers, etc., are not specified * Food additives can be problematic as far as kashrut is concerned, especially in two controversial substances – glycerin, and gelatin * Since the consumer is not familiar with all the additives, and is not aware of the complex controversies, all industrial food products must have kashrut supervision

Q: Is one obligated to buy food with kashrut supervision? Why can’t a person rely on the seller or manufacturer who testifies to his products, such as dairy products made from cow’s milk, and are obviously kosher anyway? And various sweets such as chocolate, why do they need kashrut supervision – after all, they’re made from cocoa and sugar and other kosher ingredients? Why worry they contain something prohibited?

Basic Loyalty and Supervision of Merchants

A: As a matter of principle, Jews are credible when it comes to mitzvot, therefore the Torah commanded that every Jew, whether male or female, fulfill the mitzvoth of kashrut himself: slaughter his beasts and kasher them from chalavim (fat portions), gid ha’nasheh, and blood, without a Kohen or Chacham supervising him, and separate terumot and ma’asrot (tithes) from his fruits without the supervision of representatives from a Beit Din. Thus, any Jew who is a guest at another Jew’s home may rely on him and eat his food – assuming that before the meat was prepared he slaughtered the animal according to halakha, that he did not mix meat and milk in his foods, that he made sure there were no insects in them, that he separated terumot and ma’asrot from his fruits, and that challah was taken from his dough-like batter. Not only that, but according to the mitzvoth of the Torah, even the Kohanim rely on every Jew and eat from the animals they slaughtered, for the Torah commanded Jews to give the zero’ah, lechaim, and keyva to the Kohanim to eat. Regarding this, the Chachamim said: “One witness is relied upon in prohibitions,” i.e., that one man may attest to his food that they are kosher (Rashi Yevamot 88a, s.v. ‘ve’amar’; Chulin 10b, s.v. ‘eid’). We have also learned that every Jewish man trusts his wife that she has cleansed herself of the impurity of nida (Tosafot, Gitin 2b, s.v. ‘eid’). However, this basic trustworthiness depends on two conditions: first, it is a person who knows how to fulfill the details of the mitzvot. Secondly, this person is not known as one who disrespects the mitzvah.

However, when it comes to a merchant who makes money from selling food, he is judged differently: just as Beit Din is obligated to supervise that the weights and measurements of merchants are accurate, and without supervision, there is fear their yetzer will overcome them (Baba Batra 89a), so too, food merchants must be supervised (Aruch HaShulchan, Y.D. 119:4). Therefore, food products produced in factories must also be supervised, since the factory owners make a living from them.

What Are Food Additives?

Q: Since the law requires factory owners to write the ingredients of each product, and if they cheat they are fined, thus, they already have supervision and the kashrut of each product can be determined by the ingredients contained therein. Why do we need the supervision of a rabbinate on products such as milk and candies, whose preparation does not involve halakhic acts such as shechita and the separating of terumot and ma’asrot?

A: In the modern food industry additives are used, such as emulsifiers, stabilizers, moisturizers, crystallizers, and flavor and color enhancers. In other words, when they want to mix two substances that do not naturally mix, such as water and oil, to produce chocolate or milk delicacies, they use an emulsifier that binds and congeals the two. Since sometimes even after using an emulsifier the two substances tend to separate, they use a stabilizer that keeps them combined. In order to preserve the moisture of products that tend to dry out, they use glazing agents. When they want to prevent food from gelling so it stays nice-looking, soft and flexible, they use anti-caking substances. When they want to make a liquid product thick, such as dairy products made from liquid milk, they use emulsifiers such as gelatin. When they want food products to be preserved for a long time, they use preservatives and antioxidants. Flavor enhancers are also used, whose purpose is to enhance certain flavors and to diminish the tastes of others.

Marking of the Additives

In many countries of the world, including Israel, food additives are labeled according to the European classification represented by the letter E (Europe), and the ingredients are classified according to their purpose. Each series of hundreds have a special designation. Ingredients used as edible food coloring are indicated by numbers 100 to 199, i.e., E100 to E199. Preservatives are given the next series, and their labeling is E200 to E299. Acidity regulators and antioxidants are labeled E300 to E399. Thickeners, emulsifiers, and stabilizers are marked E400 to E499. Gelatin is included in this series and is marked E441, and glycerin is marked E422. In the 500-599 series are anti-caking substances and acidity regulators. The series of flavor enhancers is 600-699. The series of 700-799 is antibiotics to prevent bacterial development. 900-999 is a series of glazing agents, gases, sweeteners, and others. These are the main ingredients used in the food industry.

In practice, every industrial product today has dozens of additives, and their kashrut requires supervision. The law does not require the labeling of all of them, but only the main ones.

The Kashrut of Food Additives

Almost all food additives are produced abroad, therefore, when they are plant-based, they do not involve halakhic questions, except for substances produced from stam yainum (wine which might have been poured for an idolatrous service). However, when they are produced from animals, they are usually prohibited, because they are produced from impure animals such as pigs, or from pure animals that were not slaughtered according to halakha. Additives noted as being problematic are glycerin, followed by gelatin.


Glycerin is one of the fatty substances in an animal’s body, and its purpose is to preserve energy for times of starvation. It is used in the food industry for emulsion, stabilization, thickening, sweetening, preservation, and other purposes. Its marking is E-422. In large factories around the world, it is produced from impure animals such as pigs, or from pure animals such as calves that have not been slaughtered according to halakha. Today there are plant and synthetic substitutes.

At first, about 150 years ago, glycerin was used for the purpose of thickening and sweetening liqueurs. It was produced by boiling, which did not make it inedible, and consequently, the poskim agreed that its use was prohibited (Darchei Teshuva 103:70; Yismach Levav, Y.D. 24). With the development of the food industry, glycerin also began to be used as a stabilizer, emulsifier, preservative, and as an anti-crystallization agent and other uses, so that sometimes it is enough to use just a minimal amount of it. In addition, an alternative method of distilling glycerin from fatty acids was developed by mixing caustic soda with fat. At that stage it is toxic and inedible, and afterwards, the glycerin is separated from the caustic soda, and is once again edible.

Some poskim say that since there was a stage in which the glycerin was inedible, its prohibition is void, and after becoming edible again, ‘panim chadashot ba’u l’kan’ (something entirely new), and it is not prohibited. In addition, many times the amount does not reach one-sixtieth, and in any case, is nullified. And it cannot be argued that it has the status of ma’amid (a gelling agent), because quite often its effect on a food product is not as evident as a regular ma’amid (Sridei Aish 2:21).

On the other hand, in the opinion of many poskim, glycerin is not considered a new product, since it is only separated from the fatty acids that were attached to it. In addition, it itself is edible, for only the addition of caustic soda made it inedible, and afterwards, when removed, the glycerin remains edible as it was initially. Therefore, when it is the sole ma’amid, it is prohibited, and even when it is not the only ma’amid, it is forbidden to be mixed-in deliberately, and if it was mixed-in, l’chatchila (ideally), it is forbidden to eat it (Minchat Yitzchak 5:5; Mishneh Halachot 9: 154). Since the reasoning of the machmirim (strict poskim) is convincing, and is the opinion of the majority of poskim, this is the practical instruction, that glycerin should be produced from pure animals that have been slaughtered according to halakha, or from vegetable oil.


Gelatin is produced from the collagen protein found in bones and skins. Its job is to stabilize and gel candy, ice cream, dairy products, and the like. Large factories produce it from impure animals such as pigs, or pure animals such as calves that were not slaughtered according to halakha. In the production process, the bones and skins are soaked in lime to extract liquid and additional substances, and the remains are ground into powder, which is the gelatin.

There are poskim who permit gelatin, since in its production process, the bones and skins lose all their taste to the point where they are no longer edible, and since panim chadashot ba’u l’kan, it is not prohibited. And if it is extracted from the hard part of the bones, there is another reason to permit it, because this part of the bone is never considered edible, and consequently, from the start, the prohibition does not apply to it (Achiezer 3:33; Har Tzvi, Y.D. 83; Yebiah Omer, Vol. 8, Y.D. 11).

On the other hand, there are poskim who prohibit gelatin, because the production of gelatin is not considered to be the creation of anything new, but merely the separation of collagen from the other substances, and consequently, the Torah prohibition applicable to the bones and skins of impure animals and nevilot remains on the gelatin separated from them. It is not batel be’shishim, since it has the din of a ma’amid that is not batel be’shishim (Iggrot Moshe, Y.D. 2:23, 27; Minchat Yitzchak 5: 5).

In practice, those who want to be maykel (lenient) are permitted since the controversy is in Divrei Chachamim (rabbinical), for in practice, gelatin has no taste, rather, it is a ma’amid and stabilizer, and the general rule that a ma’amid aino batel afilu  b’elef (a ma’amid is not nullified even in a thousand) is derived from Divrei Chachamim. Nevertheless, l’chatchila (ideally), it is proper to take into consideration the opinion of the machmirim (stringent poskim), in particular, today, when it is possible to obtain gelatin produced from kosher animals or to use alternative coagulants.

Every Product Requires Kashrut Certification

In practice, consumers are not familiar with all food additives (only a few of which have been mentioned in this column). They cannot know what is produced from prohibited animals, and what is produced from plants or synthetic materials, which food additive is considered a ma’amid which prohibits the food, and which additive is not considered a ma’amid. Therefore, responsible kashrut supervision of all industrial food products is required, and without such supervision, no industrial food may be eaten. Since in certain matters there are controversies, there are different levels of kashrut supervision. In regular kashrut, the opinion of individual poskim and sofakot d’Rabanan (uncertainty in rabbinical ordinance) are not taken into consideration, and kashrut is given according to ikar ha’halakha (the principal halakha), and there are kashrut organizations who take into consideration the approaches of all the machmirim, and give kashrut le’mehadrin.

As I wrote this column, I regrettably heard that Rabbi Oren Ben Zahara Duvdevani shlita, who contributed from his knowledge and experience to the inquiries presented in this column, is ill. May Hashem send him a complete recovery.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew. The original article may found at:

The Secret of Rabbi Kook’s Greatness

Many people in Rabbi Kook’s generation, including Torah scholars, wondered how he managed to have command of so many different issues in Halacha and Aggadah – alongside his unceasing involvement in public affairs * The explanation is that for Rabbi Kook everything was Torah, and every field he encountered, he  addressed in a comprehensive fashion * More about Rabbi Kook’s greatness: Why the light in his house was on until late at night, what Agnon said about Rav Kook after studying with him for nine straight hours, and what would have happened if his seminal book “Orot HaTeshuva” had been translated into English

In honor of the 3rd of Elul which occurred this week, the yahrzeit of Rabbi Kook ztz”l, I will mention a bit of the greatness of the Gadol Ha’Dor of past generations.

His Diligence in Torah Study

Rabbi Kaniel ztz”l, the Rabbi of Haifa, wrote: “No less than his gift of genius, he had a genius of work, diligence, and perseverance to the point of mesirut nefesh (self-sacrifice) for Torah. When he studied at the Volozhin Yeshiva, his diligence was above and beyond human power (he would study be’iyun (in-depth) sixty pages of Gemara with meforshim (commentators) every day … I merited learning privately with Rabbeinu, and saw the aish ha’kodesh (the sacred fire) in his heart for love of Torah, as an endlessly rising flame, and only with great effort was it possible to drag him away from his studies to eat a little something to keep him going. Once, while walking with one of Jerusalem’s wise Torah scholars, I passed by Rabbi Kook’s house well after midnight, and we saw a light in the house. We wished to find out who was interrupting the rabbi’s rest so late at night, after he had dealt with so many difficult concerns the entire day. How astonished we were when we saw Rabbi Kook himself holding a large book, pacing back and forth across the hall, devouring page after page with unparalleled enthusiasm …”

The administrator of the Yeshiva, Rabbi Shabtai Shmueli, told: “Once, I had to enter his room during his studies to have him write a few lines of gratitude and blessings to a generous donator. I went in quietly not to disturb him, and waited until he realized I was there, but he was immersed in learning Tractate Sukkah, and it took a considerable amount of time until he “discovered” me. The amount of pages of Gemara he went through is etched in my memory. His concentration and the speed of his study amazed me greatly, and until today, I remember that experience” (Likutei Ha’Raya, Vol.1, pgs. 45-47).

The Greatness of his Personality

Rabbi Yisrael Porat ztz”l wrote: “Usually, people who have won a name for themselves also attain a sense of awe from distant people who have heard about them … but when they come to know them closely, their degree of admiration diminishes … after all, everyone has weaknesses and shortcomings that help diminish themselves. This is not the case with our great Rabbeinu – the more you stood before him, the more you had a chance to observe his leadership, and the more you heard him speak – the more you saw him transcend and rise above your reach; you became a fan and an admirer, wishing to sit at the dust of his feet, because you saw before you a spectacular phenomenon of true genius, a man with a comprehensive and penetrating mind, a good Jew in the fullest sense of the word, and a man of prominence.” “He was a spring which steadily increases its flow. He used to speak for several hours straight, spawning gems embedded with ornaments on the topics of Halakha, Aggadah, Kabbalah, and religious philosophy. His words were pure and refined, to the letter of the Talmud and Midrashim, Zohar and Moreh Nevuchim, and in all books of Judaism in all fields. When he sat down at the table to write he wrote endlessly, page after page, as long as he wasn’t interrupted…”

Rabbi Reuven Margaliot ztz”l asked Rabbi Aryeh Levin ztz”l: “What made Rabbi Kook so great?” Rabbi Aryeh replied, “I am not the one who knows how to estimate his greatness, but I can only say this: I have never seen any katnut (smallness) in him” (Likutei HaRaya Vol. 1, pages 17-24).

His Genius

Rabbi Karroll, Rabbi of Kfar Hasidim, said that when he came to Maran Rabbi Kook ztz”l, he intended to talk to him about some well-prepared issues, and to his great amazement, Rabbi Kook was well-versed in all of them, as if he had just studied them (Likutei Ha’Raya, p. 53).

Rabbi Dov Eliezerov said: “On one of the times I visited Rabbi Kook, the Rabbi of Teplyk was there, and we saw something that aroused in us great admiration. Rav Kook was asked a question in hilchot nashim (the laws of women), and behold, he began to recite from memory the words of the Gemara and Rambam, and the methods of the Rishonim and the Shulchan Aruch – everything was clear to him. Another time, I saw a Torah scholar who had written a book on the Tractate of Midot came to visit Rav Kook with drawings in his hand, and I was amazed to see Rav Kook make various clarifications and corrections on a subject that few people dealt with (ibid., P. 56).

Rabbi Bezalel Zolti ztz”l told that at the levaya (lit. ‘accompanying’; the funeral procession) of Rav Kook, he walked alongside the mashgiach, Rabbi Leib Hasman and the street next to Rav Kook’s house was filled with rabbis and heads of yeshiva’s and Talmedei Chachamim (Torah scholars) from Jerusalem and all over the country. Rabbi Hasman said to him in Yiddish: “You see here so many ‘heads’; well let me tell you, we are accompanying the greatest ‘head’ of all of the ‘heads’ put together” (ibid., P. 52).

Rabbi Zevin ztz”l, who was one of the great geon’im (Torah geniuses) himself, wrote: “It would not be an exaggeration to say that Maran, the Gaon Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook ztz”l, was the only one of the Gedolei Torah in our generation who had a command of both halakha and aggadah. Rabbi Kook was without equal in niglei (the revealed side of Torah) and nistar (the hidden side of Torah)… in fact, in a sense, he personified halakha and aggadah… “(Ishim ve’Shitot, p. 210).

The Secret of His Greatness in Torah despite his Tasks

Many were amazed that Rabbi Kook was preoccupied with answering questions of numerous people in issues of halakha and public and personal leadership, and yet it seemed that he was constantly reviewing his learnings – in bekiut (broad familiarity with large swaths of data), and iyun (in-depth analysis). Usually, rabbis required to answer questions or heads of yeshiva’s engaged in giving in-depth classes specialize in the certain field they are dealing with, and in other areas, their greatness diminishes. But with Maran Rabbi Kook ztz”l, everything was Torah – in all issues asked, and in everything he heard or saw – he immediately thought of verses from the Torah, words of Chazal, Rishonim and Achronim, directly and indirectly related to that certain subject, and in this way, in his mind he would go over entire issues, and come up with chiddushim (new insights). Thus, along with providing answers on various topics, in his thoughts he would go over his learnings, and deepen them limitlessly. This was evident to the talmedei chachamim who met with him, that when they raised a topic and Rabbi Kook felt they could understand his thoughts, the lightening bolt of his chiddushim shined fiercely and proficiently in all areas related to the subject in question. Even great Torah scholars found it difficult to keep track of his ideas, because in order to so it required great proficiency and quick comprehension of deep ideas.

Our family tells of my grandfather’s uncle from my father’s side, the Rabbi and Gaon Shalom Melamed ztz”l, the Rabbi of Uman who at the end of his life made aliyah to Jerusalem and was a member of the Hasidic Beit Din in Jerusalem, that before he went to visit Maran Rabbi Kook – he made sure to prepare the issue he intended to talk about very well. He explained that to speak to Rabbi Kook, one had to be proficient in all sides of the issue, otherwise, it was difficult to understand him.

In a similar manner, the author Shai Agnon wrote: “I was fortunate that from the day I met him, in the beginning of the winter of 1907, he befriended me, and I merited hearing Torah classes from him in Rambam’s Hilchot Yisodei Torah (the laws of the foundations of Torah) and Hilchot De’ot (the laws of personality development), and there is no end to the things I got to hear from him – they all deserve to be written for future generations. One day I sat before him for nine straight hours – nine continuous hours without a break – he, ztz”l, would talk, and I would listen. I’m sorry I did not get what he said, but I knew they were extremely deep. I have seen many gaonim, chachamim and tzadikim, but a gaon, tzadik, or chacham who combined all these virtues like Rabbeinu HaGadol (our great Rabbi) ztz”l, I have not found” (‘Mi’Atzmi Al Atzmi’, pg.445). In the past when I read this, I thought that Agnon was joking as he often did, but after hearing how great rabbis prepared before meeting him, I realized he had written honestly.

An Abundance of Ideas

Rabbi Naftali Stern wrote: “His Torah teachings by memory, his speeches, his lectures, his conversations, and his words… this is a unique case of the greatness of a spring which steadily increases its flow orally, a torrent of Torah and wisdom that would continuously increase and gush forth from the breathe of his holy mouth. And without a doubt, anything spoken by Rav Kook was infinitely greater, broader, and more comprehensive than the writings of Rav Kook. Without exaggeration, one could say: if a typist, registrar, or a recorder had been by his side at all times… then Judaism would have been enriched in the wealth of dozens of volumes of supreme works, and words of thought and vision, in all areas of Jewish and universal spirit and thought. Anyone meriting to be in the presence of Rabbeinu ztz”l… felt and saw a celestial breathe flowing out of his mouth without any flaw or delay, with brilliancies and sparks of holy thoughts running back and forth, and his entire being brimmed with light, illuminating and warming the hearts of his listeners… “(Likutei Ha’Raya 1, page 29).

Orot HaTeshuva’ (The Lights of Repentance)

A memorable testimony from Prof. David Tamar in the name of my maternal grandmother’s uncle, Prof. Ber: “I was a student of Prof. Yitzhak Ber z”l. He was not only an in-depth historian, but also a comprehensive thinking man. Once, our conversation turned to Rabbi Kook ztz”l and his books. Professor Ber then said to me that if “Orot HaTeshuva’ had been translated into one of Europe’s languages, Rabbi Kook would have been regarded in the world of non-Jewish culture as one of the greatest thinkers of the last generations” (ibid., P. 30).

Regarding ‘Orot HaTeshuva’, Rabbi Neria recounted that the Gaon, Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik said to him that he studies Rabbi Kook’s books, and in his opinion “His most theoretical and coherent book is ‘Orot HaTeshuva’, and its main chiddush is that teshuva is not necessarily related to sin, but rather that a person returns to himself, to his source.” Rabbi Soloveitchik also told him that he “also studies ‘Orot HaKodesh’ and draws ideas from it, however, I give them a different form” (ibid., Pp. 250-251).

In view of this, it would be appropriate for us to awaken before the upcoming High Holidays, they should be for good, and engage in this holy and wonderful book, ‘Orot HaTeshuva’.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.

The Prohibition of Blood and Salting of Meat

The prohibition of eating blood applies to cattle, beasts, and fowl, but not to less developed species such as fish and grasshoppers who feel less pain * Meat cooked without blood being removed – prohibits the entire piece of meat * The different ways of kashering meat * Most poskim do not hold like Rambam that meat must be scalded after salting, but this is an important hiddur * Following comments to the previous column about vegetarian restaurants abroad: Vegetarians can also be dishonest as long as there is no proper supervision * A kashrut certificate is required also due to concern of shratzim and wine of goyim

The Prohibition of Eating Blood and its Meaning

Along with the heter (halachic permission) to eat meat outside the framework of a korban (ritual sacrifice), we were forbidden to eat the blood, as written in the Torah: “When God expands your borders as He promised you, and your natural desire to eat meat asserts itself, so that you say, ‘I wish to eat meat,’ … you need only slaughter (shechitah) your cattle and small animals that God will have given you in the manner I have prescribed. You may then eat them in your settlements in any manner you desire. Be extremely careful not to eat the blood, since the blood is associated with the spiritual nature, and when you eat flesh, you shall not ingest the spiritual nature along with it” (Deuteronomy 12: 20 -23). In other words, blood has a special purpose, to sustain the soul of the animal, and thus, even though the Torah permitted us to eat meat, it did not permit the blood to be eaten.

The Species Included in the Prohibition

The prohibition of eating blood applies to the developed species: cattle, beasts, and fowl (Leviticus 7: 26; Keritut 21b). But on the less developed species, such as fish and grasshoppers, there is no prohibition of blood. In other words, the prohibition of blood applies to the species requiring shechitah, and not to species that do not require shechitah. One of the reasons for the mitzvah of shechitah is to minimize the pain of species whose meat we consume, and the mitzvah applies to species whose brain and nervous systems are more fully developed, and therefore, also feel more pain. But the less developed species, such as fish and grasshoppers feel less pain, and therefore, there is no obligation to perform shechitah on them and there is no prohibition of eating their blood.

Blood Absorbed in the Flesh

Blood absorbed naturally in the flesh is permitted to be eaten. Therefore, it is permissible to eat a piece of raw meat. Nevertheless, since while cutting meat blood is liable to splatter on the area cut, it must be washed, and only then may it be eaten raw without additional kashering (S. A., Y. D., 67, 1-2).

Meat that has Not Been Kashered

When cooking meat that has not been kashered – the entire piece of meat is forbidden to be eaten because of the blood excreted and re-absorbed in it when cooked. And if this piece of meat is cooked in a pot of stew for instance, since we cannot estimate how much blood it contains, we are machmir (stringent) and consider it as if it is entirely blood, and if the entire cooked dish is not pi shishim (sixty times greater) than the piece of meat – the entire cooked dish is forbidden (S. A., ibid, 69:11).

Therefore, meat must be kashered before cooking. However, in the opinion of the vast majority of Rishonim and Achronim, the kashering of meat is intended to prevent a rabbinical prohibition of our Sages, since blood that is cooked or salted is forbidden only by Divrei Chachamim (rabbinical ordinance) because it is inherently altered, and not suitable for sprinkling on the altar.

Ways of Kashering Meat from Blood

Basically, there are four ways to kasher meat from blood absorbed in it: 1) melicha (salting); 2) tzliya (roasting); 3) chalita (scalding) in boiling water; 4) chalita in vinegar wine. Melicha and tzliya are intended to draw the blood from the meat, while chalita in boiling water or vinegar is intended to lock in, or solidify blood in the meat, to the point where the blood absorbed in the meat can no longer move from its place, even in cooking. Since there is no prohibition of blood absorbed in meat, after chalita, the meat may be cooked.

However, the Geonim forbade kashering meat by means of chalita, lest chalita not be done properly. This is because chalita in boiling water depends on being able to constrict the meat with a strong stroke of heat, but if the water is not sufficiently boiled, or if the meat is not placed into the water at once, or the boiling water is lower in volume than the meat – they will not be able to constrict the blood in the meat. And as for chalita in vinegar, there is concern that the vinegar will not be strong enough. There is also concern that the vinegar will evaporate a bit, and this is a sign that chalita was unsuccessful and the blood was not solidified, and thus, the meat and vinegar are prohibited, and may go unnoticed (Chulin 111a; S. A. 67:5; 73:2). Therefore, someone who wants to cook meat is obligated to kasher it first by means of melicha or tzliya.

Melicha and Chalita According to Rambam

Melicha and tzliya are designed to remove blood from meat. Melicha does this by a process called osmosis. In other words fluids, including blood, seek that their salinity content be equal, and when blood “senses” a lot of salinity on the surface of the meat, it is drawn to the salt, and leaves the meat.

However, even after melicha is completed, red fluid may still flow from the meat. According to Rambam and Ra’ah it is blood, since melicha draws blood only from the outer parts of the flesh, but on the inner parts, blood still remains. In their opinion, so that the blood is not emitted from its place and prohibit the meat, after melicha it is obligatory to perform chalita on the meat in boiling water, so that the blood is constricted and will not emit, and consequently, will not be prohibited.

The Benefit of Melicha without Chalita

However, in the opinion of the vast majority of poskim, it is not necessary to perform chalita on meat after melicha. Since we find that even after melicha, blood still secretes from meat, this ostensibly poses a problem for these poskim. There are two main explanations for this:

First – this liquid that secretes from the meat is not considered blood but “chamar (wine) basar (meat)” (Rashba, Terumah, and Chinuch). In truth, it is hard to define what blood actually is, since blood has red and white cells, and presumably, the red ones are referred to as blood, but they also are not in a permanent state, for melicha drains some of its fluids, and the question is, how to define what remains. According to this explanation, the red liquids remaining in meat after melicha are not considered blood, but mohel (water-based juice).

According to the second explanation, which apparently is most commonly accepted by the majority of Rishonim, even if the chemical composition of the mohel secreted from meat after melicha is similar to blood, as far as halakha is concerned, it is not judged as blood. This is necessarily so, since it is impossible for the prohibition of blood to apply to blood that cannot be humanly extracted from meat, for the Torah was not given to the ministering angels. Therefore, on the red liquids that remain in the flesh after melicha and tzliya the prohibition of blood does not apply. And after melicha was performed according to halakha, there is no longer any prohibition on the blood left in the meat and may be cooked, and if it flows out, one is permitted to drink it.

The Minhag Regarding Chalita

In practice, the common minhag (custom) is not to take concern of Rambam’s opinion, and not to perform chalita on meat in boiling water after melicha (Rema, Bach, Lavush, and Pri Chadash). Only among Olei Teman (Yemenite immigrants) are there some who are machmir to perform chalita on meat as Rambam said.

Some poskim say that the obligation of chalita according to the opinion of Rambam is only when melicha was done to the meat for only eighteen minutes, but if the meat is put in salt for an hour as is customary today – all the blood is secreted or solidified in the meat, and even according to Rambam, it is not necessary to perform chalita on the meat in boiling water afterwards, and even if red liquid is flows from it, it is not prohibited (Aruch HaShulchan 69: 36-40). Even Yemenites who are customary to be machmir and perform chalita on meat may rely on this b’sha’at ha’tzorech (in time of need).

However, chalita according to Rambam is an important hidur (embellishment of a mitzvah), and all members of the various ethnic communities who wish to embellish the mitzvah, especially Olei Teman, should do so, as Rambam wrote. And this is our custom in the kitchen of our Yeshiva in Har Bracha, where we try to perform chalita on meat before cooking it, in order to also fulfill the mitzvah according to the opinion of Rambam, and the minhag of many Olei Teman.

Vegetarian Restaurants without a Kashrut Certificate

I received a number of questions about the previous column, where I explained that it is forbidden to eat in a non-Jewish vegetarian restaurant that does not have a kashrut certificate, because of the prohibition of bishulei goyim. Indeed, Rabbi Prof. Dror Fixler wrote on the basis of certain opinions, that there is no prohibition of bishulei goyim in the food of these restaurants (Techumin 39). However, the principle of the matter goes according to the majority of Rishonim and Achronim, that many foods in these restaurant are included in the prohibition of bishulei goyim, which applies to all foods that are not eaten raw and are served on a kings table – since flour, grain, and legumes, and some of the hearty vegetables such as potatoes are not eaten raw. They are also served on a kings table, i.e., it is not a disgrace to serve them before distinguished people.

I also added that even when it comes to a cooked dish of foods that people are used to eating raw, like most fruits and vegetables, there is concern that even restaurant owners who claim that all of their products are vegetarian, may deceive their customers and mix into the food gelatin produced from skins and bones of animals, which are meant for thickening and hardening of foods. Even more, there is concern that glycerin, an animal fat derived from neveilot (kosher animals that died without shechitah) is mixed in, for it is extremely inexpensive, and beneficial for adding taste and thickness to foods.

Regarding this, readers asked: How can I raise such a concern, seeing as the principle of vegetarians is that there is no animal product in the food? How can it be that they mix in animal gelatin or glycerin? However, the concern does exist, as we know from our own kashrut system: although in general, religious and traditional Jews are careful to eat kosher – when they are engaged in the food trade, there is concern that greed or economic hardship will cause them to go astray, and deceive. Therefore, while in principle, we rely on an individual who attests to the foods he has prepared as being kosher, when he sells them, we do not rely on him without a certificate of kashrut (see, Rambam, Laws of Prohibited Foods, 11:25-26; Rema, Y.D. 119:1; Aruch HaShulchan 119:3-4). Thus, as long as there is no system of supervision that gelatin and glycerin and similar items are not mixed in products, their kashrut cannot be relied on in even for foods that do not have the prohibition of bishulei goyim.

There were others who justifiably maintained that one should also be concerned about the prohibition of shratzim (vermin), which, if the vegetables and fruits are not checked as required, may have shratzim in them. And even according to the lenient opinion regarding tiny shratzim not visible to the naked eye, there is concern that if the restaurant staff are not aware of the prohibition of shratzim, they may not even remove visible shratzim from the vegetables and fruits. There is another concern as well, which Rabbi Prof. Fixler also mentioned, that even when it comes to foods that clearly do not fall under the category of bishulei goyim, one must check that they do not mix into the food, wine, or wine vinegar, which is prohibited because of stam yainum (wine which might have been poured for an idolatrous service).

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.

Vegetarian Restaurant Abroad – Is It Kosher?

Vegetarian restaurants do not use animal products, so seemingly, there is no problem with milk and meat; the main question concerns bishulei goyim * Our Sages forbade bishulei goyim to prevent assimilation and erasure of Jewish identity * To be included in the prohibition, the dish must be from food not consumed raw, and can be served at a respectable meal * In the opinion of most poskim, the prohibition also applies to restaurants and not just private homes * In conclusion, one should not eat abroad in vegetarian restaurants that do not have a kashrut certificate * Aside from halachic reasons – without kashrut supervision, there is no certainty that the restaurant owner is honest

Non-Jewish Cooking in Vegetarian Restaurants

Q: May a Jew eat abroad in a non-Jewish vegetarian restaurant that does not have kashrut supervision? Vegetarians take great care, for moral and health reasons, not to mix a shred of animal food in what they eat, and thus, apparently, the foods prepared by them contain no prohibitions. After all, most of the caution about forbidden foods is related to foods from animals – not to eat wildlife and unclean animals such as pigs, horses and lions; not to eat impure birds such as ostrich, eagle and hawk; not to eat unclean fish like catfish; not to eat crawling creatures like a frog, and seafood like shrimp and lobster. Even when it comes to pure animals, if they are mammals or poultry, they need to be slaughtered according to halakha, and if not, they are considered a neveilah, and are forbidden. Even after being slaughtered according to halakha, one has to be careful not to mix meat with milk. And as far as milk goes, it is forbidden to drink the milk of a non-Jew, out of fear they might mix pure milk with milk from unclean animals. And with fruits and vegetables, terumot and ma’asrot (tithes) must be taken, but only in Eretz Yisrael, while abroad, there is no obligation to take tithes. Only if there is wine or wine vinegar in some food is it forbidden because of the prohibition of yayin goyim (non-Jewish wine).

The main question remaining, then, is whether foods cooked in a restaurant are prohibited because of the issur (prohibition) of bishulei goyim (the prohibition of eating food cooked by a non-Jew). I will first explain the fundamentals.

The Foundation of the Decree – Fear of Assimilation

Our Sages decreed that it is forbidden for Jews to consume the wine, bread, and cooked foods of non-Jews, in order to prevent assimilation. This does not mean that our Sages feared that the first time a Jew ate food cooked by a non-Jew – immediately, he would be overcome by his desire to assimilate; rather, their intention was to place a fence and a warning sign before the possibility of heartfelt connections between Jews and non-Jews which were liable to lead to assimilation. And, as our Sages said, in the matter of bread, oil, and wine: “They decreed … against their bread and oil on account of their wine; against their wine on account of their daughters; against their daughters on account of another matter” (Avodah Zara 36b). The meaning of “another matter” is idolatry. Seemingly, if the fear is that a Jew might become an idolater, our Sages should have said from the start that they made the decree on bread, oil, and wine because of idolatry. Rather, they wanted to teach that the fear was of assimilation, for if the fear was only that a Jew might transgress the prohibition of marrying a non-Jew, or only transgress the prohibition of idolatry – while still maintaining his Jewish identity – they wouldn’t have made a decree against eating food cooked by a non-Jew. But since the chances are that due to inter-marriage, a Jew might become an idolater and assimilate amongst the Gentiles, it was necessary for our Sages to establish a set of restrictions.

Fear of Assimilation and not from Forbidden Marriage

Therefore, it is not forbidden for a Jew to eat food cooked by another Jew who he is forbidden to marry, such as a mamzer (bastard) or an eshet ish (a married woman), because there is no fear of assimilation. On the other hand, even though the decree was intended to prevent marriage ties, it also applies to non-Jews to whom there is no fear of marriage, such as the elderly, eunuchs, or priests who pledged not to marry, because our Sages did not make distinctions in their decree (Responsa of Rashba 1: 248; R’ma, Y.D. 112:1). We see then that the overall intention of the decree is to educate Jews to guard their uniqueness, and to avoid things that may express a heartfelt personal connection that may eventually lead to assimilation. For even a heartfelt connection with a person who one cannot marry, may lead to a wedding with his relatives and acquaintances.

The Cooked Foods Included in the Prohibition

The prohibition of bishulei goyim only applies to cooked foods that are of some importance and can be served at a respectable meal, and consequently, are liable to lead to heartfelt connections. Regarding simple foods, however, there is not much of a concern, since their cooking process is insignificant, and therefore, one is permitted to eat them.

There are two rules in defining important cooked foods: first, that they are not eaten raw; rather, cooking is what prepares them to be eaten. Second, they are served on the table of kings as a relish with bread, but if they are cooked foods that only ordinary people normally eat, they are not prohibited (Avodah Zara 38a; S.A., Y.D. 113:1).

The First Rule: Not Eaten Raw

The first rule: food that people do eat raw, rather, cooking is what prepares it to be eaten, and as a result, its cooking plays a significant role – if cooked by non-Jews, it is forbidden. Consequently, most of the foods cooked in vegetarian restaurants are included in the prohibition, since varieties of wheat, both as grains and flour, are not eaten raw, and cooking is what prepares them for eating. And varieties of legumes, such as rice, lentils, and corn are not eaten raw, and therefore, it is forbidden to eat them cooked.

Determining whether food is eaten raw depends on its condition before cooking. For example, in the past, people were accustomed to eating raw wheat kernels, therefore if they were cooked, they would not be prohibited. But if the wheat kernels were ground into flour, seeing as flour is not eaten raw, any cooked food made from it is forbidden. Nowadays, we are not accustomed to eat raw wheat, and the prohibition of bishul goyim also applies to it.

However, most fruits and vegetables are not prohibited since they are eaten raw, but most of the filling dishes served in vegetarian restaurants are based on grains, legumes, and vegetables that are not eaten raw, and fall under the prohibition.

The Second Rule: A Respectable Meal

The second rule is that the food “is served on the table of kings as a relish with bread.” In other words, it is eaten as part of a meal, as the main dish intended to satiate, or as a tasty dish served as dessert at the end of a meal. That is to say, even a cooked dish of a food that is not eaten raw, if it’s not eaten in a respectable meal, the prohibition of bishulei goyim does not apply to it.

According to this rule some poskim wish to be lenient, claiming that foods served in popular restaurants, as long as they are not normally served on a kings’ table, or before highly distinguished people, are not prohibited. There were even rabbis who were in contact with the British royal kitchen, and called to find out about any foods they had doubts over, to find out whether it was served on the queen’s table. However, the Queen of England’s customary table practices do not determine the law, rather, the meaning of a “kings table”, is a meal of respected people (Issur ve’Heter Ha’Aroch 43:2; Chaim Sha’al, Vol. 1, 74; Ben Ish Chai, Shana Shni’ah, Chukat 9). In the past, when society was more divided into classes, there were cooked foods that poor people used to eat, such as small fish and porridge, which, if served before ministers, would be considered an affront to their dignity (Avodah Zara 38a). Nowadays, these foods are also served at respectable meals, because today thanks to the variety of foods and the openness of society, all foods that people are used to cooking are considered respectable, and ministers normally eat them at meals. What’s more, in a democratic society, most ministers grew up in ordinary homes, and are fond of foods they ate in their parents’ home, and with their friends.

Consequently, this rule excludes from the prohibition only highly inferior foods, or foods normally not served in a meal, such as sweets, chocolate, roasted nuts, and other snacks. But breakfast cereals and rice crackers fall under the category of bishulei goyim, since people normally eat them for a filling breakfast. Additionally, any cooked dish that restaurants are not ashamed to serve – is considered a respectable food.

Vegetables Dependent on Minhag

There are foods that in some places are eaten raw, and in others, are eaten only cooked. Regarding this, the poskim wrote about following the minhag ha’makom (custom of the place), and not taking into consideration the minhag of individuals (Maharikash, 113:3; Shiurey Bracha 1; Chochmat Adam, 66:4, and others). Today, geographical location is not the defining definition of one’s perception, for people move from one place to another, and in every place, people of different cultures live; therefore, the concept of makom must be defined as the surroundings in which one lives. One’s surroundings include family, friends, and neighbors with whom one has contact. In other words, our Sages prohibited cooked foods that have importance, and the importance for each person is determined by his familiar surroundings, and not according to what he heard about people’s customs in other places.

Therefore, in general, bishulei goyim is prohibited as far as potatoes, zucchini and eggplant are concerned since in most places they are not eaten raw. Even a person who heard that there are some people who eat them raw, as long as in his environs they are not normally eaten raw, even rarely, the prohibition of bishulei goyim applies to him. However, someone who lives in a place where those around him eat these vegetables even when they are raw, for instance, they mix slices of them in salads, the prohibition of bishulei goyim does not apply to him.

Bishulei Goyim in a Restaurant

Some poskim are of the opinion that just as our Sages were lenient in sha’at ha’tzorech (times of need) to buy bread from a paltar goy (a non-Jewish baker) since personal relations are less intimate regarding pastries baked for the public at large, similarly, we should be lenient for a non-Jewish cook who cooks for a number of people, such as a cook in a restaurant who has no connection with the diners, that in a sha’at ha’tzorech, food cooked by him is permitted to be eaten (Maharitz Yishanot 161). However, in the opinion of the vast majority of poskim, the heter (halachic permission) to eat pat paltar is unique for bread because people’s lives depend on it, but as far as cooking is concerned, our Sages did not make a distinction in their decree, and the prohibition applies whether cooking is done at home in one’s kitchen, or in business or public kitchen (Tashbetz 1:89; Shiurey Bracha 112:9; Erech HaShulchan 3; S’de Chemed, and many more).

However, when bishul goyim is done in an industrial factory whose products are bought in stores, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein wrote that, since the distance between the cooker and the buyers is much further away, many people are accustomed to be lenient, and they should not be remonstrated (Iggrot Moshe, Vol.4, Y.D. 48:5).

Practical Summary

From what we have learned, most foods cooked in vegetarian restaurants are prohibited because of bishulei goyim, since they are made from foods that are not normally eaten raw, and are served on a king’s table and to distinguished people.

Even if the cooked dishes are made from foods that are also eaten raw, so that the prohibition of bishulei goyim does not apply to them, there is concern that even restaurant owners who claim they use only vegetarian products, may be cheating on their customers and mixing in gelatin or glycerin (obtained from neveilot) for food certification or taste, or wine or wine vinegar, and no one will be aware because there is no kashrut supervision.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.