Oct 18, 2009

The Supreme Court supports the Rabbanut

The Israeli Supreme Court handed down a ruling in the case of the "fake hechsher" Keter HaKashrut vs. the Rabbanut.

the Rabbanut has been working hard to remove the "fake hechshers" from the marketplace - hechshers such as Keter HaKashrut and Tiferet HaKashrut, among others. These are known to provide a piece of paper declaring the restaurant to be under their supervision and meeting the highest standards of mehadrin min hamehadrin, yet in reality, they often never send any mashgiach to check the place out, and their only contact with the restaurant is to pick up a check and to deliver a certificate.

Keter HaKashrut sued the Rabbanut to get them off their case.

The Supreme Court decided that the Rabbanut has the right to work to prevent the defrauding of the public regarding kashrut. Also, this applies not only to something not kosher fraudulently being labeled as kosher, but equally so to the level of kashrut - if they claim to be certifying at a mehadrin level but are not actually, the Rabbanut can protect against this as well.

The Supreme Court also accepted the Rabbanut's claim that Keter HaKashrut is not on par with the level of kashrut they claim to be certifying.

While such a decision is important and will hopefully strengthen the Rabbanut in their fight against the "fake hechshers", there is something troubling about it. They say the Rabbanut has the right to work against the defrauding of the public in kashrut issues. I would say it is not their right to do so, but their obligation to do so. Their raison d'etre. This might just be an issue of semantics though.

Even more important, what is disturbing is that the Supreme Court affirmed that Keter HaKashrut is not at the standards, as per the claim of the Rabbanut.

This disturbs me because what will happen in the future is that various agencies will petition the court to determine their level of kashrut - rather than allowing the Rabbanut to define what "Kosher" means, what "mehadrin" means, etc. and either a certifying agency fits the category or not, now the Supreme Corut is affirming the levels of the agency. This time they affirmed it as per the Rabbanut, but who says they will do so next time as well? Maybe next time the Rabbanut will try to get rid of another "fake hechsher" and then the Supreme Court will define them differently.

In essence, the Supreme Court is becoming the defining body on what is considered kosher and what is considered mehadrin, and that is troubling. A secular body, one that defines secular law, should not be defining standards that are based in religion. they can be used to uphold laws that involved religion, or even to challenge such laws, but to define religious standards - that should only be done by the Rabbanut or another religion based institution.


  1. The bigger issue is who is making sure that the Rabbanut provides the proper level of supervision. It is an open secret that many (but not all) local Rabbanuts "often never send any mashgiach to check the place out, and their only contact with the restaurant is to pick up a check and to deliver a certificate".

    I'd like to see Keter Kashrut and friends sue the Rabbanut for not living up to its own standards, if only because of the positive effect it will have on Rabbanut kashrut.

    The fact that the term "mehadrin" is not defined is very problematic. A resturant could openly serve pork, but consider itself "mehadrin min hamehadrin" if it lights one candle the first night of channukah, two the second, etc. In the absence of any well-defined meaning, the Rabbanut would have a hard time arguing its case.

  2. Zionism involves not just questions of law but of faith. A Jewish State lives not by the deeds of Man alone but by the words of G-d.

  3. What's bothering you? Who do you think should define what "kosher" means in Israeli law? Also, who should decide who gets to define it?
    Why is this different than the regular question of why the supreme court has any authority being that there is no constitution and they aren't chosen democratically?

  4. yoni - very interesting suggestion to consider, and I like the channuka solution...

    anon - good point about their authority.
    whenever they get involved in defining halcha it is troubling. the law, yes. they can formulate the law that all food needs to be kosher (or whatever the current law states), and kosher would be defined, according to them, as per the halachic definition.
    Then, to define the range of kosher, and varying standards, it should not be a secular body, but a halachic body. the rabbanut? not necessarily, but they are the ones currently in the position, but it doesnt have to be them.

  5. There is actually a pretty well defined standard for what "mehadrin" is in Israel. For example (to choose one example that sticks in my mind) it is expected that a mehadrin restaurant will squeeze its lemons inside cloth bags, so that if a worm was in the lemon it will not enter the food.

    Of course, just because a commonly agreed standard exists doesn't mean that a particular restaurant actually follows it.


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