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Oct 28, 2012

Kosher Without A Hechsher

"Kosher without a hechsher" is a new phenomenon spreading in Jerusalem  where vendors have decided that they will no longer play along with the Rabbanut. While they are under the threat of fine for using the word "kosher", as only the Rabbanut has the legal right to use that word in authorization of food as kosher, the restaurant owners don't seem to care, and are increasingly rebelling against the Rabbanut in this.

The restaurant owners are upset with the increasingly strict demands, and are fed up with the conduct of the mashgichim, according to the Haaretz article. A group, in the meantime, has asked the anti-trust authorities to look into the way the Rabbanut tells vendors that they can only order from certain suppliers. With this growing phenomenon, the Rabbanut is looking at what could be a major problem.

Can a person eat in such a restaurant, where the owner says it is kosher but without a teudah? Technically, if the vendor is religious and/or trustworthy, the rule all kashrus is based on is eid echad ne'eman b'issurin - one witness is believed in these matters - and therefore a trustworthy vendor should technically be believed. On the other hand, we know how complicated kashrut has gotten over the years, and not everybody is an expert in the details. He might be trustworthy, but does he know the rules he is supposed to be adhering to?

The teudah of kashrut in a restaurant guarantees a certain level of reliability. Whichever organization is providing the certification, they are declaring what the level is, though most people don't really know what level each organization uses and only trust them based on reputation alone. Without that, the potential customer really has no idea what the owner is deeming to be kosher.

I wouldn't eat in such a restaurant, but it seems there are enough people who will. According to the article, additional restaurants are joining the movement...I dont know what the mashgichim are doing to drive restaurants away from the Rabbanut like this with their conduct, but they should perhaps undergo some sort of retraining before this gets out of hand.



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17 comments:

  1. Pity you missed Rav Haber's shabbos shuva drasha. He dealt (inter alia) with exactly this issue. Bekitzur, the regular rule of "eid echad neeman b'issurim" takes a hit (though not necessarily a disqualification) when the witness himself is nogea badavar, i.e. he has a business interest in telling you the food is kosher, as when he owns the restaurant. You can eat in someone's private home if you trust him, but relying on the eidus of the restaurant owner himself is more complicated...

    I'm not qualified to give over the whole shiur myself, so CYLOR if you're considering eating in one of these joints.

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    1. I agree and that is my opinion as well, about nogeia bdavar. I almost never buy from anyone selling food saying "all the ingredients are badatz". The only exception would be someone I know very well and completely trust him or her.
      However, in the clear halacha I am pretty sure they are still trustworthy as eid echad.

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  2. The rules of kashrut have NOT gotten complicated over the years. The Chumrot have gotten complicated. The question is not if the store own knows the rules to make the food kosher, but if the public knows what they are supposed to be asking about!

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    1. Simpy not true. The rules of kashurs have gotten infinitely more complicated over the years with the advent of mass production (I don't know the actual numbers but I think it is safe to say that more chickens are shechted in a single day in Eretz Yisrael than in the entire lifetime of the Beis Yosef) and with the demands of today's consumers to have everything at their disposal.

      Kashurs in a restaurant is quite complicated even at the "kosher" not "chumrah" leve.

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    2. Mass production does not make kashrut more complicated. In fact, the usage of separate kitchens and all the fences makes it infinitely less complicated. Chumras have to be created so people don't feel like they are taking advantage of the letter of the law, because they think it's all loop holes. Mainly because modern ideas of statistics do not match those of halacha... and so people create chumrahs.

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  3. so some say it is more complicated, and some say it is less. I say it is more, but the truth is that, according to me, it is more complicated but that is in the food production setting - in the factories, with all the chemicals. In the restaurant it is not really more complicated. It is what it always was, minus any "new" chumrahs a hehsher might impose on a restaurant in order to make their own lives easier as far as their supervision is concerned.
    Still, I am willing to bet that most of these people going the "kosher with no teudah" route probably know almost nothing about kashrut, and at most know some of the basics. I doubt they are very reliable.

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    1. I'll agree it's more complicated in the manufacturing of artificial foods. But as you said, that doesn't really affect the resturaunts at all.

      My own experience is that in Jerusalem, I don't trust anyone without a rabanut hechsher. There is too much financial incentive to lie and cheat. In Tel Aviv or Haifa, the store owners are very honest telling people that their place is not kosher or open on shabbat. In the smaller cities and yishuv's, I'll ask for a teudah from the local rabanut unless some local person tells me it's kosher.

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    2. and why do you rely on the say so of some local person? he knows that the store owner checks for bugs, separates trumah if needed, takes challah, etc?

      no one would buy a car or computer or aspirin if the product didn't have the proper paper work, there is no reason to buy food, especially cooked food without a heksher.

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    3. "it is more complicated but that is in the food production setting - in the factories, with all the chemicals."

      Chemicals are not a kosher problem. They are chemicals, not food!

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    4. "no one would buy a car or computer or aspirin if the product didn't have the proper paper work, there is no reason to buy food, especially cooked food without a heksher."

      I have bought both a car* and a computer without any proper paper work. And I have no idea what proper paper work for aspirin means, but I have taken asprin before from someone who pulled an unlabeled pill out of their purse.

      I bought the car from a friend of the guy who sold me a washing machine that I really enjoyed of all things.

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    5. the car you bought was certified by some certifying agency of the country in which you live (assuming that you are in a first world country). so was the computer (UL, CE, all that stuff).

      aspirin can't be manufactured without permits, period. people who order pills over the web - well there is a word for them.

      and ein chachi nami - anyone who buys a second hand car without checking out if the sale is legal is being very very foolish.

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  4. This is purely and simply an ugly story of G R E E D , sheer and unmitigated, in its nasty and thoroughly unpleasant nature.

    As, B"H, Jewish religious observance has grown in Israel, the huckster element among our "professional Jews" saw a gap in the market (increased observance of kashrut)and thought to themselves, "Yippee! (or whatever the rabbinical equivalent might be), we can make money out of this".

    When the "professional Jews" saw that some people were willing to take on additional chumrot they made them 'de facto' doraisa, quietly forgetting all the "little people", as the late Leona Helmsley would have said, who were already struggling to manage to feed their families before all this nonsense started. Meanwhile, the rabbonim who already had their own hechsherim made money, while those holy men of G-d, who heretofore had not, rushed to jump on the band wagon.

    But now, gradually, Jewish consumers are beginning to wake up, and to see the toevah that is called hashgachat kashrut going on around them. They are willing to use their own shikul daat to decide for themselves whether or not to eat at Ploni's restaurant, or to buy their meat, bread, fruit and vegetables from traders they feel they can trust.

    And meanwhile we have the disgusting spectacle of the machers earning the money from the kashrut industry - for we can call it by no other name - standing by, gnashing their teeth and seething impotently. But they have brought this all upon their own heads - by their own greed.

    It's called "killing the goose that lays the golden eggs".

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  5. Eid echad does not apply for trumot and ma'asrot.

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    1. why not? actually, I thought you dont need eid echad for trumos and maasros, as there is a chazaka that even an am haaretz separates that because it is so minor and little money that he has no reason not to.

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    2. An am ha'aretz is only presumed to have separated Teruma Gedola because it's so small. Maaser and Terumas Maaser is not negligible - it's 10% - so we would not assume these were taken.

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    3. i don't think that this chazaka applies today. yochanon the cohen hagadol made that taqana in world where everyone kept kashrut. you can't assume that some restaurant owner in some town takes trumah if he gets his vegis from some supplier who doesn't separate TU'M.

      how does anyone know that he understand the halachot about TU'M?

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  6. Excuse my naivete, but if asked, would these restaurant owners give an honest answer about tevel (or who they buy from)? Not that I've tried myself...

    I suppose I am just amused/bothered that in the frummer world lots of self-supervision is accepted, including chassidish businesses without hasgachahs, or with one off hasgachahs in NY, home based food businesses, and Chabad owned restaurants where the same family owns and runs the restaurant as well as giving hashgachah.

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