Volume 29 Number 59
                 Produced: Thu Aug 19  6:34:11 US/Eastern 1999

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Breaking a Kashruth Contract with a Strip Bar
         [Russell Hendel]
Hashgacha and Contract Law
         [Zvi Weiss]
Kosher certification for non-Orthodox functions
         [Marc Sacks]
More Questions on Kashrut Supervision
         [Stan Tenen]
Religious Organizations Mandated to Control
         [Carl M. Sherer]


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999 23:08:40 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Breaking a Kashruth Contract with a Strip Bar

The Rambam is clear and unequivocal:(Sales 18:3)
>>You don't mix non-schechted meat with schechted meat in a sale
>>to a non-jew EVEN THOUGH you know that non-schechted and schechted
>>meat have the same status to him

Again, as I have already done several times, we must distinguish between
the question of "whether we should do business with strip bars" (of
course not) and the question of "whether we should break a contract with

My focus in these postings is that just as Kashruth is part of Judaism
so is monetary law and it is a very serious prohibition to break a

Russell Hendel; Phd ASA <RJHendel@...>
ModeratoR Rashi Is Simple


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999 21:43:58 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Hashgacha and Contract Law

> From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
> Unfortunately such a perspective proves that there is only one way to
> act!  It is a universal principle in contract law that whenever a
> contract is ambiguous then it is interpreted restrictively not
> liberally. For example, suppose I sell Joe my field. But I have 2
> fields. Then Joe gets the field of inferior quality because the contract
> is interpreted restrictively not liberally. This principle "The owner of
> the document has the lower hand" occurs in several places in commercial
> law (the only exception being the case of gifts) (See e.g. Loans 27:16
> or Sales 21:17-21).
> It immediately follows that if my contract with an orginazation reads
> "Supervise Kashruth" then that contract MUST be interpreted
> restrictively (Kosher food) and not liberally (Kosher atmosphere).

 I do not understand this.  Why is "Kosher atmosphere" considered
"liberal" and "Kosher Food" considered "restrictive"?  Just as the Owner
of the fields above determines what is to be considered "inferior" (as
"The Owner of the document has the lower hand"), so too the "seller" of
the service (The Kashruth agency) determines what is "inferior" (for the
same reason).  AND, that agnecy -- for whatever reason -- states that
its service is restricted only to venues that meet the particular

> Let me summarize the above with principles that I think everyone (!?!?)
> might agree on:
> 1) We all agree that if the Jewish community were structued with two
> types of orginazations (one that certified food and one that certified
> atmosphere) then no one would object to each orginazation doing their
> thing

 The issue of "just certifying food" seems to be in a case where the
food-service can be logically split off from the rest of the event
(e.g., a caterer) but NOT in terms of the supervising AGENCY.  I am not
at all certain that the above statement -- as formulated -- is correct
or desireable.

> But then the whole issue is whether the owner of a contract can
> interpret liberally vs restrictively which contradicts the whole of
> Jewish commercial law.

Why only the "owner of the contract"?  Why can't the Agency choose what
is "restrictive"?



From: Marc Sacks <msacks@...>
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 1999 09:37:46 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Kosher certification for non-Orthodox functions

If Kashruth organizations start withdrawing certifications from events or
places that do not meet their standards for frumheit, then consider the
following scenario:

My son's Bar Mitzvah is coming up in October.  It will be in a
Conservative synagogue, followed by a kiddush brunch and a party at the
shul in the evening.  There will be a DJ at the party and lots of dancing.

Conforming to the rules of the synagogue, all food and caterers must be
officially kosher.  However, mixed dancing does not matter to
Conservatives; for that matter, it doesn't matter to any Orthodox
relatives we plan to invite, most of whom came of age and developed their
religious practice at a time when such things weren't considered very

Now, the question:  If any event with mixed dancing could not get Orthodox
kosher certification, how could this Bar Mitzvah party be handled?  Non-O
certification would not work, because the Orthodox folks do care about
kosher food standards.

Thanks for any replies.

Marc Sacks


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Mon, 16 Aug 1999 08:35:04 -0400
Subject: More Questions on Kashrut Supervision

There have been many postings recently debating the appropriateness of
kashrut authorities certifying kashrut at locations where women sing, or
men and women dance together, etc.  Some of the posters feel strongly
that kashrut supervisors should and/or must take into consideration
ancillary factors, such as the otherwise halachic appropriateness of the
establishment, which are not explicitly related to how kosher the food

This is very confusing to me, because on many occasions, I've asked
rabbis and kashrut authorities about similar issues, and have
unanimously been given the opposite position.  "Kashrut only applies to
kosher, and nothing else.  What are you, some kind of new-age nut?"

Well, maybe I am a new-age nut, or maybe, not having taken on kashrut
until the mid-'80's, I have a bit more experience than persons who have
never eaten anything but kosher.

Some of the issues which are _definitely_ not kashrut issues, according
to the persons I've consulted, are:

1. A major kosher soup manufacturer routinely under- and over-fills
plastic soup pouches.  Some contain nearly twice the volume of others.
This has been going on for years.  It's far in excess of the variability
found in non-kosher packaged products, but when approached, the company
and kashrut authorities show no interest, even though this is quite
obviously a situation where a person is routinely short-weighted.

2.  Wildly varying ingredients appear in some frozen kosher products.
Perhaps all of the ingredients are present, but sometimes it's "all lima
beans", and other times, there are no lima beans.  The ingredients list
and the calorie list are not adjusted to reflect the changing
ingredients.  A non-kosher company behaving like this would be put out
of business.  As far as I can tell, it makes no sense for the kashrut
authorities to say they're relying on normal food health inspection and
regulations for this issue not related to kashrut, because obviously,
it's not happening, and equally obviously, no inspector these days wants
to be accused of discrimination.

3.  Unhealthy chemicals are often present in manufactured kosher foods.
Some of these ingredients include colorants known to be carcinogenic,
and the usual cast of modern food processing wonders.  If you combine
the presence of these chemicals with uneven filling in packaging, it's
easy to get dosages which are questionable with regard to the
generally-agreed-as-safe limits.  Some of these chemicals are real
poisons.  Having enjoyed organic foods, I know that there's absolutely
no necessity for any of these chemicals, and even if no particular harm
can be traced to any one at any one time, ingestion over long periods of
time is clearly as risky to health (particularly the health of children)
as is smoking (now halachically unacceptable in some quarters) and as
unhealthy as being grossly overweight (also halachically questionable,
because of known risk to life).

4.  I live outside of New York, where there are only a few kosher
butchers, whom I am very pleased are present.  BUT -- when I buy steak,
I often find it's not the cut mentioned on the label, it's often
repackaged, and it's often out of date. (And when I take it out of the
package, the back side is clearly discolored from age.) The butchers
don't seem to feel there's anything wrong with this, and they don't
respond to fix the problem.  I've even bought expensive steak, only to
find the steak was really made up of two or three pieces of less
expensive cuts.  This is from the predominant kosher meat source in my
area.  I don't know if this happens elsewhere.  Recently I was traveling
on the west coast, where there are even fewer kosher butchers.  I was
shocked to discover that good steak hadn't become much tougher in the
last few years, as I was led to believe from what I could purchase at
home.  Steak with the same labeling was clearly of a far different

If kashrut authorities are concerned about the presence of a female
voice in a restaurant, how is it that few if any authorities have ever
responsibly addressed any of the above?

Now, I've heard all the excuses and rationalizations, and they sound
pretty much the same as the rationalizations for why kashrut authorities
should not consider other halachic issues.  As far as I can see, this
level of hypocrisy surely corrupts serious halachic issues and kashrut
standards.  All of the above are stumbling blocks to the uninformed or
unwary, and some are dangerous to life.

Now, here's my question.  What do we do about this?  Are there
authorities who would respond if they knew?  Or are kashrut authorities
competent to spot a female voice, but not competent to spot a carcinogen
or false weight?  Would a halachic authority that attempted to withdraw
a hechsher from a food product for any of the above reasons be out of
line, or be subject to lawsuit?

I'm upset at convenient halachic stringency, and inconvenient halachic
leniency.  I think we're being walked into a brick wall with
hypocritical behavior, as practiced by some kashrut authorities.  I'm
not allowed to pick and choose which mitzvot I'm subject to.  Why are
halachic authorities comfortable behaving this way?  And again I ask,
what can be done about it?  (I can spot a carcinogenic ingredient, and
avoid that product.  But I can't spot a short-weighted plastic envelope
in a cardboard box, and I can't spot a substitution or imbalance of
ingredients when it doesn't appear on the label.)

And of course, a woman singing may divert attention from prayer.  But
bad food can kill.

Meru Foundation   http://www.meru.org   <meru1@...>


From: Carl M. Sherer <csherer@...>
Date: Tue, 17 Aug 1999 14:43:48 +0300
Subject: Religious Organizations Mandated to Control

Deborah Wenger writes:

> (1) A previous poster pointed out that some establishments contract with 
> a mashgiach for kashrut only - someone who may not be a rabbi and who is 
> an expert in kashrut matters, but not necessarily competent to rule on 
> other matters, such as kol isha. In this case, a contract would have to 
> be interpreted to mean supervision of the food only, as the 
> mashgiach/mashgicha may not be qualified to rule on other matters.

I think the poster is referring to Ellen Krischer's post in Number 28, 
where Ellen wrote:

"Kosher supervisors (mashgichim) are paid independantly of the
establishments and are not associated with any policy stated or 
implied of the establishment.  They are paid by the Kashrut 
Organization they are associated with to supervise FOOD.  They 
are trained in procedures for the preparation of FOOD and any 
associated Shabbat and other laws that hinge on the preparation of 
FOOD.  Why should a Kashrut Organization have rules about 
*anything* other than FOOD!

"Kashrut Supervisors are not all Rabbis.  They are not necessarily 
well versed (or versed at all) in the detailed halachas of mixed 
dancing, kol isha, tzniut, or business ethics.  They are supposed 
to certify the food and let individuals decide for themselves whether 
to attend the function in the first place.  My mother has supervised 
kosher food provided to the Israeli delegation during state visits to 
Washington, D.C.  Do you think the Kashrut Organization should 
have to approve the entertainment at the White House?  Certify that 
Hillary's dress is tzanua?"

But Ellen's post dealt with the Kashrus SUPERVISOR, and not 
with the ORGANIZATION for which that supervisor works. While the 
supervisor may not be competent to determine whether the 
entertainment in the restaurant is halachically acceptable, the 
organization itself undoubtedly employs people who are competent 
to do so. And since it would be unfair for the Kashrus organization 
not to set out its expectations (if any) with respect to the 
entertainment in advance, I think it is safe to presume that a 
supervisor who is not qualified to do so is not expected to make an 
on-the-spot decision as to whether entertainment is acceptable.

As to the last two sentences of Ellen's post, I think several posters 
have already pointed out a distinction between a caterer who caters 
affairs in different locations and a restaurateur who owns his/her 
own establishment, and therefore has greater control over what 
goes on in his/her restaurant.

> (2) In the original case I cited so long ago, the restaurant in question 
> featured a female singer on only one occasion. This was publicized well 
> in advance, so there would be no question of people going to the 
> restaurant not knowing that there would be such entertainment. I think 
> that surely, there would have been other ways to deal with the situation 
> more leniently than a blanket withdrawal of hashgacha - for example, 
> having the supervising organization post a notice that it did not approve 
> of the entertainment for that day. 

Did the restaurant bother to ask the supervising organization what 
it thought of the entertainment before it went out and advertised it? 
If it did, and the supervising organization said, "that's unacceptable, 
and if you do it, we will withdraw your Hashgacha," then IMHO the 
supervising organization was well within its rights, and the 
restaurant has only itself to blame.

OTOH, would this not have been the 
> perfect opportunity for, say, women's organizations to hold fundraisers? 

Yes, if the restaurant also advertised that only women would be 
admitted that evening.

-- Carl M. Sherer


End of Volume 29 Issue 59