Volume 9 Number 11
                       Produced: Mon Sep  6 20:43:59 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

People don't hold by that Hechsher
         [Leon Dworsky]


From: <ljd@...> (Leon Dworsky)
Date: Sun, 5 Sep 93 18:21:45 -0400
Subject: People don't hold by that Hechsher

On August 8th in response to:

>> /\/\/\/\/\/\/\  deletion  /\/\/\/\/\/\/\
>> Their usual symbol is.............
>> I don't personally hold by them, but your mileage may vary.

I wrote:

> Why?  Have you had a bad experience?  Have you personally investigated
> /\/\/\/\/\/\/\  deletion  /\/\/\/\/\/\/\
> I noticed a question raised regarding a product supervised by the
> Delta (triangle) K. .....
> It has been considered unreliable by some because of scuttle-butt I
> have heard, but no hard facts have ever been presented to me. .....

I then went on to relate my wife's decision, because of this scuttle-
butt, to check up on a Delta K product containing cheese of unidentified
source. The anecdote concluded with the manufacturers reply that:

> ..... the cheese was a dried powder and all of the containers had an
> OU-D on them.  "Would that help us any?"  Obviously, it did.

I then added   > So much for scuttle-butt.

Following publication of my post, a number of comments came directly to
me and others appeared in m-j.  I decided to wait for the activity on this
subject to slow down before I commented further.  I will not use the names
of those that wrote me directly, but I'm sure they will recognize the points
they raised as their own.

> Subject: your posting to steve re [symbol deleted]
> I think you were unduly harsh with Steve on mj. When he said that he
> doesn't hold by that hechser, I took that to mean that at surface
> value, akin to someone saying, I eat only glatt. That is--it is more a
> reflection of his own practices than something anyone else is obligated
> to follow, unless they hold like him or his rav.
> He should have included this caveat. You didn't need to accuse him of
> spreading anything improper. He didn't.

Admittedly, my remarks came across as a flame of Steve, and I apologize.
My intention was to flame the COMMENT which is very COMMONLY heard with
no further qualifications.  In fact, the last phrase was a caveat - a
qualification (which few people add).  But therein also lies a problem:
As noted above "[I see it as] a reflection of his own practices".  How
am I, a stranger, to know what his practices are?  Is he more machmir
(stringent) than I, or less?  If he is more, then may I take his caveat
to mean that I need not consider his opinion?  Is Steve a Haredi and only
uses O-U products that ALSO have the approval of the B'datz (Haredi Vaad
of Jerusalem)?  Let me reiterate - I am not aiming at Steve,  but only
using his post to illustrate the problem with overly broad statements
made by so many when Kashrut is the question.

> Subject: Rabbi Ralbag-
> I, too, have some of these same questions about innuendo.  However, I
> also have some serious concerns.  From what I have heard, Rabbi Ralbag
> is a one man operation.  And, he supervises many, many products. Because
> of the complexities of kashrut, I am not sure whether one person can
> handle this.

Rabbi Ralbag also has his two sons in the business with him.  They are
married and were spoken of quite respectfully by those I met who know
them.  Weather he employs any others, I do not know.  As to how many
products one man can handle, this is a variable.  For the uninitiated,
I will try to explain why it is a variable by discussing the problems of
a mashgiach (kashrut supervisor) dealing with an industrial producer.

Only the very largest plants have a resident mashgiach.  Most operate
like a national food producer's regional bread division located here
in North Carolina.  The bakery is under the supervision of the O-U.  The
Rabbi hired by the O-U to supervise the plant lives approximately 60 miles
away.  He is a well respected and extremely busy man, active on the Jewish
scene through out North and South Carolina.  This is the only supervisory
job he does.  How does he go about it?

Firstly, he makes unannounced spot inspections of the plant and all raw
materials - food stuffs, packaging materials, cleaning supplies, etc.
Secondly, whenever an oven is turned off for cleaning, he is called in to
turn it back on.  Thirdly, they have agreed to call him before ANY
procedure is changed - a product is reformulated, a new raw material is
considered, same raw material but a new supplier, new equipment is
purchased, certain equipment is repaired, etc.

The third item is where the potential for trouble lies. The mashgiach must
depend on the honesty and sincerity of the people he is dealing with.
Legal papers only furnish the basis for the relationship.

Examples of potential problems:

1) A supervisor decides the oven needs an unscheduled cleaning and turns it
off.  When ready to turn it back on, the Rabbi is unreachable and the
supervisor thinks "No big deal, this one time" and relights it himself.
2) A very likely occurrence is for a supplier to offer to fill an order with
a substitute brand because of a temporary shortage of the usual brand.  The
unknowledgeable will say "sesame oil is sesame oil, send it.".  Since
production will have to stop if it is not used, it is put in use without
calling the mashgiach.
3) A special order arrives from a supermarket chain that wants to run a
special.  Unintentionally, or intentionally, they use the only idle oven to
fill the order.  It is a dairy oven, the product is pareve and so labeled.
4) I'm sure you can think of many other possibilities.  We have all seen
notices in periodicals such as Kosher Kurrents from Baltimore or the Merkaz
from Detroit, explaining that product "A" is labeled pareve, but is really
dairy.  Or that product "B" with such-and-such a date should not be used,
but earlier and later dates are ok.

> Subject: Scuttle-butt
> Your logic escapes me. Just because you checked on one particular product
> and found that the company used OU-D cheese - does that prove that the
> Triangle K is generally reliable? I am sure that no one claims that *every*
> product supervised by the Triangle K contains questionable ingredients.
> Unfortunately, however, I have been told by my LOR (in Brooklyn when I
> lived there and in Edison where I live now) that one cannot rely on this
> hashgachah. I have no reason to think that the statements by these LOR's
> were based on scuttle-butt.

True.  One checked out product does not a hashgacha make.  But conversely,
one bandied about mistake should not a hashgacha break. The only accusation
I have ever heard against the Triangle-K goes back many years, relates to
an unnamed oil trucking company, and deals with their ignoring their
contract and acting without Rabbi Ralbag's knowledge. As soon as R' Ralbag
discovered what was going on, a new trucking firm was hired.  No one has
ever been able to give me names, dates, how the problem was discovered or
how it became public knowledge.  Thus I call it scuttle-butt, and say it
should be stopped.  From my comment #4 above, it is obvious that errors
occur to the most reliable, and they may not be "held by" as a result.

(An interesting side comment - a few years ago when the hechsher mentioned
in Steve's post first showed up in this area, I called a friend living in
Los Angeles and asked him about it.  His answer - "If the product contains
oil, it should not be used.  For everything else, its ok."  He had no
explanation for this.  The same scuttle-butt applied to another?)

A final word on the Triangle-K.  A few years ago no machmir homes in
Baltimore used it.  In the last year or so, they have begun to use a
number of the Triangle-K products.

Please, I in no way intend my remarks to be seen as an approval of any
hechsher, nor as questioning any hashguchah.

> From: <rln@...> (Roxanne Neal)
> Subject: Possibly Questionable Hechsher
> /\/\/\/\/\/\/\  deletion  /\/\/\/\/\/\/\
> Back in the days before I had a rav and I insisted on trying to figure
> out everything by myself, this ["People don't hold by that hechsher,"]
> wasn't a satisfactory answer as far as I was concerned. Now I have a rav
> I trust, and I take his word for it. I don't feel the need to know the
> details; if my rav says it's not used, that's good enough for me, and in
> any case, nobody in my community would eat by me if I used that hechsher,
> so what would be the point?

Ruth has hit the nail on the head: "nobody in my community would eat by me."
It matters not what her Rav is basing his decision on, nor that the Rav in
the next community disagrees.  His opinion is all powerful in his community,
but he will not defend or explain it.  Why not?  Read on.

> From: Finley Shapiro <Finley_Shapiro@...>
> Subject: Hekshers and Evil Speech
> A few recent postings discussed the acceptability of a particular
> heksher (kosher certification).  Apparently people are being encouraged
> to avoid it, both by laymen and rabbis, but the reason is not being
> given so as not to spread lashon harah (evil speech) regarding the rabbi
> who gives the heksher.   /\/\/\/\/\/\/\  deletion  /\/\/\/\/\/\/\
> This brings to my mind the question: Is it really less lashon harah to
> make comments such as the one above rather than simply to state "the
> problem with this heksher is _____"?  (Fill in whatever you think the
> most likely reason is.)   /\/\/\/\/\/\/\  deletion  /\/\/\/\/\/\/\

To this, Freda Birnbaum <FBBIRNBA@...> responded:

> /\/\/\/\/\/\/\  deletion  /\/\/\/\/\/\/\
> If the reasons were given for WHY "people" don't use a product, we might
> discover that it is a matter of legitimate differing interpretations; or
> we might discover that it is indeed a matter of questionable kashrus, in
> which case the duty-to-warn kicks in.

ALL of the previous comments I and others have made, boil down to this:

If ANYONE states "People don't hold", with no explanation, it is among the
WORST kinds of Lashon Harah, for it also transgresses in that it deprives
one of his livelihood with out ANY proof of the legitimate "duty-to-warn"
that Freda points out.  Do you really think the Chafetz Chiam would approve
of every LOR making such statements, often disagreeing with each other?

And what about competing Vaads?  Are they any better?  Ron Greenberg raised
this question in two excellent articles regarding the Washington, DC, Vaad
and the Star-K of Baltimore.  I will address this question in a later post.
What grounds have I on which to address it?  I have children and
grandchildren living in Silver Spring and Baltimore for many years, and,
as you can imagine, am a frequent visitor to both places.  The two Vaads
are regular topics of discussion by my children as well as the many friends
we have been fortunate to make in both places.

Finally: Several people asked what my connection with R' Ralbag was.
It's really very nebulous.  My wife and I spent a weekend with a friend
in NY who davens at a shtiebel owned by R' Ralbag, now overseen by his
two sons. (He also owns another near where he now lives, that he presides
over.)  That Shabbat, unbeknownst to my host, the family was celebrating
the arrival of a new Ralbag.  A luncheon was held and all who attended
services were invited to stay and join in the simcha.  It was at that
luncheon that I had the pleasure (and it was a pleasure) of talking with
R' Ralbag, playing Jewish Geography with him, and eventually putting my
foot into it as noted in my original posting.

As always, I welcome your comments, either to m-j or directly to me.

Leon Dworsky   <ljd@...>


End of Volume 9 Issue 11