Monday, August 10, 2009

Poor logic or outright deception?

In this week's Kosher Today there is an awful article named New Challenge to Kosher Law as Fraud Increases. In it the author repeatedly equates trademark violation and consumer fraud with non-Orthodox interpretations of the kashrut laws. One example:

New York…Avi G, a New Yorker vacationing in Ft. Lauderdale, found an ice cream cup at a local convenience store with an unclear kosher symbol. “It was either an OU or OV, but either way it didn’t look right,” he told KosherToday. Avi ultimately found out that the ice cream was using an unauthorized symbol. Pfizer recently filed suit against Marco Hi-Tech for allegedly selling it a kosher ingredient with a fraudulent letter from the Orthodox Union. The two are but a small sample of growing fraud and other misrepresentation of kosher that are creating angst amongst many kosher consumers.

Successful challenges against laws protecting kosher consumers have in the words of kosher experts left the growing base of kosher consumers extremely vulnerable. Kashrus agencies say that they have been forced to spend significant amounts of money to protect their symbols from fraud. These concerns are not shared by a Georgian Conservative rabbi and the ACLU who filed suit against the State for defining kosher as meeting “orthodox Hebrew religious rules and requirements.” Rabbi Shalom Lewis claims he cannot fulfill his rabbinical duties “because his theological interpretation of the state’s kosher laws differs from that of Orthodox Judaism.” He said he “violates state law” when he approves some foods as kosher that are not kosher under Orthodox definitions.” The laws have been on the books since 1980.

Rabbi Lewis wants to be able to say that a restaurant he supervises is kosher even though they use non-heckshered cheese. This is a completely different issue from fraudulently printing an OU on unsupervised foods. The NJ and NY kosher laws cover this case adequately - any restaurant certified by Rabbi Lewis would have to disclose that he is not an Orthodox rabbi, and that he doesn't require hecksherim on his cheese.

I suspect the author of the article genuinely doesn't see the difference. As far as he is concerned, a restaurant that serves unheckshered cheese is a treif restaurant, period. But this logic has no end to it. Lubavitch chassidim insist that chalav stam is treif - they do not accept Rav Feinstein's ruling even b'deivad. Should all restaurants that serve chalav stam not be allowed to call themselves kosher? Many chassidic groups don't consider stam shechita to be acceptable. Should a restaurant that serves Empire chicken be called treif?

The role of the secular government is to prevent consumer fraud without ruling on religious disputes. Someone who puts the OU on a product without actually being under the supervision of the OU is clearly committing fraud. No special laws whatsoever are needed - it would be like selling Del Monte Pineapple while being in no away affiliated with Del Monte.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Yated no more?

My free email subscription to the American Yated is going away. It now will cost $15 a year, leading me to wonder if I can support them, and if so is it worth that much to me. I generally read the letters column, the 2 halacha columns, and the 'ooh, shabbes is SO special' column. Once in a while I print off a recipe. Worth it or no?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Yorea Deah hypothetical

Inspired by my chevruta study today in Basar B'Chalav.

Imagine you have a new 8 ounce metal spoon, which you use to stir an ounce of melted margarine. Later that day you take out two spoonfuls of beef stew with the same spoon. When you go to spread margarine on your bread, you realize that it is dairy margarine.

How many ounces of Beef Stew has to be in the pot in order to nullify the spoon and still be kosher?

Highlight the area below for my answer.
540 oz. The relevant halachot are
  1. If you know exactly how much food a kli (utensil, like a spoon or a pot) has absorbed you can use that amount instead of the total size of the kli.
  2. If you dip a mlichig spoon twice into a meat pot you need 120 rather than 60.
  3. So the first time you dip the spoon, you need 60 * 1 oz to nullify the diary in the spoon. At the same time 8 oz of bliot from the meat enter into the spoon and become a chanan of milk and meat. So the next time you dip the spoon, you need 8 oz * 60 to nullify the spoon which is now full of milk and meat. 60 + 480 = 540