News

Balak 5770-Hey, Whose Side Are You On?

Logo for Chadash NewspaperYOU! Yes, you, the one reading this article:

Are you Ashkenazi or Sephardi? Chassid or Misnaged? Dati Leumi or Chareidi? Anglo
or Israeli? Belz or Satmar? Chevron Geulah or Givat Mordechai? Toldos Aharon or
Avrohom Yitzchok? Regular Lubavitch or Meshichist? Yekke or Litvish? Yeshivish or
YU? Settler or Tel Avivian? Regular Breslov or Na Nach? Bnei Braker or Yerushalmi?
Brisk or Mir? Son'im or Mechablim (you really have to be in the know to get
that reference!)? Gimmel or Shas? Hatfield or McCoy?

I have looked far and wide for weeks and weeks, and it's amazing! I couldn't
find anyone against achdus, ahavas Yisroel, and shalom! Of course,
a few fights broke out when different groups started arguing about who, then, is
responsible for the pirud (divisiveness), sinas chinam, and machlokes
that is all too prevalent amongst Klal Yisroel. Nu, nu, what's a little fight
when it's for the purpose of having shalom?

The Gemara in Sanhedrin says, "He who maintains a machlokes (just maintains
– that is, he doesn't take positive steps to prevent it, or to stop it!) violates
a prohibition…" And there are many who hold that this is a real "lav," a Torah-prohibition.

But, we all want to know, does that mean everyone has to hold the same ideas?
Isn't there room for diversity, allowing for different emphases in life, different
ways of living, different hashkofos, different outlooks? Weren't there 12
shevatim, and aren't we proud of that fact? Don't we say that they indeed
had different approaches in their avodas Hashem? Why do different
opinions sometimes break out into huge fights, and sometimes not? If we can hold
different things, and have different opinions, when is it machlokes, and
when not?

And when is it machlokes, and when is it just an argument? Is there ever
a difference? If we are in beis din over a sum of money that I may or may
not owe you, are we having a machlokes and violating an issur?

The poskim clarify that two people, and even two groups, who are having
an argument do not violate this issur. Although the Torah recommends making
compromises and concessions to restore peace – [peace, Rashi says wisely in the
name of Chazal, never ends up resulting from a knock-down hot-tempered argument
(Devarim 25:1, with Rashi)], it is not forbidden halachically.

BUT – if the dispute degenerates to the point where the parties are divided into
two camps, "us" and "them," when it becomes "personal," when there is loyalty to
one's side, and antagonism to the other, then you have a schism, machlokes,
two camps, and you probably have machlokes, cognate with chiluk, a
division. And, generally, an issur.

As long as it is a dispute, as long as it hasn't reached the two-teams point,
it is an undesirable disagreement, but not yet a machlokss.

(Do political parties represent machlokes by their very nature? Perhaps
– something to think about, at the very least.)

That is why Rashi in Parshas Korach says, in explanation of the words of the
posuk "Vayikach Korach (and Korach took), "What did he take? He took himself
to one side to be divided from amongst the congregation." So now there were "two
teams" – The Mesorah Moshes and the Korrupt Korachs. Such is a machlokes,
almost always forbidden by the Torah.

And anyone who joins a side, or even is in a position to try to settle the
machlokes
and fails to do so, is in violation.

And guess what? Even if you are in the right (Whaddya mean? Of course I'm
in the right!!)
, and the other side is wrong (Wrong? They are misguided,
off-track, and horribly mistaken
– and I'm being nice!) you, nevertheless, are
obligated to make every effort that the machlokes cease. And even if the
wrong side (that's the other side, the ones who are not me) continues the
machlokes and continuously antagonizes, the right side (i.e, my side)
is still obligated to continue its efforts to make peace, and failing to do so when
possible is violating the issur. (This is learned out from Moshe Rabbeinu
who acted thusly with Korach – see Rashi to Bamidbar 16:12.)

A person who is entangled in a machlokes must make every attempt to extract
himself from it – even if his standing in his circle suffers, and he feels embarrassment.
It is also forbidden to give aid to one side of a machlokes. Even if one
side is a parent – it is the equivalent of a parent telling a child to violate the
Law of the Torah.

Next week, im yirtzeh Hashem: What are the roots of machlokes?
What is a
machlokes l'shem shamayim – isn't it (almost) always "l'shem
shamayim"? What are the practical, emotional and intellectual steps one can take
to avoid
machlokes? How can you have "two teams" – Ashkenazi and Sephardi,
Chassid and Misnaged, Dati Leumi and Chareidi, Anglo and Israeli, WITHOUT
machlokes?

Yes, it absolutely can be done – not through platitudes and slogans, but through
a deep understanding of the forces involved.


As a result of , and as a follow-up to, the "Just What Are Mehadrin Standards"
series, the Editor of Jerusalem Kosher News will iy"H be presenting an approximately
90-minute lecture/slideshow explaining and educating the public what to look out
for when food shopping, and when eating out. The lecture will take place on Sunday
July 4th,for women at 10:30 a.m.,and for men and women (and mechitzah)
at 8:45 p.m. at Beis Tefillah Yonah Avraham, corner Refa'im and Luz. There will
be questions and answers. Hoping to see you – it will be invaluable!

Chukas

a href=”http://btya.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/logo-chadash-e1275560988767.jpg”>Logo for Chadash NewspaperThis week's Torah reading has one of the most disturbing, and tragic, events
which occurred in the Midbar, on par with the episode of the spies (which resulted
in the 40-year stay in the Midbar). This is the event of Mei Merivah, the
waters of Merivah, where it was decreed that Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen would
not be leading the Jews into Eretz Yisrael, but would pass away before entering
there. Besides the personal tragedy for them, it was a tragedy on a national scale,
for, as the Meforshim teach us, this changed the very nature of the Jews' entry,
making their capture of the Land occur through a more "natural " process, and ultimately
made possible the destruction of the Holy Temple.

Moshe (and Aharon) sinned, we are told; but amazingly, their sin is not explicitely
stated, nor clarified, by the Torah. A most cryptic possuk says: "You failed to
believe in me and to sanctify my name in the eyes of B'nei Yisrael–you will therefore
not lead the Jews into Eretz Yisrael (but rather you will die in the Midbar). "

What exactly did Moshe Rabbeinu do? Sefer Sha'arei Aharon, a contemporary sefer
which clarifies and explains basic peshat in the Chumash, Targum, Rashi, and the
major commentators, counts out no less than 23 (!) opinions from classic Meforshim
on exactly what that sin was.

We will iy"h clarify Rashi's approach, as explained and elucidated by the Maharal
in his sefer on Rashi, Gur Aryeh, and add some analysis.

Rashi famously says that HaShem told Moshe Rabbeinu to speak to the rock ; Moshe
became angry at B'nei Yisrael when they questioned if what he was going to do with
the rock was actually a miraculous intervention by HKBH, and he then hit the rock
instead (see Rashis on pessukim 10-12 and Gur Aryeh on possuk 12 ; this is the Maharal's
interpretation of Rashi))

This is all very cryptic and just about incomprehensible. What is actually the
difference between hitting and speaking to a rock to have water flow forth? Aren't
they both equally miraculous? And what in the world does this have to do with believing
in HaShem (possuk 12) ?And which sin caused it–the getting angry, or the ' hitting
– instead- of- speaking' ?

And isn't this whole incident being blown out of proportion? One small mistake,
and –!!??

Here is the Maharal's take on this (that is, my understanding of what the Maharal
is teaching) :

HaShem gave Moshe Rabbeinu a mission—to perform this miracle in front of the
entire nation of Israel (see Rashi posuk 10, who says that the entire nation was
miraculously gathered together in a way that they would all see the miracle).We
will see in a moment why speaking was crucial here(as opposed to the end of parshas
Beshalach where Moshe Rabbeinu was told to hit the rock)

Moshe Rabbeinu, having been charged with this assignment, should have reached
a peak of emunah. RamBan writes that the fruit of the tree of emunah
is bitachon, our obligation to rely on HaShem, and nothing else, in
every single thing that we do. As the Chovohs HaLevavohs writes in his introduction
to Sha'ar HaBitachon, having bitachon, truly relying on haShem that He
will be the One enabling you, is powerfully liberating! It enables one to be optimistic,
to relax, to be b'simchah, as one does what he/she does with the knowledge and realization
that one is relying on HaShem to succeed..And if I am comfortable that I am doing
the ratzon HaShem in what I am doing, I can be relaxed and serene.

On the verge of entering Eretz Yisrael, there was a requirement to break free,
as it were, from the effects of the spies' sin—-I.e, instead of crying and bemoaning
and wailing about what the future holds (as in Bamidbar 14:1), Moshe Rabbeinu would
speak to a rock, the waters would flow, and B'nei Yisrael would see that doing the
will of HaShem is as natural and successful and stress-free as any natural order
(see Rashi to possuk 12).

But B'nei Yisrael tested and taunted Moshe Rabbeinu–why this rock, why not that
rock, you know where there's a spring, what miracle, when miracle–And Moshe Rabbeinu
was angered.

BUT, says the Maharal, there is NO PLACE for anger, for stress, for anxiety,
for anything but total simchah and optimism and joy as I go to do what I feel I
am charged with–my task, my mission, whether it be in life, or at that moment!
Says the Maharal–if Moshe Rabbeinu would have ignored this 'obstacle' of the scoffers,
and just gone ahead serenely, confidentally, and joyously, and spoken to
the rock, and would have had the total emunah and bitachon and joy in HaShem
that his mission would succeed–the Kiddush HaShem of the joy and optimism with
which one performs one's mission would have once-and-for-all eradicated the meraglim's
pernicious effects.K'llal Yisrael would have entered Eretz Yisrael with Moshe Rabbeinu
at their helm, conquered the Land with their emunah, and a never-to-be-destroyed
Beis HaMikdash would have been built.

But Moshe Rabbeinu was angered.He somehow got rattled by the nation, and was
no longer joyously confident that he would successfully complete his mission.And,
in his anger, he felt he had to force the rock into submission, that his
mission had been altered, been made more difficult, now there are obstacles, we
have to beat the rock…not simchah, but anger. Not serenity, but anxiety.
Not the natural tendency for fulfillment of ratzon HaShem but browbeating into submission.

This flaw in emunah/bitachon, the loss of joy, leaving a vacuum where there could
be anger, allowed a hitting instead of a speaking.And thus Moshe was told "You,
too, cannot enter Eretz Yisrael" and, as is strongly implied in Devarim 1:37, Moshe
now becomes enmeshed in a spy-like flaw, having missed an opportunity to be mekadesh
shem Shamayim through joy and confidence in his mission and eradicate completely
the spies' pessimism and angst. He is therefore told that he, too, would not be
entering Eretz Yisrael.

The lesson, the message? Rather obvious, I would think: Serve HaShem with
Joy!
The personality of an oved HaShem should not be one of a dour face, anxious,
nervous, even angry at times–but rather one radiating joy, optimism, serenity,
and good cheer.

May any zechus accruing from anyone taking this lesson of the iniquitous
effects of anger to heart, be utilized for the zechus of a refu'ah shelaymoh for
Yeshaya Shalom ben Malka Gittel

Just What Are Mehadrin Standards? Part VI

Logo for Chadash Newspaper
"Can I ever know which of the five areas listed (practical
concerns; Halachic concerns of doing it right; Halachic grey areas; minority
opinions; may lead to issurim
) are being addressed by any particular
hechsher?

O.K, I admit my ignorance. Now what do I do? "

Rabbosaiy, and Ladies: You pick a Doctor, and trust him or her, precisely because
you have not gone to medical school. And if you indeed
do not trust your Doctor, or think you know better, do yourself and the Dr. a favor–go
away, and find another Doctor. Because if you do not trust him, if you think he
is not knowledgeable enough, or that he has an agenda (such as money or kovod)–well,
as Moshe Rabeinu put it—"Ribbono shel Olom: This won't work ." Because you will
find 101 things to complain about, nothing he does will satisfy you, you will kvetch
and complain about how he treats you–because you are missing the basic element
of trust. You don't trust him.

Yes, maybe he has to earn your trust–that's ok. And yes, he should allow you
to ask questions, and he should answer your questions as best as he can, and explain
as much as he can. And yes –very important– part of trust is that you trust him
to admit when he doesn't know something, and will consult with a more expert doctor
and find out the answer for you. But certainly expect that at some point, he's going
to turn to you and say–Sir, Madam, I went to medical school, spent years and tears
(EDITOR—THIS IS NOT A TYPO!) studying and interning–trust me, or, find a Doctor
whom you will trust.

And when you find a Doctor whom you trust–you will trust him with all your medical
issues.You will ask him which is surgeons you can trust, which pharmacy you should
use—all your medical questions will go to him.He will answer you, or he will refer
you to someone who knows the answer.You are secure-you trust him. And if you don't—it
won't work, just go away. The foundation of the relationship must be one of trust.

And why have medical referral services sprouted?Because the world of medicine
has grown by leaps and bounds, there are specialists for just about every limb and
every illness imaginable ; we intuit that our doctor can't keep up with all that
knowledge, and the reality is also that trust between patient and Doctor has broken
down (thanks to the world of medical insurance), and most people have never had
the experience of a true 'family Doctor' who knows them, they know him, and they
simply trust him.

I cannot imagine anyone getting through life without a Rav. A Jew's
day is filled with Halachah and Hashkafah. How do you know what to do? How do you
know what the Torah wants, what HKBH expects? Did you study enough, are you qualified
enough, are you unbiased? (I truly am shocked when people casually inform me that
they have no Rav )

And you must find a Rav that you, above all, trust. One who
will answer your questions, one who will admit when he doesn't know the answer and
will send you on to someone or some source that does.

Yes, the world of kashrus and standards are bewildering to the layman–many times
they are bewildering to the Rav, as well. Yet the Rav, if he is to do properly what
is expected of him, will either know, or find out, or refer .

YOU must find a Rav whom you trust. Relatively few Rabbonim today have the expertise
or knowledge to be able to guide you, the layman, through the labyrinth of the myriad
halachos and pesakim there is to know. But what you can expect, and must trust
your Rav to do,
is to sift through all the noise that is at there and get you
the information you need or to refer you to a source that can.

And indeed, the age of specialization in halachah is upon us. This Rav knows
about shatnez, this one about different hechsherim, this one Choshen Mishpat. Kashrus
referral services are here to stay ( I know, I subscribe to most of them! One of
the finest and extremely informative is the source of last week’s conversation with
the shuk vendor—found at
www.jerusalemkoshenews.com) .

The fundamental principle is that the layman needs a Rav, and
the layman MUST trust that Rav, or find a different Rav whom he does trust ; the
Rav either knows or finds out or refers; and must be able to admit being wrong,
and to say he doesn't know when he doesn't(as Moshe Rabbeinu did in VaYikrah 10:20,
see Rashi there). And the job of sifting through all the information to make a
decision what to do is enough to keep one busy full-time.

And so, we come to the end of the series—and yes, the bottom line, if one has
that need to get a one-liner " bottom line", is two lines:

  1. In general, b'derech k'llal, Mehadrin standards are not "more
    kosher"
    –but they are much safer. There is yir'as shamayim to
    consider, as well as practicality
  2. Ask your Rav, that's what he's there for. And if you don't trust him, get
    one that you do. The Rav's responsibility is to know, or to find out, to be
    agenda-free, and to be able to admit he doesn't know and/or was mistaken .

And, I cannot stress strongly enough, and therefore I repeat :

  • Do NOT imply that the food others are eating is treif. That they are being
    mechallel Shabbos.They are not!
  • Do NOT imply that you are a better Jew than these others are .You do not
    know if you are or not!
  • Do NOT act condescendingly towards those who choose to use less-than-Mehadrin
    standards–it is permissible for them to!
  • Do NOT play one-upsmanship(my hashgachah is better than your hashgachah

If you practice the above, then you have the right to expect that YOUR standards
be respected, not mocked, or become a reason for dispute or machlokess.

Just What Are Mehadrin Standards? Part V

Logo for Chadash Newspaper A personal note of apology: Yes, this is my third attempt to write the final column on this topic; as you will soon see, I am again unsuccessful. This is NOT intentional. I congratulate members of BTYA who are able to smile and say, "I could'a told you this would happen!"

From last week's column:

BUT, how do I know which hashgachos have the standards that I, too, want to uphold? In fact, how do I know which standards I want to uphold? How do I know which hashgachos are themselves playing one-upsmanship, and are creating chumros which are not halachically sound? Can I ever know which of the five areas listed above [in part four] (practical concerns; halachic concerns of doing it correctly; halachic grey areas; minority opinions; may lead to issurim) are being addressed by any particular hechsher?

I have no magic solutions for you, dear Reader. Unless you are willing to invest hundreds and thousands of hours, and years and years of your life studying Shulchan Aruch, its commentators, hundreds upon hundreds of teshuvos sefarim, and acquiring a proper s'michah attesting to your ability to sift through all this information, and then make decisions; and then embark upon years of study of the practical world of food preparation and tztzzis preparation and Tefillin preparation and mikvah construction… And then research the files and records of various companies and hashgachos and form unbiased opinions – if you are not ready to do this, then you indeed really have no way of answering these vital questions.

Then what in the world is one to do, if one wants to enjoy the fruits of the modern world's food-manufacturing and distribution (‘let-no-desire-go-unfulfilled')?

Well, one can start with having the grace to admit one's ignorance. Here is a quote from a thoughtful letter I received:

That's where I think a lot of people get cynical about this whole thing – because they don't believe the mehadrin hechsherim are really any different, that it's all just about politics, lack of trust, power struggle between the knits and the velvets, etc.

To which I responded that I addressed that precise point in the article [in Part Four]: That it is pure know-nothing cynicism, (otherwise known as leitzanus), because that person has absolutely no idea of the complications upon complications, both halachically and practically, of the mass-production mass-demand every-desire-fulfilled modern food (and clothing – let's not forget the prohibition of shatnez) industry. And the mass-production, mass-demand of tashmishei kedushah, such as tefillin, or the "simple"shofar, or a mikvah.

Or, take this give-and-take between a shuk-vendor and a person extremely knowledgeable about kashrus matters (I will im yirtzeh Hashem give his name and what he does to be mezakeh the rabim next week, with his permission):

In this case, the [only] brand of insect-free greens that he sells is rated quite low, and I respectfully suggested that perhaps he sell a different brand, one of those appearing in the higher categories of the Rabbinate's latest report. He discarded the legitimacy of the report, adding [in an agitated tone] "It's all politics"and Rabbi ___ selects the companies he wants and pushes the others to the bottom, having his own reason…

After describing the actual method used to rate the bugginess of the greens, this kashrus-knowledgeable person concludes:

So in this case, the shuk vendor was just venting, perhaps a bit perturbed that I "insulted"his merchandise, or perhaps his profit margin with this particular firm is higher than with others. I cannot really say what motivated him to take such an oppositional position, but I can now say with confidence that his statements are not grounded in fact.

"Okay, I admit my ignorance. Now what do I do?"

We read in last week's portion-of-the-week, Parshas Beha'aloscha, how some members of Klal Yisroel complained bitterly (Bamidbar 11:1), yet the posuk does not mention what they were complaining about! The Torah goes on to detail a later complaint (11:4), a demand for meat, which actually made no sense – they had plenty of meat (see Rashi there)! Moshe Rabbeinu, our Rebbe, Guide, Teacher, and Leader, expresses himself bitterly, more so than anywhere else in the Torah, "Now how in the world can I possibly satisfy this Nation's complaints, I cannot handle this!"(pesukim 11-15, and 21-22). This is Moshe Rabbeinu who stood up for Israel when they worshipped a golden calf right after receiving the Torah; Moshe, who handled their demand for bread and for water (in Chumash Shemos); who will defend Klal Yisroel after the sin of the Spies – so what's so unbearable about a request, even complaint, about a mere quarter-pounder?

The key to understanding this lies in Rashi (11:1; 11:4; and 11:23). The real, underlying, issue here was a lack of trust. Moshe Rabbeinu felt he did not have the trust and confidence of Klal Yisroel – and that once you lose that, there is no end to the absurd complaints that the Nation can come up with. They had all the meat they wanted (Rashi 11:4); there would be no end, no satisfying their complaints (Rashi 11: 23); sometimes they didn't even know themselves what they were complaining about (Rashi 11:1), just fishing around for something, anything…

And when that occurs, Moshe Rabbeinu, who handled it all – the golden calf, the Spies, demands for water and bread, a terrified Nation at Yam Suf – turns to Hashem and says, "Ribbono Shel Olam – this is NOT gonna work. I can't handle this."

What is the outcome of this never-before-heard outburst of Moshe Rabbeinu?

What lessons can be derived, as everything in the Torah is there to teach us something?

Come back next week to find out…

Just What Are Mehadrin Standards? Part IV

In this article I will b’ezras Hashem summarize and encapsulate what we have learned, and I will suggest a derech in understanding the plethora of claims of being mehadrin.

Let me start by reiterating that mehadrin is about standards, not about kashrus per se; standards — both practical (how do I make a problem less likely to develop; how long will it take for a problem to develop; and how will I know if and when one does develop?) and halachic (how much care is taken to cover the shitos in this matter?).

Let me categorize five types of mehadrin standards (these categories are arbitrary, made up by me).

1) Higher standards borne of practical concerns: Things might be ok now, but after a while… How knowledgeable is the mashgiach? How meticulous? How often does he come? Does he have the keys to everything? How long will this shechita knife maintain its sharpness? How many chickens per minute are slaughtered, and supposedly checked for treifus? What kind of ink is being used to paint the retzu’os? Are there rules about keeping and storing the noodles? Is thought given about the workload of the mashgiach? Is it practical to expect him to…? What kind of sealant is used at the mikvah?

2) Higher standards borne of practical halachic concerns: It’s probably okay, but let’s do it more cautiously, to be sure we get it right. HOW are ma’asros and terumos taken? HOW do they check for bugs? HOW MUCH salt do they use to kasher the chicken? HOW do they rent the rshus of a non-Jew in order to make an eiruv? HOW do they make sure the Tefillin are made lishmah? HOW do they do mishlo’ach (deliveries) from a meat restaurant to your house? HOW carefully drafted is that heter iska? HOW does the water connect from the bor to the bor tevilah?

3) There are, inevitably, halachic grey areas. We can rely on the lenient approach, but let’s not. A mehadrin hechsher should mean that to some degree, a lackadaisical attitude is avoided. The way the Shabbos elevator functions. The way the shin is made on the outside of the Tefillin. What amount of seepage is tolerated in the mikvah? How does one achieve bishul Yisroel? When is that scab a chatzitzah? To what degree do we rely on the rule of majority, and when do we start checking to see for ourselves if a problem exists?

4) Sometimes, there are opinions which hold that something is completely ossur, forbidden, or truly necessary, and even if those opinions are not normative halachah; they have not been totally rejected. It is possible that a mehadrin approach would take those opinions into account. How cold is the water soaking the yet-unkashered chickens? Where is the southern border of Eretz Yisroel? What about worms in fish (the jury is still out on the anisakis worm, a worm found in many commonly eaten fish)? Is a plastic tube mkabel tumah, and thus cannot be used to transport water to a mikvah? Shall we forbid a fish-and-milk combination?

5) The concept that although there is absolutely nothing wrong with the present standards, there is a chance, a good chance, that it could lead to other problems. This brings us to the concept of mehadrin buses, which tries to avoid what is, after all is said and done, a severe aveirah, yet all-too-prevalent. Likewise mehadrin seating on airlines, which means a no-movie section. This is an expansion, of course, of the idea of mehadrin.

 In these categories, what will play a role is the middah we talked about in Part 3 of this series: yiras Shamayim, fear of Heaven; the middah that tells me not to nonchalantly dismiss such concerns (not specifically those mentioned, of course, but such types of concerns) as “crazy frumkeit.” The middah that means I should be as careful and cautious as if I’d been asked to lend someone’s business $500,000, and now I am looking into his records to see how stable the company is.

Am I saying that the non-mehadrin items are treif or possul? No, but just like fear keeps me away from an airline which takes its pilots right out of training school and buys the most inexpensive steel for its parts, and checks the plane only once every three flights… fear of Heaven certainly might keep me away from the non-mehadrin chicken!

A huge problem in the entire mehadrin enterprise is the lack of transparency. Trying to find out any particular hashgacha’s standards are, with exceptions, excruciatingly difficult, if not impossible. To some degree, I understand it, though I think the non-transparency is a bad idea — hashgachas are money-makers (unfortunately; they really should be a public service a la Rabbanut ), and I can see that they consider their standards inside information, not to be shared. Yet it clearly serves to undermine confidence in what they are doing. How do I know what their standards are? After all, I do not think that mehadrin is a registered trademark — so anyone can call themselves mehadrin, and buyer beware.

(Of course, even after one would be privy to their standards, one would have to be knowledgeable in the literally hundreds upon hundreds and thousands upon thousands of halachos in order to make an educated decision if one wants to buy into it. In general, the mehadrin hashgachos are head and shoulders above “regular” hashgachos in each of the five areas I’ve listed above. I never fail to be amused by laymen whose knowledge of halachah and reality in the world of kashrus is, to put it charitably, deficient (okay, let’s tell the truth: non-existent), yet they are able to unashamedly, arrogantly pontificate about “mehadrin.” It would be much more appropriate for them to advise General Motors about what kind of aluminum to buy, and give Bill Gates lessons on hiring personnel, and to set the standards for the fuel of space rockets.)

I would like to take this opportunity to explain that Rabbanut standards of hashgacha, while low, do serve to maintain a minimum standard of kashrus in much of the country, in the army, etc. And I think that’s a very good thing. Yet I don’t see why my cousin in Netanya (I do not have a cousin in Netanya, by the way) should insist or feel insulted if I do not want to keep to these low standards. Would my cousin insist that I use an airline that I consider unsafe just because he does? So why do I have to worry if I am not eating by a family wedding? If I do not want to use a certain Shabbos elevator, why should it make a family fight any more than if I were afraid to go in elevator that wasn’t checked for six years and uses low-quality parts?

The secret, my friends, is:

Do NOT imply that the food others are eating is treif, that they are being mechalel Shabbos.

Do NOT imply that you are a better Jew than these others.

Do NOT be condescending towards those who choose to use those standards — it is permissible for them to!

Do NOT play one-upsmanship (my hashgachah is better than your hashgachah, it checks the flour four times before using it!).

If you practice the above, then you have the right to expect that YOUR standards be respected, not mocked or become a reason for dispute and machlokes.

BUT how do I know which hashgachos have the standards that I, too, want to hold? In fact, how do I know what standards I want to hold? How do I know which hashgachos are themselves playing one-upsmanship, and are creating chumros which are not halachically sound? Can I ever know which of the five areas listed above are being addressed by any particular hechsher?

Answer — next week, im yirtzeh Hashem.