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…