Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Kashrut Wars

Example of the alternative "Kashrut Certificate" from the "Tzohar" Rabbis
-- directly challenging the exclusivity of Israel's Chief Rabbinate.

In light of Israel's Chief Rabbinate's refusal to challenge any Rav who disagrees with "heter mechira", the Tzohar organization is getting ready to offer alternative Kashrut Certification based on the heter mechira.

While much of the current shmita related kashrut crisis is money related, the Tzohar Rabbis are doing this completely for the sake of the community. They will charge exactly the same price for their certification as the Rabbanut, (to pay for the Kashrut inspectors/overseers), and are providing this service so that places that till this past Rosh HaShana had certification -- can continue being certified Kosher.

If you don't want to rely on heter mechira, that's your prerogative -- but for the Chief Rabbinate to refuse to certify an establishment is simply not feasible.

For more on shmita, see here and here.

Just as a side point; institutionalized Judaism in Israel is part and parcel of "Religion and State." For a religious person as myself, much of the bureaucracy can be ignored or shrugged off. When I got married in Israel I was so disgusted with the process, that I commented that if I hadn't been religious to begin with, the process of the "Religious Ministry" would have been enough to keep me from becoming religious forever. The Tzohar group of Rabbis tries to make the bureaucracy bearable and adds much life and meaning to Jewish ritual. They officiate at weddings (often, for free) in order to provide a positive Jewish, halachik experience suited for non-religious couples. (Reading a partial translation of the Ketuba in Hebrew instead of Aramaic, explaining parts of the ceremony, and having a genuine smile on their face when they officiate the ceremony).

I'm sure there are many sincere Rabbis in the "Ministry of Religion" department, but the institutionalization and bureaucracy sets them up to fail 90% of the time.

Kudos to Tzohar. If I had smicha, I would join them in a heartbeat.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael


Tzvi said...

I understand the point, but there is something funny about being mamlachti and considering the chief rabbinate holy and above reproach- only as long as the chief rabbinate is in your hands and agrees with your way of thinking.
(When I write mamlachti- I'm referring to some of the rabbis signed on the document, not you Jameel ;-))


tafka PP said...

Tzohar Rock.

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

We like Tzohar. :)

I'm thinking about writing a post that says that the teaching that the Beit HaMikdash has room for everyone is really a metaphor. When (bimhera b'yameinu) we have our Mikdash, we won't all keep the same minhagim (one halacha, but many understandings). We will be able to have room for everyone (within the bounds of the mikdash = halacha, as determined by the Sanhedrin).

Maybe I'll write a different post instead. :)

Baila said...

Having just arrived two months ago, I gotta tell you that I actually looked forward to observing Shmitta here. But its all so complicated and confusing, and in the end I don't believe its a mitzvah we are really honestly fulfilling. And all the bickering makes me sick. So I guess we all do the best we can, and wait for the Beit HaMikdash to be rebuilt, so the mitzvah can be fulfilled in all its glory.

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

Ah... this is EXACTLY why I want to write something about the Mikdash. To highjack the post - I don't believe we should "wait for the Beit HaMikdash to be rebuilt". I believe we have to do something about it, starting yesterday. I believe that if we can get started on the Mikdash instead of assuming we can't do anything about it, it will bring unity in its wake.

Jerry said...

Jameel- You can volunteer for Tzohar projects without smicha. Many of the guys they send to officiate at weddings are Yeshiva guys who don't have smicha, but have learned enough about the nesuin process to do it (and of course as you say, have a smile on their face).

Baila- I don't think you really understand why shmitta is not a "mitzvah we are honestly fulfilling". The arguments that exist with regard to shmitta aren't the cause of the mitzvah not being performed properly, they're a result. The facts are simply that we don't live in an agricultural society where the laws of shmitta (being sustained by what you can collect from neighboring fields) are relevant. Now that the situation is such, the question is, what do we do about it (heter mechira/ but from Arabs/ etc).

Unless you think that in the time of Mashiach he's gonna close up the high-tech companies and make us all become farmers again, shmitta still won't be fulfilled as the Torah envisions (but there might be less bickering regarding what how to deal with the situation).

Finally, while I too think that Tzohar is a great organization, I'm grateful that they exist in Israeli society, and I hope that they can achieve all their goals, it is sad that the result of the petition against the Rabbanut's allowing city Rabbis to decide regarding the Heter Mechira is that the Bagatz overrules the Rabbanut when it comes to matters of halakha (even if the halakha is unreasonable). I'd say it sets a bad precedent, but the precedent has already been set (yavo basar kafu).

As you might remember, I'm a much bigger fan of the courts than Jameel or his cohorts on this blog, but dipping into matters of halakha is not something I'd like to see them do. It's a shame that the confrontation between Tzohar and the Rabbanut forced them to do that...

Anonymous said...

The Chief Rabbinate jealously guards its monopoly against any competing upstart koshering agency. The only exception is the non-zionist Badatz, which is allowed to operate without any legal challenge.

Anonymous said...


With all, I think it may be appropriate to let people see this....


Special attention should be given to the bottom of the page as well

mother in israel said...

Jameel, I love this line:
"Reading a partial translation of the Ketuba in Hebrew instead of Aramaic"
"partial" is the key word here--I don't think it will do Jewish unity any good to read the whole ketubah in Hebrew at secular Israeli weddings.
I've been here longer than Baila but I sympathize with her position. It's a terrible system when you tie up religion with politics.

dl-annie said...

I want to take issue a bit with what Tzvi said. It's not a matter of supporting a mamlachti Rabbanut and considering it "holy and above reproach" as long as they conform to "our" views. It's the fact that Rabbanut has actually reneged on this mamlachtiut by allowing town Rabbis to enforce a more stringent version of Shmitta, and at the same time, allowing town Rabbis to disallow heter mechira. It is this reneging on their mamalachti status that is what stirred up the whole Shmitta debate.

Kol hakavod to Tzohar and its Rabbanim for stepping into the breach.

ironi burgani said...

Jerry says that Tzohar sends Yeshiva guys who don't have smicha to officiate at weddings. If true, that would be scandalous. I believe it is completely false (and therefore only libelous).

Jerry said...

ironi- why would it be scandalous?

and i'm not sure what your belief that it's false is based on, but i was at a wedding that was officiated at by a very impressive young man (through Tzohar) who knows all the halakhot of seder kiddushin. He also doesn't have smicha

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