Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Double standard alert

"It's not that we don't care about those issues, but we rely on the federal government.''

That's Rabbi Menachem Genack, rabbinic administrator for the OU's kashrut division, explaining why the OU will not create a certification for food factories that follow Torah law.

Confused? Here's the back story.

According to the Mercury News, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism plans to issue a "hekhsher tsedek -- or righteous certification -- indicating that employees [of kosher companies] worked in safe factories and weren't exploited, among other things."

When asked if the OU would follow suit - there are halachoth, after all, which tell us how workers must be treated - Rabbi Genack said no, giving the response cited above.

How bizzare. No Orthodox Jew would trust the government to tell us if a factory is following Yoreh Deah. Many won't even trust the government to tell us if cow's milk is actually cow's milk! So why is R' Genack punting to the feds when the question belongs to Choshen Mishpat?

Worse, listen to his rationale:

We don't want to impose more on those companies than are required by law.

Hello? If the halacha is more demanding then the law (as it, in fact is) don't companies, in our view, have an obligation to go beyond the law? Who's the posek that told the OU that companies don't have to go beyond the secular law when it comes to choshen mishpat? Anyway, if the OU is so certain the government can be relied upon to enforce Jewish law, why do we need the OU's kashruth division in the first place!? Let the goverment certify our meat!

The real problem, though, is this: R' Genack's boneheaded response opens the OU to the charge that they embrace a double standard by considering the government reliable for some questions of Torah law, and not others. Worse, it suggests us that ben adam l'makom laws are more important than the laws that tell us how to treat each other.

Instead, R' Genack could have avoided all of this simply by telling the truth: His division's business is kashruth not social justice, and they aren't the same thing: the behavior of a factory boss has no impact on the kashurth of a factory's food.

Story received by email

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