Monday, April 12, 2010

What makes a hechsher "good enough"? (Two unrelated events.)

Two unrelated events.

I was wandering through my local food shop last Saturday night, when I noticed that Hebrew National hot dogs carry a Triangle-K hashkacha (kosher certification). Is this something new? And does this mean that Hebrew National hot dogs are now ok for OJs? Not knowing the answer to either question, I turned to Twitter:

Hebrew national has trinagle K? Does that mean its OJ kosher? [sic]

I got some good answers, and some evil answers, with the upshot being that, yeah, good morning sunshine, Hebrew National has the Triangle K, and OJs still don't eat Hebrew National. When I asked why OJs avoid the brand, I got PC answers about the "appropriateness" of the Triangle-K, and vague, wishy-washy, remarks about "standards." I was also told that Rabbis with names I don't recognize have delivered unsubstantiated assertions about the poor "reliability" of the Triangle K.

No one was able to tell me what the actual problem was, and when I suggested it perhaps comes down to politics and money I was hooted into silence.

See more here:


I opened an email from BigPhil, which read as follows:

Dear DB,

Shavua Tov from Israel.

I'm feeling outraged, and I wanted to share it with you. I'm not sure what I'll achieve by doing so, but outrage shared is outrage doubled, and all that.

We were recently given a set of kids parsha books as a gift (which, you should know, have got NOTHING on "DB on the Parsha" :-) ). Instead of a bedtime story on Friday night these past few weeks, I've read the kids the respective parsha story from these books. Sure, it refers to "Yidden" instead of "Bnei Yisrael", but I'm able to translate for my Israeli children so they know who we're talking about.

An obvious topic for parshat Shmini is "Kashrut", and sure enough that's one of the topics tackled this week. I've scanned in two pages for you to read (and feel free to share this note with your readers, if you like).

Why, oh why, would a children's book seek to educate our children with such a damaging message from such a young age? To feature non-kosher candy, fine. But candy that "doesn't have a good hechsher"? I nearly choked on the key in my challah.

Needless to say, I adapted the story, and sweet little Eli with his blonde peyos, cute face and freckles was given a plain old treif sweet by the evil dice-playing-pigeon-racing-sefichin-eating-shatnez-wearing-pigs-blood-drinking-on-yom-kippur flower seller.

But what would you do now? Bin the books? Write to the publishers/author? Tut loudly and move on with your life? Write to your favourite blogger?

As I said when I started writing, I don't know what I'm achieving here necessarily, but in all seriousness, I found this very upsetting. The publisher / author had an opportunity here to teach a simple, and important, lesson about kashrut. Instead they chose to teach innocent children about divisiveness and petty one-upmanship amongst Jews.

Maybe outrage is the wrong emotion. Maybe it should be sadness.

No, outrage is fine. Outrage is perfect. This stupidity undermines the idea of Jewish brotherhood and promotes sectarianism. It is, according to our Sages, why the second Temple was destroyed, and remains unbuilt. I'd like to say that these competing hechshayrim are created, and promoted for God Fearing reasons, but I don't wish to lie. I don't believe that at all, see. What I believe, is that entrepreneurial types are creating hechshayrim, and promoting themselves by bad mouthing the "reliability" of the competition. Such an approach may be ok if you're selling shoes, but when you're selling the promise of kashrus the result is unnecessary divisions between Jews.

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