Rav Moshe Vaye, Rav Eitam Henkin and Extremism

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Rav Moshe Vaye, probably the world’s expert on bugs in food, from both the halachic and scientific perspective, brings to our attention many important revelations and rulings regarding bugs in food and how to deal with them. His arguments are powerful, well-documented and cannot simply be shrugged away and dismissed. Nevertheless, there is a sense of extremism throughout his sefer “Bedikas Hamazon” as well as in his lectures. Take, for example, his entry on corn on the cob. According to Rav Vaye, corn on the cob is “highly infested” and the only way to enjoy corn is to “cut all the kernels off the cob with a sharp knife and separate the kernels from one another…soak the kernels in soapy water for three minutes..rinse well in a strainer under a strong stream of running water – one ear’s worth at a time”.

Corn on the cob has always been consumed, along with many other fruits and vegetables that Rav Vaye’s rulings have forbidden or considerably regulated over the past few years. Could Rav Vaye not have suggested soaking the corn on the cob? Taking a fingernail-type brush and brushing down the cob under running water?  Perhaps even a second brushing after the corn has been cooked? This would cover any concerns with a “miut hamatzui” status and possibly even “muchzak b’tolaim” status, if corn on the cob must be declared as such.

However, there other opinions on the matter that cannot be ignored, either.

Rav Eitam Henkin has written a sefer “Lechem Yehiyeh L’achla” (Machon Lerabanei Yishuvim (www.rabanim.org) 165 pages / Heb.) which takes a much more moderate approach to the issue of bugs in food. It is an approach that is both consistent with historical reality and also takes into consideration the reality on the ground today. Although Rav Henkin’s sefer is not a direct response to Rav Vaye’s sefer (unlike R’ Eitam’s father, Rav Yehuda Henkin, who wrote a sefer “Understanding Tzniut” as a direct response to Rav Elyahu Falk’s “Oz V’ehadar Levusha” ) it was especially helpful to read it concurrently with Rav Vaye’s sefer.

Rav Henkin’s sefer helps readers to distinguish between what is halacha and what is chumra. For example, Rav Henkin notes that Rav Vaye writes that a “miut hamatzui” food that cannot be completely cleaned is categorically forbidden to be eaten – something that may be unfounded. Such stringency only truly applies to “muchzak b’tolaim” (though Rav Vaye does acknowledge this fact in another place). Rav Vaye also writes that “miut hamtzui” includes a frequency of 5%, which Rav Henkin proves is an unnecessary chumra according to all normative standards. Rav Henkin also has a different approach to checking figs (p. 129) and strawberries (p. 129). His chapter on corn on the cob is actually the most fascinating and eye-opening. He permits one to eat corn on the cob (and most other fruits and vegetables for that matter) as long as it is properly cleaned and checked (p.129). Rav Henkin also brings to our attention many other halachic considerations to permit fruits and vegetables that Rav Vaye largely ignores, such as: the many different opinions regarding bittul, the different opinions of what is considered to be “visible”, what is d’rabanan and what is d’oraita, when checking produce may be waived in situations of “tircha”, the different opinions on the issues of beriah, sfek sfeika, and much more.  Rav Henkin not only challenges the rulings of Rav Vaye, he also tackles the rulings of other experts in the area of tola’im, such as Rabbis Yoel Schwartz, Yehuda Amichai, Shmuel Shternfeld, and others.

Some claim that a strict approach to fruits and vegetables is urgently needed because “the bugs we have did not exist in Europe” and “the pesticides and farming methods of today attract more bugs than in days gone by” and the like. This may or may not be true. However, it is quite possible that our European ancestors, who would literally celebrate the arrival of any vitamin and nutrient-filled fruit or vegetable to their village (hence the custom to recite “shehecheyanu” on a new fruit), didn’t even wash their fruits and vegetables before eating them. Did they have running water? Would they have used their precious and limited well-drawn water to wash their vegetables? And if they did, would it have been in a manner that even remotely resembles the extent that Rav Vaye holds that the halacha demands? Does anyone realize that this precious well-drawn water was likely more infested with bugs than the vegetables themselves would have been? (See here: link)

I would also like to respectfully suggest that Rav Vaye may have unintentionally caused his credibility, or at least objectivity, to be called into question. For example, most readers would agree that the Eida Chareidit is the most extreme Orthodox Jewish organization in the world, in both political and religious issues. All kashrut certifications of the Eida Chareidit, as they themselves declare, are mehadrin and comply with every normative chumra. This includes the chocolate covered raisins that they certify. Rav Vaye, however, holds that such raisins are only b’dieved kosher and should best be avoided. Additionally, the Eida Chareidit rules that flour ground immediately after Pesach does not need to be checked and sifted for bugs due to its freshness, as is done with most other flour in Israel throughout the year. Rav Vaye, on the other hand, writes that such flour is even more prone to bugs and must be even more rigorously checked than any other flour! He writes: “Flour that is ground immediately after Pesach (In Israel) is more likely to harbor infestation, due to the insects that proliferate in the idle machinery during Pesach.”

I confess. I can’t help but think to myself that once you’re criticizing the extremists for not being extreme enough, then you are a certified extremist. To illustrate with a Yom Ha’atzmaut analogy (sorry, couldn’t resist): You can be a Zionist Torah Jew. You can be a non-Zionist Torah Jew. You can even be an anti-Zionist Torah Jew. But once you start saying things like the victory of the Six Day War was ma’aseh satan (as did Rav Yoel Teitelbaum) you are an extremist and you lose credibility, no matter how great or sincere you are.

In the 5773 “Guide to Kashrut” published by the Jerusalem Rabbinate with the haskama and rulings of Rav Eliyahu Schlessinger, there are only three very short paragraphs on the issue of bugs. This first paragraph quotes the related pesukim from the Torah. The second paragraph contains one or two teachings from chazal, and the third paragraph goes something like this: “…and therefore one must be careful to inspect and carefully clean all fruits and vegetables prior to eating or cooking them”. That’s it. Rav Shlomo Amar has also ruled similarly in many public forums. In fact, Rav Moshe Feinstein writes in one of the last teshuvot of his life (c.1984): “…People say that I declared that the little bugs found in many different vegetables are forbidden. I never said such a thing, and in fact, it is my opinion to be lenient…it is forbidden to cast aspersions about earlier generations who were not careful about such things…one cannot be strict and publicize that such produce is forbidden…I would never want to be known as one who forbade [such food]…” (Igrot Moshe, YD 4:2). Other lenient poskim throughout the years on the questions of bugs include Rav Shlomo Kluger, the Ksav Sofer, and the Aruch Hashulchan, just to name a few.

We must not publicize that something is assur if there are lenient opinions (such as the Eida Chareidit!) to rely on. It is also worth mentioning that insiders tell me that there are no restaurants, hotels, or wedding halls, regardless of the hechsher, that fully comply with Rav Vaye’s standards in their food preparation. The level of supervision, infrastructure, and manpower required to do so in industrial settings is cost prohibitive and simply does not currently exist.

Something else to think about: How many of those who are so urgently concerned about the many possible lavin that one might transgress for consuming a bug are also worried about comparable chumrot and transgressions in other areas of life? On the topic of bugs, in fact, how many people are concerned for the opinions of the Yereim, Lechem V’simla, and others who rule that the leniencies of bloodstains pachot m’kgris no longer apply today since we no longer have maacholot in our beds and body, and therefore even a minute ketem should be tamay? And what about the opinions that even if we want to accept the unlikely assumption that a bloodstain may have come from a louse, that we must evaluate the size of the stain according to the blood released by the lice we have today and not according to the larger quantity of blood released by the maacholet lice of the Talmud? (see for example, Pitchei Teshuva, YD 190:9, Rav Pe’alim 1:36, and Shiurei Shevet Halevi 190:5:1)

Nobody seems to concern themselves with these eminent, logical, and scientifically accurate opinions. We continue to rule leniently regarding a possible karet-related violation based on the assumption that a woman’s bloodstain may be the result of a non-existent bug. Similarly, I’ve never seen anyone go to a rav with a cloth saying: “Rabbi are you sure we should be lenient? It appears pretty red to me. Can’t we find some basis to be machmir? Don’t you know of any achronim that might declare this a mareh tamay?”

Let’s face it. We know where the blood really came from.  And yes, we know that there might be bugs in our fruit and vegetables. But halacha is halacha even when reality might have us think otherwise. That is simply how the halachic system works, a topic beyond the scope of this paper. (Somewhat related to this is the fact that in halacha,  ultimately, the letter of the law takes precedence over the spirit of the law)

There is also hilchot treifot. According to the rules of hilchot treifot, we are obligated to check almost every internal organ of an animal. But we don’t. We rely on all types of leniencies and only check the lungs. This is based on a chazaka remaining from ancient times when the lungs were the only organ where treifot were likely to be found. All other organs were generally clean and healthy. But again, times have changed. This may have been true in the past, but it is less and less true today. Animals are raised in very different conditions than they once were. They are also consuming all kinds of foreign matter in their feed and in the fields. These and many other factors are causing more and more treifot in their internal organs than ever before.

Nevertheless, we rely on chazakot that are no longer true today.  Once, on a “shimush visit” to a slaughterhouse, I by chance noticed a long rusty nail that went right through the stomach of a cow, rendering the animal treif. I brought this to the attention to the bodek/mashgiach who promptly removed the animal from the production line. And in fact, the animal had been sent to the Glatt kosher line, because its lungs were perfect! But the bodek didn’t check the stomach because common custom didn’t require him to. The bowels, bladders, stomachs, spleens, and esophagus’ of animals today are not in the same condition that they once were.  Indeed, I truly encourage Rav Vaye to look into this matter and perhaps bring awareness -and change- to this area of halacha, as well. There’s no two ways about it: much (most?) of the Glatt kosher meat that we consume today would easily be declared treif- – if only we began to inspect the other internal organs, just like the Shulchan Aruch would like us to.

Make no mistake. I am not suggesting that one should not be machmir in one area of halacha just because one is not machmir in another. I’m just trying to share my heartfelt thoughts and perspectives on something that has been taken to the extreme by many without enough consideration. I am also not advocating following all of Rav Henkin’s rulings. Rav Henkin is also an extremist, an extremist for leniency, which is evident in many passages. Indeed, his extremism is broadcasted in the title of his sefer! If we were to follow all of Rav Henkin’s leniencies we would certainly be consuming bugs, and I don’t want to, even if doing so might be technically permissible. Frankly, I do my own thing which finds itself somewhere between the rulings of Rav Vaye and Rav Henkin. But what I am advocating is education, inquiry, discussion, balance, diligence, perspective, thought, honesty, and exposing yourself to different views in order to be able to make informed decisions and ask informed questions. Many of Rav Henkin’s arguments are compelling and must be considered. And of course, always consult your personal moreh horaah – he knows what’s best for you according to where you are “holding”.

In the spirit of hakol holech acharei hachitum, allow me to make something perfectly clear: Rav Moshe Vaye has performed a nearly unprecedented and tremendous service. He has single-handedly educated an entire generation on the halachot, realities, and severity of bugs in our food, and I salute him for it. Baalei nefesh should certainly consider being machmir in accordance with his rulings. However, most of us are not baalei nefesh, and many Torah observant Jews would dismiss us as nutcases if we were to tell them that washing and checking produce is no longer adequate, that corn on the cob is forbidden, and that strawberries must be peeled before eating them. We would only distance people from Torah and mitzvot and there is no justification for doing so when the basic halacha allows them to consume fruits and vegetables as they know it. Most of Rav Vaye’s rulings, as legitimate and compelling as they may be, are not normative halacha and cannot be forced upon Klal Yisrael. They are simply gzeira she’ain rov hatzibur yachol la’amod bo, just like being metamei women upon every tiny bloodstain would be.

 

 

 

About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot. www.rabbienkin.com

59 comments

  1. R’Ari,
    Are you sure about this “We continue to rule leniently regarding a possible karet-related violation based on the assumption that a woman’s bloodstain may be the result of a non-existent bug.”??

    Correct me if I”m wrong, but isn’t a “kesem” without “hargosha” a derabonnon?? So how did you get a “karet-related violation”?The lenient rulings in kesomim follow the general more lenient guidelines of safek derabonnon, something that you cannot say about bugs (i may be wrong and would be happy to be corrected)

    The proof you try to bring that even the Eida Chareidis are much more meikel, is quite circular in my opinion.Obviously if they do not follow Rabbi Vayes guidelines, in Rabbi Vayes’ and his supporters eyes they are not the most stringent supervision.Most telling is the way you yourself put it:(in the paragraph on the eida chareidis) ” as they themselves declare”.So you are bring a proof from “what they themself say”??

  2. Let’s not forget it was Rav Vaye, shlit”a, who was “meikil” during the recent brouhaha over the anisakis worm in salmon.

    Two questions:

    One, All the people who wish to be meikil regarding bugs in their vegetables – do they really believe there are bugs in their food? If they saw the insects, would they still eat them? A lot of these kulos, and those who rely on them, smack of cognitive dissonance.

    Two, why are we always turning to our European ancestors for precedent in matters of metzius? Isn’t it possible that they were meikil because otherwise they might starve (or something close to it)? Why do we insist that their behavior should inform ours in a land of plenty?

  3. No, it is not at all cognitive dissonance. It is following the rules. If you only check when there is a miut hamatzui, then you will occasionally eat bugs. But you’re doing what halacha requires of you. I would venture to say that if you eat any commercially produced meat at all, you’ll end up doing the same thing.

    R. Ari – your point about the necessity of following halachic definitions, even when they conflict with what we may observe in a laboratory is well taken, and something that R. Bleich missed entirely in his debate with R. Slifkin. R. Henkin makes this point very well on pages 10-11 of an earlier version of his sefer that is available online:
    http://www.michtavim.com/EitamHenkin5770.pdf

  4. Yossi–

    Yes, ketamim are derabanon. My “Karet-related” remark is referring to the general umbrella of hilchot nidda which is a “karet-related” issue.

    RE: safek derabonnon, something that you cannot say about bugs

    This is incorrect, as Eitam Henkin shows. Many of the issues of bugs in terms of what is a bug, what must be checked, and how to check are derabanon issues as well.

    Ari Enkin

  5. CJ-

    You raise good points. “One” is a philosophical debate which I would rather not get into. But re: “Two” — Were they being meikil or were they following basic halacha? There is a difference. I think it is the latter.

    Ari Enkin

  6. Yossi-

    You were a little too ‘medayek’ in my description of the Eida. Lets face it, its not that they themselves declare it, “the feeling on the street” is that they are the strictest possible standard of kashrut. Everyone salutes them -and uses their products- as the highest standard.

    As you say, Rav Moshe Vaye may no longer consider them the highest standard, but then, when youre criticizing the extremists…..

    Ari Enkin

  7. Another point only touched on briefly by R. Henkin IIRC, but one that is the source of many of R. Vaye’s chumros, is the quantity of food we look at when ascertaining whether there is a miut hamatzui of bugs. R. Vaye’s approach, in all likelihood, is significantly more stringent (i.e. significantly larger) than the one taken by poskim historically, as R. Shmuel Maybruch argues:
    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/779733/Rabbi_Shmuel_Maybruch/Are_Berries_Bugging_You?_The_Controversy_Over_Pests_in_Produce

  8. Rabbi Ari,
    It seems to me that aside for the extremism parts of this article, much of your halachic content seems to be borrowed from some articles i’ve seen over a year ago- http://ohr.edu/this_week/insights_into_halacha/5032
    &
    http://ohr.edu/this_week/insights_into_halacha/5043

    also what you quoted to “cast aspersions” on relying on a maacholet nowadays- “Pitchei Teshuva, YD 190:9, Rav Pe’alim 1:36, and Shiurei Shevet Halevi 190:5:1”
    all say the opposite of your inference. Pitchei Teshuva concludes with the chatam sofer, not yereim – that his derech is correct. ben ish hai concludes that one may at least use sevara as a snif, and all r wosner says if one wants to be stringent he may – not that it is normative halacha – a bit misleading on your part.

    re: “Rav Vaye also writes that “miut hamtzui” includes a frequency of 5%, which Rav Henkin proves is an unnecessary chumra according to all normative standards”. last i checked the Mishkenos yaakov says 10% and ive heard r elyashiv was stringent to 7%. either way halachically if it was not muchzak but rather miut hamatzui – if it was cooked no need to check- its only on the lechatchila.

    and lastly. r vaye definitely does bring lmaaseh that seeing with a magnification aid is not considered seeing – so i am uncertain as to the bad rap you are sticking on him. yes he is a bit machmir- but is – as opposed to many others- doing it lsheim shamayim.

  9. “…This is based on a chazaka remaining from ancient times when the lungs were the only organ where treifot were likely to be found. All other organs were generally clean and healthy. But again, times have changed. This may have been true in the past, but it is less and less true today. Animals are raised in very different conditions than they once were. They are also consuming all kinds of foreign matter in their feed and in the fields. These and many other factors are causing more and more treifot in their internal organs than ever before.”

    Are you certain about that? Perhaps, on the contrary, the fact that so many animals today are not free ranging, or are significantly less so than in the recent past, means that they are not roaming around in fields where they may pick up rusty nails, rather are eating in barns where they are more closely monitored, and their diet is more controlled.

  10. A note: Some of the parsha sheets in Israel include a round-up of SMS she’elot to R’ Aviner and R’ Eliyahu. One has a third section, on kashrut, which is *very* heavy on bug questions, which of course also appear in the “regular” questions as well.

  11. Rabbi Enkin usually writes excellent articles which inform and enlighten the reader. Unfortunately this article is not one of them. There are many errors here which deserve to be corrected so that the reader who is used to reading high quality material will be aware that this one, unfortunately, does not maintain Rabbi Enkin’s usual high standards. Below are Rabbi Enkin’s words in single quotation marks followed by my comments.

    ‘Rav Eitam Henkin has written a sefer “Lechem Yehiyeh L’achla”…’

    Correct to “Lachem Yih’yeh L’achla” (based on the verse in Genesis 1:29).

    ‘I would also like to respectfully suggest that Rav Vaye may have unintentionally caused his credibility, or at least objectivity, to be called into question.’

    Credibility? Objectivity? This is tantamount to attacking Rabbi Vaye personally, nothing in his book can justify these sort of insinuations. Rabbi Vaye has an opinion and so far as we know it is based entirely on his understanding of this complex halachic field. Why this book gives cause to attack him personally is beyond my understanding.

    ‘For example, most readers would agree that the Eida Chareidit is the most extreme Orthodox Jewish organization in the world, in both political and religious issues.’

    “Extreme” is an unfortunate choice of words given the negative connotations imparted to this term in today’s world. “Stringent” would have been a better word, but then perhaps Rabbi Enkin could not have continued with the (questionable) point he makes.

    ‘I can’t help but think to myself that once you’re criticizing the extremists for not being extreme enough, then you are a certified extremist.’

    Again the word “extremist”, and again one wonders how this term entered a discussion about food infestation?

    ‘But once you start saying things like the victory of the Six Day War was ma’aseh satan (as did Rav Yoel Teitelbaum) you are an extremist and you lose credibility, no matter how great or sincere you are.’

    Rabbi Teitelbaum lost credibility in some communities and gained some in others. Just as other rabbis from all across the spectrum gained and lost credibility in line with what they did or didn’t say. Again, why is this relevant to a discussion about food infestation?

    ‘Something else to think about: How many of those who are so urgently concerned about the many possible lavin that one might transgress for consuming a bug are also worried about comparable chumrot and transgressions in other areas of life?’

    Why is this relevant? Either the food is infested or not, whether people do or do not take due care in other areas of their life has no bearing on this question. This is the sort of argument used frequently by secular Jews to justify their behavior (so I eat shellfish, at least I don’t speak lashon hora, but the orthodox …), and does not belong to a serious discussion regarding any issue.

    ‘On the topic of bugs, in fact, how many people are concerned for the opinions of the Yereim, Lechem V’simla, and others who rule that the leniencies of bloodstains pachot m’kgris no longer apply today…’

    The reason that nobody concerns themselves with this issue, is because these issues were debated and halacha reached a consensus that these opinions were not to be accepted. This is not the case regarding insects in food.

    ‘Nobody seems to concern themselves with these eminent, logical, and scientifically accurate opinions. We continue to rule leniently regarding a possible karet-related violation based on the assumption that a woman’s bloodstain may be the result of a non-existent bug.’

    This is just incorrect. The reason why we are not stringent about stains is not because we think the blood came from a bug, but because the blood is not blood which makes her impure. Any comprehensive sefer on the laws of Nidah (and there are many) discusses this at length, but such a discussion is completely irrelevant to the questions raised in this post.

    ‘Similarly, I’ve never seen anyone go to a rav with a cloth saying: “Rabbi are you sure we should be lenient? It appears pretty red to me. Can’t we find some basis to be machmir? Don’t you know of any achronim that might declare this a mareh tamay?” ‘

    As an aside, these sorts of questions are raised time and time again. Sometimes they are legitimate concerns and sometimes they are the result of excessive nervousness and worrying. Again, this issue is completely irrelevant here.

    ‘Let’s face it. We know where the blood really came from. And yes, we know that there might be bugs in our fruit and vegetables. But halacha is halacha even when reality might have us think otherwise. That is simply how the halachic system works, a topic beyond the scope of this paper.’

    Though Rabbi Enkin did not state this explicitly he implies very clearly that even were we to know for certain that there are insects (or that the blood is impure) then we could still eat the food (and the woman would still be considered pure). Nothing could be further from the truth. The rule in all of halacha is that “hametzius lo yukchash” – the reality cannot be denied. A thorough exposition of this point is, as Rabbi Enkin noted, beyond the scope of this paper, but the halachic approach is certainly not as Rabbi Enkin portrayed it.

    ‘According to the rules of hilchot treifot, we are obligated to check almost every internal organ of an animal. But we don’t. We rely on all types of leniencies and only check the lungs. This is based on a chazaka remaining from ancient times when the lungs were the only organ where treifot were likely to be found. All other organs were generally clean and healthy. But again, times have changed. This may have been true in the past, but it is less and less true today. Animals are raised in very different conditions than they once were. They are also consuming all kinds of foreign matter in their feed and in the fields. These and many other factors are causing more and more treifot in their internal organs than ever before. Nevertheless, we rely on chazakot that are no longer true today.’

    This is incorrect. To give a simple example, today most hechsherim check chickens for tzomes hagidin (the thigh of the chicken to make sure all the ligaments are intact), when this was not done in the past. The reason being, that battery hens are prey to a common virus which infects their feet. We only rely on a chazaka which is relevant today, no hechsher in the world would rely on a chazaka which has been shown to be invalid.

    ‘Once, on a “shimush visit” to a slaughterhouse…’

    Anecdotal evidence is meaningless.

    ‘There’s no two ways about it: much (most?) of the Glatt kosher meat that we consume today would easily be declared treif- – if only we began to inspect the other internal organs, just like the Shulchan Aruch would like us to.’

    The Shulchan Aruch does not require us to check anything besides the lungs, see YD 39:1, the assumption being that the majority of animals are kosher. Were we to know that there was significant reason to think that any other vital organ is not kosher, we would be required to check that too.

    ‘I’m just trying to share my heartfelt thoughts and perspectives on something that has been taken to the extreme by many without enough consideration. I am also not advocating following all of Rav Henkin’s rulings. Rav Henkin is also an extremist, an extremist for leniency, which is evident in many passages.’

    Again the word “extreme”, a word which is totally out of place regarding a halachic question. One can use the word “stringent” or “lenient”, but the word “extreme” does not belong here.

    ‘Rav Moshe Vaye has performed a nearly unprecedented and tremendous service. He has single-handedly educated an entire generation on the halachot, realities, and severity of bugs in our food…’

    Actually Rabbi Falk from Gateshead was the first to educate an entire generation about bugs, Rabbi Vaye followed in his footsteps. I believe he even acknowledges this in the introduction to one of his works.

  12. I second CJ Srullowitz’s points. To a great extent, this article can be condensed to “R’ Wye is stricter than my preconceptions on the subject, so therefore he is too strict.” Well, the answer to that is to lose those preconceptions, and if not to follow R’ Wye, then to follow someone else who knows the metziut as well as him, unlike you or I. Bugs in food are a great source for exasperation and incomplete observance within the Orthodox community, and mockery from outside it – good reasons to adopt the most lenient psak available. But it must be a well-informed and legitimate psak that is comprehensive enough to be useful. I haven’t seen R’ Henkin’s book yet, so I can’t say if it meets all those requirements.

    It is also worth mentioning that insiders tell me that there are no restaurants, hotels, or wedding halls, regardless of the hechsher, that fully comply with Rav Vaye’s standards in their food preparation. The level of supervision, infrastructure, and manpower required to do so in industrial settings is cost prohibitive and simply does not currently exist.

    I am not sure that is true. There was a felafel shop near my office with a badatz hechsher (forget which, but not Edah Haredit). I once visited and saw the mashgiach picking up whole soaked chickpeas and examining them one by one. R’ Wye recommends examining chickpeas 20 or 30 at a time, and anyway, it is not clear any examination is necessary since the chickpeas (and any bugs) will be ground up into felafel, rather than eaten whole. So I draw the conclusion that some hechshers are actually stricter than R’ Wye’s approach. Of course R’ Wye is not the only person capable of doing research, and if a hechsher has determined that in their particular case R’ Wye’s recommendations are either too strict or too lenient, it says little about their overall approach that they have a different standard.

    how many people are concerned for the opinions of the Yereim, Lechem V’simla, and others
    There is also hilchot treifot.

    It makes perfect sense to ignore minority opinions from the past that have been rejected, even on serious issues. That is different from a question of undetermined metziut. “What is a treifah” is written in stone (so to speak); “what vegetables have too many insects in them” never was.

  13. The fact is that nowadays the Kashrus organizations are starting to check additional things in animals. Most prominent is checking the צומת הגידם of chickens because of the way chickens are raised.

  14. Not important–

    A great yasher ko’ach to you for going through my article so carefully. Ill accept that some of your points and critisims are legitimate. On the most part though — we’ll just agree to disagree.

    Ari Enkin

  15. Not important – Some of what you write is correct, but some is just (to use an appropriate analogy) nit-picking. R. Enkin’s point about one’s entire approach being called into question when it leads to extreme results (in the case of either the Satmar Rav of Rav Vaye) rings true. Although, as (IIRC) Dr David Shatz once put it, “one man’s reductio ad absurdum is the next man’s in hachi nami”, the general point still stands.

    And it is not at all the case that if we know any insect is there then we certainly cannot eat it. Indeed, this is one of Rav Henkin’s central complaints against Rav Vaye (see pages 10-11 of his book linked above). Rav Vaye would essentially have all the halachos dealing with ‘richesh’ wiped out of the Shulchan Aruch.

  16. CMB-

    You are equally imprecise in your summaries of the ketem sources. The Lechem V’simla, Kinas Sofrim (cited in S.S.HL) and others DO CLEARLY raise serious alarms about relying on the gris measurment today. The Lechem V’simla holds that a baal nefesh should be machmir! This is a very admissible comparison to the bug issue.

    No. I was not misleading at all. There are solid grounds and solid poskim who advise stringency, even though everyone relies on the Chatam Sofer.

    Ari Enkin

  17. Shlomo – wrong again. If anything I would critique R. Enkin for describing Rav Henkin’s positions as being ‘extremely lenient’, when in truth they reflect historical practice.

    Rav Vaye may well be the most well intentioned person in the world. But if his approach is motzi la’az on previous generations, has negative real-life consequences, and reflects what many believe to be a dangerous new trend in halacha, then those who feel that way are perfectly entitled to protest.

  18. no one knows (including we ourselves) all the subconcious reasons we do or think something. some are more self aware than others.

    3 thoughts:
    1. it would be interesting to analyze individual poskim (and organizations) to see how consistent they are in defending prior practice vs current trends in understanding mtziut or halacha(bugs, haircovering, mtitzah bpeh….) or what are the higher order meta drivers?
    2. no one gets noticed for saying lets stay with the status quo (unless someone else makes a name by saying not so)
    3.in some situations a cost/benefit analysis might be worthwhile
    KT

  19. Who created the status quo? I would like to see a clearly researched article about fruits and vegetables in history. Do we know what was checked 100 years ago? 200 years ago?
    Prof. Brown, in his recent book about the CI, quotes in his name the difference between מנהג דלת העם and מנהג החכמים. This should be obvious to anyone with intellectual honesty, but when we hear about what was done historically we should be asking “What did Talmidei Chachomim do?”
    BTW, I know this is quoted regularly, but it deserves repetition. The Chochmas Odom has a list of fruits and vegetables that he believes need checking. He is more machmir than we generally are today.

  20. Groinem – While few poskim would go as far as the Chazon Ish in discounting common practice (e.g. his approach to accepting a mesora on the Zebu vs Rav Herzog), you are certainly correct. That is why testimonies of talmidei chachamim such as Rav Mazuz regarding strawberries (see page 7 of Rav Henkin’s kuntres linked above) are important.

  21. I agree with the sentiments, but completely disagree with the argument. Halacha must, as much as possible hew to reality as we are best able to understand it. It’s fine to say halacha is an autonomous discourse immune to facts, evidence, common sense or whatever if you hold it is just a way of life, but if its supposed to embody the truth as taught us by the borei haolam that’s just not good enough. “Them’s are the rules, and if you don’t like them, don’t play the game” won’t cut it, whether you dress it up in mysticism, or analytic philsophy, or whatever else: the Torah is emet.

    On the specific points:

    Niddah: Everyone knows why we use outlandish and anitquated heterim, because we as a people have taken on humroth that are well, well, well over the top. As the Ramabam makes crystal clear, we did this because of the breakdown of the proper Jewish court system. The entirety of hilchot taharat mishpacha is in need of overhaul and for that we need to stop just praying for a Sanhedrin and actually appoint one. Until then we will have to rely on dubious heterim to cancel out our dubious humrot, but this should certainly not be a model for halacha generally. For the moment there is zero danger of karet from relying on the gris heter, but it does make for a happier married life for lots of people.

    Treifot: See here (http://machonshilo.org/en/images/stories/files/Kashruth-of-Meat-01a-General-extended.pdf) The reality is almost the opposite of what Ari Enkin describes; a frsh look at hilchot treifot in the light of scientific evidence and what Chazal actually tell us would likely lead to far FEWER animals being declared treif.

    As for bugs, much of bug checking is d’rabbanan and any reasonable person knows that what is taught by Artscroll (let alone Rav Vaye) is not what Hazal had in mind, nor were Hazal blind, nor have bugs become vastly more common in food (though in specific cases they have done).

    The reason why people retreat into arguments like “what my parents did > objective reality” is because they are used to the movers in shakers in orthodoxy using any new discovery that seems to imply we should be stricter and ignoring them when they imply we should be more lenient. Well, time to get better movers and shakers.

    In short you should follow Rabbis who know the relvant halachic sources, know the metziut, or consult someone who does, and have a relationship with the real world that can be accurately described as sane. A good test of the latter is to ask them “how big were olives at the time of Hazal”, if you get any answer other than “about the same size as now, maybe very slightly smaller”, walk away and don’t look back, no need to make an argument about it, but p’sak on planet earth requires people who live on planet earth.

    Anyway, yom t’kumat yisrael sameah everyone.

  22. Rabbi Enkin,

    I respectfully disagree with your kesem analogy. Kesamim are d’rabbanan. The entire chumra of kesamim was instituted for Tahoros which is not an issue today. Therefore it would be silly to be machmir for kesamim smaller than a gris because reality has changed, when by contemporary reality standards no kesamim would be m’tameh.

    Similarly, when it comes to the colours of a marah, m’ikkar hadin there are only 5 shades of red & black that are tameh, regardless of their source. We are machmir for any red because we lost the mesorah and are no longer bekiim. However to the extent that one is privy to a mesorah allowing a colour there is no reason to be machmir even though we know where it came from.

  23. “Correct me if I”m wrong, but isn’t a “kesem” without “hargosha” a derabonnon??”

    Of course, the whole concept of “hargashah” is itself not simple on the “torah should reflect reality” front…

  24. Gabriel M on April 16, 2013 at 8:37 am

    I agree with the sentiments, but completely disagree with the argument. Halacha must, as much as possible hew to reality as we are best able to understand it. It’s fine to say halacha is an autonomous discourse immune to facts, evidence, common sense or whatever if you hold it is just a way of life,

    ======================================
    I’m “OK” with either, I’m against picking and choosing which seems to me where we are now.
    KT

  25. Everyone picks and chooses. The question is if you can provide convincing justifications for your choices and how much damage they imply for the rest of the system. I’d like to see the Machon Shilo people explain how they deal with mamzerus cases that poskim have allowed without reference to DNA evidence.

  26. Shlomo – wrong again. If anything I would critique R. Enkin for describing Rav Henkin’s positions as being ‘extremely lenient’, when in truth they reflect historical practice.

    Historical practice does not create legitimacy the same way psak does. It has been historical practice for nearly everyone to say lashon hara and steal, for example.

  27. And there is no issue of “laaz” when there are reasonable arguments that the metziut has changed, and that the earlier generations did more or less what we want to do but it wasn’t recorded.

  28. i don’t buy that there are reasonable arguments that (1) lettuce used to have fewer bugs than conventional (not ogranically grown) lettuce today (though am open to actual evidence on this) and (2) the earlier generations did more or less what has become standard practice in some circles that requires lots of running water and a light box…

  29. Shlomo – There is also a concept of ‘hanach lahem le’yisrael etc.’ And certainly, when it was the historical practice of talmidei chachamim, as Rav Mazuz testifies, one cannot be so flippant in dismissing it.

    Do you really believe that the most plausible explanation for the fact that there is no record of people engaging in the kind of checking Rav Vaye recommends before eating fruit and vegetables (which is, after all, a daily occurrence) is that everyone was eating b’issur?

    The only plausible change in metzius that one can posit is that the vegetables we have today are far cleaner than anything our ancestors ate.

    And the fact is that Rav Vaye’s approach runs into textual issues too. Why did the Shulchan Aruch bother writing out all the halachos of ‘richesh’ etc if these are never actually relevant?

  30. For those who doubt or question the sources and/or legitimacy of my “ketem” comparison and citations:

    (Thank you to a prominent Jerusalem Rosh Kollel, who wishes to remain anonymous, for sending me his work on this issue from where I copy and paste the relevant sources)

    עיין בספר היראים (ס’ קצ”ב) שכתב וז”ל דאנן לא בקיאין שפיר בשיעור גריס הפול, הלכך צריך להיזהר ולאסור בכתמים לפי שיקול הדעת שאין דם המאכולת רבה כמותו בענין שהוא רואה שאינו ראוי לתלות, עכ”ל.

    והפתחי תשובה (ס”ק ט’) מסביר כוונתו כהבשמים ראש (שו”ת סי’ קל”ה) שסבר דבכתם שהוא פחות מכגריס כיון שאין אנו בקיאין בשיעור זה, כל דלא מוכחא מילתא שהוא דם מאכולת אין סמכינן עליה, והפתחי תשובה כתב דתימה על הפוסקים שלא הביאו כלל דברי היראים, ולפי זה אין סמכינן למעשה על שיעור גריס דזמן חז”ל, וצריך לשער כנגד מאכולת שבזמנינו.

    וכן תמהו הרב שלמה קלוגר (שו”ת טוב טעם ודעת תליתאה חלק ב’ ס’ ע’ וע”ה; ובעוד כמה מקומות) והבן איש חי (שו”ת רב פעלים חלק א’ יו”ד סי’ ל”ו) על דברי החתם סופר שמחזיק בשיעור גריס שבזמן חז”ל, ופסקו להחמיר דודאי יש לחוש לדברי יראים ואין לנו לסמוך להתיר פחות משיעור גריס אם לא נראה לפי אומד הדעת שהוא דם מאכולת.

    ועיין בשיעורי שבט הלוי (עמ’ קס”ב) שכתב דנמצא לפי דעת היראים ששיעור גריס שיכול לתלות בזמנינו הוא עיגול שהקוטר הוא רק 5-6 מילימטר, וזה הרבה פחות מדעת המעיל צדקה והחתם סופר. והשבט הלוי עצמו (שם ד”ה ורוב) פסק דכיון שרוב האחרונים (החוות דעת, רעק”א, הנודע ביהודה ועוד) דנו בשיעור כתם ונוטים לדעת החתם סופר והמעיל צדקה וכן הוא דעת הרמב”ם, דאנו מקילים למעשה, אבל מי שרוצה להחמיר עד שיעור הקטן של גריס כהמחמירים הרשות בידו

    , אבל אם אשה רוצה להחמיר מוחין בידה, עיי”ש. וע”ע בתשובותיו (שו”ת שבט הלוי חלק ג’ ס’ קי”ט ס”ק ד’, חלק ד’ ס’ קי”א, וחלק ז’ ס’ קמ”ג) שהגר”ש הלוי ואזנר שליט”א דן בהענין ומסיק דכיון שיש גדולי הפוסקים שסוברים להחמיר בשיעור מאכולת של זמנינו, לכן מאן דקבל על עצמו חומרת היראים והגאון מהרש”ק ודעמיה דגם על שיעור קטן צריכים להחמיר, והוא דם ודאי, לכן מאן שמברך על טבילה בזה לא מחינן ביה, עיי”ש.

    Ari Enkin

  31. To “Not Important” and others:

    Opening an argument the way I did, with “…I would also like to respectfully suggest that Rav Vaye may have unintentionally caused his credibility, or at least objectivity, to be called into question.”

    No. This is not tantamount to attacking Rabbi Vaye personally. I am attacking his ideas. Not him. This type of “attack” takes place on ever page of shas.

    If I wanted to attack him personally, I would not have used “respectfully” and “unintentionally”. Please also note my gentle and respectful closing paragraphs.

    There does not exist a softer way to open an argument against his ideas and rulings that the way I did.

    Please criticize me where appropriate. One thing my post isnt, is rude, personal, or disrespectful.

    Ari Enkin

    p.s. And please dont criticize me for a spelling mistake!! Spell check doesnt catch that type of stuff!

  32. Wow, Rabbi Enkin, great, great post!! Thank you so very much for your perspective and information (much of which I didn’t know).

  33. Rabbi Enkin,

    I am not denying that there are those that hold we should be machmir for a smaller spot, I am rather explaining the rationale of the bulk of the poskim who hold that one should not be machmir. That rationale comes from the Chasam Sofer and is a pretty strong argument, of which there is no comparable argument regarding bugs.

    (As an aside, considering that the Besamim Rosh is forgery written by a Maskil/Apikorus, it probably should not be cited as a basis for anything.)

  34. Not Important:

    Your point “Though Rabbi Enkin did not state this explicitly he implies very clearly that even were we to know for certain that there are insects (or that the blood is impure) then we could still eat the food (and the woman would still be considered pure). Nothing could be further from the truth”

    You are simply wrong. Certainly on the bug issue. The halacha allows us to eat bugs when we do our halachically required hishtadlus. Those bugs are simply no longer assur.

    Please recall, for example, that chad b’trei is batel. And you can even eat all 3 pieces. One of them is treif, no? Hence, you are essentially eating treif. But the halacha allows you to eat it. We know its there. We know its treif. It is in front of you. Make a bracha and enjoy. The bug thing is very similar.

    Ari Enkin

  35. Benny-

    RE: “the bulk of the poskim who hold that one should not be machmir.”

    This is exactly my point! The bulk of poskim, sources, and historical precedent also make the case for leniency, and not like the rulings of Rav Vaye.

    Ari Enkin

  36. Rabbi Enkin,

    The difference is that by kesamim there is a very specific reason why the current reality should not be taken into account (i.e. that under current reality all kesmim should be muttar because there are no tahoros today).

    There is no parallel reason regarding most bug issues. I am not saying that your article is necessarily wrong but the analogy from kesamim is off base.

  37. >> You are simply wrong. Certainly on the bug issue. The halacha allows us to eat bugs when we do our halachically required hishtadlus. Those bugs are simply no longer assur.

    Please recall, for example, that chad b’trei is batel. And you can even eat all 3 pieces. One of them is treif, no? Hence, you are essentially eating treif. But the halacha allows you to eat it. We know its there. We know its treif. It is in front of you. Make a bracha and enjoy. The bug thing is very similar. <<

    ר' ארי שליט"א, אין זה נכון ואין זה דמיון כלל, שבביטול נהפך האיסור להיות היתר

    ונראה שאם היה מיעוט המצוי ולא בדק, הוי ליה שוגג
    .
    תוספות מסכת ביצה דף כה עמוד ב

    וי"ל דודאי ליכא איסור דמשנשחטה היא עומדת בחזקת היתר מיהו אם נמצאת טריפה לאחר שאכל הוא נענש כשוגג ולא כאונס שלא היה לו למהר כל כך.

    ואם בדק הפרי עד קצה היכולת, או לא היה אפילו מיעוט המצוי, הוי ליה אנוס, יעויין תוס' יבמות לה: ד"ה ונמצאת, וזה דומה למשמש עם אשתו שלא בשעת וסת ופירסה נידה

    אבל פשוט וברור שהחרק לא נהפך להיות היתר.

  38. R’Ploni,
    I believe this is a well known machloket rishonim see chullin 100 – the Rosh says you can eat all 3 at the same time iirc
    KT

  39. Ploni-

    Thank you for that. However, there is another angle to view fruit with bugs, and perhaps I am not articulating myself properly, but here goes again:

    When a person follows the halacha with regards to the species, washing, and checking, and after 120 years a person finds out that there was a bug — no sin was committed. No, as you say, the BUG does not become mutar, but the FOOD becomes muttar even though there really were bugs.

    From last week’s parsha: The metzora can take everything out of his house so it doesnt become tamay when the Kohen comes around.His tuff remains tahor even though it really was tzaraat.

    (No, not an identical comparison, but similar)

    Ari Enkin

  40. R’Ari,
    If I”m not mistaken it is a machlokes rishoinim if one is allowed to eat all three pieces in a case of “bittul chad betrei”

    Correct me if I”m wrong

  41. * I meant “one” as in one person eating all three because he has vadai eaten a dvar issur as opposed to two people, where each one is a sofek

  42. Yossi-

    L’halacha you can eat all three pieces. (YD 109:1). Some rishonim say to give one piece to a goy. Some say to leave piece over. some say give one pice to another Jew.

    As mentioned, the halacha is in accordance with the view that all 3 become muttar. (Based on the Rashba)

    Ari Enkin

  43. IMHO it seems that this bug issue is similar to the ‘wearing a bag on a plane’ issue.

    Why? Because in both cases you can make a halachic case for justifying an uncommon practice if you want to, however, only a few people actually choose to.

    Thus, an odd socially constructed halachic reality is created. An issue is actually only an issue if people choose to make it an issue or not. Most people / poskim have been OK to not worry about certain bug / tumah issue, despite a basic awareness of the issues. Some, however, turn it from a hypothetical into a real-world practice and create a new halachic reality.

    Or am I wrong?

  44. Nachum Klafter

    “Historical practice does not create legitimacy the same way psak does. It has been historical practice for nearly everyone to say lashon hara and steal, for example.”

    With all due respect, that is not what “historical pratice” means. Loshon hora and stealing have always been violations of the, which is not true of eating corn on the cob. If people have been eating corn on the cob for hundreds of years and none of the gedolei ha-poskim have forbidden it while they were clearly aware of it, this is incotrovertible evidence that eating corn on the cob has always been permissible. To forbid it nowadays would require very compelling proof that something has changed.

  45. or, to clarify my question:

    does ‘theoretical, abstract halacha’ only become ‘halacha le’maaseh for the masses to follow’ when somebody feels strongly enough to publicly make it so? and NOT simply because ‘it’s the halacha so we should act accordingly’?

    what else are we / aren’t we doing just because someone / no-one chooses to make an issue of it?

  46. >> When a person follows the halacha with regards to the species, washing, and checking, and after 120 years a person finds out that there was a bug — no sin was committed. No, as you say, the BUG does not become mutar, but the FOOD becomes muttar even though there really were bugs. <> From last week’s parsha: The metzora can take everything out of his house so it doesnt become tamay when the Kohen comes around.His tuff remains tahor even though it really was tzaraat.

    (No, not an identical comparison, but similar)<<

    אינו דומה כלל, שאין לזה אפילו סרך שם צרעת עד שהכהן פוסק .

  47. >> When a person follows the halacha with regards to the species, washing, and checking, and after 120 years a person finds out that there was a bug — no sin was committed. No, as you say, the BUG does not become mutar, but the FOOD becomes muttar even though there really were bugs. <<

    מותר לאכול המאכל אם בדק, אבל אם מתברר שהיה שם חרק עבר עבירה באונס וכבר דנו האחרונים אם יש טמטום הלב בכה"ג שעבר על מאכלות אסורות באונס. והלא כבר כתבו התוס' בכמה מקומות שהתקלה שלא קורה לצדיקים היינו שאין נכשלים במאכלות אסורות בשום אופן. ועי' בזה תשובות והנהגות ח"ד סימן קצ )

  48. ואם בדק בכל יכולתו ויודע איך שהוא שמכל מקום יש שם חרק ואכלו, עבר עבירה במזיד

  49. לשיטתך, אותו רשע ממונסי לא עשה כל עולה, שהרי לכולם היה מותר לסמוך עליו וממילא לא האכילם אלא מאכלות המותרים, אתמהה

  50. I’m guessing that Ari Enkin will respond that the Monsey case is an inapt comparison because there it was nisbarer later that he was not a bar samcha, so it was not mutar for them to rely on him in the first place.

    To which Ploni can say so too by the bugs – if you actually ate a bug it’s nisbarer that your bedika was not a good bedika in the first place and you had no right to be somech on it.

  51. ” But once you start saying things like the victory of the Six Day War was ma’aseh satan (as did Rav Yoel Teitelbaum) you are an extremist….”

    This happens to be a falsehood that for some reason has taken hold and is endlessly repeated in the MO/RZ community. The fact is that the Satmar Rav held that Israel’s victory in the 6 day war was al derech hateva and not a maase satan. (He says that nissim from the satan are possible, so we need not be impressed by what appear to be nissim, but the 6 day war was anyway no such thing.)

  52. See al-hageulah ve-al hatmura pages 17 and 36.

  53. This entire discussion seems very confused to me. Even Rav Vaye is not trying to stop you from ever eating a bug – he just interprets the chiyuv to check more stringently. And as long as you do even a basic check, any bugs are batel mide’oraysa, as Rav Henkin notes on page 28:

    http://www.michtavim.com/EitamHenkin5770.pdf

    After that, you are a mis’asek.

  54. “But once you start saying things like the victory of the Six Day War was ma’aseh satan (as did Rav Yoel Teitelbaum) you are an extremist and you lose credibility, no matter how great or sincere you are.”

    Rabbi Enkin, I’m probably totally on your side on the issue of Rav Teitelbaum and Zionism, but I’m afraid that R’ Teitelbaum may not have said exactly what you said he said.
    See this link for what he said:

    http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2011/11/satmar-rav-says-six-day-war-victory-was.html

    I think the Satmar Rav was making the point — a point I disagree with — that to ascribe the victory to a miracle is “maaseh Satan”.

  55. Fairhaven–

    Thanks for the link! (and thanks to the fellow who sent me the link to al hageula v’al hatemura!)

    The Satmar Rebbe’s words are up for interpretation, but, yes, I realize that the satan comment may have been misunderstood.

    Nevertheless, his words are hurtful and insulting. Not something that a gadol biysrael should ever say.

    Whatever the comment means, the Satmar Rebbe was an extremist.

    Ari Enkin

  56. You find it hurtful and insulting that the Satmar Rebbe said that Israel’s victory in the Six day war was due to their superior military and not due to a nes? He thought it’s a maase satan that everyone is convinced that it’s a nes – you really find that grounds to criticize a Gadol b’Yisrael as being hurtful and insulting? Take it easy…

  57. Was wondering about that freshly-ground flour thing… I have sometimes wondered whether it comes down to metzius and who researched it when/where.

  58. Dont know about the flour thing. I know people (talmidei chachamim)in Israel that never check flour a whole year.

    So go figure….

    Ari Enkin

  59. My two issues with R. Vaye:
    1. For many years, I have cut corn off the cob for children. I have never ever ever seen a bug, except in a cob which was visibly infested on the outside.
    2. When a person claims that all produce is problematic EXCEPT that which he himself markets, is that possibly a conflict of interest?

    I am very pleased that Rav Eitam Henkin wrote his book, and hope to see it getting much publicity soon. Has it been translated to English yet? (And why are kids I used to babysit writing scholarly works? I am not that old, am I??)

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