Monday, September 25, 2006

Protecting Oneself From Eating Treif

How far should one go to protect oneself from eating Treif?

There are some Rabbanim that will not eat anywhere, even by caterers that have the absolute best Hashgachos. Such a Rav will only eat his own wife's cooking. I’ve even seen one bring his own food to a catered event.

The absurdity of not trusting recognized Hashgachos that virtually every other Rav of any stripe trusts borders on that of being a Chasid Shoteh, in my view.

I understand that this is not an actual case of Chasid Shoteh. No one is going to die here through lack of action, which is the context of the classic case of Chasid Shotah mentioned in the Gemarah. I use it here in the sense of being more Frum than even “Lifnim Meshuras HaDin requires. It is a level of “Frumkeit” here that is far in excess of what is necessary even if one has the highest of standards. Of course, I agree that one has a right not to eat where one chooses not to, for any reason. But I am not talking about rights here.

What exactly is such a Rav afraid of? Why can’t he accept what the others of similar religiosity accept? Is it that such an individual has a higher sensitivity to Kashrus than anyone else? Is it a level of Frumkeit… or is it a level of Yuhara? What is the purpose of such behavior? Does the fear of a remotely possible Teif morsal of food entering the mouth justify rejecting even the highest level of institutional Kashrus supervision?

One may defend such behavior by explaining that a Rav has many constituents. And even if they are all Shomer Mitzvos, no matter how Frum a constituent is, mistakes can be made. And some constituents whose standards are not “up to par” might become insulted if the Rav chooses to eat by person A, and refuses to eat by person B. Person B may, for example accept a Hechsher that this Rav doesn’t like, even though it is recognized… or he may be afraid that this person’s level of knowledge is not sophisticated enough and he may therefore make honest mistakes. So, in an effort to not embarrass anyone, he just doesn’t eat by anyone. Why take the chance? Although I disagree with that attitude, I understand it. But to not eat by any caterer at all, I think borders on Yuhara. What other explanation can there be?

What is to be gained by not eating at caterers with Hechsherim that are universally accepted? What is the Rav worried about? There is a point where one's fear of eating Treif falls into the category of Chosid Shoteh. Or that one's excessive Frumkeit falls into the Yuahara category.

Is it possible that a caterer may make a mistake, no matter how Ehrlich? Of course it is. But anyone can make a mistake, even the Rav’s own wife. To set oneself apart this way is in my view wrong. Such a person is unduly concerned with this particular Mitzvah. And in some cases, are far less concerned with behavior that can lead to great Chilul HaShem, such as looking the other way when a constituent cheats on his taxes.

One might say in the defense of such behavior… Why not? Why shouldn’t people be allowed to have any Kashrus standard that wish? Who cares what their reasons are?

Because it is anti-social. And it sets up false standards for others to emulate. And such strictures aren’t fool proof anyway. You can be extremely meticulous and still end up eating Treif.

Don’t think so? Just ask the citizens of Monsey.